Report: Packers sign Ahmad Brooks

The Green Bay Packers have signed outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the veteran, who was cut by the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month, agreed to a 1-year deal worth up to $5 million.

The 33-year-old Brooks should bring more veteran experience to a thin linebacking corps. Starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, along with backup Jayrone Elliott, are dealing with minor injuries, while fourth-round pick Vince Biegel appears likely to start the season on the physically unable to perform list.

When asked about Brooks on Tuesday, linebackers coach Winston Moss clearly wanted him in the mix.

“Tough [and] physically imposing. A (pass) rusher. Can play really well against the run. Can play stout versus a tight end. He can do everything that we’d ask him to do in our scheme,” Moss said.

Brooks will be entering his 11th season in the NFL. He played two years with the Cincinnati Bengals and the last eight with the 49ers.

The University of Virginia product hasn’t missed more than three games or had less than five sacks in the last eight seasons. He was also voted All-Pro at OLB in 2012 and 2013 while in San Francisco.

Ted Thompson on anthem protests: ‘Free people can do what they like’

The Green Bay Packers haven’t yet been forced to react to one of their players not standing for the national anthem, but we now know what general manager Ted Thompson thinks about it.

At his weekly press conference on Thursday, the 64-year-old was asked about the form of protest that has seen former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and others not stand during the anthem as a way to bring attention to what they believe is the oppression of people of color in the United States.

“If you’re asking me from a personal standpoint, [it’s] not what I would,” Thompson said. “[But] this is a free country in my opinion. Free people can do what they like.”

Coach Mike McCarthy has put an emphasis on teaching his team each year what the national anthem is about, going so far as to give a Powerpoint presentation.

“Our approach has always been to give the history and the understanding of what the national anthem means and why it’s played before any [NFL] game,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “I go through the whole history and the importance of what it means to you personally.

“That’s something we did right before Family Night, which is the norm.”

Bennett’s brother, Martellus, plays for the Packers, and he told reporters this week he backs Michael’s stance, but stopped short of saying he’d follow suit.

“I’m more of an in-the-moment type guy,” Bennett said Tuesday. “I don’t pre-plan anything like that. If it happens, it happens.”

Green Bay plays its second preseason game on Saturday night at Washington.

The Neighborhood: McCarthy won’t sacrifice longevity for Rodgers’ window

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Among the many things discussed by Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy during Wednesday morning’s training camp introductory press conference were some seemingly innocuous statements about longevity.

“Programs win championships,” McCarthy began, referring back to his thought process as a first-year coach in 2006. “I never thought to sell the farm and be a one-year wonder.”

But after elaborating on his response, it’s clear McCarthy and the Packers have discussed comments from last winter’s playoff run where quarterback Aaron Rodgers put the pressure on management to get him players that can win.

“We’ve just got to make sure we’re going all-in every year to win,” Rodgers said after an NFC Championship Game loss to the Atlanta Falcons. “And I think we can take a big step this offseason.”

A lot has been made in recent years about 33-year-old Rodgers and his perceived “window” closing — a reference to the number of years he might remain in elite playing shape. If Rodgers’ pleas were answered, it wouldn’t be the first time a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback got his team to help him win another Super Bowl.

In Peyton Manning’s final season in 2015, the Denver Broncos made a number of free agency moves, highlighted by cornerback Aqib talib and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. That was enough to send him out on top in his 17th NFL season.

Adding to the intrigue was a recent admission by Rodgers that he was entering the “back nine” of his career.

Fast forward to July 26, 2017 in front of reporters in the media auditorium at Lambeau Field, McCarthy seemed unwilling to give in to hints that Rodgers wants more weapons at the expense of prospects.

“Those eight [consecutive years of] playoff victories are a clear reflection of our championship-level program…But my focus is on continuing to grow that.”

“We’ve always focused on the program. We’ve never sold out to win one game.”

Despite McCarthy’s unwillingness to adapt a more nearsighted approach to team-building, general manager Ted Thompson helped acquire players with plenty of star power. Among the notable additions were tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, and offensive guard Jahri Evans.

