Starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, some NFL general managers will lose control of their common sense and spend money on unrestricted free agents like thereís no tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Packersí Ted Thompson will sit quietly in his office, keep his checkbook under lock and key, and wisely stand pat.
Thompson knows better than to jump into bidding wars and overpay for players who werenít retained by their former teams.
The opening days of free agency usually are spearheaded by desperate GMs who canít resist the temptation to indulge in lavish shopping sprees.
Oddly enough, Thompson normally receives his loudest criticism in March when impatient fans demand instant gratification and donít see the big picture.
The truth is, Thompson spends money generously on free agents, itís just that he prefers to use it on his players.
Thatís not sexy in an NFL world dazzled by the latest free-agent hot commodities, but itís a smart way of doing business.
Last year Thompson doled out a five-year, $110 million contract extension to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a five-year, $66 million deal to linebacker Clay Matthews.
No NFL free-agent signing this week will come close to matching the impact of those moves to lock up the Packersí two best players.
While Thompson often has been accused of being too conservative, he showed his daring side over the weekend when he agreed to give impending free agent cornerback Sam Shields a four-year, $39 million contract.
Some say Thompson paid too much for Shields, who has yet to play at a Pro Bowl level in four NFL seasons. But Shields is young (26) and ascending, and Thompson is willing to gamble that his speedy starting cornerback will only get better.
Rather than hand over fat stacks of cash to an outside free agent who isnít familiar with the Packersí system, Thompson prefers to promote homegrown talent. Packers coaches know Shields is a good fit in the locker room and think highly of his untapped on-field potential.
Re-signing Shields also reinforces the notion among young Packers players that they eventually will be rewarded for their efforts.
In the past, Thompson has followed that blueprint in re-signing guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, tight end Jermichael Finley, cornerback Tramon Williams, linebacker A.J. Hawk, kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay, among others.
A good general manager like Thompson keeps his eye on long-term and short-term needs. While some GMs will burn holes in their pockets on overpriced talent this week, Thompson is expected to use restraint.
Such a strategy will enable Thompson to keep enough money in the till to re-sign key receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, whose contracts run out after the 2014 season.
Thompson doesnít have a perfect track record. The Packers let defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins (2011) and center Scott Wells (2012) walk away in free agency with no adequate replacements on the roster.
And although the jury remains out, Thompson paid too much on new deals for safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Brad Jones based on the way they played in 2013.
This year, after landing his most important free agent in Shields, Thompson must determine which other players are worth keeping, and at what price.
The Packers canít keep anywhere close to all of their 16 remaining unrestricted free agents. To fill holes at safety, linebacker and the defensive line, Thompson no doubt will rely on the draft.
But he also should take a hard look at the secondary free-agent market ó players still available when the dust and dollar bills settle after this weekís feeding frenzy.
Thompson isnít afraid to spend money, but it comes down to picking his spots. Shopping for players this week at premium prices is neither the right time nor place for that.
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