Under general manager Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers usually don't dip into the free-agent waters, preferring to sign their own players and rely on the draft. However, the Packers have made several impact signings over the years, including Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers, and last year signed Jared Cook. Green Bay has around $40 million in cap room and while the Packers might use much of it for re-signings and draft picks, here are a few players which maybe, just maybe, could interest Thompson and crew.
USA TODAY Sports
Lorenzo Alexander, outside linebacker
Alexander is a little older perhaps than one wishes -- he'll be 34 in May -- but if he can be signed to a team-friendly deal he could be a good fit for Green Bay's 3-4 defense, one which, entering free agency, needs outside linebackers. Last year was just the third time the well-traveled Alexander (five teams in 12 years) was a starter, but in Buffalo's 3-4 he recorded 76 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 6 passes defensed and 3 forced fumbles in 16 games.
Martellus Bennett, tight end
Yes, Aaron Rodgers proclaimed his desire for Green Bay to re-sign Jared Cook, but what about shooting a little higher? Bennett and Cook are the same age (Bennett is less than a month younger) but Bennett is a little bigger and been vastly more productive over his NFL career. Bennett has at least 53 catches in each of the last five seasons with 26 touchdowns over that span. Cook's career high is 52 receptions and he has 17 TDs in 117 games.
Rex Burkhead, running back
Green Bay clearly has the need for more running backs, entering the new league year with just one on the roster, and that's converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery. Burkhead will be 27 this season but has very little tread on his tires, with only 87 career carries. Last year with Cincinnati he averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 74 rushes. Burkhead also has good hands -- a Packers running back who can catch passes, think Aaron Rodgers would like that? -- with 34 career receptions. Burkhead won't break the bank, he'd be a good situational runner and also allow Green Bay to take a developmental running back (or two) in the draft knowing it has some experience to go with Montgomery in the backfield.
Jack Doyle, tight end
Instead of signing (or re-signing) an older tight end, how about a younger one who can stick around in the offense for years to come? Doyle will be 27 this season, has good size (6-foot-6, 267 pounds) and was productive with Indianapolis last season after finally getting a chance, recording 59 receptions (and a 78.7 percent catch rate) for 584 yards and five touchdowns.
Adrian Peterson, running back
This seems unlikely, but, hey, why not? Green Bay has been searching for a consistent running game for years. Yes, Peterson will be 32 this season, but does anyone really doubt he can come back from an injury-plagued 2016 season? In every season Peterson has played 12 or more games, he's had double-digit rushing touchdowns. In every season in which he has played at least 14 games, he's rushed for over 1,000 yards. Peterson also has decent hands, owning 241 career receptions. No, you don't want to overspend of a 32-year-old running back. But get an already motivated Peterson on some kind of incentive-laced deal and give him 15 or so carries a game? Maybe it seems too good to be true, but it seems worth the risk. Plus, you know he'll give it all he has in two games against a certain division rival.
John Simon, outside linebacker
Simon isn't of the caliber of Charles Woodson, but he is the kind of player who could make an impact on defense for years to come. Largely a backup in Houston, Simon still had 104 tackles and 8.5 sacks over the past two seasons in 27 games. Simon turns 27 in October and is the kind of hard-working player who could shine given the opportunity. Three of Green Bay's top-four outside linebackers are free agents (Datone Jones, Julius Peppers and Nick Perry) and Clay Matthews, coming off a sub-par season, will be 31, so there is a definite need. The Packers might have to overpay a bit on the open market for Simon, but he won't hog too much of the salary cap. He could be a worthy investment.
USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Kevin Zeitler, guard
The Packers have an opening at right guard, Jason Spriggs doesn't seem to be the answer and the team had plenty of time offer a contract to T.J. Lang and never did. Former Wisconsin Badger Zeitler is going to make a lot of money on the free-agent market for a good reason -- he's the top offensive guard available. Lang has been very good, especially the last two years, for the Packers, but he'll be 30 in September and coming off hip surgery. Zeitler has been solid in his five years -- he's allowed just 11.25 sacks in 72 career games, and 4.5 of those came as a rookie -- and he's just 27 years old. If you're going to spend some money, Zeitler is a good place to start.