Many fans, after a depressing 6-10 season, are clamouring for Ted Thompson to go on a free agent spending spree, to bring in a bunch of veterans including Albert Haynesworth. And that's great to think about and debate for the next two months, but I'm here to tell you: It's never going to happen, and I'm very very thankful for it.
Now, I have been quite vocal about the Packers' need for veteran leadership and the need to acquire a few veterans who have won some games in the NFL and won't fold when the pressure ramps up in the 4th quarter. Chiefly, this team needs one or two vocal leaders. Driver, Kampman and Woodson are brilliant, but they lead by example. This team needs a Leroy Butler or Reggie White-type (in manner - if they can play like Butler or White, so much the better), someone who can credibly gather the team when there are 6 minutes left in the game and say "This is our time". Some will point out that this should be McCarthy's job. People who say that have never worn a headset on an NFL sideline. The last thing the head coach is worrying about is giving a rah-rah speech to his professional football players. And this is where Thompson left McCarthy high and dry. Thompson has built this team in his image, chiefly the image of Thompson the linebacker all those years ago: Show up, do your job. That's what Thompson likes and those are the types of players (for the most part) he has sought out. It has given the team a nice bedrock of talent but it has robbed it of any passion. The A.J. Hawk pick is the best example of this. Thompson saw a more talented version of himself in Hawk, a player who loved the game, loved playing for the good of his team, and who wasn't a flashy, mouthy kind of guy.Now, Hawk is a good player, a better player than Vernon Davis, the tight end chosen by the 49ers directly after Hawk (a player, I might add, I wanted the Packers to draft), but he is not a vocal leader by any stretch, which again, this team is in dire need of.
Getting back to free agency - yes, Thompson should look at guys who are still unsigned one or two weeks after the initial bonanza starts, but by no means should he get into a bidding war for 'name' players. Look where all the 'names' have gotten the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, they have a better record than the Packers, but they'll be in the same place the Packers are during the playoffs, watching on their sofa. No one can tell me that's a tight-knit team that just needs to tweak some things to get ready for 2009. All those name players have torn apart the Cowboys. Torn. Apart. The Packers, in contrast, are a young, close-knit group (well, with the possible exception of Al Harris and Brady Poppinga ;) ). They simply need a few solid veterans, not big name stars. Yes, Haynesworth would be wonderful, but not at the price he will undoubtedly command. Whoever lands him will overpay by at least $10 million. And yes, the Packers need some major help on the defensive line, but Thompson can get two or three serviceable guys for the price some team will pay Haynesworth. Plus, he has the ninth overall pick and Brian Orakpo, the defensive end from Texas, just waiting to fall into his lap, not too mention an extra third round pick to try and (!) move up if he so desires.
My point is - Thompson has built this team for the long haul and I don't see him making drastic changes this offseason, nor should he. Yes, his defensive line fell apart, and he certainly put too much faith in Harrell and KGB's ability to overcome their injuries and contribute in any meaningful way. But he has made more good moves than bad and has many avenues at his disposal to improve his team. Yes, the fans will decry his 'frugal' (ie smart) ways come free agency time, but he has the Packers on track. He doesn't need 'names' to fix what ails his team, especially as sometimes those 'names' end up making things much, much worse.
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