Green Bay Packers: Grading their quiet free agency moves so far

Free agency has been relatively quiet for the Green Bay Packers as their focus has been on retaining players. But did they make good calls with that?

Two years ago, the Green Bay Packers were one of the most aggressive teams in free agency, namely signing Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos. That wasn’t the case last offseason, though, and that trend has continued in 2021. Having to maneuver around the salary cap, the Packers have been quiet as they’re clearly banking on a big 2021 NFL Draft and perhaps some late value signings.

After about a month, the Packers have not signed an outside free agent. They have only re-signed four players, some of more consequence than others. In that time, they also let star center Corey Linsley walk in free agency while cutting right tackle Rick Wagner and linebacker Chris Kirksey.

Building with your own players isn’t a bad strategy, if done correctly. Have the Packers done that this offseason? We’re taking a look at that by grading the quiet moves they’ve made so far in free agency.

Grading the Green Bay Packers’ free agency moves in 2021 to this point

Re-signed RB Aaron Jones (4 years, $48 million) | Grade: B-

There’s no denying that Aaron Jones has been a stalwart in the Green Bay Packers offense, even back when fans were begging for him to get more touches. That belief was proven correct as he’s shined in a lead-back role.

Having said that, paying running backs is always a bit scary and this is a big deal for the UTEP product. Admittedly, it’s effectively only a two-year deal with just $20 million guaranteed. And Jones may be better equipped to hold up on a second contract given that he wasn’t a workhorse early in his NFL career.

What really sours me on this, though, is letting Corey Linsley walk to make the Jones signing. It truly seems they had a choice between their running back and a top-tier center and they chose the former. That’s not a wise decision by my measure as Linsley had just as much to do with Jones’ success as Jones did.

Re-signed CB Kevin King (1 year, $5 million) | Grade: C

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Cheesehead who is pleased with the way Kevin King has played as a part of the secondary since he was a second-round pick four years ago. And that seemingly all came to a head in the NFC Championship Game when his poor performance (and holding) against the Buccaneers.

While many assumed that would be the last memory of King in a Packers uniform, that’s not the case. Green Bay is bringing him back on a one-year deal. While that’s a short-term contract, it’s hard to believe that this makes any sense. With plenty of more quality veteran cornerbacks on the market, it’s difficult to think that the Packers couldn’t have found a sizeable upgrade from King at a similar — or even slightly more expensive — price.

Re-signed TE Marcedes Lewis (1 year, $5.925 million) | Grade: B+

Marcedes Lewis is no longer in his prime but this is actually my favorite signing that Green Bay has made this offseason. Robert Tonyan emerged as a true red-zone threat for the Packers offense last year but he lacks in terms of his ability as a blocker and isn’t an every-down tight end. Even at an advanced age, Lewis can still fill that role at an above-average level.

This signing might’ve gotten an A grade if they weren’t paying him near $6 million as that’s a bit steep. However, Lewis will help the investment in Jones look better as a quality blocker on the edge of the line and a sure-handed pass-catcher when called upon.

Re-signed DE Tyler Lancaster (1 year, $1.25 million) | Grade: B

Coming into the offseason, one of the big focuses many people supposed for Green Bay was improving the defensive line around Kenny Clark, a bonafide star. While that may be true, they still need to fill out the depth while eventually making other moves and Tyler Lancaster fits into that mold.

Nothing about Lancaster’s career to this point has been exceptional but he’s been passable as a depth piece. Landing him on such a cheap contract is a good way to shore up the depth chart and keep the line in a spot where they can adequately build around Clark in the draft and possibly in late free agency.