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Free Agency Can Help Ted Thompson Stick to Drafting the Best Player Available

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Free Agency Can Help Ted Thompson Stick to Drafting the Best Player Available

Julius Peppers is one free agent that panned out for the Packers.

Julius Peppers is one free agent that panned out for the Packers.

Everyone knows, that over the years, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has been reluctant to use free agency, preferring instead, to stick to his draft and develop philosophy.

Of course, when you look at the results produced from that strategy, it’s hard to argue with it. Except for the fact, that every year, it seems the Packers could be helped by a few more veteran additions.

It’s hard to know if adding another player or two would make the difference between getting to the NFC Championship game two of the last three years or winning the Super Bowl.

But the one thing we can say, is that the 2016 Packers relied too much on young talent and in the end, it burned them. And with a number of players set to leave via free agency, Green Bay has got to dip its toe further into the veteran market than ever before.

Take a look at cornerback for instance. The Packers have three young corners on the roster in Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter. Micah Hyde is a free agent and is more of a safety anyways, so if Thompson doesn’t sign any vets, he will simply be adding another rookie to a young group that is already unproven.

Certainly, the draft can be an immediate fix sometimes. The Chiefs got an elite corner right away with Marcus Peters two years ago and others have before too. But at the end of the first round, finding that guy is less likely than if Green Bay were drafting near the top 10.

Besides, cornerback is a need right now and Thompson doesn’t like drafting for need and in fact he shouldn’t, it’s a bad idea. Ultimately, it leads to mistakes. But if that is the only avenue used for roster development, than what choice does he have?

Which is why, in order to preserve his philosophy of selecting the best player available, Thompson should sign some veteran defenders, addressing the need that way, while also bringing in young talent through the draft at the same time.

Draft a couple corners sure, but sign a veteran or two as well. If Davon House gets cut, bring him back. Dig deep and find a gem, just like in the draft.

When Thompson and the Packers choose to sign free agents, generally, it’s worked out. The most recent examples of Julius Peppers and Jared Cook have both panned out, so why not expand a little bit and add a few veterans each offseason, instead of one or two every couple years?

It makes sense not to throw silly money at players that aren’t worth it. That’s exactly the kind of thing that can screw up your salary cap. But that doesn’t mean the Packers can’t be more active when it comes to low-risk, high-reward free agents.

The Patriots make a killing singing these kinds of players. Just look at guys like Alan Branch or Chris Hogan this last year. Neither was given big money, but both made big impacts. Those are the kinds of moves the Packers need to pursue.

They will strike out on some, sure, but on others, they may strike gold.

Yet, you can’t win if you don’t play the game. For years, Thompson has ignored free agency and it’s hurt the Packers. Hopefully, with a team ready to win now, he will finally change his ways.

And maybe if Thompson realized, that by adding veterans, he can better stick to his best player available ideals in the draft, he would.



Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

tincada's picture

Well written analysis but it's unfortunate for the Packers that Ted isn't going to change and pretty much said so during is presser at the Combine. So sad but it's time for Ted to go which isn't going to happen either.

Barfarn's picture

Please explain this to me! For 12 years TT has spent every dime of that year’s Cap, keeping his “reserve” from year to year or holding back a few bucks to, for example, extend Bahktieri. He often spends on GB FAs, if there’s money left he spends on outside FAs. Right?

If TT were to sign LS Goode and roll 42M into next year, then this line of thought would make sense. But, you are right, TT is not going to change; and thank the football gods for that.

To spend more, contracts would have to be reworked to spend future cap dollars. Then we become New Orleans, who suffered 110M in dead money over 4 years and still can’t make playoffs, which is what happens when you continually “go for it” using deficit spending.

TT works in reality, not in idealistic internet forum shadows. He’s in competition with 31 other GMs and can’t unilaterally summon a FA to GB, it is a 2-way street. GB puts TT at a competitive disadvantage; it is the worst NFL city for a GM. Non-white players lack anonymousness they’d have walking down a street in Chicago, Kansas City or Buffalo. There are limited places of worship or schooling that possess a diverse middle class quality. Now, juxtapose this against the extreme gloom, severe cold, constant arctic wind, small market, lack of racial/cultural diversity, double the travel time to other cities, high taxes, lack of night life, with national perception of Ryan and Walker the fear that Wisconsin is a mini Trumplandia; heck, GB at times has had to import food and hair stylists/barbers from Milwaukee.

