I'd like to respond to, if that's the right phrase, Tom Silverstein's assessment of Ted Thompson's approach, or lack thereof, to free agency this offseason. In this morning's Packers Daily Briefing, Silverstein states:
The problem I see with this philosophy is what happens when one of your draft classes isn't any good? There is so much pressure on you to be right in the draft that if you have an off year, it absolutely destroys you. There's no room for error. To me, that's exactly what happened with the 2007 draft class.
DT Justin Harrell, the guy who should have provided the most impact, has offered nothing for two years. RB Brandon Jackson came out of college too early and wasn't ready to be anything more than a spot player. WR James Jones was the bright spot of the draft, but an injury ruined his development last year. S Aaron Rouse and OT Allen Barbre have been disappointments. FB Korey Hall has been solid, LB Desmond Bishop flashed ability last year but clearly wasn't ready to start, K Mason Crosby has had his ups and downs and RB DeShawn Wynn is a developmental player.
If you want to know part of the reason why the Packers were 6-10 last year, there it is.
I would point out that Silverstein has some very conveniently colored (for his argument) assessments of the players in question. With Harrell, of course, he is spot on. With Jackson, however, he is way off. Sure, Jackson was not ready in 2007 - but last year he was the best back on the team. He should have at LEAST made a push for more carries after the Carolina game, if not been handed the starting job outright. But for whatever reason, McCarthy, Philbin and Bennett feel the need to stick with Grant as the featured back. That's not Jackson's or Thompson's fault - that's mishandling the personnel on hand - that's one of the many coaching decisions that produced a 6-10 record. Next he points to James Jones and how his injury 'ruined his development'. Um - so what? It's not like Thompson didn't have a deep stable of receivers at the ready in case of such a development. In fact, I would counter that Thompson's drafting of Jordy Nelson, in the face of a lot of criticism, offset whatever loss was felt from Jones' injury. And on and on...
I also like how Silverstien characterizes his objection on the grounds that Thompson isn't "taking advantage of the market". Actually, I would say he is doing exactly that - by staying out of it. While teams are overpaying for the likes of Canty and Burnett, Thompson will resign guys like Greg Jennings and Aaron Kampman, guys he knows well and knows how they fit into what the Packers are trying to do. We know Jennings will get done, and I suspect Kampman will see an extension around the same time Rodgers saw one last year, provided he performs like I think he will in his new role. And that's just it - why overpay for some guy who you have no idea how he will fit in with your team and schemes? I'd much rather Thompson looked at cheaper guys already on the roster like Hunter or Thompson to play opposite Kampman than sign someone like Bart Scott and find out he doesn't work or that he shuts it down after getting paid - and then have to watch Kampman and/or Bigby walk next year because we couldn't afford to keep them because the team gave Scott a monster contract.
One last point I'd like to make, speaking of Bart Scott, is the amount of time it can take players to become meaningful contributors to a team. Scott is a perfect example. Drafted in 2002, Scott did not become a starter until 2005, becoming the full-time starter in 2006. It takes time. I know it doesn't make people happy to read that when it's March and seemingly all the other teams are making moves, but Thompson believes his talent is on par with what's out there and is only getting better. I'm inclined to agree with him, especially after the case Winston Moss made at Fan Fest.
Finally, I think Silverstein is completely discounting the coaching and schematic changes on the defensive side of the ball. I said it on the podcast and I'll repeat it here: Dom Capers is bigger (and better) than any free agent signing they could have made. And all this concern over the defensive personnel is way, way overblown. Capers is one of the best defensive minds working in the game today - he's not going to put guys in positions they can't handle and he won't be married to any one way of doing things to the point that it begins to hurt the team (unlike his predecessor). Packer fans are in for a pleasant surprise on the defensive side of the ball in the 2009 season and beyond. And no free agent acquisition (or lack thereof) is going to change that.
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