14

March

Channeling Fire Joe Morgan about Packers GM Ted Thompson and NFL Free Agency

I decided to go all Fire Joe Morgan on this piece written by Frank Schwab at Yahoo Sports about Packers GM Ted Thompson and NFL free agency. Enjoy.

In 2006, Packers general manager Ted Thompson signed cornerback Charles Woodson in free agency, and it was one of the best moves he ever made.

Ok. A good start to this post. I agree with that statement.

You’d think that experience would give Ted Thompson the warm and fuzzies about free agency and he’d spend his time chasing the next Woodson. Instead, Thompson might be off on vacation this week. Wherever he has been, he hasn’t been signing any players.

Starting to go off the rails a bit now. Thompson didn’t “chase” Woodson. He signed him well after free agency opened. I think part of the reason Thompson doesn’t dive into the opening frenzy of free agency is because it is a “chase.” Chasing to fill this roster hole or plug that weak area. Chasing a big-name veteran who fans are familiar with. Chasing the notion that you have to “DO SOMETHING!!!!” to get better like the other teams around you. Those types of chases are from guaranteed to pay off. Oh, and the “Ted Thompson goes on vacation” thing became an eye-rolling cliche three years ago.

Green Bay didn’t sign one player, outside of retaining his (sic) own free agents, in the first three days of free agency.

Gasp!

It’s not like they don’t have needs. A stud left tackle would have been great, allowing David Bakhtiari to move inside to guard. Any of the top centers would have worked. A pass rusher would be swell. They could have spent on a big-time safety, and it’s not like Antoine Bethea, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner or guys like that got a ridiculous amount of money.

Sign a stud left tackle and move a promising, young and inexpensive left tackle to guard when you already have one pro bowl guard and another guard coming off his best season (and Bryan Bulaga coming back from injury)? Was there a “stud left tackle” on the free-agent market this year? I didn’t see one. Stud left tackles, like stud QBs, typically don’t make it to free agency. If the Packers re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, that’ll meet the “any of the top centers” criteria. Yes, a pass rusher would be swell. Let’s see what the remaining days of free agency bring (yes, free agency lasts more than a couple days). Finally, none of the safeties Schwab lists are “big time.”

13

March

NFL Free Agency: Packers Re-Sign TE Andrew Quarless

NFL, Green Bay Packers, NFL Free Agency, Packers free agency, Packers free agents, Andrew Quarless, Andrew Quarless contract, Andrew Quarless free agentThe Green Bay Packers have announced that they have re-signed tight end Andrew Quarless.  Terms of the new deal were not disclosed, but according to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, it is a two year deal.

The tight end position had been labeled as one of the needs for the Packers this offseason after Jermichael Finley’s neck injury and subsequent unrestricted free agency.  With Finley’s football future in doubt, many wondered if the Packers would look outside the team for a tight end or give Quarless a shot.  He played well down the stretch last season and that apparently was enough for the Packers to bring him back for a couple more seasons.

Getting Quarless back is big after reports that Jermichael Finley is still awaiting medical clearance.  He’s reportedly a favorite to land with the Seattle Seahawks once/if doctors give him the all clear. That is still far from a certainty, however.

Green Bay had also reportedly been interested in former Texans tight end Owen Daniels and even had him in for a visit.  The signing of Quarless does not necessarily exclude the Packers from adding Daniels as Quarless and Brandon Bostick are currently the only tight ends under contract. Daniels was reportedly planning on visiting with the Washington Redskins soon, so the Packers will have some competition for his services.

As for Quarless, he finally began to show promise late in 2013.  He missed all of 2012 with a knee injury he suffered late in 2011.  He caught a touchdown and had over 50 receiving yards in two of the Packers’ final four games and was earning a much bigger role in the passing game.  Along with Bostick, the Packers have a pair of solid tight ends but may still be one player away from checking tight end off their need list.

Will it be Daniels or will it be someone else? Only Ted Thompson knows for sure so stayed tuned to ALLGBP.com for all your Packers free agency news!

