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Free Agent Exodus All Part Of The Plan

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Free Agent Exodus All Part Of The Plan

In Ted We Trust.

This has been a popular refrain among Packers fans since their team brought home the Lombardi Trophy by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Throughout a four month lockout, whenever the prospect of losing players like Cullen Jenkins, Nick Barnerr or James Jones was brought up, many fans were quick to respond "I trust Ted!"

Well, now that losing many veterans from the roster is no longer a possibility but a certainty, a curious thing has started to happen. That trust that was so quickly won has come under instant scrutiny. Aren't the Packers awfully thin at inside linebacker? Can McCarthy's offense operate at the same level without Jones? Where will the interior pass rush come from without Jenkins? Will Mark Tauscher's absence effect locker room chemistry?

These are all questions I have received over the course of the last few days, both via Twitter and email from nervous Packers fans everywhere.

To all of these questions and more there is a simple answer - this is all part of the plan.

Oh sure, Brandon Chillar showing up with a torn hamstring was not in the plan. But that doesn't mean Thompson is suddenly going to tear up his gameplan. He has his reasons for letting Nick Barnett go and a sudden reversal on that decision is not in the cards. Remember, this is a staff that took two players off the street on a Tuesday this year and had them playing significant snaps the following Sunday when Erik Walden and Howard Green were thrust into action against the New York Jets. The Packers have a free agent board that they will look at throughout camp and if it appears what is on hand is not sufficient, then they will make a move. Making a move just for the sake of filling out a depth chart is just not the way Ted Thompson operates - and you trust Ted, remember?

As for Jenkins and Jones - if Thompson were truly intent on keeping either one, their contracts would have been addressed during the season. (Jenkins' agent couldn't even get the Packers to take a meeting.) Oh sure, if both sit out on the market for a few more days and decide they may want to stick around, the Packers would welcome both back into the fold with open arms - at their price.

I have even seen it suggested in some places that the Packers "got worse" this week. This is patently absurd. The depth of talent on this team is astoundingly deep in the modern NFL. Fans can expect improvement and development from guys like Sam Shields, Mike Neal, Frank Zombo, Andrew Quarless, to name a few - not to mention an influx of talent from the return of so many guys from injured reserve.

There is not great mystery here. Draft and develop - that's what the Packers do. Part of that philosophy is not overpaying for role players. And as good as Jenkins or Jones can be at times, that's what they ultimately are on a team with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams. Those are four players to build a team around. Those are the types of players who will get big contracts from Ted Thompson.

Draft and develop. Jones walks? In steps Jordy Nelson. Jenkins leaves? Next man up, Mike Neal. Tauscher is released? Welcome back Bryan Bulaga.

Almost like there's a plan or something.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (43) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Brian's picture

What, no Woodson as a key to build a team around. Hmmm, suspect!

PackerAaron's picture

I'm talking long term. You really want to plan the next 10 years around a 34 year old cornerback? Hmmmm, suspect!

Chad Toporski's picture

I'll admit I was a little worried when the Packers let go of their second veteran ILB back-up. It seemed at the time like they had to make a choice on Chillar due to his injury and it was an unplanned decision.

However, after seeing Wilde tweet that Chillar was on his original list of cuts that he didn't want to release, I am not worried anymore. If this was TT and MM's plan all along, then I trust that they know what they're doing.

I said before, I think it's okay to be worried and to state the concerns; however, you still have to give Thompson the benefit of the doubt. He's not perfect, but he knows a lot more than any of us in cyberland do.

So I say enjoy training camp and save your worries for another day.

Bearmeat's picture

I dunno Chad - I think Barnett might have agreed to restructure his deal...he's only 8 tackles from the team record, and I know that means something to him. We could use the depth.

In addition, if I'm not mistaken "cutting" him frees up room this weekend, but creates some dead money next year, right? Isn't next year the year of Finley, Jennings, etc? Wouldn't next year be the more important one to prepare for?

bogmon's picture

Thompson wins GM of the Year in 2007....people still hate.

The team wins the Superbowl...people still question the process.

It's time to just let go and embrace the magical mystery tour of Ted Thompson.

Ron Wolfe brought one SB to Green Bay and is embraced as an omniscient and infallible mastermind.....
ONE Superbowl....same as Ted.

hmmm?

