28

April

Packers GM Ted Thompson Found Alive – Again…

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson targeted by radical fans?

The first two days of the 2012 NFL Draft have quickly unfolded and Packers’ GM Ted Thompson has fulfilled the wishes of most Packers fans by going defense, defense, defense. In press conferences at lambeau Field, Mr. Thompson has insisted these weren’t “need” picks, but I think we all know the truth (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more).

The similarities to the 2009 draft, with the trading up and the focus on defense and apparently, need, early on  reminded me of a fun little piece I wrote after that draft. I think it pretty much works again, so here it is, as originally written:

In an amazing development, the NFL has just revealed that a sleeper cell of radical Packer fans successfully pulled off a plot to kidnap Packers GM Ted Thompson before the NFL draft and replace him with a look-alike puppet.

Thompson was found this morning, bruised but otherwise unharmed, in a dumpster outside of a Holiday Inn in nearby Appleton, Wisconsin. Thompson had been drugged and woke up confused in the dumpster. His calls for help attracted the attention of hotel guests, who helped him out of the dumpster and untied him.

Upon being found, Thompson was quoted as asking what had happened in the NFL Draft. When told the Packers had drafted strictly at need positions, he fell to his knees and cried out “no wide receivers”?

Packer fans everywhere suddenly have an explanation for the strage events that took place this weekend. The Green Bay Packers drafted for need with every selection, ignoring the “best player available” mantra they normally espouse.

Yes, now it’s obvious. This was a draft for the fans, by the fans. It’s just not feasible that the real Ted Thompson would have ever drafted this way. No wide receivers? No quarterbacks? No trading down for more picks? Come on.

The extent of this plot is not yet known and we are left with many questions. How many fans were involved? Are other attacks in the works? Who crafted such a perfect look-alike puppet that nobody even noticed it wasn’t the real Ted?

These and other questions are still to be answered. In the meantime, while I don’t advocate or condone such actions, allow me to simply say “Thank You.”

29

February

Hines Ward: A Precursor to the Packers’ Decision With Donald Driver

1,000 career receptions, two Super Bowl rings and 14 dedicated years later, receiver Hines Ward was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday.

From Steelers president Art Rooney II: “We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year. Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

The Steelers saved almost $4 million on their 2012 cap and have young, capable receivers in Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmaunel Sanders who overtook Ward, 36, on the receiving depth chart during the 2011 season.

We may be able to spin this same record in coming weeks with Packers receiver Donald Driver.

Driver, who is 37 years old and holds several Packers receiving records, has one year left on the contract he signed in 2010 worth almost $5 million. While Driver has expressed an interest in re-structuring that contract to continue playing in Green Bay, Ward offered the same service to the Steelers to stay in Pittsburgh. He was still released. Money is more of an issue for the Steelers in this offseason than the Packers, but the dollars don’t tell the whole story.

The meat of the pages here is that the Packers have younger players who need a bigger platform in 2012.

As is the case with the Steelers, who saw Antonio Brown emerge as a very capable No. 2 receiver in 2011, the Packers have two or three players—Randall Cobb, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel—who need more opportunities and, in the case of Gurley and Borel, a spot on the Packers roster. Giving Driver an honorable release is the only way the Packers can accomplish that.

People aren’t going to like it, and there’s going to be a morbid feeling surrounding the release—just like there is right now in Pittsburgh. But don’t get this game of football twisted: It’s a business first and foremost, and releasing Driver is the better football move.

23

February

Green Bay Packers: Risk in Franchise Tagging QB Matt Flynn?

Matt Flynn

Could the Packers tag-and-trade free agent QB Matt Flynn?

Now that the Green Bay Packers have re-signed tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year, $15 million deal Wednesday, the focus has shifted from what could have been a messy franchise-tag dispute on Finley to whether or not the Packers will tag-and-trade free agent quarterback Matt Flynn.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Silverstein thinks the Packers will likely franchise tag Flynn and attempt to trade him away for a high draft pick or two. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King also speculated that Finley’s deal makes it more likely that the Packers would franchise tag Flynn.

Naturally, the increase in compensation from a tag-and-trade with Flynn—which could be a draft pick one to two rounds higher than the compensatory pick the Packers would likely get if he walked in free agency—makes this option very appealing. The Packers would also be receiving a pick or two in the 2012 NFL draft, not a 2013 pick like if Flynn walked.

But there would also seem to be a big risk in going down this path with Flynn.

For one, the Packers would have to clear cap space to fit in the $14.4 million a franchise tag would cost on Flynn. By most estimates, the Packers are currently at around $10-11 million in cap space.

Letting go or completely re-structuring the deals of both Donald Driver and Chad Clifton would get the Packers plenty clear of the $14.4 million mark.

If the Packers did tag Flynn, he would almost certainly sign the offer sheet—putting the Packers on the hook for the $14.4 million and forcing them to find a trade partner. If no team bit on Flynn, the Packers would be stuck with a backup quarterback making considerably more than their NFL MVP starter, Aaron Rodgers. Re-signing center Scott Wells and special teamer Jarrett Bush would also become tricky under the cap.

But here’s the kicker in the whole deal: The Packers won’t even ponder franchise tagging Flynn unless they have a handshake deal in place with another team on both the parameters of a trade and a re-structrured deal for Flynn—the two necessary components for a tag-and-trade scenario to successfully play out.