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Sunday, September 04, 2005

What do recent roster moves tell us...about Ted Thompson?

by Reckless
For PackerChatters

What have we learned about Ted Thompson since his arrival in Green Bay in mid-January to assume the GM duties? The roster moves just made – and probably a few more to come before the start of the season - reinforce some of the things I was expecting from TT but also provided a bit of a surprise.

All this JMO:
Whatever TT was and is thinking I believe the recent history he inherited is also important to consider. IMO MS as GM saw the window closing on Brett’s career and determined to make an all out push to win a title before Brett retires. The signing of Joe Johnson was the most obvious move which supports this proposition. Hindsight indicates the playoff loss at Philadelphia was the culmination of that effort. While I agreed with this idea at the time (although not all the moves to accomplish it) it certainly compromised the Packer's cap situation.

It’s pretty clear after TT analyzed the Packer’s roster in January he made at least three determinations:
1. The Packers lack depth throughout the roster.
2. The Packer’s salary cap situation has to be fixed ASAP.
3. The team is not in a position where it makes sense to add one or two big name FAs in an attempt to make an all out push for the title this year (and sacrifice the cap going forward).

He determined to add picks during the draft in order to build the roster. He determined that he would not court big name FAs and instead use free agency as “insurance” at a few positions. Of course I’m sure he hoped Klemm, O’Dwyer, and Thompson, for example, would be short-term cheap “plug ins” that would fill the gap between this year and next, but I don’t think he is “devastated” O’Dwyer and Thompson didn’t work out. They provided a “floor” – they would get at least the performance of those vets at their respective positions. But if a youngster provided the same performance they would release the vet in favor of the youngster’s upside to build for the future.

Number 3 above is probably the reason for most fans’ disappointment with TT IMO. It’s human nature for fans to want their team to add big name FAs even if that isn’t a sure prescription for success in the NFL: Look at the recent history of the Redskins. The response, no doubt, of more than a few will be ‘But TT didn’t add ANYBODY in free agency!’ And the reason IMO is the cap situation and more importantly, TT is looking toward the future of the franchise as well as the present. I've posted before that the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging and that applies to the cap situation TT found himself in. That doesn’t mean he’s deferring a run at the title for years: Rebuilding projects no longer take 4-5 years in the NFL. Teams can rebuild or retool relatively quickly. Adding about 10 first-year players, two of whom could start, is a good beginning.

This is not intended as a defense of TT, although it will be viewed as such by some. I have disagreed with some of his moves, but I made it no secret of the fact that I LOVED Harlan splitting the GM and HC jobs. I did like his draft strategy and the very early returns on the draft are very positive IMO. I also like the fact that performance seems to have really mattered regarding making the team. With few exceptions (like Tony Fisher), if players didn’t perform, they were released – like LB Thompson. That has not always been the case in Green Bay. I also like TT's fiscal discipline at this point.

TT will likely be the GM after Brett retires and he’s acting like it. It disappoints some Packer fans that TT didn’t delay the pain of cap consequences into the future. However, I think TT’s actions so far are understandable and reasonable.

BTW, the surprise for me was TT's "cutting knife" being so sharp.
Good thoughts. I guess I still see a playoff calibre team. In fact, I think we are better than last year: I think the defensive upgrade will be evident before September is over. And while I have concerns about the offense, I expect it to get on track. We can take some of the pressure off the offense, and allow them to be much fresher throughout the game and season by(1) winning some of the battle for field position, and (2) stopping the quick strikes of the other team. I guess what I'm doing is not so much commending Thompson as saying that Thompson, Bates, and Sherman should add up to a potent team.
I think Reckless' comments are right on the mark. Right now we have four rookies/first-year men on the offense and seven on defense. That's a big change on defense, especially--and we needed it.

One thing I am sensing is that the Thompson and the Packers are taking into account long-term potential, performance AND character of the players when making roster decisions. We all know that character really helps build a champion--just look at New England.

I can't help but keep thinking that this roster is a lot like 1992's roster--except with much more experienced and talented players on offense.

If Grady can hold up, I think that our defense will be a lot better. TT has stated that the defensive free agents out there were not real attractive. As Reckless stated, "... the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging and that applies to the cap situation TT found himself in."

I think that TT has already started to fill in the hole in a major way. Managing the salary cap is all about paying get good value for your salary cap dollar, i.e. your best players should be paid the most. Unfortunately, recent performance indicated that Sharper and Hunt were not worth the dollars being paid to them as top salary players.

Thompson is correcting this inequity, and I believe that all of the players will sense this in a "carrot and stick" manner. Bubba Franks was ultimately rewarded. Other top notch players will be in the future, too. Players that don't earn there salary will not be around long--as it should be.
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