Free Agency and March Madness

Well, they did it.  They actually did it. The Packers did the unthinkable.

They signed a highly sought after free agent.

But not just one. Not two. Not three. But the Packers shelled out big money for FOUR free agents during the legal tampering period. They agreed to deals with two of the best available edge rushers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, a top available safety in Adrian Amos, and versatile offensive lineman Billy Turner.

By now you’ve probably heard enough scouting reports on these players. If you haven’t, well, listen to the latest episode of The Man Cave Football Podcast!

So what do I want to talk about in this blog regarding these signings? Let’s talk about what Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst just said through his actions with signing these players.

Gutekunst said in his press conference Thursday that: “This is Green Bay, Wisconsin. We’re in a win now mode all the time.” But what he did with these moves proves that it’s not all just talk. You do not make these type of signings and push some of the cap hits into the future if you don’t plan to win now. Gutekunst has given his new head coach Matt LaFleur and returning defensive coordinator Mike Pettine some necessary tools to compete this year.

But also, these are career defining moves for Gutekunst. He could have easily played it safe and continued the Ted Thompson tradition of making some moves here and there in free agency, but solely relying on the draft and Aaron Rodgers to win games.

“This is something we had to do to help our team.” That’s what Gutekunst said Thursday. He realizes to take the next step and win a championship he couldn’t play it safe. He has pushed all the poker chips into the middle of the table. He knows his window to win is only a few more years longer. He is going for it.

This also makes the upcoming draft all that more intriguing and mysterious for the Packers. Do they still grab an edge rusher and load up at that position for the first time since, well, who knows when? Do they add a defensive lineman to group with Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels, knowing Daniels is a free agent next year? A safety to pair with Amos? A tight end? Wide receiver? The Packers are not handcuffed with their picks anymore. If they didn’t make a play for an edge rusher in free agency, everyone in the world knew they were going to draft one. They still can, but now they can literally draft the best player on their board if they so choose to. That’s a luxury some teams don’t have, especially a team with two first round draft picks.

I understand there may be some questions surrounding these free agent signings. You may not recognize the names. You may be concerned if they were one year wonders. But here’s why you should be excited Packers fans:

Your general manager is committed to winning at all costs and is willing to gamble. That’s what you have been clamoring for all these years, right?

Side note: Isn’t it kind of ironic that these Ted Thompson disciples that have turned into general managers are actually building their teams in a different way? Look at Gutekunst, John Schneider, John Dorsey, and even Reggie McKenzie when he was with the Raiders. They all value the draft and know you build your teams that way, but they were all more like Ron Wolf in realizing you do need free agency to help out your team as well. Thompson did make some good moves in free agency (Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, Julius Peppers), but not nearly as consistent he needed to be.

So the Wisconsin Badger men’s hoops team is back, or will be back, in the NCAA tourney after missing last year. They may be ranked in the top 25, but I think we all know they have no chance to win the National Championship. Ethan Happ is a great college basketball player and Khalil Iverson ended the regular season on a nice stretch of games that Badger fans would have loved to have seen on a more consistent basis throughout his career.

But D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison have been disappointing. Trice started off the year so hot that it looked like the Badgers would have a nice inside-out game. And expectations were really high for Davison this year after last season. The tournament is all about guard play and with the Badgers being inconsistent at best, I don’t know how far they can advance in the tourney.

Predicting how far they will go before the brackets are released doesn’t make sense, since I’m a firm believer that its matchup based. But if the predictions are right and the Badgers are around that 4 or 5 seed and it goes all chalk, advancing to the Sweet 16 might be as far as they can get.

That’s it for this week. Baseball season is almost here! Let’s talk some more Brewers next week!

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