Packers Get Busy in Free Agency

The normally quiet Green Bay Packers have turned to the free agent market to fill some necessary gaps in the team this off-season. They have added center Jeff Saturday, and today signed defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Both moves will likely be crucial for keeping the Packers atop the NFC North.

Jeff Saturday’s signing was an obvious move. The boardroom is hesitant to hold onto veteran players over the age of 30, especially those who aren’t absolute stars. Recently, the only old members of the squad tend to be those who continue to make a difference, such as Charles Woodson, Donald Driver, and Chad Clifton. Ted Thompson clearly saw that with Wells, he had a decent NFL starting center, and I’m sure he threw a number out there that would have made Wells a handsome living. However, as free agency proved again, some pathetic team like the Rams dished out about $6 million per year to sign him.

Signing Saturday buys the Packers time. He is rather old pushing 37. But, he is a great center. He is a long time veteran, and he can assist the team and help keep the offensive line solid. We can now draft a center anywhere in the draft, and allow him to watch and learn from one of the best for a season or two. It reminds me a little bit of Aaron Rodgers’ development.

The other signing was announced today for Anthony Hargrove. I must admit I know nothing of the player, but a bit of morning research shows an NFL journeyman who seems to show talent as a pass rusher but has had a history of substance abuse. He has been suspended twice by the league, once for the entire 2008 season. I suspect that he was brought in to show the light to Mike Neal.

Think about it. Here they are, with a young defensive tackle who has just gotten busted for a banned substance and will miss the first four games of the season. Hargrove has dealt with the exact same problem, but he has been clean since 2009. This is the kind of player who can perhaps help show Neal that you will get punished for drugs, and that people can progress after a suspension and move on from it.

Additionally, Hargrove fills a necessary void. I think anyone who watched the Packers last year can attest to the fact that quarterbacks seemed to have all day and night in the pocket to find their receivers. Hopefully, we have found our replacement for Cullen Jenkins.

Purchasing free agents does bug me a little. Clearly if the player was that special, his former team would have resigned him, and if he simply wants more money, then I think he’s not the kind of person you want on a team anyways. However, Thompson is smart in that he uses free agency to fill voids that cannot be immediately filled in the draft. Linemen generally take a few years to develop, and the holes on both lines need some band-aids. I suspect that both deals are relatively inexpensive and could keep the Packers a major threat in the NFL in 2012.

Nicholas Spiller resides in LA, where he dreams of musical super-stardom and Packers glory.  He also writes for sportspiller.com and can be reached at nrspiller@gmail.com.  In addition to covering the Green Bay Packers, he writes about soccer and Carolina Basketball.

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