Packers’ free agency moves set the stage for a critical draft

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Packers’ top five needs addressed in FA, but there’s still much more work to do

At first blush the Green Bay Packers’ most recent foray into NFL free agency resembles those that came before it. Thus far the signings are underwhelming, to say the least, which is typical of the Ted Thompson era.
I see it in a different light.
The Packers have addressed their five most important positions of need. They signed running back Christian Michel, defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, linebackers Nick Perry and Jayrone Elliott, and cornerback Davon House.
Those moves came after the Packers elected to let Jared Cook walk – he later signed with the Oakland Raiders – and instead they signed tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.
Bennett and Kendricks are a significant upgrade from Cook. They allow Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers the flexibility to show run-heavy formations and pass, or deploy pass-heavy personnel and run the football.

The Offense

The Packers’ offense has improved considerably with the additions of Bennett and Kendricks for several reasons.
First, Bennett is a proven winner, and for all of those who are concerned because of his tendency to be “outspoken,” I say you can’t have true leadership without veterans such as Bennett.
Whatever he says might be controversial, although I suspect there’s a fair amount of truth in whatever Bennett is espousing. The Packers’ locker room is strong enough to handle any potential controversy. Furthermore, winning helps solve plenty, and Bennett is a winner.
Kendricks, like Bennett, also is a proven veteran. Kendricks will be available in January, when it matters most, because his history suggests he’s both accountable and available. He also is versatile and adept at lining up wide, in the slot, on a tackle’s shoulder and in the backfield.
The Packers intend to be more unpredictable, not in terms of various formations in the passing game, but rather being harder t get a read on in regards to run versus pass.
The Packers elected to let Eddie Lacy walk. They also did next to nothing to prevent Datone Jones from signing with the Vikings. I think both moves were addition by subtraction.
Jones never came close to realizing his potential, while Lacy remained a problem in regards to his less-than-stellar conditioning. It was time for the Packers to move on from Lacy.

A Packers RB

The question is what will they do at running back?
The addition of Michael gives the Packers the semblance of a running back depth chart. They have two. GM Ted Thompson made it clear at the NFL owners meetings Monday that Green Bay intends to add at least another running back.
That opens the door for the Packers to sign Adrian Peterson, especially if the former Vikings running back has come to realize that his opinion of his market value differs from reality.
Peterson would be an interesting addition to the Packers’ attack. If he can recapture his form as one of the league’s top rushers, it can only help Rodgers and the Packers’ offense.
Imagine what an upgrade it would be to have Peterson, Michael and Ty Montgomery as the team’s running backs going into the season, as opposed to last year’s group: Lacy, James Starks and nobody else.

The Packers D

Defensively, the Packers added four players who can contribute in the upcoming season.
Ricky Jean-Francois, 30, is a rugged, dependable veteran defensive tackle. Francois, 6-3, 313, should be able to compensate for Letroy Guion’s absence in the first four games. In fact, Jean-Francois might be the team’s starting nose tackle long before Guion’s return.
Nick Perry, coming off an 11-sack season, and the potential-heavy Jayrone Elliott, give much-needed help as edge rushers.
Veteran Davon House also was resigned to help the Packers’ defensive secondary.
The reality is that each of these players gives the Packers’ defense help at each level. That’s the good news. It lays the foundation for a competitive defense. Now, the Packers need to add talent, youth and playmakers at each of those levels of defense.
The Packers need at least another defensive tackle, edge pass rusher and cover cornerback.
That’s a lot to ask of one draft class.
Then again, Thompson and the Packers have been able to add a lot of talent in a single draft class. If nothing else, the Packers have laid the foundation to make a really strong draft meaningful.
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’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.