15

March

Cory Corner: Ted Thompson’s loyalty will pay dividends

Instead of bringing outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Instead of bringing in outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Ted Thompson is proving that devotion and dedication mean more than stats.

The Packers general manager has stuck to his draft and develop philosophy. He has signed four free agents in Sam Shields, Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless and even B.J. Raji to come back and play their home games at Lambeau Field.

I’ve seen and heard numerous people bash Thompson for not bringing in free agents from other teams in order to help the Packers win their fifth Super Bowl title.

Frankly, the fact that Thompson likes to embrace loyalty and reward his guys shouldn’t be overlooked.

Remember, when you bring in outside guys, there is a bit of a transition period as the newbies get acquainted with how things are run. They must get acclimated to the playbook, varying types of schemes for different types of situations and know what and how is expected.

Obviously, former players already know that. They’ve already got strong bonds with teammates, which doesn’t hurt the all-important team chemistry, but most importantly, they already know their roles.

Neal is coming back after a season in which he was tied for third on the team in sacks. It would be ridiculous to even assume that he would demand a Clay Matthews role as the focal point of the defense. But if the Packers had brought in a guy like DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen or Julius Peppers who’s to say that wouldn’t have happened?

Same thing on the offensive side. Quarless all-of-a-sudden isn’t going to demand Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb targets because he knows his role in the delicate Packers ecosystem.

There were, heck there still are, decent guys available. Brian Orakpo is still hanging around, but since he was franchised by the Redskins nobody wants to part with two first round draft picks for a guy that is now arguing with Washington about whether he should be franchised as a linebacker or a defensive end. (It should be noted that the franchise designation as a linebacker is $11.455 million as opposed to $13.116 million for a defensive end).

14

March

BJ Raji Signs 1-year, $4 million contract with Packers

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

The Packers and Ted Thompson continue to resign their own guys (much to the dismay of Frank Schaub apparently), Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji has resigned with the team for a 1-year, $4 million contract; specifics of the deal have not been made public but this post will be updated to reflect incoming news.

 

Raji has largely been criticized for his lackluster play since teasing fans with his potential in early in his career and being dissatisfied playing in a 3-4 scheme where defensive linemen rarely get the accolades or attention of the 4-3 brethren.  The icing on the cake for fan scorn was walking away a multi-year deal that was supposed to pay him roughly $8 million yearly, naturally this is all just hearsay and the structure of the deal (i.e. the guaranteed portion) might have been poor but nevertheless, an abysmal season after betting on himself drew the ire of fans and media alike.

Free agency apparently was ice cold for Raji as no reports have surfaced of him visiting any other team and Raji has not been linked or to be of interest to any other team (there were some rumors linking Raji to Oakland and Kansas city, with obvious connections in the front offices).  Last reported news from Raji prior to his signing was that he was “mulling” over a 1-year contract offer from the Packers.  From the looks of things, Raji was forced to take a 1-year “prove it” contract with the Packers as no other suitors came calling.  Without knowing guaranteed money and incentive clauses attached to the deal, this looks like a pretty good signing for the Packers, who get an experienced defensive linemen who will be playing hard for his pay day (although why this didn’t help last season is a mystery) and when at his best can be a disruptive force in the middle.

The Packers have been reported to be looking at Raji only as a nose tackle (where he has had the most success), which likely means Ryan Pickett is now less likely to be resigned (although the Packers might still resign Pickett if the price is right), with Josh Boyd most likely as the backup nose tackle.

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.”

8

March

Cory’s Corner: B.J. Raji has regrets right now

After turning down $8 million from the Packers earlier this year, B.J. Raji must decide if he wants a one-year $4 million offer.

After turning down $8 million from the Packers earlier this year, B.J. Raji must decide if he wants a one-year $4 million offer.

I am sure that B.J. Raji is probably kicking himself about now.

The Packers’ fifth-year defensive lineman was offered an $8 million contract in the middle of last season but defiantly turned it down.

And now, Green Bay is low-balling their one-time Pro Bowler with a one-year $4 million offer. Ted Thompson knows that a prove-it contract is the perfect situation for a guy that, despite playing out of position, was nearly invisible on the football field.

Thompson has also realized that if Raji has already turned down $8 million, how much more would other teams be willing to risk when the free agency signing period begins on Tuesday at 3 p.m.?

Raji is an interesting study because in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, he needs an anchor up front. He needs someone that will eat a blocker or two and clear a path for the linebackers. You could almost call him a defensive fullback.

But here’s the rub with Raji: the rest of the starting defensive line are also free agents. Ryan Pickett will turn 35 next season and has lost a few steps. His career high for tackles was 48 in 2005 and last year he tallied 19. Mike Neal is interesting because he’s so versatile. He was tied for third on the team with five sacks and he did it as a defensive end and an outside linebacker.

Raji hasn’t done much to impress anyone the last two seasons — 29 tackles and zero sacks. But there are teams that would be willing to dig a little deeper into the wallet just because he’s a large human being and there aren’t a lot of those to go around.

Thompson is doing the right thing with the low-money offer. I was astonished when he offered $8 million this year and I was even more astonished when Raji turned it down.

It’s hard to believe that Raji was taken as the ninth overall pick in 2009. He clearly has motivation issues if you cannot get charged up to play in the NFL — in a contract year. You hate to label a guy as a bust before he has even turned 30, but Raji doesn’t really give anyone a lot to work with. The one Pro Bowl season and the interception return for a touchdown that put the Packers in the Super Bowl are his career highlights. At best, he’s a work-in-progress and at worst he’s a big oops.