Other NFL city’s qualities might deter 10-20-30% of the available FA pool; but GB’s qualities collectively work to shut off half, maybe more, maybe significantly more of the FA pool from coming to GB when they possess acceptable alternate financial options. Remember, consideration of these issues applies to the player, his family and often extended family.

Also, don’t forget one of the qualities attractive to FAs is the expectation of going to playoffs. Deficit spending will reduce us to other teams that sporadically go to playoffs instead of perennially. This extremely important attractive quality, maybe 2nd to money, will be watered down or lost if TT deficit spends.

GB going 8-0, beating 5 playoff teams, 2 of those on road unequivocally proves the roster was capable of a championship. Atlanta’s Defense was ranked 3 spots lower than GB’s and they won the Super Bowl, well, until Ryan choked. GB had 6 big offensive contracts, 1 super big; and 3 large on defense [Shields’ 4th was unavailable]. GB is built for the offense to be good enough to cover the maladies of the Defense and the Cap assures every team makes similar choices. The 2016 team worked exactly as designed. When the offense was right, we won; when not, we lost. Why’d we start 4-6? It wasn’t because of the [poor] defense; we were 8-0 with the same defense. It was due to Rodgers playing like Cutler [Don’t quantify Rodgers’ play with stats-stats are for losers-grade his play by his performance of his assignment within the design of the offense]. If Rodgers plays like Cutler [great one moment, bad the next; often in the same game; and publicly blaming the coach and his mates for his bad play] we could resurrect the mid 60’s GB Defense on the 2017 team and we'll never win 3-4 consecutive playoff games.

4thand1's picture

Rodgers didn't blame anybody when they went 4-6. He said himself, "I have to play better". The running game went to hell and it looked like he was pressing. It wasn't until Monty became a threat that everything started to click. As far as players not coming to GB, it's all about the money after all.

Barfarn's picture

It's about the money; 'til it's not. EG Rumors are that Tretter will get at least 8 offers. As his agent plays the 8+ teams off one another as the $$ goes up some will drop out and in the end Tretter will have his pick from 3-4-5-6 financially comparable contracts. Ergo, Tretter's decision will ultimately be made on things other than money. Unless a FA has no other options;it is NEVER about the money!

We've agreed Rodgers' play was worse during the 4-6, the why and his public behavior debate is an off topic rabbit whole, but I'll urge you to apply the wisdom of Libba Bray: “People have a habit of inventing fictions they will believe wholeheartedly in order to ignore the truth they cannot accept.”

Nick Perry's picture

"Thompson doesn’t like drafting for need and in fact he shouldn’t, it’s a bad idea. Ultimately, it leads to mistakes. But if that is the only avenue used for roster development, than what choice does he have?"

Myself and others have been saying this for years. Not only can it lead to mistakes, but you're always waiting on players to develop into starters or solid role players. The Packers run a complex Offense and Defense. Some here believe it takes 3 years to FULLY develop a understanding of the Offense and Defense the Packers run. If that's truly the case, it makes it difficult to get over the proverbial hump the Packers have been trying to get over. Players get injured, retire, or move on. Thompson doesn't keep players approaching 30 very often so it's pretty hard to keep the roster stocked when you have 7 picks and a bunch of UDFA as your only real source of new talent. Thompson does a great job of looking ahead. When he makes his picks he's not just thinking of this year but probably the next 2 or 3 seasons. Rodgers will win you 10 games or so every season but we've seen come playoff time he can't do it ALL himself.

Has TT really stuck to the "BPA" in his drafts especially the last few years? I'm pretty sure Randall or Clark wasn't the "BPA" when he picked, they were based on need more than anything else. Last season he was thrown a curve when Raji retired, but the year before he knew he wasn't bringing back Williams, House back and probably knew Hayward wasn't coming back the following year hence the Randall and Rollins picks, which were obviously based on need.

stockholder's picture

Thompson does a great job of looking ahead. (Nailed it.) TT has never done anything but look ahead. Regardless how bad some things turn out. It's why TT is still GM. He doesn't have to draft the BPA. He drafts for the future and to keep the flack down. The draft is a crap shoot. Free Agency changed a teams chances. He hates blowing money. Players get Jacked. TT counts on that, coaching, and a legend QB. Glory is not for this GM. Business as usual is.