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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12

March

NFL Free Agency: Green Bay Packers Re-Sign DE/OLB Mike Neal

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Mike Neal, NFL Free Agency, Packers Free Agents, Packers free agencyAccording to his Twitter feed, defensive end/linebacker Mike Neal has signed a new two-year contract with the Green Bay Packers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Neal had his most productive season in 2013, but that was mainly due to the fact he was finally able to remain healthy for a full season.  Neal had 47 combined tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception in a season where he was moved from the defensive line to a linebacker position.

A second round pick of the Packers in 2010, Neal showed flashes of being a decent pass rusher during training camp but never was able to remain healthy and only saw action for more than half a season in 2012.  Neal had been rumored to be target by the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals, but ultimately chose to remain a Green Bay Packer.

With Neal’s return, it’s becoming clear no major defensive scheme overhaul is in order for the Packers this offseason. Moving Neal back to his original position on the defensive line however would indicate Green Bay wants to get leaner at the position.   There is also the possibility Neal could be moved all over the front seven as a pass rush specialist, lining up both with his hands on the ground as well as standing up.

This move at the least sets the stage for more competition throughout the unit as training camp approaches.  Neal is still young and has a lot to contribute.  He has natural athletic ability and now that he’s proven he can stay healthy, Neal could be critical towards Green Bay finally establishing a consistent pass rush.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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12

March

Surprise! Packers Quiet on First Day of NFL Free Agency

Jarius Byrd

Safety Jarius Byrd signed a monster NFL free agent contract on Tuesday, but not with the Packers.

C’mon, folks. You didn’t REALLY think that the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson were going to make a splash on the first day of NFL free agency, did you?

No way Thompson was going to fork over $56 million ($28 million guaranteed) like the Saints did for safety Jarius Byrd.

Give defensive linemen Lamarr Houston (5 years, $35 million, $15 million guaranteed) and/or Arthur Jones (5 years, $30 million) deals like they got from the Bears and Colts, respectively? Not on Thompson’s watch.

What about safety T.J. Ward? The Packers desperately need a safety and Ward’s deal with the Broncos (4 years, $23 million, $14 million guaranteed) is much more reasonable that Byrd’s. Sure, Ward came at decent market value, but Thompson wasn’t going to pay that much for a box safety.

The list could go on and on. Aquib Talib (6 years, $57 million, $26 million guaranteed), Linval Joseph (5 years, $31 million), Paul Soliai (5 years, $33 million, $14 million guaranteed). The prices were outrageous and the potential return on investment far from guaranteed. Hell, the Jaguars gave Toby Gerhart 3 years and $10.5 million. Toby Gerhart!

You didn’t REALLY think Thompson was going to suddenly start gambling on the high-risk game known as Day 1 of NFL free agency, did you?

If you did, hopefully you learned your lesson (again) for next time. If you’re upset that Thompson didn’t deviate from his norm and dive into Tuesday’s madness, don’t be.

There is still a long way to go in free agency. I do think Thompson is going to step outside of his comfort zone and bring in some free agents, but it sure wasn’t going to happen on day 1.

Once the chaos of the opening of free agency calms down and  the funny money goes away, Thompson’s real work begins. That’s when bargains can be found and holes on the Packers roster plugged with players who sign contracts more in line with their true value.

But isn’t now the time to take a risk and overpay for a major free agent or two? After all, Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger and the Packers have a few obvious holes.

16

February

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced this week that he will retire after the 2014 season. I’m not a Yankees fan and I usually root against the Bronx Bombers in the playoffs, but I always liked and respected Jeter.

Jeter was really good. He came across as a nice guy. He never got into legal trouble. He chased around beautiful women. And he projected an aura of coolness without coming across as overly arrogant. There really wasn’t anything to dislike about the guy.

As a Packers fan, what’s the closest comparison to Jeter in the NFL? What player caused the Packers a lot of grief over the years, but you still liked, respected, and even found yourself cheering for if he wasn’t playing the Packers?

Here are mine:

Barry Sanders
I don’t think you can call yourself a football fan if you didn’t enjoy watching Sanders. Yes, he had all the fancy footwork and juke and jive moves, but he would also put his head down and crash forward. An amazing spectacle on the field and a class act off of it.

Adrian Peterson
It’s absolutely terrorizing to watch Peterson manhandle the Packers defense. He’s a total mismatch for the light-hitting and reactionary Dom Capers D. But man, everything about Peterson just screams football. He’s the perfect package of grace, grit, explosiveness, elusiveness, resiliency and toughness.