Dennis's picture

What guys returning from IR? Most of the guys returning from IR (Barnett, Poppinga, Tauscher, Chillar) have been cut.

Chad Toporski's picture

Grant, Finley, Burnett, Jones, Neal, Havner, Newhouse, Levine... just to name a few.

Chris K's picture

Was Anthony Levine placed on I.R.??

packsmack25's picture

Practice Squad IR.

BigSnakeMan's picture

In the salary cap era of the NFL teams simply can't have everything they want; choices need to be made every year.

It's not surprising that, coming off a championship year, players would look to be paid. But any objective observor would have to concede that none of the players released was vital to the operation.

I also find it amusing that after years of being vilified as Packers GM, many now want to deify Thompson. I've always been a TT supporter but that may be a bit much. In point of fact, though, he has always been one of the better GMs in the league; just took a championship to convince the unenlightened.

chazman's picture

I think that after an off season with no football, we as Packer fans are finally able to enjoy what we have come to be so passionate about. And to see all the cuts and losses to the roster and significant additions to other teams makes it hard not to get a bit fidgety. It doesn't help that the ESPN's and NFL Networks of the world have already anointed the next champion due to the recent activity but you are correct sir. In Ted we trust. And in DOM we trust. And in Mike we trust.

PkrNboro's picture

I don't understand the angst -- particularly when this club has just won the Super Bowl, while employing Ted Thompson's philosphy.

The players released so far have been in the later stages of their contract, when the numbers are typically inflated. These figures are a relection of a belief that a player will continue to improve, as was likely seen when the contract was signed.

However, sometimes players don't improve. Often this is due to injury -- which is the case with five of the players released. Sadly, some of these injuries take months or years to heal; worse still, some injuries never heal to an extent to allow play in the highly competitive NFL.

In a day and age when players scream for compensation based on their worth, then surely the management can respond in kind when they're not getting the quality of play promised.

After seeing the success Ted Thompson has had at finding talent, I'm more than a little surprised when a "big" fan wants to know who the Packers will go after during free agency. Short answer: NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

Seriously, who would you rather have: Shields/Zombo/Walden or Haynesworth/McNabb ???

I'm keeping an eye on these guys during camp:

Ray Dominguez,
Sampson Genus,
Elijah Joseph & Elisha Joseph, and
Vic So'oto

(While Shaky Smithson had huge return numbers in college, his technique of coming to a complete stop during a return won't work in the Pros.)

AJKUHN's picture

I think Aaron hits the nail on the head here. Even I can name the young, inexpensive, replacement that is already on the roster for most of the guys we lost. You also never know if some of these guys will feel out the market, find what they are really worth and come back at a team friendly price, or not, either way the roster is built to handle this. Why keep any thing but the best players on your roster.

AJKUHN's picture

Besides, if you worry about our personnel department, look at the Bears for a minute and you will feel just fine.

jaydubya's picture

^ this ^

norman's picture

Or Vikings. But unfortunately, with Matt Millen gone, you can't include the Lions anymore. Thank God they didn't get Asomugha.

Tarynfor 12's picture

I'm looking at this roster from a leftside/rightside perspective on defense/offense alike and I see the plan of weeding out age and erecting 3-5 year dominance with the youth and talent we have.
We have bookends at the CB,DE,Ts,LBs,WRs,and depth every where else and growing.

Do our young guys play to a veteran level faster which allows the release of those older vets?I think so.

packsmack25's picture

I'm in total agreement with you here, Aaron.

Still, just to play devil's advocate, let's not forget 2 seasons ago when (at the time)"Terrible" Ted cut Anthony Smith, then re-acquired him last Fall. He is fallible.

Idiot Fan's picture

I've never understood this criticism of Ted. He cut smith because he was the fifth or sixth best safety we had. Then, later due to injuries at the safety position, he reacquired him, as we needed our fifth or sixth best safety on the roster. Seems like common sense to me.

