Category Archives: Free Agency

13

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Last season it was Mike Daniels. The season before it was Randall Cobb. If the Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2014, at least one player will have to make the leap from potential to breakout star.

Here are the top contenders:

WR Jarrett Boykin
Boykin is probably at the top of most people’s most likely to break out lists. He was successful last season and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Teams will be ready for him in 2014, though. If he’s going to make the leap, he’ll have to do a better job of getting separation.

DL Datone Jones
Unlike Boykin, Jones is probably near the bottom of most people’s lists. Fans soured on Jones late last season and, apparently, so did the coaching staff as fellow rookie Josh Boyd got more snaps down the stretch. I still have high hopes for Jones and I think he can fulfill those hopes. You need to be patient with young defensive linemen. They rarely break out in their rookie seasons. Let’s see what year two brings for Jones.

CB Davon House
We’ve been waiting for House to take the next step for a while now, haven’t we? If he doesn’t take it in 2014, he probably never will. House’s size appears to make him an ideal fit in Green Bay’s defense, but whenever he strings together some good plays, he follows it up with a couple of stinkers and winds up on the bench. With Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward on the roster, House doesn’t have much room for error.

LT David Bakhtiari
We all groaned when Bryan Bulaga went down and the rookie Bakhtiari ended up starting at left tackle. By the end of the season, those groans turned into “Huh. That kid can play.” Yes, it was a good debut for the kid whose last name I hate spelling, but his ceiling is higher than just a feel-good, surprising rookie playing well in a tough spot. The Packers offense can be a whole lot better if Bakhtiari transforms from promising rookie to left-tackle anchor.

TE Brandon Bostick
Based on what little I’ve seen of him, Bostick seems to do everything well except catch the ball. He especially seems to struggle with drops in traffic. If he develops his hands, especially in tight spaces, I like what he can do in the passing game.

6

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Take a look at this NFL mock draft at Drafttek.com. There are three tight ends selected before a running back is chosen with the 50th overall pick.

Last year in the actual NFL draft there were two tight ends selected before the first running back was snatched off the board (Giovani Bernard at No. 37).

When I was growing up, running back was the glamour position. When we went out for recess to play football (this was back when you could still play tackle football at recess), everyone pretended to be Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, not some tight end. Most teams wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end over a promising running back in the draft.

Times have changed. Running back is a de-valued position in today’s NFL. That’s not breaking news. But has the de-valuing gone too far?

The top two teams in the NFC last season, Seattle and San Francisco, based their offense around bruising running games. The Packers turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to keep their heads above water after Aaron Rodgers broke his collar bone. Even with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots pounded the ball on the ground early in the season, outrushing opponents in three of the first four games and starting 4-0.

Even on pass-happy Denver, with Peyton Manning at quarterback and a stable of exceptional receivers and tight ends, running back Knowshon Moreno finished with almost 1,600 total yards from scrimmage.

For a while, the NFL also appeared to be de-valuing the safety position, but that might be changing.

Only three safeties were picked in the first round from 2008-11. In the last two drafts, four safeties have gone in the first. In the opening days of NFL free agency, the top safeties on the board flew off the shelf for big money.

I think a lot of teams are emphasizing the safety position again because they see the importance of versatility in today’s game. Safeties are often best suited to handle multiple tasks: provide coverage over the top, match up against a tight end, play the slot, stop the run, drill whoever has the ball, occasionally blitz, etc. Take a look at the Seahawks and 49ers again — both were strong at safety.

30

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

At this point in the NFL offseason, what would you say is your biggest concern about the 2014 Packers?

For me, it’s the safety position. When Morgan Burnett is the best safety on the roster, there are issues. Yes, the draft is right around the corner, but you never know if a) the Packers will be in a position to draft a safety who can start right away or b) if whatever safety they draft will be any good.

But forget about your biggest concern for the time being. What do you see as potential concerns that few people are talking about?

Because those are probably the concerns that will come to fruition in 2014. With all the roster turnover and other unknowns from year-to-year in today’s NFL, it’s impossible to predict in March what an NFL team might be scrambling to try and fix in November.

