" Sensei: No, we have not even begun upon this path. Ed Gruberman, you must learn patience.
"Ed Gruberman: Yeah, yeah, yeah patience! How long is that going to take?" - "Boot to the Head", The Frantics
Al Davis at Packernet decided to vent his frustration at the recent non-signing and non-tagging of Sam Shields with a vitriolic rant that teetered on the same precarious ledge of sanity last seen around the summer of 2008.
The Green Bay Packers refuse to sign other team’s free agents and now they apparently refuse to sign their own. So much for draft and develop. Today the Packers let one of their most valuable defensive players walk by not using the franchise or transition tag on cornerback Sam Shields. Other teams are certainly not as stupid as the Packers so Shields will be long gone once free agency starts.
Mind you, I'm not one to try and give other sites a little free publicity, but this was so banal, I really felt the need to draw attention to it. Like, in the "here's what not to do if you are a Packer fan" kind of way.
There's plenty to be concerned about in Packerland, no doubt. The Packers are at a crossroads, perhaps even looking at a major rebuild. We could potentially miss the playoffs next season as we try and develop players to fill multiple holes--that one draft ain't going to fill in one fell swoop.
And let me tell you right now: it's perfectly natural.
In fact, it's by design. And I've been saying it for years.
There's a huge difference between Sam Shields, the cornerback the Packers have on their roster, and Sam Shields, the guy who wants a top-10 cornerback contract (or a tag that eats up a third of the available cap space). The question is whether you're going to pay the guy as if he's an NFL elite.
But is he elite, or just the best we have right now? Hey, about a year ago at this time, a lot of people were celebrating the Morgan Burnett contract extension. After all, when Charles Woodson departed, he certainly was the best safety we had on the roster.
Wasn't saying much, was it?
If Pickett decides to retire, or the Packers choose to pass on an aging player, BJ Raji is probably the best healthy defensive lineman left on the roster. Is he worth $8M a year, as he was allegedly offered earlier in the season? A lot of folks right now will say he isn't.
Personally, I don't think Shields is worth the money. Do the Packers have anyone to replace him? No. But they also can't afford to tie themselves up with a long-term megadeal with a guy who's not going to be worth the money, either.
It's a pickle. And its by design.
Look, the Green Bay Packers, whether you want to believe it or not, are in the "Fall" portion of their Roman Empire. The system is ginned to work against a Super Bowl-winning team, making their window very short and the eventual fall from the elite a near certainty.
You can't keep picking in the late 20's of the draft and think you're going to keep up with the teams drafting ahead of you in every round.
You can't sign guys like Aaron Rodgers to the biggest contract in the NFL, AND Clay Matthews to the highest defensive contract in the NFL, AND think you're going to be able to keep everyone else, too. It isn't going to happen, and once those two deals were inked, this offseason was going to be a lot more bloodletting than we're used to.
Because that's the way the system is designed. Sure, there's the occasional Patriot team that can keep it going with some pretty shrewd deals for a while, but eventually, every team succumbs to the parity the NFL has designed to prevent the dynasties that once ruled entire decades.
The Packers, for certain, can't complain about the system. Without the era of free agency and salary caps, the Packers would never have had a chance to win a Super Bowl in 1996. At the same time, we saw the first instances of parity completely deconstruct the 49ers and Cowboys dynasties, falling victim to a new term in the football vernacular: "Salary Cap Hell".
In many ways, Ted Thompson is going to have to go back to the beginning, where he was in 2006, dealing with salary cap implications that led to the painful departure of many beloved veterans. He only tepidly touched the free agent market and built a team almost completely through the draft.
During those rebuilding years, a plaintive cry went through Packer Nation: "We can't wait to rebuild! We have to win Brett Favre another Super Bowl NOW!!!" With Aaron Rodgers on the wrong side of 30, chances are the longer Thompson takes to turn it all around, the more you might hear voices like Al Davis and other impatient Packer fans wondering why Thompson isn't selling the farm to piece together a team that can win today.
Really, you want to mortgage everything for one year, and end up like the Vikings? No thanks.
It's not easy to take, and as I said, there's plenty to criticize over at 1265 if you really want to.
But seriously? Ripping on Thompson for not overpaying every free agent simply because we don't have anything better on the roster? Not overpaying on the free agent market to win RIGHT NOW?
Have we learned nothing from our own history? The Packers rebuilt in 2005-2006 and were within one stupid interception of the Super Bowl in 2007. They kept retooling after losing Favre and actually won it three seasons later.
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