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Packers sign DE Hargrove

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Tyler Dunne/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 30, 2012
— The annual splurge of extravagant contracts has come to a halt. Free agency has become more flea market than auction.

And that's Ted Thompson cue.


With free agency into its third week, the Green Bay Packers general manager has begun some subtle spring cleaning on defense. At some point—before the NFL draft—Thompson likely needed to find reinforcements.


Green Bay could have three new starters on defense. So on Thursday, the Packers made their first move to improve the league's 32nd-ranked unit.


Defensive end Anthony Hargrove officially signed with the Packers, his agent Phil Williams confirmed. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. In addition to this, Green Bay had defensive end Dave Tollefson in on a visit Thursday and he'll stay in town today.


Green Bay only had 29 sacks in 2011, as the loss of Cullen Jenkins lingered all year. The 6-foot-3½, 272-pound Hargrove probably isn't a savior.


This will be his fifth team in eight seasons. The 28-year-old has played for the St. Louis Rams (2004-'06), Buffalo Bills (2006-'07), New Orleans Saints (2009-'10) and Seattle Seahawks (2011). But he should offer the Packers' defensive front something it sorely lacks—speed.


Defensive tackle Red Bryant, one of Hargrove's teammates in Seattle last year, says he'll miss playing with the defensive end.


"He's definitely a high-energy guy," Bryant said. "His motor is always running. He's definitely going to be a guy you can count on to make a big play throughout the course of the game and throughout the course of the season. He has a high energy, a high motor. Put in the right situation, it's definitely going to pay off."


At his peak with the New Orleans Saints in 2009, Hargrove was the top interior rusher on a Super Bowl champion. That season he finished with 42 tackles, five sacks and three fumble recoveries.


Hargrove should help Green Bay as one of the two down linemen in Dom Capers' nickel package. And, as of now, Hargrove is probably the defense's best option to start in base. Mike Neal is suspended the first four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and faced an uphill climb anyways. Both Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson are best suited as rotational players. Howard Green is an unrestricted free agent.


A year ago, Wynn, Wilson and Neal produced only three sacks, one quarterback hit and 19 pressures combined. Hargrove gives the defense a new element.


Bryant was one of those first-week bank-breakers. The 323-pound defensive plug re-signed with the Seahawks for five years, $35 million. A big reason for that payday was Hargrove, he said.


"He was a phenomenal teammate, a great guy," Bryant said. "He's definitely a team-oriented guy and a great leader. He did a great job for us last year. We're definitely going to miss him around the locker room."


Hargrove's career nearly caved. He violated the league's substance abuse policy twice, leading to a season-long suspension in 2008.


Then, in 2009, he experienced a renaissance of sorts. Hargrove was an integral part of a Saints defense that forced 47 turnovers (including playoffs) en route to a Super Bowl triumph over Indianapolis, albeit controversial. Hargrove is one player in the thick of the Saints' bounty scandal. It's unknown whether he'll be suspended.


Thompson did explore tier-one options the first week of free agency. The Packers flirted with Kendall Langford before the former Miami Dolphin signed a four-year, $24 million contract with the


St. Louis Rams.


Hargrove comes much cheaper. This is how Thompson has always done business. While not splashy, this signing should improve a defense that allowed a NFL-record 4,796 passing yards in 2011.



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