Nerdmann's picture

Irrc, they kept Rouse over Smith, but then sent Rouse packing two games in.

jim's picture

in the early years of TT's magic, i, too, was really concerned about his failure to sign some big name people. i recall a safety being signed to a very expensive contract lasting, i believe, one year... a contract that could have been spread out over a few key players that would have enriched the core players that you want to keep. i also have followed the draft as closely as i could at the time and recall a talking head at espn respond when the pack drafted nick collins that the pack had made a BIG reach. i began to document what the talking heads at espn and all those various magazines say about players drafted and how they perform and retained my notes up until this last year when i chuckled as that "reach" and his teammates earned the lombardi trophy with more key players on injured reserve than one could ever imagine. the drive to the super bowl, when every game was on the line... no loss could be tolerated... came not when the original team was healthy, it came when a huge share of those stars were on injured reserve and replacements needed to brought up from the practice squad and signed outright... replacements that every other team in the league had their opportunity to sign but chose not to. that is success. and TT, MM, and MM with a great scouting staff and coaching staff brought it to green bay. how can i question the wisdom of what they are doing. i sit back and watch, and enjoy the sam shields and howard greens perform once they put on that superman outfit with the G on the helmet.

Eric S's picture

Well said Jim. In the age of the salary cap, Thompson has proven himself to be the best GM out there. I didn't like the McCarthy hire at first, but clearly Ted knew best. TT misses on a few players. All GM's do, but no one gets more late round and undrafted hits. Few teams make more out of the bargain basement cast offs of other franchises.

C.D. Angeli's picture

I have no issues with the cuts they are making. The Packers built up their big year to be the uncapped year, and now they are paying the price...and I think that was a part of the plan, too. Hey, if you need to cut $10M, its going to come from veteran players you hope and pray you can live without, and that's exactly what has happened (and will still continue to happen). Some hurt more than others (Jenkins, eventually) and some are more emotional attachments (Tauscher).

My point, which I believe was valid and was backed up by McCarthy this morning, is that this exodus of veteran experience is going to be a challenge this year, both to the depth Thompson has, and to the ability of McCarthy to do his usual "Spit-and-Wire" bringing together of the team.

Do I think they can and will do it? Of course. But anyone going into this season believing that 2010 trophy is an guaranteed ticket back to the Super Bowl is incredibly naive. We're back to 0-0, and it is the journey that we will be watching and living and dying with each and every week.

Oppy's picture

Aaron,

I agree with most everything here, except one little nitpick:

What Cullen Jenkins brings to the Packers can not be replaced by Mike Neal.

That's not to say I don't think Neal is up to the task of playing DE in the 3-4 at a high level, or moving inside in 4 man fronts..

I love me some Mike Neal, think he's going to be very good.. But Jenkins' skill set is special and rare and allowed Capers to do many things schematically and utilize many different fronts.. Things that Mike Neal is clearly not built to do.

As stated, a nit-pick, and it's obvious Mike Neal will be asked to step up and play DE, and he'll do so at a high level.. but he is not a substitute for Cullen Jenkins. No one on this roster could be.

Anthony's picture

I don't think he's saying that the Packers won't miss him. But, overall, it's part of "the plan". He knows that Neal and Wilson and the rest of the DE's on the roster have huge potential.

He knows where people are when it comes to talent. I don't think we'll have to worry much about Neal starting over Jenkins.

Nerdmann's picture

Jenkins was never healthy. He was always battling injuries. And now he's 30.
And btw, I disagree about Neal. He looked very good early last year.

mark's picture

a few years ago there was a quarterback named aaron rodgers, they said he would probably come in and play at a high level, but he would never be a substitute for brett favre...

i'm not saying mike neal will be worse, as good or better than cullen jenkins (who is obviously an amazing football player). i'm just saying we don't really know how good (possibly great?) mike neal will be.

MarkinMadison's picture

Well, I generally agree with Aaron's point. Let me just throw out a couple of things.

1. It does not take any kind of football sense to see that the Eagels' defense just got scary good. I mean, we're talking repeat here, not just "win the Division." I'd rather have Finley THAN Jones for the next few years, given this development. But BOTH would be good. If MM finds a way to exploit the Eagles weak LB corps to win against the Eagles, I will be duly impressed.

2. The rookies will not make as big of an impact as last year, at least in the early part of this season, and maybe not until next season. It will be good if the Packers don't need the rookies soon.

Otto's picture

I don't know if Finley v Jones is as clear cut as you or other fans make it. Availability is something MM talks about when describing a good player. In the last 3 yrs Jones has played in 10 more games than Finley. Finley is quickly becoming the MVP of the Training Room.

