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.



Playing Devil’s Advocate: Quality vs. Quantity in the NFL Draft

Clay Matthews NFL Combine

Clay Matthews at the NFL Combine

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and argue that Ted Thompson should trade up in the draft.  Now I’m not going to be crazy and say that Thompson should trade away every pick the team has in order to pull off a “Ricky Williams”, but moving some of the picks to get better position in the draft does have its benefits

My reasoning is that having too many draft picks can actually be detrimental to the team.  When Thompson took over operations from head coach/general manager Mike Sherman, the team was in a salary cap nightmare and as a result Thompson needed every draft pick badly in order to restock the roster with low-cost, high-reward players.  Also, since the team was stocked with players from the old regime, Thompson had no qualms getting rid of player in lieu of his own guys (all new GMs do this subconsciously if not very consciously) and the easiest way to do that was through the draft.

As a result from 2005, the first year Ted Thompson started drafting for the Packers, to 2010 only 6 out of 57 drafted players  (about 10%) have failed to make the 53 man roster; 2005 6th round pick Craig Bragg, 2006 4th round pick Cory Rodgers, 2006 7th round pick Dave Tollefson, 2007 5th round pick David Clowney, 2007 7th round pick Clark Harris and finally 2009 5th round pick Jamon Meredith.  So far this system has worked pretty well for Thompson; he’s drafted the vast majority of the current team and the Packers have won the Super Bowl and posted a 15-1 season under Thompson’s regime.

However last year in the NFL draft, Thompson was forced to get rid nearly 30% of the players he drafted, triple the average; 6th round Ricky Elmore had a terrible time converting from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB and didn’t show much in special teams and was probably one of the first players to be cut.  Fellow 6th round pick Caleb Schlauderaff was also slated to be cut as well if Thompson hadn’t been able to trade him off to the New York Jets first for a undisclosed draft pick (most likely a 7th rounder).  Finally 7th rounder Lawrence Guy was also likely to be cut, but instead ended up on the IR list all season.  This is in essence squandered resources as these picks could have been used as bargaining chips to put the Packers in a better position to select better players, or in other words trade up.