For years, I’ve been hearing from Packers fans about how they never do anything in free agency. Technically, that’s not true. They were the first big winners of free agency a quarter century ago when they signed Reggie White. But no, since then they really haven’t’ done much.
Sure, they did sign Charles Woodson, then Julius Peppers and Martellus Bennett. But no one else of any consequence. This just has not been a team, especially under former GM Ted Thompson that wanted to build through free agency. But Thompson is gone and so is his strategy. And the Packers, under new gm Brian Gutekunst shocked the rest of the league yesterday, signing Jimmy Graham and Muhammed Wilkerson.
And in order to sign Graham, they had to break off Aaron Rodgers favorite receiver and one of his best friends on the team, Jordy Nelson. But to be fair, Nelson was probably already gone. His fate was sealed not with the signing of Graham but when Davante Adams got a new deal recently. Never easy to run one of your best receivers ever and a guy who will end up in the Packer Hall of Fame. But I know why they did it.
With Graham, Aaron Rodgers now has the kind of red zone monster they’ve been looking for years. That is the kind of big-time free agency splash that Packers fans have been waiting on for years.
But again, what an emotional day that was: you get one of the best tight ends of the era, but say goodbye to one of your most popular players ever, in Nelson. Holy freaking crap.. One second you’re celebrating the arrival of a Pro Bowl tight end, the next you’re mourning the departure of a franchise legend. Not just a franchise legend, but Aaron Rodgers’ best friend.
I’m not going to say be careful what you wish for Packer fans, but when you bring in big name players, you’ve got to get rid of big name players, too. That is a rough, rough day for everyone involved. Say hello to Jimmy Graham, say good-bye to a guy who’s top five in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns for your franchise.
Team GM Brian Gutekunst said, “There [are] those kind of things that you go through. But at the end of the day, I think ultimately we just decided that where we’re heading, this is the best decision for us — without getting into too many details.”
I hate to say it, but he’s right. It probably is the best decision for the team. As good as Nelson has been, he’s coming off a rough year, and while some of that is due to playing without Rodgers for a chunk of the year, he’s not nearly as explosive as he used to be. And he’ll be 33 later this year. And he was due to make more than 10 mill.
I’m not going to tell the Packers front office how to do their jobs, but I’d definitely make sure that Rodgers knows what you’re doing. Because they were more than teammates and if you wanted further evidence of that, just check Rodgers Instagram post: ‘Hard to find the right words today to express what 87 means to me. No teammate exemplified what it means to be a packer quite like him. From living in GB full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business. There will never be another quite like white lightning.’
He’s right. There will never be another one quite like him. And there may never be another qb-receiver connection quite like Rodgers to Nelson. They didn’t just master the back-shoulder-sideline throw, they perfected it, and elevated it to an art form. That was the Dream Shake, the Dirk One-Legged Fade away, and Kareem’s sky-hook all rolled into one. You knew it was coming and there was still nothing you could do to stop it.
But if you’re picking between Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and Nelson, because you don’t want to trap nearly 36M in your receivers, Nelson’s the guy who has to go. But, just because it’s true doesn’t make it easier.
It was so rough that it overshadowed the fact that Green Bay also added Muhammad Wilkerson to their d-line, which is another big win. But it still felt like a sad day.
Again the truth is Nelson being released probably has more to do with Davante Adams signing a new deal in January than Graham agreeing to one yesterday, but the fact is his signing and Nelson’s release came within minutes, means they’ll always be linked. And now the pressure is on Graham to make sure that his numbers ease the pain of losing a fan favorite. Because if he struggles, there will be a lot of bitter Packer fans in 87 jerseys.
I’ll ask you Packer fans, do you like what those moves? Who would you rather have, Graham or Jordy Nelson?