Green Bay will get its first look at the newest Packers when pads come on during Thursday morning’s first training camp practice.

Thompson on RBs: “We need some more guys”

PHOENIX — Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson touched on a variety of topics during Monday’s NFL Owners Meetings, including a need for more bodies in the backfield.

“We need some more guys,” Thompson said in reference to adding running backs. “We’re a little short in a couple of areas. So from a personnel standpoint, we’ve got to get some more bodies, but we like the guys that we have. It’s just that we’d like to get some more.”

The departure of Eddie Lacy and the release of James Starks leaves just three running backs on roster, none of which have carried the workload a full season would entail. Ty Montgomery, who switched from wide receiver to running back last season, carried the ball 77 times for 457 yards and three touchdowns.

Reports from over the weekend indicated Thompson and the Packers were considering a meeting with former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson but that his asking price was too steep. Those reports also stated that Green Bay may address Peterson after the NFL Draft next month if their needs aren’t met. But when Thompson was asked about Peterson on Monday, he became tight-lipped.

“Let’s all together answer that question,” Thompson told a group of reporters. “We don’t talk about players that are not on our team. We never have, we never will. It doesn’t serve a purpose, I don’t think.”

Thompson and the Packers have roughly $24 million in cap space remaining for this offseason, and while he admitted it’s possible another player is added, that money might be saved for a future contract extension for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Packers announce the signing of free agent tight end Martellus Bennett

The Green Bay Packers have dipped into the free agent market in a major way.

Tight end Martellus Bennett, most recently of the New England Patriots, is expected to sign a multi-year deal with the Packers, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports.

Green Bay had reportedly made re-signing tight end Jared Cook a priority, but it appears once talks broke down earlier on Friday they moved on to Bennett, who should be an upgrade at the position. With the Patriots last season, the 30-year-old caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns as New England claimed its fifth Super Bowl title. The signing will give the Packers a chance to stretch the middle of the field, something Cook was able to do and something that had been missing since Jermichael Finley was forced to retire in 2013.

Bennett is known to speak his mind, and that’s likely at least partly responsible for him moving around so much during his 9-year career, with stops in Dallas, New York, Chicago and New England.

A foray into the free agent market like this is a rarity for Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Bennett will be the first unrestricted free agent he’s signed since 2012, the longest streak of any team in the NFL.

Bennett will join Richard Rodgers as the only experienced tight ends on the roster.

Packers GM Ted Thompson on retaining their own free agents: ‘It’s a process.’

Green Bay has 11 unrestricted free agents that will be able to sign with any other team when free agency officially begins on March 9.

The names range from Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang to sack-leader Nick Perry to versatile safety Micah Hyde. And though there has been some recent talk of negotiations starting to pick up, no deals appear imminent. But when he met with the media Wednesday morning at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, general manager Ted Thompson didn’t sound overly concerned.

“It’s a process,” Thompson said. “I stand on this podium, I think, every year and say the same thing. Our best intentions will be to sign as many of our own players as we can and keep it together.”

Having not re-signed any of their own guys at this point is not unusual for the Packers. Two years ago, just three days before free agency was set to start, the team came to an agreement with wide receiver Randall Cobb. Then, on the day free agency started, they got a deal done with right tackle Bryan Bulaga. A year earlier, cornerback Sam Shields got a long-term contract from the club a day before he would have been able to go out on the open market.

“You’ve watched the guys that we’ve signed,” Thompson told reporters. “Over the years, we’ve probably signed several right at the start of free agency. My guess is that’s what’s going to happen this year.”

Coach Mike McCarthy spoke later in the day and echoed much of what Thompson said in wanting to see as many of their guys as possible come back into the fold for 2017. That included Perry, who despite breaking his hand, led the Packers in sacks with a career-high 11 in 2016. And with several other top pass rushers having the franchise tag applied to them, namely the Los Angeles Chargers Melvin Ingram, Perry could be in a for a big pay day.

“I have a lot of love for Nick and what he’s gone through,” McCarthy said, noting injuries that limited him to just 17 games his first two years. “He’s hopefully someone we can get his contract worked out.

“Nick’s a hell of a football player.”