Spock's picture

Well, TT will be active in free agency: He's got 13 Packer free agents to consider! Somehow everyone tends to "not count" Packer free agency signings. Ted already signed Bahk early (last year) and resigned Schum. Yeah, you'd love to pick up another team's "hidden gem" (Cook), but how practical will that be? I always try not to get too worried about speculation on pending free agents. What happens, happens. :)

packerbackerjim's picture

The proposition TT engages in free agency by retaining the Packers eligible for FA is disingenuous in that it maintains the status quo but any acquisition otherwise isn't pursued. It doesn't necessarily follow that the mere signing of players from other team would improve performance. There are players who, barring injury, would help move the Packers closer to getting the Lombardi Trophy. Selecting from the bargain bin 2 weeks after the start isn't going to move the needle. Maybe TT has heard the sense of urgency from others. At this particular point in time it's necessary to deviate from his philosophy.

marpag1's picture

Unless you are inventing an alternate meaning for the word, there is absolutely nothing "disingenuous" about the statement. Are players like Tretter or Lang free agents.... yes or no? Is signing these players to contracts not participating in free agency?

If you want to say that you don't like TT's free agent choices, fine. I have no problem with that. But signing free agents is signing free agents, regardless of who their former employers were.

People are often very imprecise when they say that a team "resigns their own players." If a player is a FREE AGENT, he is not "your player."

packerbackerjim's picture

Not to get snarky, but if you were to ask any in the league if TT gets involved in free agency, they most likely would say he does not.

4thand1's picture

The Packers have FA's that a lot of other teams want. That alone is a testament to a good GM.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

@Marpag: Strictly speaking, other than players who have been released by their teams, all of the players we are talking about are NOT free agents until 4:00 p.m., March 9, when the league year ends and contracts expire. Perry, Lang, Tretter, Peppers, Cook, Hyde, Goode, Lacy, Jones, Barclay, etc, are not in fact free agents at present. So, the answer to your question is that the vast majority of these players are not free agents, at least yet.

I like precision in the language, but there are "terms of art" within industries that are perfectly clear in those contexts. Every football fan knows exactly what signing a FA, re-signing a player, and extending a player means. If we were to sign Perry to a 4 year contract at 3:59 pm on March 9, techinically, TT would not have signed a free agent. If Perry signed at 4:01 pm, technically TT would have signed a free agent. This is a distinction without a real difference. If we signed Perry right now, no one would call it an extension, and we (oops, not precise - I am not even a stockholder) the packers would not have signed a free agent by signing Perry. I do agree by re-signing our own players, TT is signing FAs. In a broad sense, even when the team decides not to re-sign our own players, we engage in free agency.

You've been a little more acerbic in your comments lately, Marpag. I enjoy your comments. I do hope all is well in your personal life.

Chris Peterson's picture

I give Ted credit cause he has spent a lot of money to keep players. And I don't necessarily want him to break the bank in free agency. But sign a couple veteran corners. Then if you don't get one you like in the draft you aren't reaching for them.

Bearmeat's picture

Wait.. Hang on... Did you seriously mention... Free Agency and... Ted Thompson... in the same article???


(This snarky comment makes me so angry and sad. Mostly because it's true.)

Tarynfor12's picture

We need linebackers, in and out, true corner backs, not more safeties on defense and I'll leave offense alone in this comment.
There is no way BPA should be the mantra yet again. This is like being near starving and getting Chinese food, a quick remedy but no long term substance and having that starving sense re-emerge. cured nothing.
This draft has substance to erase the constant pangs of starvation and you must spend picks to move up and get some cure. Otherwise, the same ole song of excuses will ring true again at seasons can't get day 1 players picking 27-31 and the hunger continues.
I'm all for the Draft and Develop but when you have a QB that can and should be getting you satisfied with Rings more often, you cannot wait for development every year, you must fill the need at times or accept the result. ..always hungry never satisfied.
BPA is a luxury the Packers cannot afford again or much longer since Rodgers won't be Rodgers , ala Brady still being Brady, unless the thinking changes somewhat and now. : )

gary's picture

Agree 1,000 percent. I would rather have you as GM then this asshole. If rodgers would step up and say this is what we need maybe that may pressure this asshole.

marpag1's picture

LOL. Lighten up, Cupcake.

