Today, the National Football League's calendar year begins. As of 3:00 PM, unrestricted free agents can sign with teams, trades can be formalized and the business of compiling a roster within salary cap limits begins. After seven seasons in Green Bay, wide receiver Greg Jennings will hit the open market and probably won't return in a Packers' uniform. He is seeking a deal above 12 million dollars a year and it will be interesting to see how many suitors come calling. At least two teams have bigger needs at the position today after a couple of deals were hammered out in advance of the new year. The Minnesota Vikings shipped Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks for three draft picks. General Manager John Schneider, a former understudy to Ted Thompson in Green Bay, is giving up Seattle's first round pick next month, along with a seventh round choice this year and a mid-round pick next year for the playmaking Harvin. The Baltimore Ravens sent Anquan Boldin cross-country, trading him to the San Francisco 49ers for a relatively inexpensive 6th round pick. Throw in the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns and there could be several offers for Jennings to choose from.
The Packers also have to extend tender offers to their restricted free agents by this afternoon. On Monday, Thompson presented Evan Dietrich-Smith with the lowest possible tender worth 1.3 million dollars. It's a bit of a gamble for if another team is interested in Dietrich-Smith, who took over the starting role for Jeff Saturday late last season, and gives him an offer the Packers decline to match, because Dietrich-Smith entered the league undrafted, Green Bay would get nothing in return for compensation. I think this is a fairly calculated move by Thompson, betting nobody else would price the journeyman lineman out of Green Bay's reach. The low tender saves the team about $700,000 dollars in cap space. Sam Shields will probably receiver a second round tender of just over two million dollars and tenders must be placed on the three remaining restricted free agents, Tom Crabtree, Robert Francois and Frank Zombo.
As far as I know, the only unrestricted free agent to visit Green Bay is former New York Giants defensive end Chris Canty. The Packers have a need at this position and Thompson will strongly cosider making a bid for his services. Beyond Canty, the Packers will likely move to the sidelines to see if market prices dwindle for free agent running backs like Stephen Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall and Beanie Wells. Watch for a beehive of activity early.