4

March

Cory’s Corner: Raji and Shields aren’t worth worrying over

B.J. Raji was not franchise or transition tagged by the Packers.

B.J. Raji was not franchise or transition tagged by the Packers.

There is no reason to worry about the Packers not tagging anyone with a franchise or transition tag.

I can totally understand not tagging B.J. Raji. Here’s a guy that scoffed at $8 million and if the Packers applied the franchise tag it would’ve cost them $9.654 million and $8.061 million if they used the transition tag. The Packers aren’t going to spend that kind of cash on a guy that appeared disinterested last year — which happened to also be a contract year.

Raji, while only 27, will likely be paid a king’s ransom but will never live up to his 2010 season in which he had 6½ sacks and gave us his own rendition of twerking in the NFC Championship at Chicago.

The same goes for Shields. The Packers’ secondary has been in shambles ever since Charles Woodson lost his ability to cover at a premium level. That unit has made subpar passers like Colin Kaepernick look like Peyton Manning and has put more pressure on the front seven to generate a pass rush.

Shields would be owed $11.834 million if he were franchised and $10.081 if the fourth-year cornerback were transition tagged. Another twist in this whole equation is that Shields’ agent is Drew Rosenhaus, the antichrist for front office pro teams. Rosenhaus is the guy that tells his clients to hold out while asking for more money and a long-term deal.

The 26-year-old Shields has blossomed into a reliable corner. I wouldn’t say he’s the shutdown corner the Packers covet and need for a division loaded with guys like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery but he is solid. ProFootballFocus.com has Shields as the 52nd best corner — 12 spots below teammate Micah Hyde.

The Packers have proven that they are unwilling to overpay just to keep a veteran. That was proven when the Packers let go of center Scott Wells in 2011 — which happened to be the same year he was named a Pro Bowler for the first time.

Many people see that the Packers have the sixth-most cap space with $34,197,930 and wonder why none of that is getting used. Ted Thompson knows that Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb must be taken care of after this season and he still may sign a defensive free agent.

4

March

Ted Thompson Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson

1) Introduction:  I think the biggest mistake that fans make when criticizing front office personnel like general managers is using the same rubric and time frame as they use for for players.  Take Ted Thompson for instance, whose first pick for the Packers was a quarterback deemed too short with a weak arm when the Packers already had the best quarterback in franchise history.  Naturally, we’re having arguments now on whether Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre (personally, I still think its Starr, but Farve and Rodgers should be legitimately in the conversation).

Thompson was also roundly criticized for picking a cornerback to play safety from a college no one had ever heard of or drafting another wide receiver even when the Packers had fantastic depth but Nick Collins, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have all been fantastic players who have made Thompson look like a very smart man. Overall, Thompson should not be graded per game or even per season, but over a span of 5 years or more.

2) Profile:

Ted Thompson

  • Age: 61
  • Born: 1/17/1953 in Atlanta, Texas (There’s an Atlanta in Texas?)
  • Height: 6’1″ (man, he was a short linebacker)
  • Weight: 220
  • College: Southern Methodist
  • Rookie Year: 1975
  • NFL Experience: 10 years as a player, 22 years as a scout and front office executive

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  High.  In the last 5 years the Packers have won the Super Bowl, been in the playoffs every year and managed a 15-1 season.  Added to that the Packers have always had one of the youngest and deepest rosters in football and always have had a very healthy salary cap situation.  Thompson also has reportedly great rapport with head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff and Packer’s “system” of draft and develop has benefited all parties more often than not.  The Packers were expected to win the NFC North again and make it to the playoffs.

3

March

The Green Bay Packers Are At A Fork In The Road

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson

What Ted Thompson is currently looking at–metaphorically speaking.

Imagine this scenario: you’re traveling with your family on a vacation.  You mapped out the route you would take and foresaw smooth travels ahead.  What actually happens, however, is road filled with bumps and potholes and you suffer some damage and keep getting detoured from your ultimate destination.

For Ted Thompson, with perhaps his legacy as general manager for the Green Bay Packers in the balance, such a moment is at hand.

Ever since the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Thompson’s ultimate destination has been a return trip to the title game.  Many, including Thompson himself, thought the Packers were in prime position for multiple Super Bowl runs and some even uttered the word “dynasty” when looking at Green Bay’s long term prognosis.

Instead, Thompson’s team has suffered through multiple injury plagued seasons while the defense continues to suffer blowout after blowout like a cheaply made tire on an RV.  The offense is the engine that keeps the vehicle moving at a decent speed but what good does that do with consistently flat tires on defense?

Heading into the 2014 offseason, Thompson has to put solid rubber underneath the Packer vehicle in order to take some pressure off the offense and keep that engine from overheating. The defense must get better (and fast) if the Packers want any chance of returning to the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers was dead on when he said one window has closed for the Packers and another has opened.  The franchise quarterback is 30 and will turn 31 late in the upcoming season. The clock is ticking.

Thompson has relied heavily on drafting talent and developing it along to replace aging stars.  This method has worked well in spots, the wide receiver position is a case in point.

It has been an utter disaster on defense. The Packers have yet to find a suitable replacement for Nick Collins and also haven’t fully replaced Cullen Jenkins either. After both these players left the team via injury and free agency, the performance of the Green Bay defense has gone into a tailspin.

That is why this off season is crucial for the Packers. The Packers managed to stay afloat without Rodgers for half of 2013 but they’d have been in even better shape had the defense even resembled competence. Thompson has not been the best in terms of drafting defensive talent and that was on display for all to see in 2013.