Packers’ needs may be addressed in (gasp) free agency?

Also, would Packers draft DE Michael Sam? Plus, McCarthy’s vision for ‘D’
The Green Bay Packers are approximately $27.5 million under the 2014 NFL salary cap, according to a report that surfaced early last week.
The next day, almost on cue, a report came out strongly suggesting Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson might sign as many as five “outside” free agents this off-season.
The news prompted some Packers fans to put aside their NFL draft guides, mock drafts and trade/pick value charts long enough to consider that rarest of creatures in Green Bay: the NFL free agent. Rarer still in Green Bay is the high-priced, impact-making free agent.
Could this be the off-season that sees “Packers” actually included in ESPN’s “free-agent signings” crawler?
Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it. As much as it sounds sexy to daydream about the Packers making a big splash in free agency it seems doubtful for several reasons.

Aaron Rodgers & Clay Matthews Contracts Recently Extended

The Packers just paid out a significant amount of money to extend quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

Cornerback Sam Shields is Needed

They appear to be on the verge of paying cornerback Sam Shields a salary approaching an $8 million annual average. After missing with safety Morgan Burnett’s contract extension, the Packers can’t afford to be gun-shy and let Shields go elsewhere.

Thompson doesn’t play much in free agency

He may use the cap room to fill out his roster with veterans, preferably a reliable offensive tackle, a gritty (Howard Green-like) nose tackle, and a savvy special teams’ demon who moonlights as a safety.
Look for the Packers to use the draft to acquire their impact players. One possibility to consider is Thompson moving up in the draft. It happened in the 2009 draft with Matthews, and it could happen again. It isn’t simply a pipe dream or wishful thinking to suggest Thompson executes his own pick at No. 21, and then trades back into the first round to grab a second player with “first round” talent.
If Thompson could draft a safety and a tight end, for example, it makes filling holes at linebacker and the defensive line seem more do-able.

Should the Packers draft Missouri defensive end Michael Sam?

Sam, the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year, announced last week that he is gay. He would become the NFL’s first openly gay player to enter the draft, and to go on to play in the league.

Would the Packers select Sam if they felt he brought value at a particular spot in the draft? Especially if he brought value at a position of need at outside linebacker-pass rusher? I think Thompson and his scouts would make an honest football appraisal, sexuality notwithstanding, to evaluate Sam. If they felt he could help the Packers win games, and he was available, say, in the fourth round, I believe Thompson would pull the trigger.
Green Bay would be a fine landing spot. Fans are demanding, but if a player delivers they will offer praise. If a player fails, they will let him know, and Sam wouldn’t be any different in that regard. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy discussed his vision for the defense, and the importance of defensive coordinator Dom Capers fulfilling that vision.
McCarthy’s comments on the defense were honest. He didn’t tap-dance around the need for clearer communication and crisper execution. The Packers’ defense slipped mightily in 2011, bounced back in 2012 and regressed in 2013. That yo-yo effect isn’t going to yield consistency.
Why the ups and downs?   It can’t all be blamed on safety Nick Collins’ possibly career-ending injury, or defensive end Cullen Jenkins’ departure, for goodness sake.   It was important to see and hear McCarthy address the defense in terms of his expectations, his vision and his additions to the staff.  
Now it’s time to begin making McCarthy’s vision the Packers’ reality.

Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.