Packers add DL depth with Jean Francois

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY – If the Green Bay Packers can get the same from Ricky Jean Francois that they got out of Letroy Guion in 2014, they undoubtedly would feel their $3 million investment is a good one.

Washington Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois (99) gestures to fans in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Landover, Md.

A source confirmed multiple reports that the Packers agreed to terms Thursday with the 30-year-old defensive lineman on a one-year deal that could earn him $3 million.  Jean Francois had arrived for an official visit Wednesday night and apparently felt comfortable with the location and the money.

He also had visited Seattle and Chicago.

The Packers also announced the signing of free-agent running back Christine Michael, making official what was reported widely on Wednesday.

The 6-2 ½ 313-pound Jean Francois played his last two seasons in Washington but was released a week ago. The fact he was cut means he won’t count against the Packers’ free-agent total when compensatory draft picks are calculated next season.

In his two seasons in Washington, Jean Francois played in all 32 games, starting seven. He played 439 snaps, or 40 percent of the defense’s snaps last year, finishing with 32 tackles, 1 ½ sacks and one pass breakup.

One NFL scout described Jean Francois as a “solid backup.”

Jean Francois has been described as a locker room leader and after the season he said in a story on Washington's team website that he felt he contributed a lot despite the defense's shoddy statistics. But he also took blame for being part of the overall failure of the defense.

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“I had a good season; I made plays,” Jean Francois said. “I made plays, came ready to play, one of my biggest things, but there were still some more plays out there I could have made. There were a lot of things I still could have adjusted, but as the weeks went on I did that.

"I feel like I didn’t do enough, myself as an individual, didn’t do enough work to put us in better position to win.”

In Green Bay, he should be able to play all positions on the defensive line, although his forte is playing the run and chances are he’ll see most of his time at end in the 3-4 and defensive tackle in the nickel.

He has been extremely durable over the years, playing 16 games in all but one of the last seven seasons and 106 of 112 during that span.

Guion started 16 games for the Packers after coming over from Minnesota on a one-year, $1 million deal. He contributed 32 tackles, a career-best 3 ½ sacks and 10 quarterback hits that season, enough to earn him a three-year deal the following season.

However, Guion is the reason the Packers are signing Jean Francois. The NFL suspended Guion for four games this coming season for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy and it’s possible the Packers will cut him now that they have a replacement.

The Packers could cut Guion and gain just under $3 million in salary cap room. He is scheduled to earn $3.1 million this year, which would come off the cap. However, $166,666 of his original $500,000 signing bonus would accelerate into this year's cap.

The Packers will be about $21 million under the salary cap after the Jean Francois signing becomes official.

Their defensive line will feature Mike Daniels and 2016 first-round pick Kenny Clark next season with Jean Francois, Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo and Brian Price backing them up when training camp begins. The Packers could add another lineman in the draft, but they have other priorities on defense.

The Packers had interest in Jean Francois when he became a free agent after four seasons in San Francisco, but he signed a four-year, $22 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts that included $8.5 million guaranteed. After the Colts released him, he signed a three-year, $9 million deal with Washington that included $4 million guaranteed.

He signed with Washington after Indianapolis cut him halfway through his four-year free agent contract. Jean Francois started 23 of 26 games for the Colts and had a career-high three sacks in 2014.

Washington gained $3 million in cap space by releasing Jean Francois, but there was speculation that negative comments he made about the team’s losses in free agency might have led to the move.

The Packers have signed four free agents from other teams this offseason: Jean-Francois, tight end Martellus Bennett, tight end Lance Kendricks and cornerback Davon House. It’s the most free agents general manager Ted Thompson has signed from another team since 2006, when he also signed four. He never has signed more in a single offseason.

Bennett is the only one of the free agents who will count against the Packers in the compensatory pick

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