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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Insiders grade Packers' free-agent moves

By Rob Demovsky

The ESPN Insiders NFL team of veteran reporter Mike Sando along with Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Matt Williamson and Field Yates combined to grade all 32 teams in free agencyInsider so far.

Peppers
When it came to the Green Bay Packers, apparently the big-splash signing of defensive end Julius Peppers was only enough to warrant a grade of slightly better than average. The Packers also re-signed some of their own key free agents, including cornerback Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and defensive end/outside linebacker Mike Neal.

In giving the Packers a C-plus, Sando wrote: "Keeping Shields, Raji and Neal from leaving was important, but the big question is whether Peppers can make the Packers better on defense."

Wrote Riddick, a former NFL scout: "Peppers has that connection with [Packers defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac and has wanted to play in a 3-4. They got good value. Playing with Clay Matthews is a good fit there. I think Ted Thompson is good at making those targeted free-agent gambles. Everything else they do will be through the draft."

Among the Packers' key losses were center Evan Dietrich-Smith (who signed Tampa Bay) and receiver James Jones (who signed with Oakland).

Polian, the former Indianapolis Colts general manager, said that he thought Dietrich-Smith would be missed. Polian also wasn't convinced that Peppers would be worth the money, but he liked some of the Packers' re-signings. He thought most teams would miss Jones, too, but the Packers might be fine.

"They produce receivers on an assembly line there," Polian said.