ESPN reported that negotiations between running back Eddie Lacy and the team have picked up, while Lang told ESPN Wisconsin this week that he’s had some talks with the team but intends to test the free agent market.

Green Bay’s unrestricted free agents:

RB Eddie Lacy
RB Christine Michael
TE Jared Cook
OL Don Barclay
C/G J.C. Tretter
G T.J. Lang
OLB Julius Peppers
OLB Nick Perry
OLB Datone Jones
S Micah Hyde
LS Brett Goode

Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy to meet with the media at the NFL Combine

For the first time in more than six months, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson will meet with the media next week.

The team announced yesterday that Thompson, along with coach Mike McCarthy, will hold their annual NFL Combine press conferences on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

A lot will have happened in the 184 days between Thompson’s last press conference on Aug. 30 and the one he’ll take part in on March 1, including the cutting of Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton in the week before the season opener, the team’s ugly 4-6 start and the team’s remarkable turnaround and run to the NFC title game.

Among the topics likely to be broached include his future with the club, the reported potential of the team being more involved in free agency and the comment from quarterback Aaron Rodgers that the team needs to be “all in” every season.

Thompson’s press conference will take place at 10 a.m., with McCarthy taking to the podium at noon.

The Neighborhood: What decisions should the Packers make in free agency?

GREEN BAY, Wis. — I’ll begin by admitting I’m not an expert on the salary cap, and I don’t have a direct line to Ted Thompson’s office. But with about $42 million in cap space heading into the offseason, here are some of the options the Green Bay Packers are faced with, along with my predictions of how they’ll handle them. My predictions are only for those positions in which Green Bay also has options in free agency.

Center

Incumbent: J.C. Tretter has just finished up his four-year, $2.6 million contract and is an unrestricted free agent. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 13th-best center in the league based on this past season’s performance, despite missing the last half of the season with a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL). That’s nothing new for the Cornell product, but it’ll cost him when it comes to contract negotiations.

Options: A.Q. Shipley | Arizona Cardinals, Joe Hawley | Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brian Schwenke | Tennessee Titans, John Sullivan | Washington Redskins

Prediction: With Corey Linsley as the only other experienced center on the roster and Tretter the best available, he’ll likely come back on a one-year contract.

Guard

Incumbents: T.J. Lang ranked as the No. 6 right guard in the regular season, according to Pro Football Focus, and has expressed his willingness to return to Green Bay at age 30. Don Barclay suffered a shoulder injury in November and was replaced by rookie Jason Spriggs, who showed promise for the future protection of the Green Bay backfield.

Options: Kevin Zeitler | Cincinnati Bengals, Ronald Leary | Dallas Cowboys, Larry Warford | Detroit Lions, Luke Joeckel | Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: I see this as a position the Packers only address in the draft, so the only move here is to re-sign Lang to a multi-year deal, while potentially cutting Barclay loose. With the promise of Spriggs and the frugal nature of Thompson, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barclay released.

Tight End

Incumbent: Jared Cook came over from the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams on a one-year, $2.75 million contract, and despite missing six games with a high ankle sprain, he performed admirably and became a keystone to their success entering the postseason. He averaged 55 yards and four catches per game over the last 10 games (including playoffs).

Options: Martellus Bennett | New England Patriots, Jack Doyle | Indianapolis Colts, Vernon Davis | Washington Redskins, Jacob Tamme | Atlanta Falcons

Prediction: After earning a Super Bowl ring with New England and making it clear he wants to get paid, Packer fans dreaming of a Bennett-to-Green-Bay scenario can forget about it. At 29 years old, Cook is productive enough to warrant a two-year deal to remain in Titletown.

Running Back

Incumbents: Neither Eddie Lacy, nor Christine Michael were dominant forces in the backfield for the Packers, but because of that, Green Bay can cash in when it comes to negotiations. Lacy logged just 360 yards and no touchdowns before an ankle injury sidelined him for the season. Michael was seldom-used, logging 114 yards on 31 carries in Green Bay.

