Will Thompson’s free agent spending atone for poor draft picks?

Discussion in 'Green Bay Packer Football' started by Da-news-now, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. Da-news-now

    Da-news-now RSS Reporter Reporter

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    By BOB McGINN

    Don’t tell me that Ted Thompson found much satisfaction signing all those old hands from across the National Football League.

    At 64, the general manager of the Green Bay Packers isn’t looking to alter his formula for success that has resulted in a Super Bowl ring and eight straight playoff appearances.

    He’s draft and develop, re-sign your own and the heck with things unknown when it comes to building a football team.

    Watching the Packers operate completely out of character in the last six months was strange, to say the least. Thompson doesn’t have to do anything, not with the unwavering support he has from team president Mark Murphy. But, in reality, he either had to start bringing in some veterans or risk losing the coaches and personnel people that are in Green Bay to win another Super Bowl.

    His veteran acquisitions have included tight end Martellus Bennett, 30, and guard Jahri Evans, 34, in unrestricted free agency; and tight end Lance Kendricks, 29; defensive linemen Ricky Jean Francois, 30, and Quinton Dial, 27; outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, 33, and cornerback Davon House, 28, all in “street” free agency.

    Together with interior offensive linemen Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray, two young “street” free agents, the Packers count nine new unrestricted and “street” free agents on their 53-man roster. The Packers’ opening-day rosters under Thompson included only two such players in 2016, two in ’15, three in ’14, three in ’13, five in ’12, none in ’11, two in ’10, one in ’09, three in ’08, two in ’07, eight in ’06 and three in ’05.

    The aging warriors have raised the Packers’ average age to 25.81 years, their highest since the Super Bowl season of 2010 (25.91).

    For just the second time in Thompson’s 13 years a team other than Green Bay has the youngest squad in the NFC North. It’s Detroit (25.77), the first time the Lions have been youngest in the division since records first were tabulated in 1995.

    It should be noted that in the 10 years before Thompson’s arrival not once were the Packers the youngest club in the division.

    In an interview two years ago, Thompson acknowledged his keen preference for staying in-house when it came to putting together a team.

    “The more you know about people and the more I’m comfortable with them, you know you can count on them,” said Thompson, who once labeled himself “a little bit of a hoarder” when it comes to retaining players that the Packers introduced to the NFL.

    As much as Thompson admires familiarity and dislikes surprises, he felt compelled to hire outsiders because the pipeline from within was running dry.

    Look at the numbers. It’s clear that Thompson drafted better in his first six years than he has in the last six years.

    He probably fared better overall in free agency, if truth be told, but declined to press his luck in that area perhaps because he lacked confidence or just decided against it. There were successful “street” signings along the way but it was telling that Thompson didn’t add a single unrestricted free agent from 2013-’16, or in 2010-’11.

    At one point, coach Mike McCarthy made his frustration known to friends. Others in the building couldn’t understand why the general manager wasn’t doing more to help them win.

    Mediocre drafting and conservative financial policies were the major reasons that led Thompson to determine a new course of action was required.

    When Thompson and vice president Russ Ball made the call that Jared Cook was just too pricy, it came down to starting tight end Richard Rodgers by default in 2017 or signing a veteran starter. The result was Bennett and Kendricks.

    Twelve months ago the Packers might have had the most enviable guard-center depth in the league with Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Corey Linsley, JC Tretter and Lane Taylor. They cut Sitton out of a fit of anger, low-balled Lang out of town and decided Tretter was a center only and watched him bolt for Cleveland, where he’s a starter.

    Taylor saved the day last year by coming through at left guard. By mid-April, the best options to start at right guard were Jason Spriggs or Kyle Murphy. Spriggs would have gotten killed inside for lack of strength, and Murphy had almost no experience at guard.

    Fortunately for the Packers, on the day before the draft, someone presumably persuaded Thompson into picking up Evans. No one can be certain if Evans can hold up anymore but he has a much better chance than Spriggs or Murphy did.

    Jean Francois arrived on March 22, Dial on Tuesday. They’re veteran backups, the kind of player Thompson never wanted around taking up space on his rosters until all the preferred options failed to materialize.

    The retirement of B.J. Raji in March 2016 was a blow. Even more damaging to the defensive line were the wasted draft picks spent on Jerel Worthy (second round, 2012), Datone Jones (first round, 2013) and Khyri Thornton (third round, 2014).

    The Packers spent three years trying to develop Christian Ringo, a sixth-round pick, and two on Brian Price, a free agent. The decision to release Price on Saturday and keep Ringo, and then whack Ringo in favor of Dial led to what one personnel man on Wednesday said was a significant upgrade.

