Woodson: a free agent signing that worked
Still buzzing over that riveting LeBron special with the probing questions prior to his announcement such as “How’s your summer?” and “Do you still bite your nails?”…
In my writings this week about the dangers of free agency in the NFL, I received many messages and comments about a successful free agent signing I was involved with at the Packers, that of Charles Woodson. Yes, sometimes free agency in the NFL does work, although in this case, the Packers were fortunate the circumstances played out the way they did.
I well remember the chase of Woodson in the spring of 2006. We had just come off a horrendous 4-12 season, Brett Favre was cutting grass in Mississippi yet to decide whether he was playing, and I sensed Green Bay was the last place in the league that Charles wanted to play.
A couple weeks of free agency had passed. Some cornerbacks went off the board -- such as Brian Williams with the Jaguars, who received a $10 million signing bonus on a six-year, $32 million deal -- and Charles was still out there with little interest. The only real suitors were the Packers and Buccaneers, with Tampa’s financial interest being quite lukewarm.
Woodson had no real choice other than the Packers.
In the end, Woodson had no real choice. If the money were close from Tampa, he probably would have been a Buc. But our offer was significantly more. We finally signed him to a seven-year deal with $18 million in the first three years and heavily incentivized after that (incentives and escalators that he has now earned). After a month of intense negotiations, we finally agreed on the deal and Charles got on the phone with one question: “Do you guys wear black cleats?” (we did not but he still agreed to the deal).
The chase of Woodson proved another mantra about free agency: it is often the price paid for drafting poorly. Woodson’s signing was the direct result of the Packers top pick in the 2004 Draft – cornerback Ahmad Carroll -- having lost the confidence of the staff.
Even as the only true suitor, we had to recruit the agent and player with all the gusto possible. I felt like the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce trying to convince Charles and his agent of the benefits of playing in Titletown.
At the same time we were recruiting Woodson, we were chasing another player with the same agents – the Poston brothers – in Lavar Arrington. Woodson signed, and the dynamic Arrington -- who had the defensive coaching staff smitten like high school girls with a crush after his impressive visit -- turned down more money from the Packers to sign with the Giants in order to play against the Redskins twice a year.
LaVar ruptured his Achilles tendon in Week Seven of that year. Charles is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Sometimes fortune shines down.
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