Options: Le’Veon Bell | Pittsburgh Steelers, LeGarrette Blount | New England Patriots, Latavius Murray | Oakland Raiders, Danny Woodhead | San Diego Chargers

Prediction: Thompson doesn’t like to go with what he doesn’t know, so I don’t see him contacting any of the above options (Bell will re-sign with the Steelers anyway). It’s already being reported that Lacy is likely coming back on a one-year deal worth about $2 million. And with Ty Montgomery looking like a more sure bet, Michael will try to find work elsewhere.

Outside Linebacker

Incumbents: Nick Perry finally had a breakout year, posting 11 sacks, 35 solo tackles, and 17 assisted tackles. Julius Peppers‘ numbers weren’t as great, but he was still effective at 7.5 sacks, 15 solo tackles, and eight assisted tackles.

Options: Chandler Jones | Arizona Cardinals, Melvin Ingram | San Diego Chargers, Malcolm Smith | Oakland Raiders, Barkevious Mingo | New England Patriots

Prediction: While it’s been a nice ride for 37-year-old Peppers, he’ll likely hit the free market and end his career with his first team | the Carolina Panthers. After finally seeing one of “his guys” break out, Thompson will re-sign Perry to a three-year contract and probably overpay. Don’t be surprised if the Packers tease us with a nibble in free agency on an OLB.

Safety

Incumbent: It was a career year for Micah Hyde, matching his personal-best three interception mark on the season. That’s despite making a switch to slot cornerback due to injuries in the Green Bay secondary.

Options: Eric Berry | Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Jefferson | Arizona Cardinals, Barry Church | Dallas Cowboys, Johnathan Cyprien | Jacksonville Jaguars, Quintin Demps | Houston Texans

Prediction: Hyde had a relatively team-friendly contract of four years, $2.3 million, and after earning the performance-based escalator last season, I don’t see why that changes. He’ll earn a three-year deal with the Pack. Plot twist: Thompson nabs one of the above options at safety, but it’ll be a player we know little about.

While cornerback was largely ignored in this post due to the fact that Green Bay doesn’t have any on expiring contract, I’d expect that to be the area where the Packers find a piece in free agency. The best players available are A.J. Bouye (Houston Texans), Trumaine Johnson (Los Angeles Rams), Stephon Gilmore (Buffalo Bills), Morris Claiborne (Dallas Cowboys), and Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota Vikings).

Report: McCarthy’s job likely safe in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Despite a 4-5 record heading into Washington, D.C. Sunday night, a CBS Sports report claims head coach Mike McCarthy’s job is likely safe.

The report didn’t say if McCarthy’s job would be safe regardless of the outcome of the rest of the season, but sources in the report say any changes would likely come from the front office staff. General manager Ted Thompson’s name was specifically mentioned, along with his personnel decisions.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was also named as someone on the hot seat. His defense currently allows 26 points per game, ranking 24th among NFL teams.

The unnamed source claims there will be no head coaching change because of the “mutual respect that anchors [Aaron Rodgers and McCarthy].” There’s reportedly no scenario that could make Rodgers wish for new leadership.

Green Bay adds running back Christine Michael off of waivers

For the second time this year, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has acquired a castoff from one of his former disciples.

The team announced Wednesday that they had claimed running back Christine Michael off of waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, whose personnel man, John Schneider, served under Thompson and former general manager Ron Wolf in Green Bay.

Michael ran for 469 yards and six touchdowns this year for the Seahawks, including a career-high 106 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. But he had fallen out of favor in recent weeks, and with preferred starter Thomas Rawls set to return, Seahawks let him go, in what some called a shocking move.

For Green Bay, the move makes perfect sense. With starter Eddie Lacy on injured reserve, backup James Starks still trying to regain his form following knee surgery and the trade for Knile Davis not working out, Michael gives the Packers a somewhat proven option in the backfield. The 26-year-old can work with Starks and converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery to help a running game that ranks 21st in the NFL.

Michael has rushed for 966 yards in his four-year NFL career after getting drafted by the Seahawks in the second round of the 2013 draft.

Green Bay placed running back Don Jackson on injured reserve to make room for Michael on the roster.

The Packers (4-5) travel to Washington (5-3-1) this Sunday.