Packers general manager Ted Thompson isnít known to make big splashes in NFL free agency.
But the Packersí signing of Julius Peppers to a three-year contract this morning, which includes $7.5 million in guaranteed money, is an indication Thompson saw a gaping hole on his defense that needed addressing.
Peppers played end in a 4-3 defense for the Chicago Bears, but itís expected he will be used in some type of hybrid role as both an outside linebacker and defensive lineman. Thompson is obviously hoping Peppers can add some pass rushing pressure and take the heat off outside linebacker Clay Matthews, the only other true pass rusher on the roster.
There is some question about how effective Peppers will be at age 34, but the contract he agreed to is essentially a one-year experiment, so if things donít work out in 2014, the Packers can move on.
In the past Thompson has dipped into free agency when he saw a desperate need on his team, such as when he signed center Jeff Saturday two years ago, or cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett in 2006.
Thompson has already re-signed B.J. Raji for one year and the Packers are expected to move him back to nose tackle, his natural position.
They also re-signed outside linebacker Mike Neal to a two-year deal, and cornerback Sam Shields to a four-year contract.
Clearly the Packers believe their defense needs an upgrade. By signing Peppers, Thompson can now focus on drafting a safety and impact inside linebacker in May.
After the Peppers signing the Packers will be somewhere between $17 million and $18 million below the salary cap, which still gives them room to re-sign receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, whose contracts run out after the 2014 season.
Signing an aging player is usually no miracle cure in the NFL, so this is a bit of a gamble on Thompsonís part.
But Thompson obviously believes desperate times deserve unconventional measures to shore up the Packersí leaky defense.