    At outside linebacker, the decisions to part company with Julius Peppers and Jones led to the fourth-round selection of Vince Biegel, who promptly suffered his second broken foot in eight months and is out until at least mid-season.

    Carl Bradford was a fourth-round bust in 2014, which in roundabout fashion supposedly left Kyler Fackrell (third round, 2016) as the top backup. When Fackrell failed to show anything and one-time free agent Jayrone Elliott plateaued, Thompson leaped when the 49ers jettisoned Brooks.

    The Packers suffered a crushing setback in the opener last year when No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields suffered a career-ending concussion. They should have been able to soak up the impact because Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins had been drafted 1-2 the year before.

    When Randall failed even to compete at times and Rollins played poorly, 
Thompson didn’t hesitate bringing back House in March after Jacksonville turned him loose. It’s unclear if House will contribute much following an injury-marred summer, but if Thompson hadn’t made that move the cornerback position would have been rife with simply too many young players once again.

    Thompson even agreed to jettison three draft choices over the weekend, more than he had ever cut from a draft class in its first year.

    He made another change in putting together the 90-man roster. Last year, he would sign a record 31 undrafted rookies, and a whopping four made the 53. When the Packers won a championship seven years ago just 14 undrafted rookies went to training camp.

    This year, Thompson trimmed down from 31 to 22 (two made it) rookie free agents, which in turn created room for a “street” free agent like guard Justin McCray. He already had been to two NFL training camps, had honed his craft and wound up using those experiences to make the team.

    Besides the combined total of nine unrestricted and “street” free agents, the final 53 also includes six draft choices (out of 10, the lowest percentage of the Thompson era), the two undrafted rookies and one player off waivers.

    The 18 “newcomers,” defined as those without any time on the Packers’ 53 or injured-reserve list in the previous year, is the highest total starting a season since a new coach, McCarthy, entered 2006 with 23.

    “Compared to prior years, maybe,” McCarthy said Tuesday when asked about the different demographic on the roster. “But I still don’t think we have so many guys that played elsewhere that it’s really going to change the landscape of our locker room.

    “l don’t know them very well. I haven’t really worked with them. But they’re here for a reason, and I’m glad they’re here.”

    Unlike Bill Belichick, Thompson has never appeared to look at each season as a separate entity.

    Belichick always signs a slew of veterans, discards most of them and finds use for a few. Come February, the Patriots start all over again and just keep winning titles.

    Green Bay enters the season with nine players 30 years or order, its most since 2005. Several will be one-year rentals, if that, but so what?

    All Thompson has to do is put his anxieties aside in the new year, accumulate more good football players, young and old, in the spring and make certain he’s giving the franchise its best chance to win.

    The post Will Thompson’s free agent spending atone for poor draft picks? appeared first on Bob McGinn Football.

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  2. TW

    TW Moderator

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    Good synopsis, but I'm not worried about age. Yes, it's nice to have young players, but, experienced veterans who know their job can be counted on to not make rookie mistakes. They also learn the system quicker, because they've geared their lives to having to use their football senses in the skull sessions to better their games.
     
  3. eyecatcher

    eyecatcher Member

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    I feel like every article McGinn writes about TT has a negative tone to it. Did TT scorn him? TT should be commended for what he brought in or at least hold your opinion until we see how it works out. I am not the biggest TT fan in the world but I will support him if I think he made good moves. I think his draft looks good on paper and his FA signings were just what we've all been asking for. Strength and speed. We got faster and stronger on defense. Now we need to see if it will equate to better.

    I personally don't feel like a GM needs to atone for a few misses in the draft. I've shown before how TT stacks up against other GMs as far as draft record so I won't go through that again other than to say he has done a better job in the draft than Belichick.
     
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  4. ChampionshipBelt

    ChampionshipBelt Member

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    Well eye, if TT is better than BB in the draft then it is really about our coaches and not developing players. We have the same level of QB if not better and yet they have 5 titles in 17 years and we have 2 in 25 years. Maybe they are just a better organization all around.

    But a lot of us have said this before. Not having an owner has its positives and negatives. Our BOD are satified because we are making money. An owner would be happy but not satisfied. They would spend money as well as fire coached that are not getting it done. So I commend TT for doing what he did this year so far; however, I hammer him for not putting more pressure on MM and his coaches for not getting the job done.
     
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  5. kingkoopa

    kingkoopa Member

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    There is no excuse for Capers still being our D coordinator. It's simply baffling. Any other team in the league would have canned him twice by now. Once after 2011, and once after last year. Add to that, not even one of his ASSISTANTS have been fired after all the putrid defense we've seen and it really makes me wonder just how much they care about winning it all in GB.
     
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