Charles “Peanut” Tillman
It’s maddening to watch Tillman punch the ball out and force fumbles against the Packers. It’s a thing of beauty when he does it to other teams. Tillman has forced 40 fumbles in his 10-year career, including a mind-boggling 10 in 2012.

Larry Allen
This one is kind of obscure, but I always respected the Cowboys offensive line during their glory years and Allen was an absolute monster paving the way for Emmitt Smith. Allen could bench 705 pounds, squat 905 and became a hall-of-famer in 2013. He’s not the first player that comes to mind when thinking about players that gave the Packers trouble, but he deserves to be on the list.

Let me know who makes your list in the comments section.

Packers news, notes and links

14

February

Big-name free agent targets for the “big-spending” Packers

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Feb. 12 that the Packers, armed with $30 million in cap space, are prepared to spend on outside free agents this offseason to remake the defense in Dom Capers’ image.

Capers has been in Green Bay for five seasons, so the wording is a bit confusing. Surely, the Packers haven’t given Capers a team of bobsledders and asked him to mold them into an attacking 3-4 defense. But regardless, Rapoport’s report ignited a spark of hope among Packers fans that the team would make a rare dip into free agency.

With all due respect to Matthew Mulligan and Duke Preston, the Packers haven’t made any “splash” moves in free agency since 2006 — when they signed both cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

The Packers’ offseason spending spree got off to a roaring start with Thursday’s addition of fourth-year undrafted free agent tight end Raymond Webber. That was sarcasm. But it’s rather comical that a portion of the fan base almost seems upset that Webber’s name isn’t Jimmy Graham.

Of course, the Packers’ $30 million in cap space won’t be $30 million for long, as they’ll be forced to spend about $5 million on this year’s rookie class. And with Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and others (perhaps Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb) likely to receive contract extensions, that number will continue to shrink.

But should the Packers let B.J. Raji walk — which seems more likely than not, given Raji’s production, or lack thereof, the past two seasons and his reported rejection of a contract extension that would have paid him $8 million per year — then they’ll have some financial flexibility to perhaps spend on veterans. Take into account Jermichael Finley’s cloudy future coming off major neck surgery, and the Packers could, really, become players in free agency.

As far as positions of need, the Packers could use help at every level of the defense. The opposite can be said about the offense, with the exception of tight end, at which they could still bring back Finley or opt for a cheaper option in Andrew Quarless.

Here are a few bigger-name free agents the Packers could — probably won’t — but could target once free agency hits.

17

March

Farewell, Tom Crabtree

For those who have known me for any extended period of time, you know how long I’ve always wanted to become a sports writer. I’ve always been a Green Bay Packers fan but I knew that if I wanted to make that career jump I would have to exercise some kind of objectivity and hopefully I have been somewhat successful.

Right now, however, I’d like to at least somewhat circumvent that objectivity.

As you’re probably aware by now, now former Packers tight end Tom Crabtree signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.   On the surface, this move should not be that painful for the Packers. Crabtree was mainly a blocking tight end and highlights from 2012 aside, he wasn’t much of a threat in the passing game. This should not be that big of a deal.

That’s at the surface. Deep down, this is painful and in ways I never imagined.

I remember the first time I heard Crabtree’s name—when he scored his first career touchdown against the Eagles in the Wild Card round in the 2011 playoffs.  The Packers won that game en route to the Super Bowl XLV title.   We didn’t see much else from Crabtree in the rest of that playoff game but he did make many appearances on this thing called Twitter (or “the tweeter” as Mike McCarthy once referred to it as).

This was early 2011. I followed (and still do) quite a few Packers players and enjoyed the banter  between the players as well as the interaction with fans. I’d reply every once in a while but never really expected a response due to the massive number of mentions the players had to have been getting.

One day, Crabtree made a joke of some kind. I wish I could remember what it was but I don’t.  I replied back with my own wisecrack and Crabtree actually replied.  As someone who was aspiring to be a writer and wanted to build a good reputation  with the players, this was like Christmas.  Crabtree and I exchanged a few more tweets and I really enjoyed the conversation.  At that moment he ceased to be a Packer for me and was just a regular guy.  I know many others feel the same.