According to a published report, Green Bay is one of at least six teams to have “reached out” to the agent for free agent outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. There’s both good news and bad news in that sentence. The good news is that Ted Thompson is showing some degree of interest in the best pass rusher still available on the open market. The bad news is that a bunch of other GMs are doing the same thing. That means there will be stiff competition, and of course, stiff competition equals a big contract. And since Thompson has never gotten into a bidding war for a player, it’s probably safe to assume Wimbley isn’t going to be a Packer in 2012. After watching a few Raider games from last season, that might not be such a bad thing.
It’s not that Wimbley played poorly; it’s just that he didn’t play all that well. If DeMarcus Ware is a 10 and Clay Matthews is a 9, Wimbley is probably a 6 or 7. And while that’s about double the rating I’d give to any of the players who started for the Packers at right outside linebacker last season, it’s not high enough to merit the type of contract he’s destined to receive. The former Florida State star is average at best against the run. He gives good effort, but he doesn’t take on, control or play off blocks very effectively. The strength of his game is clearly rushing the quarterback. He has a quick first step, a nice shoulder dip move and a relentless attitude. But even with all that, he managed only 7 sacks last season – with 4 coming in one game against San Diego’s third-string tackle.
It’s hard to predict what the final numbers will look like in Wimbley’s next contract. On one hand, he’s far and away the best pass rusher left in free agency. That could equate to $7 or $8 million a year. But on the other hand, he hit the market three days later than everybody else. That could cost him some coin. The only thing for certain is that the deal will be a big one – almost certainly too big for a franchise that will have to spend huge bucks to extend MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews – among others – in the very near future.
Regardless, Thompson has to find a quality right outside linebacker before the start of training camp. Neither Erik Walden, Frank Zombo nor Brad Jones got the job done last season, and it’s too risky to rely on the development of talented but unproven second-year players Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore. But free agency probably isn’t the answer. Thompson would be better off packaging picks and moving up in the first round of next month’s draft. That strategy allowed him to get Matthews in 2009. With an expected 12 picks, he’ll have plenty of ammunition to jump up to get a particular player that he covets. Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox are among the defenders that could really help the Packers and figure to be selected somewhere in the middle of round one.