Green Bay Packers
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Depleted Packers have long shopping list
The Green Bay Packers could be in for a busy 2018 draft with the compensatory draft picks they stand to gain.
Yet, general manager Ted Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the team's personnel brain trust have more pressing concerns with the NFL's 2017 draft around the corner.
Thanks to a glut of defections in free agency and few additions made to the team, Green Bay has some catching up to do this spring.
"We need some more guys," Thompson acknowledged during the recently concluded league meeting in Phoenix. "We're a little short in a couple of areas. So, from a personnel standpoint, we've got to get some more bodies, but we like the guys that we have. It's just that we'd like to get some more."
Notorious for his draft-and-develop philosophy in his 12 years at the helm, Thompson has a number of positions to address all three days of the draft, which starts April 27 in Philadelphia.
Running back, offensive guard, cornerback and outside linebacker all have been depleted the last two months.
After cutting the veteran duo of Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Shields and running back James Starks in February, the Packers watched several key players flee in free agency in March.
Gone are lead back Eddie Lacy (Seattle Seahawks), Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang (Detroit Lions), versatile defensive back Micah Hyde (Buffalo Bills), future Pro Football Hall of Famer Julius Peppers (Carolina Panthers) and fellow outside linebacker Datone Jones (Minnesota Vikings).
Green Bay also lost veteran tight end Jared Cook (Oakland Raiders) after just one season and young interior lineman JC Tretter (Cleveland Browns), who opened last season as the starting center in place of an injured Corey Linsley.
"We do intend to sign our own guys; that's always our priority," McCarthy said at the league meeting. "(But) it's a challenge. Obviously, the landscape was different this year."
Not that the Packers were left with the proverbial tail between their legs, however.
Thompson ensured the defense still has a capable complement to pass-rushing linebacker Clay Matthews by re-signing Nick Perry to a five-year, $60 million contract at the outset of free agency. Perry had a career- and team-high 12 sacks last season, including the playoffs.
The GM also tried to bolster the cornerback position, which was ripped to shreds in the 44-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship, by bringing back Davon House on a one-year, $2.8 million deal. The seventh-year pro left Green Bay in 2015 for what turned out to be a short-lived stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Packers also signed veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, formerly of the Washington Redskins, to a one-year, $2 million deal.
And, the one position that definitely won't need to be addressed in the draft is tight end after Thompson turned a surprising double play by signing veteran playmakers Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks just a day apart.
The 30-year-old Bennett, who is going into his 10th pro season after winning the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, landed a three-year, $21 million contract.
"(Quarterback) Aaron Rodgers has an exotic car," New York Giants receiver Brandon Marshall said about the Packers' acquisition of Bennett, a onetime teammate with the Chicago Bears. "Pull him out and do whatever you want with him, and he'll be ready."
Kendricks, a seventh-year pro from Milwaukee who played his college ball at Wisconsin, signed a two-year, $4 million deal after he had a career-high 50 receptions with the Los Angeles Rams.
By giving a boost to the Packers' bevy of personnel groupings for the Aaron Rodgers-led attack, McCarthy vowed to play his arsenal of tight ends (including holdover Richard Rodgers) closer to the line of scrimmage.
The Packers' uncommon flurry of player acquisitions by Thompson during the opening weeks of free agency wasn't lost on team president Mark Murphy.
"I'm pleased," Murphy said. "I think we've helped ourselves in a number of positions, and obviously the draft coming up is another opportunity to help ourselves."
Still to be determined is how the Packers fill the major voids left at running back and right guard left by the departures of Lacy and Lang, respectively.
McCarthy said at the league meeting that he wants to keep Bulaga at right tackle, rather than move the eighth-year pro inside despite Green Bay having 2016 second-round draft pick Jason Spriggs' waiting for a shot to play at tackle.
As far as the rumors of recent weeks about the Packers' making a play for former Minnesota Vikings all-star tailback Adrian Peterson, comments made by McCarthy didn't dismiss the possibility.
"Adrian Peterson, obviously, is someone we have great respect for, obviously playing him the number of times we have," McCarthy said. "We're trying to improve our offense all of the time. So, as far as what's going on, we don't need to discuss those things publicly. But, I think it's obvious ... we have two healthy running backs (Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael) on our depth chart. So, we're going to have more running backs.
"I think the world of Adrian," McCarthy added. "I think he's obviously a great player, a Hall of Fame player. I got a chance to be around him, not only competing against him twice a year but at the Pro Bowls. He's a class act, and we'll just see how it shakes out."