One look around the NFL during the Green Bay Packers’ bye showed just how much they miss the group of top-line players they lost in free agency last spring.
News of Martellus Bennett’s tentative plans to retire after this season make what happened with Jared Cook look even more perplexing.
Meanwhile, linebacker Julius Peppers recorded sack No. 7.5 this season — equaling his total from all of last season with the Packers — for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, and safety Micah Hyde picked off his league-leading fifth pass for the Buffalo Bills.
Two of their former offensive linemen who left in free agency also lined up as starters for their new teams: T.J. Lang with the Detroit Lions and JC Tretter with the Cleveland Browns.
It’s hard to say which of those five free-agent losses the Packers miss most. Every one of those areas has proved problematic in Green Bay through the first seven games.
The Packers thought they had more than made up for Cook when they signed both Bennett and Lance Kendricks after negotiations surprisingly broke down with Cook. Cook and his agent either overplayed their hand or the Packers wouldn’t budge on their offer. Either way, the Packers turned elsewhere before Cook had anything in the works with the Oakland Raiders, who eventually signed him to a two-year, $10.6 million deal.
Cook, with 31 catches for 373 yards and one touchdown, has been more productive than Bennett (24 catches, 233 yards and no touchdowns) and also doesn’t plan on retiring after this season.
Then there’s Peppers, who has more sacks this season than Nick Perry (3.5 sacks) and Clay Matthews (2.5) combined. The Packers’ struggling defense, which entered Week 8 ranked 22nd overall, could have certainly used another pass-rusher. Peppers went back to Carolina for a one-year, $3.5 million deal, while the Packers re-signed Perry to a five-year, $60 million deal.
The Packers didn’t even make Hyde an offer before he signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract with the Bills. Meanwhile, the Packers’ secondary has been a mess with injuries at both cornerback and safety. Hyde’s five interceptions nearly equal the Packers’ entire team total of six this season.
On the offensive line, the Packers have started a different combination in each of their seven games this season. Meanwhile, Tretter has started every game for the Browns, while Lang has started all but one game for the Lions.