Ryan Wood and Pete Dougherty assess the Green Bay Packers' free-agent strategy after hearing from general manager at the NFL combine in Indianapolis on Thursday. (Feb. 19, 2015)
INDIANAPOLIS – Ted Thompson uses the same, blanket answer for every free agent. Want to see Player X return to Green Bay? Yes, he'll say.
"We try to bring all of our players back."
So it was no surprise Thursday when Thompson said he hopes the Packers can re-sign free agent receiver Randall Cobb and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Cobb is coming off a career year in 2014. Bulaga proved he can stay healthy and play at a high level after missing most of the previous two seasons with injuries.
Thompson said he didn't need to see Cobb's career-high 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns to appreciate his talent. Still, when it comes to the negotiating table, a Pro Bowl season certainly never hurt.
"Randall is Randall. He's the same guy all the time," Thompson said. "He missed some time in the year before with an injury, but he's been a pretty good player since the day he showed up."
In 2014, Cobb proved he was fully healthy after a broken tibia in his right leg knocked him out of 10 games the previous season. Bulaga had to prove a little more.
The former first-round pick missed seven games with a hip in 2012 before a torn ACL sidelined him for all of 2013. Entering 2014, he needed to show he could stay healthy through an entire season.
Bulaga didn't make it through unscathed. A torn medial collateral ligament in the season opener forced him to miss Green Bay's second game. He also exited the Packers' loss in Buffalo early because of a concussion. Still, those injuries proved to be minor. In between, Thompson said, Bulaga played at a consistently high level.
"Bryan has always been a good player for us, and yeah, he had a good year," Thompson said. "He's another player that we'd like to have back."
This is how Thompson builds football teams. He keeps homegrown players at home, rarely relying on outside help.
Bulaga could demand a high price. He's one of the top offensive tackles on the free agent market. If a deal is reached in Green Bay, it would give the Packers a chance to keep intact an offensive line that became a team strength last season.
A deal with Cobb would keep intact Green Bay's explosive one-two bunch with him and fellow receiver Jordy Nelson. Thompson wouldn't say whether Packers may use a franchise tag to keep Cobb, though that avenue is unlikely.
Thompson said he's treating each free agent individually.
"You can't really look at the whole pile," Thompson said. "You take everything that you've got to do, every single task. You separate it, you put it in a little section, and you go at it. That's the way we do it, and we add it up at the end. You can't get involved in looking at all the stuff we have to do, or the big picture. You have to go at it with small picture – we've got to do this, we've got to do this, we've got to do this. That's what we're trying to do."
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