Every year, NFL teams seem to go through the same rigmarole; star players and role players decide to "test the waters" of free agency while general managers idly stand by.
Financially speaking, it makes sense for the players. They can use the process as leverage to increase their salary and possibly even create a bidding war over their services. What I don't understand is why general managers continually allow this to happen.
Which brings me to the following questions: Why haven't the Packers re-signed Chad Clifton or Mark Tauscher? Further, have Jimmy Sexton and Neil Cornrich, the respective agents of Clifton and Tauscher, even been contacted by the Packers front office?
According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the answer to the latter question is yes.
"Agents for the...soon-to-be unrestricted free agents said that they've had conversations with the Packers, but there were no indications deals were on the horizon."
What if Clifton and/or Tauscher decide to sign elsewhere? That would mean, you may want to sit down for this, some combination of Allen Barbre, T.J. Lang, and Breno Giacomini would be anchoring the line that protects Aaron Rodgers and clears holes for Ryan Grant. Do Packers' fans even know how to pronounce Giacomini's name? More importantly, can he play tackle in the National Football League?
Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com (subscription required) offers his own insight on the Packers' plans for T.J. Lang:
"Green Bay would like to re-sign one of its veteran tackles slated for free agency, and left tackle Chad Clifton is the preferred target, if for nothing more than insurance. Coach Mike McCarthy would like to have right tackle Mark Tauscher back, too, but the organization would prefer that second-year veteran T.J. Lang get first shot at the position."
I realize that Chad Clifton has been injury prone as of late, but what choice do the Packers have at this point? Green Bay's inability to develop or acquire a quality left tackle has left them in a position where they have to pay more than market value for Clifton. However, is it really "overpaying" when you're paying for a good left tackle whose main objective is to protect your star player?
Once again, Bob McGinn addresses the Packers thinking on Clifton:
"The Packers probably would prefer letting Clifton test the free-agent waters so they wouldn't have to set the market. It could be risky in this case because once Clifton became free he might not want to return."
What happens if Clifton signs elsewhere? Maybe the Packers go with T.J. Lang at left tackle, but that doesn't address why Ted Thompson hasn't offered Mark Tauscher an extension.
Seeing how well he played last year, what is the downside of signing Tauscher for another year? Certainly the Packers documented how effective the line was the final 8 weeks of the regular season with Tauscher entrenched at right tackle. Case in point, in the first 8 games, the offensive line was like a sieve; they allowed opposing defenses to rack up an astounding 37 sacks. After Tauscher returned to the line, the Pack gave up less than half that number, 14.
There is a lot of buzz about acquiring a tackle in the draft (or free agency), but Ted Thompson's track record in drafting tackles has been dismal. Thompson needs to hit it right with an offensive lineman in this year's draft, but can a rookie step in and lead right away?
The Green and Gold cannot afford to make the same mistake as last year. They must draft a promising young tackle and re-sign Tauscher and Clifton as stop gaps for one more year.
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