BigBayBlues's picture

In Ted we Trust (and in his scouting department). Don't worry all, we'll have LB's that can play inside and outside, just like all of our offensive linemen can multi-task. He will not leave us short.

Oppy's picture

As others have noted, I think Bob Francois is ready to take the next step and become a regular contributor at ILB. It would be nice, of course, to have vets in line to do so.. But as we've all seen, sometimes youth + talent + desire trumps age, wisdom, and experience.

Chris K's picture

Who's noted this?

Oppy's picture

Chris,

I'm not talking about coaches or talking heads, but rather, other posters like you or I.

Did not mean to infer "experts". Sorry for any confusion or excitement.

MarkinMadison's picture

ESPN reporting that Jenkins signed with Eagles for 5 years and $25M. Not sure how they can afford all the big signings. They look loaded up for the next year or two. The Eagles will now be the media SB favorite. I have to say if Jenkins stays healthy, he's a great player.

Oppy's picture

Everyone is now going to playhigh percentage pass/ ground and pound clock-control football vs. the Eagles..

Expect Eagles' opponents to run HB screens and draws at Jenkins all day, and hit backs and TE's out of the flat and move the chains. Can't take any deep drops/ shots on 'em this year with Jenkins and Nnambdi added on the squad.. So take the small stuff and exploit the pass rush for gains and keep Vick and co. off the field.

CSS's picture

Defense is more about scheme, not personnel. Let's see how their coordinator deploys both. Until then, I'll believe the Eagles awesomeness when I see it (yes, I'm cynical).

BrianD's picture

$5 mil a year for a great player at the most important position on the field behind QB and T? What a steal. Jenkins isn't just a pass rush specialist either, he's great against the run. Of all the losses, this one will hurt the most. All eyes are on you Mike Neal.

Nerdmann's picture

They're trying to buy a Superbowl. The Redskins have tried that for years. The Vikings did it, and they're beginning to pay for it now. The Bears have been doing that too the last couple years. Lovie has been desperate to save his job.
Anyway, it rarely works.

Otto's picture

I think the "uneasiness" comes because the fans haven't seen this kind of purge of names they know since after the '05 season.

They'll fall in love with Peanut, Shaky, that-one-guy, number sixty-something and the rest of the future legends on this team.

PackersRS's picture

I can already envision:

And, elected in the 2030 Hall of Fame class:
Elijah "Peanut" Joseph, NT, 2011-2025, Green Bay Packers.

FITZCORE1252's picture

You will be missed Nick Barnerr.

GBP 4 LIFE

Jim's picture

Nice

MarkinMadison's picture

I'm thinking that we should all not be shocked if TT spends a first-rounder on a QB in 2012. I have a couple of reasons for this. 1) TT will not over-pay for Matt Flynn to be a back-up, and Matt Flynn wants a chance to start, presumably. 2) Chuck's already had a few concussions, and NFL policies on concussion will only get more stringent over time. 3) QB is the most important position. 4) With the new rookie wage scale, you can now afford to have a mid-to-late 1st-round QB sitting on the bench. Look for quality QB prospects generally to be pushed even higher up the board by the new rookie wage scale.

I don't know the new rookie wage-scale, but from what I can see, the cost of a first-rounder just dropped by about 40%. The #32 guy last year got 5 years for a total of $12M (guarntee unknown), whereas the Packers paid Sherrod 6.6M (nearly all of it guaranteed) for 4 years. A more apples-to-apples comparison will be available when the Eagles get OL Danny Watkins signed. Picked in the same slot as Bulaga last year, if I'm right Watkins will get a 4 year deal worh about $9M, with about $6.5M guaranteed. Compare that to Bulaga, who signed for 5 years and $14.75 with $8.75 guaranteed.

For an idea of what the Packers might pay a QB next year, look at Andy Dalton's deal. Picked #35 overall, he took a 4 year deal worth just $5.2M. In the Bengals' ideal world he would be the #2 this year, but he may end up starting. $1.3M-$1.5M a year for a QB with 1st round talent to sit on the bench is nothing to sneeze at, but in the face of the likelihood of stricter concussion rules I think that it is a deal that a lot of GMs will pounce on, including TT.

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