Tarynfor12's picture

Let's trade Matthews and Hundley to Cleveland for their 12 pick....they get a QB from the school of McCarthy and a veteran defensive player and we can get a day 1 impact player for defense.

Nick Perry's picture

Unrealistic most likely but appealing nonetheless.

Bearmeat's picture

Not a chance in hell TT would do that, nor is there a chance in hell CLE would take it. They'd be idiotic to do so.

Tarynfor12's picture

The Cleveland idiotic point is a part of the reasoning why it should be attempted.

slit's picture

Not a chance Cleveland takes that deal. Throw in Randall Cobb, and maybe you get the 33rd pick.

Chris Peterson's picture

I think TT drafts good players. But is too conservative, too afraid to strike out. That's why I want Wolf to be his successor. He's a good evaluator of talent, has a background in pro and college personnel and I think he will be more willing to try some moves out like his Dad.

gary's picture

I totally agree.

Chris Peterson's picture

I think TT drafts good players. But is too conservative, too afraid to strike out. That's why I want Wolf to be his successor. He's a good evaluator of talent, has a background in pro and college personnel and I think he will be more willing to try some moves out like his Dad.

DThomas's picture

Thompson's philosophy made all kinds of sense when he arrived as GM: Concentrate on acquiring more draft picks and avoid free agency because the roster had to be rebuilt and the cap managed. But it's been a long time since that philosophy made sense. Thompson's Packers have paid the price for largely (not entirely) ignoring free agency. It's a major avenue available for filling immediate needs: For example, it would have made a lot of sense to bolster Capers' defenses which rely on veteran experience with veterans. I am puzzled why one of two things haven't happened: Either Thompson adjusted his MO and provide veteran free agents for Capers, or Capers was fired and a DC put in place whose schemes weren't so dependent upon veteran experience.

As to BPA: No GM does - or should - use a purely BPA philosophy and Thompson certainly hasn't. First, their draft board is constructed with team needs and depth in mind. Second, because Thompson doesn't actively use all avenues available to him he has to draft for need particularly early in the draft. For example, does anyone believe after the 2011 season, in which the Packers gave up an astounding 300 passing yards per game, it just so happened that the first 6 picks of Thompson's 2012 draft played defense? That would have to go down as one of the biggest coincidences in NFL draft history. And that's not the only example. Again that's not a bad thing: Drafting purely BPA with no regard to team needs would lead to bizarre results.

If Thompson doesn't change his MO, and it's extremely unlikely he will, I hope he retires - or is "invited" to retire - when his contract is up in the spring of next year. He did a great job upon arrival rebuilding the roster and rapidly getting the cap under control. His teams have had tons of regular season success, but his refusal to regularly use free agency has been a major flaw in helping the Packers take full advantage of the career one of the best QBs in NFL history. (BTW, Thompson gets tons of credit for drafting Rodgers and McCarthy for developing him. And both get credit for knowing it was time to move from Favre to Rodgers after Favre "retired".)

Tarynfor12's picture

Reddick is the Inside/Outside guy many believe Matthews could be but isn't. Would love Reddick in first...but TT won't go get him.

Tarynfor12's picture

Reddick is much more than an inside linebacker and certainly much more of an outside linebacker than Perry.

Ferrari Driver's picture

The Packers should not be reluctant to sign older free agent players who could provide immediate results and satisfy needs on the team.

After all an average NFL game only has about 12 minutes of actual play action which is divided between offense, defense and special teams.

Thus, we are only talking about action for an older full time defensive player of less that 6 minutes during a three hour game period.

4thand1's picture

These posts are the same every time this time of year. We all have opinions but they mean nothing, the Packers are gonna do what they're gonna do. I think they expect Fackrell to make a big 2nd year jump, with Randall and Rollins to step up too. They tend to stick with who they drafted, but there should be enough cash to sign one significant FA.

Tundraboy's picture

I wrote this comment on a different article and it looks like I should repeat it here as well. I just hope I'm not saying it again next year.

"FA I believe is most useful when a team is close to winning, disastrous when used to a large degree as a means to rebuild. This team has been so close, that a key veteran or two, a veteran presence particularly on Defense could have made the difference the last two years. Whether by trade or FA. Even by supplementing this by bundling some picks to move up in the draft. We all know the rest.

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