At this time last year, we were all worried about the Packers not being big enough to stand toe-to-toe with physical teams like the 49ers or Seahawks. Then halfway through the season, we were worried about the Packers being too big to compete with teams like the 49ers and Seahawks.

I remember back before the 2010 season being worried about an undrafted rookie named Sam Shields serving as the Packers nickel cornerback. An undrafted rookie playing a key role on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s insane!

Then Shields goes out and has a good season and picks off two passes in the NFC Championship to send the Packers to the Super Bowl.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Burnett is playing well once November comes around, a young safety is holding his own next to Burnett, and the Packers problems at safety are problems no more.

Teams can make grand plans to plug holes in March, and fans can do the same on blogs and social media, but once the season starts, all bets are off. A few key injuries or important players underperforming ruins the most thought-out plans.

My under-the-radar concern for the Packers is offensive tackle.

David Bakhtiari had a good rookie season, but what if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2014? Or what if the injury bug strikes him down in his second year like it did to Casey Hayward in his second season?

26

March

Patience and Proactivity Pay Off for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

General manager Ted Thompson runs the Green Bay Packers football operations his way.

The Thompson way is characterized by accumulating draft picks, developing drafted players, re-signing young Packers players on the rise, and largely avoiding bidding wars with players leaving other teams during the opening of free agency.

Depending on the fans prospective, this is usually a love or hate relationship. Fans either love the draft and develop approach or long for big name signings in free agency.

However, Ted Thompson has utilized a combination of patience and proactivity to bring his vision of building a franchise to life.

Thompson isn’t afraid of free agency. Rather, he waits until the initial frenzy is over to avoid overpaying players. Doing this has yielded quality players in the past, including Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, who were both signed in 2006.

Both Pickett and Woodson were integral players in the 2010 Super Bowl run, and when looking back at their contracts, they appeared to be relative bargains when compared to their contributions to the team.

When free agency opened in 2014, Thompson appeared to be quiet. While teams like the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints were throwing money around like they printed it, Thompson waited.

By waiting until the overpaying binge subsided, he was able to sign defensive end Julius Peppers at a very competitive contract (3 years, $30 million) and bolster the interior defensive line with Letroy Guion (1 year, $1 million).

Will Peppers have the same impact as either Woodson or Pickett? We certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

Rather than panicking and overpaying impeding offensive free agents running back James Starks and tight end Andrew Quarless, Thompson was able to bring them back for a modest investment (2 years, $3.17 million and 2 years, $3 million, respectively).

Not only is Thompson patient, he’s also proactive.

He’s great at extending players before they ever hit free agency. Similarly, he has knack for re-signing his own players in that small window between when their contracts expire and when they’re able to test the market.

23

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Mike Tanier is one of my favorite, and one of the most underrated, NFL writers on the web. Earlier this week he had a brilliant idea that I am now going to rip off, expand, and give a Packers’ slant.

Tanier tried to come up with the worst mock draft ever. He did a pretty good job, too. Most of his selections made little sense and would probably cause fanbases to unleash a stream of Twitter rage should their teams actually draft any of the players Tanier suggested.

For the Packers, Tanier selected LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Why? Because the Packers need a backup quarterback and what better place to find one that in the first round of the NFL draft!

Tanier’s worst mock draft ever only lasted one round and covered all 32 NFL teams. I’m going to take a shot at creating the worst mock draft ever for all seven rounds, but only pick for the Packers.

Will I strike gold and recreate the awfulness of the Justin Harrell first-round selection in 2007? Do I have the knowledge and foresight to find someone as terrible as Jerron McMillian in the middle rounds? My goal is to have draft pundits lauding me for finding the next great awful player in the second round like Ted Thompson did with Brian Brohm in 2008.

Here we go:

1st round
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Because when you have Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Jonathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris and glaring holes on defense, you should definitely draft another running back in the first round. Perhaps if the Packers stock their roster with running backs, Aaron Rodgers will become expendable and Thompson can trade him to Seattle for the Seahawks entire defense. Oh, and any time you can draft a running back in the first round who “lacks exceptional skills” and is compared to Marion Barber III by NFL.com, you have to do it.

