Back to normal for Packers in free agency

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- More than two weeks into free agency, the only player the Green Bay Packers have brought in from the outside is a street free agent defensive back whose NFL experience is a total of one week on a practice squad.

So in other words, things are normal in general manager Ted Thompson's world.

Every year Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy come to NFL annual meetings, which takes place shortly after free agency begins, and every year they're asked the same thing about their roster-building philosophy. It was no different this week in Phoenix, where the meetings wrapped up on Wednesday.

"It's kind of like groundhog today," McCarthy said Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast. "I feel like I answer this every year. I'm trying to be creative and answer it differently this year. It's just the way we operate. We do the evaluations. We have a door down in the personnel department just like we do for the draft board for free agency. We just stick to our plan. However it sorts out, that's how it works out."

By now, everyone around the league knows the Packers prefer to sign their own free agents -- like they did with receiver Randall Cobb and tackle Bryan Bulaga earlier this month -- rather than to chase players from other teams.

"That's our No. 1 priority, always has been, to sign our own free agents," McCarthy said. "We go into every offseason, if we have 10 conversations, nine-and-half of them are about our own guys."

Before the Packers on Wednesday signed street free agent safety Kyle Sebetic, who spent a week on the New York Giants practice squad last November, they were the only NFL team that had not added a new player since free agency began on March 10.

"We're still doing our work, our due diligence," Thompson told reporters earlier this week at the NFL meetings. "You never know what's going to [happen]. Things change around the league because teams make decisions to go in a certain direction and then all of a sudden a player might come out of that team that you didn't normally suspect that to be the case. You just try to keep our powder dry and know what we're doing."

The Packers have essentially made three or four significant free-agent signings in Thompson's tenure as GM, which began in 2005. In 2006, he signed defensive back Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Last offseason, he brought in pass-rusher Julius Peppers. Peppers was not even a true unrestricted free agent. He had been cut by the Chicago Bears. Same thing with Letroy Guion, the defensive tackle the Packers signed last offseason to a one-year deal. He had been released by the Minnesota Vikings.

However you want to categorize what the Packers did last season, it wasn't the norm.

On the flip side, when players are drafted by the Packers, they know they have a chance to make it a long-term relationship.

"We tell them coming in how important they are as draft picks, how important they are as free agents," McCarthy said. "It starts with rookie orientation and the impact each and every year that the first-year player impact has on a football team. And then it grows. I think it's a mutual understanding that they want to be Green Bay Packers, and we want to keep them here. I feel good that we're able to continue to do that."

Of course, the Packers have not been able to keep them all. They lost a pair of cornerbacks -- Tramon Williams and Davon House -- in free agency so far this year, and several of their other free agents remained unsigned.

"We're pretty comfortable," Thompson said. "Every year it seems like there are a few guys that you'd like to keep that go elsewhere, and that's just part of the game now. Mike and his staff do a great job working with new guys and we have some guys on our team that we think can fill in. At the same time, I make no bones of the fact in some cases we'd like to keep the guys."