The NFL’s longest-standing rivalry could be firing up a new chapter if the current free agent chatter is to be believed:
– Saints, Packers, Bears interested in Jimmy Graham
– Packers, Bears, Chiefs, Jaguars into Sammy Watkins
– Packers, Bears have eyes for Allen Robinson.
— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) March 12, 2018
So when was the last time the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers engaged in a free agent battle? And when did it involve so many high-profile players?
The Packers whiffed in their attempt to get the tight end position right when Martellus Bennett turned into a free agent flop. Thus, their pursuit of Jimmy Graham is sensible and should be perceived as a warning shot that Green Bay isn’t taking to missing the postseason all that well.
HOWEVER, their fresh pursuit of both Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins feels like it’s coming out of the blue. Indeed, it comes as a bit of a surprise considering that they just signed Davante Adams to a big deal to ensure he didn’t hit the free agent market, and still have both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on their payroll.
With needs across a defense that ranked 22nd in yards and 26th in points, it would be a stunner if the Packers cleared space to jump in the deep end of the wide receiver market.
Even if they did, they’d probably have to clear some significant cap space to do so. According to Spotrac.com, the Packers’ $17.1 million in cap space is the seventh lowest number in football. So while the Packers have been connected to cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, and now this bevy of pass-catchers, it doesn’t feel feasible given the way the Packers are pushing up against the salary cap at the moment.
Of course, it’s always possible that this is all smoke to call the Bears’ bluff and drive up free agent prices.
As for the Bears, even if they went on the offensive and branched out a little more than expected, they would be doing so in order to fill positions of need. Robinson seems to be their top receiver target and Watkins has emerged as a possible fall-back candidate should Robinson choose to go elsewhere. The Bears’ rumored interest in Graham is recent, but we discussed why it wouldn’t be a bad idea to team him with second-year tight end Adam Shaheen earlier today.
I keep coming back to thinking about how fitting it would be to see the Bears (who are trying to pull themselves out of the NFC North cellar) and Packers (who are trying to keep up with the Minnesota Vikings) take their rivalry to another level. There haven’t been too many close games between the two in recent years. Perhaps a free agent frenzy is what we need to spark the fire in this rivalry once again.