1) Introduction: Ted Thompson took over as General Manager for the Green Bay Packers in 2005, relegating Mike Sherman to the sole role of Head Coach. Thompson has met with more than his fair share of criticism through his years with the Packers. Cutting big name veterans in order to meet salary cap requirements and being the one to eventually trade away Brett Favre made him a target for a massive number of disgruntled fans. His approach has been vindicated, however, with the Super Bowl XLV Championship under his belt. The team is now built for future success, as key players and depth have been built steadily through the draft and a few select free agent signings. In fact, only 3 current players on the roster were not acquired by Thompson: Donald Driver, Chad Clifton, and Scott Wells.
Position: Executive V.P., General Manager & Director of Football Operations
Years as Packers GM: 7 (2005-2012)
3) Expectations coming into the season: “In Ted We Trust” and the “Ted Thompson Way” have become hot phrases the past year. Ted Thompson proved to Green Bay fans and the NFL as a whole that his process of drafting and grooming players works; thus, he was expected to continue his success in that area. Though any rational fan could never expect him to make the big splash in free agency signings, we did expect him to deal with his upcoming free agents from the team in a cost-effective manner.
4) Highlights/low-lights: In regard to value, the best NFL contract of the year was arguably the one signed by wide receiver Jordy Nelson in October. The 3-year, $13.35 million contract extension included incentives that could take it to $15 million over that span. For some perspective, the franchise tag for this year at the wide receiver position is $9.4 million.
As for Ted Thompson’s biggest blunder, I don’t think many would dispute it being the way he handled Cullen Jenkins. Or rather, the way he handled the defensive line. With Jenkins allowed to walk, there was a rather big void to fill, and many were putting their faith into second-year defensive end Mike Neal. Unfortunately, Neal’s injury problems led to another disappointing season. Whether by retaining Jenkins, drafting a better prospect, or signing a free agent, Thompson failed to adequately plug the hole along the line.
5) 2011 NFL Draft: Thompson made three trades during the draft, giving up 5 picks and getting 6 in return. The 10 picks he ended up having led to some rather mixed results. Randall Cobb was the most influential draft pick this season, while Ricky Elmore was probably the most disappointing. Elmore was the only draft pick cut from the final roster, though OL Caleb Schlauderaff was traded to the New York Jets for an undisclosed draft pick. DT Lawrence Guy OL Derek Sherrod, and RB Alex Green all wound up on injured reserve at different points during the season and each having had varying levels of success. Ryan Taylor proved himself as a more valuable tight end than D.J. Williams despite their draft positions, and though Davon House only appeared in two games, he still has time to prove his potential as a cornerback.
6) Overall Player Management: Some of the notables moves made by Ted Thompson during the offseason were: signing A.J. Hawk to a new, restructured 5-year contract; re-signing Charlie Peprah under a 2-year contract; letting Atari Bigby, Brandon Jackson and Cullen Jenkins walk off in free agency; cutting Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar, Justin Harrell, Brett Swain, and Mark Tauscher; re-signing Josh Sitton to a 6-year deal; and trading away Quinn Johnson. He also netted a few undrafted free agents with some good potential, including Tori Gurley, Vic So’oto, Jamari Lattimore, Brandon Saine, and M.D. Jennings.
Unfortunately, some important players’ futures with the Packers are still up in the air with the season over and free agency knocking. Thompson still needs to figure out what to do with Matt Flynn, Jermichael Finley, Scott Wells, and Ryan Grant. Some less significant, yet still intriguing, free agents are Jarrett Bush and Erik Walden.
7) Conclusion: Overall, the offense and special teams units benefitted more from personnel moves this year than the defense did. The work of a General Manager is complicated and each move is always a calculated risk, but for Ted Thompson, this was just a slightly above-average year. He made some great contract deals and picked up some good rookie talent, but also misjudged a few prospects and took the wrong side of the gamble with a couple key positions.
Season Report Card:
(C+) Level of expectations met during the season
(B-) 2011 NFL Draft Grade
(B-) Overall Player Management Grade
Overall Grade for the year: B-——————Follow @ChadToporski