Page one of the handbook for NFL personnel talking about their free agent class has just one line. The Packers know it well.
“It’s been our policy and will continue to be our policy, if we can, we would like to keep our own free agents,” said Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
That’s the one, or something to that effect. Neither Thompson nor Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy revealed much at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in terms of their plans regarding the Packers large and talent-laden free agent class.
On the offensive side of the ball, McCarthy indicated he expects quarterback Scott Tolzien to return and hopes free agent Matt Flynn to return as well. There could be significant change in the weapons surrounding Aaron Rodgers as well.
“James Jones, Jermichael Finley, would love to have those guys back,” said McCarthy of two perimeter weapons who could leave in free agency. “We’d like to build off some of the things we were able to do last year. We definitely want to be better than we’ve ever been. With Aaron being our quarterback, and our offensive line, if you look at our depth chart now, this is the best group of offensive linemen, from a depth standpoint, that we’ve had in my time in Green Bay, so, there’s a lot of good things to build off for our offense.”
On Finley, there seems to be some positive news. McCarthy told reporters from ESPN.com and ESPNMilwaukee.com there is optimism that the Packers could clear Finley to return to football.
On the defensive side of the ball, B.J. Raji is among several defensive linemen who could leave, as could cornerback Sam Shields and more. Thompson refused to discuss if Shields was a candidate for the franchise tag.
“Sam’s been a good player for us, he does a good job,” said Thompson. “He’s one of the fellas we’d like to have back.”
The time when teams can negotiate with free agents from other teams is fast approaching as well. NFL free agency opens March 11th. This is an area where the Packers are seldom active; though they have brought in free agents like Jeff Saturday in recent years and Charles Woodson a little further back. Thompson sticks hard and fast, but says he is open to bringing in free agents and his staff is diligently scouting out options.
“We’ve been working on it for quite some time,” said Thompson. “When the final rosters are set in September, that’s when our guys kind of start working on prospective free agents. They’re always doing it. We don’t dally in it too much, but we take it seriously, and if we find a way to make our team better, we’re going to get into it and do it.”