Win Now Or Keep Our Young Stars Long Term?

Joel HebdaContributor IJanuary 22, 2009

During this 2009 off season, the Green Bay Packers have many options on what they can do to improve the overall ability of the team. 

To me there are two general options when it comes to spending our money: Sign our young stars to long term contracts so we will have a solid core for a long time or go out and sign big name free agents to immediately improve mainly our defense so we will have a very legitimate chance of doing very well next year.

Starting with the first option, we have already begun to do this.  We have signed Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant to big deals so they are ours for years to come.  But there are still some of our other young stars who may soon be able to leave Green Bay

The biggest name is most likely Greg Jennings.  A former second round pick who is now one of the biggest home run wide reciever in the NFL.  He has great speed, great hand, great route running ability and a great chemistry with his quarterback.  I believe this is his last contract year with us though, so that could pose a problem.  With him becoming one of the league's best, he will not come very cheap. 

While I strongly think that he likes Green Bay and that Green Bay and other veteran influences (Donald Driver) have kept his head from getting to big, this game is a lot about money and I am sure he wants some.

Other players that I would like to see the Packers lock up are Nick Collins, Tramon Williams, Nick Barnett, and possibly A.J. Hawk (if he can make improvements from the last two years which I think he will if he moves to the middle of our 3-4 like I have said in my past article). 

With those defensive players included with the main parts of our offense locked up, we have the frame of a team that looks to be good for a very long time, but perhaps not dominate...yet.  So we could spend our money locking these players up and maybe rope in a decent free agent or two.  But there is also the second option.

Figuring in that we have only signed two free agents the past two years and they are Brandon Chillar and Frank Walker, I am highly inclined to believe that the Packers have quite a bit of salary cap space.  And I would really like to know what we are doing with it.  It cannot go anywhere else I don't think, so that kind of confuses me.  But this is the off season that Ted Thompson needs to use every penny that he has been saving if he wants to win right now.

There are some huge names on the free agents market, and some of them could be great pickups for the Packers.  Albert Haynesworth is simply one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the league.  There is no doubt in my mind he is in the top three.  He could play either NT or DE in the 3-4 and should be our top priority.

Then there is the freak of nature Julius Peppers.  He has said that he wants to play in an 3-4 and what better place to come than the Packers now?  We have a relatively weak division and an offense with huge amounts of potential.  He would be the star of our defense instantly.

Both him and Kampman flying around the field is a very scary thought for opposing offenses.  He will be demanding top dollar though.  Another option at OLB in the 3-4 would be Terrell Suggs who we could get cheaper and while he is not in the league of Peppers only because Julius Peppers is in a category all by himself, he is a terrific player. 

Imagine a starting defense of Cullen Jenkins, BJ Raji (with the 9th pick), Albert Haynesworth on the D-line.  Aaron Kampman, Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, and Julius Peppers at the linbackers.  And then one of the best secondaries in the league especially now that they don't have to worry about stopping the run constantly.

A free agent option on offense could be OT Jordan Gross so the probable loss of Mark Tauscher will not seem so bad.

Now realistically there is no way that all these signings could happen, but I think that some of them desperately do.  We cannot keep improving our team simply on the draft when we are drafting the Justin Harrell's of the world.  Yes we have made some good picks, but they only can do you so much to start out with. 

I think we should make a serious play for Haynesworth and Suggs, see what it would take to get Peppers, and try to get Greg Jennings locked up as Rodgers primary target for the years to come.  So that is a little bit of a mix of both. 

But win now or have a solid core for the years to come?