2nd round
David Yankey, G, Stanford
Who cares if Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are doing fine at both guard positions? The Packers need more guards! And drafting Yankey might entice the Packers to move Lang to center, because whenever the Packers start unnecessarily shuffling offensive linemen around, it always works out well.

19

March

Ron Wolf vs Ted Thompson: By the Numbers

Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf

Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf

With the conclusion of the 2013 season, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson hit a milestone of sorts with a team: he just completed his ninth season at the helm of the Packers’ football operations.

Know who else made it that long as GM in Green Bay? Thompson’s predecessor and mentor Ron Wolf.  Both men have won a Super Bowl but yet Wolf is held in legendary status with Packers fans and Thompson, to date, is not.

With the passionate debate about Thompson and his activity (or lack thereof) in free agency that consumed much of the offseason thus far until Thompson signed Julius Peppers,  ow figures a good time to compare Thompson and his mentor and how their times as Packers general manager compare and contrast.

As the saying goes, “the numbers never lie.”

Regular season record:

 Wolf: 92-52

Thompson: 86-57-1

 Wolf took over a team that was in ruins with only three winning seasons in the past 24 years.  The cupboard for talent was pretty barren and it wasn’t until Wolf traded for Brett Favre in 1992 and signed Reggie White in 1993 that marquee talent would stay in Green Bay.  Wolf also didn’t have a losing season and had only one non-winnjng (8-8) season in 1999.

Thompson meanwhile inherited a team that had an aging but still gifted Favre at quarterback and talent on offense but disastrous drafts by Mike Sherman left the defense in disarray and a team that was getting older by the day.  Thompson had to cleanse the roster and the 4-12 record in his first season as GM showed that.  Thompson had been only one other losing season in 2008 (6-10) and an 8-8 season in 2006 with rookie coach Mike McCarthy leading a young roster.

This might come as a shock to some of Thompson’s detractors but he’s pretty close to Wolf here and not many fans would have fired Wolf.

 Postseason record:

 Wolf: 9-5 (1-1 in Super Bowl) 6 playoff appearances

 Thompson: 6-5 (1-0 in Super Bowl) 6 playoff appearances

16

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

The following is a transcript of a hidden camera conversation from Packers GM Ted Thompson’s office on the opening day of NFL free agency.

(Knock on the door. The Packers front office team enters Thompson’s office. Thompson is watching “True Detective” on his office television)

Thompson: Why did nobody tell me about this “True Detective” show before? This is amazing. I didn’t know Woody from Cheers was such a good actor. And how about Matthew McConaughey?! The guy can actually act when he keeps his shirt on. Yellow King?! I want to change our nickname from the Packers to the Yellow Kings!

Scout: Um, sir….we didn’t tell you about the show because you only allow us to watch film of college players nobody else has ever heard of. And free agency is now officially open.

Thompson: Shhhh! This episode is more intense than the last few minutes of Super Bowl XLV.

Scout: But sir, we’ve already lost Lamarr Houston and Arthur Jones. They’re off the market.

Thompson: Really? They signed like 7 seconds after free agency officially opened? That’s some quick negotiating. Because no NFL team would ever cheat and use the three-day window to talk to agents to actually work out a contract, right?

Scout: Ummm…..

Thompson: How much did they go for?

Scout: Houston for $35 million to the Bears and Jones $30 million to the Colts.

Thompson: BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! That’s hilarious. No, seriously. How much did they sign for?

Scout: Sir, I was being serious.

Thompson: Dammit, you do this every year. You tell me who signed right after free agency opens and you make up some wild and silly number. Just tell me the real number.

Scout: But sir, that is the real number. I wasn’t kidding. Every year we have this same conversation 5 minutes after free agency opens.

Thompson: How about that other guy people want us to sign…what’s his name. Something to do with birds…

Scout: Jarius Byrd, sir. He signed with New Orleans for $54 million.

Thompson: I see. I can’t wait to see the headlines after the Super Bowl: “Jarius Byrd leads Saints to Super Bowl win.” Or maybe “Lamarr Houston makes people forget about the ’86 Bears.”

Scout: Sir, don’t you think we maybe should’ve gotten in on some of these signings? People are getting mad on Twitter.