Another NFL draft has come and gone, and Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson infused his roster with a youth movement by adding eight young players to the training camp squad.
The key words above are “youth movement.” Thompson has consistently fielded one of the youngest NFL teams, if not the absolute youngest, since he rebuilt the nightmare roster he inherited from the previous head coach and general manager Mike Sherman.
Any time there are young bodies added to a roster, other players must go. After all, there’s only 53 roster spots during the regular season.
With the exception of premier positions such as quarterback (Aaron Rodgers), edge rusher (Julius Peppers), and fullback (John Kuhn, tongue-in-cheek), Thompson appears to have a severe aversion to keeping players in the roster who are over the age 30.
Once a player hits that magical age of 30, his contract is vary rarely extended or renewed, and oftentimes Thompson outright releases him.
Logan’s Run is a cheesy dystopian movie about the future. Due to overpopulation and resource scarcity, anyone over the age of 30 is executed, which preserves the long-term stability of the society.
In terms of the modern NFL, the resource scarcity is the salary cap. Due to salary cap rules, salaries can count against the cap long after a player has been released, resulting in “dead money.”
Poor roster decisions, especially overpaying for aging players up front and releasing them later, can haunt a cap for years. Careful management decisions keeps a roster fresh with young players while preserving some cash reserves used to sign a few splash free agents, including re-signing your own rising stars.
Let’s take a look at some notable Logan’s Run management decisions by Ted Thompson in the last few years, including the younger replacement players he brought in. Losing free agents is a game of dominoes, which can lead to compensatory picks as well.
James Jones and
Greg Jennings, WR
Jones was 30 years old when Thompson decided to not re-sign this fan favorite after the 2013 season. Instead, he selected Davante Adams as his replacement in the 2014 draft. Despite some rookie struggles early on, Adams began to develop as the season progressed and had his breakout game against the Patriots. Thompson appeared to make the correct decision here because Adams is on the rise and Jones was just released this week by the Raiders after one lackluster season. In terms of compensatory picks, losing Jones factored into the sixth round picks that brought in either Christian Ringo or Kennard Blackman in the 2015 draft.
Jennings was more of a case of sour grapes because Thompson did try to extend him when he was 29 years old during the 2012 season. However, negotiations fell through and Jennings left for the Vikings in a temper tantrum with a side of scorched earth. Thompson didn’t have an immediate replacement for Jennings on the roster other than the rising Randall Cobb (you could argue that Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey were his drafted replacements, but neither stuck on the final roster), but the decision to let him walk paid off because he had two disappointing seasons with the Vikings that came to an end when they traded for Mike Wallace this off season. He was released shortly thereafter and was finally signed by the Dolphins after not getting much attention on the market. Thompson did receive a 2014 third-round compensatory selection for losing Jennings, and he cashed that in for tight end Richard Rodgers, who appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
In the 2015 draft, Thompson completed the
Jennings replacement plan by picking Ty Montgomery, who brings a similar skill set and the added bonus of returning punts and kicks.
A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, LB
Both Hawk (31 years old) and Jones (29 years old) had miserable 2014 campaigns, so it’s no surprise they were outright released this off season. During this year’s draft, Thompson selected Jake Ryan in the fourth round as a candidate to align next to Sam Barrington in the base 3-4 defense. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared Ryan to Desmond Bishop, so he’s definitely a Thompson guy with a specific purpose for the defense. Since these players were released, the Packers will not receive any compensatory picks.
Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush, DB
Williams (32 years old) was apparently offered a low-ball contract by the Packers, signifying his end in Green Bay. Bush (30 years old) is currently unsigned, and after this weekend’s draft, it looks like he won’t be back in 2015. Thompson selected two defensive backs with his first two picks, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, addressing the passing defense with a youth movement. It’s very likely that either Randall or Rollins will take Bush’s place on special teams while competing to be Williams’ replacement. The loss of Bush will unlikely bring in any compensatory picks, but Williams likely will. That in itself is pretty remarkable because Thompson turned an undrafted free agent into a Super Bowl contributor and a compensatory draft pick.
Matt Flynn, QB
Flynn (29 years old) is definitely a fan favorite, but his age and noodle arm made him expendable. After mop-up duty in 2014, he showed he could not run the offense and move the chains through the air. Scott Tolzien has a much better arm, and looks to be QB2 heading into 2015. Also, selecting Brett Hundley in the draft only further cements Flynn’s fate in Green Bay. Barring something unusual, Flynn won’t be back. When the Packers lost Flynn the first time after 2011 to the Seattle Seahawks, it was factored into the 2013 compensatory selections. I doubt the Packers will receive anything ever again for him.
Cullen Jenkins, Howard Green, Ryan Pickett, and Johnny Jolly, DL
Losing Jenkins to free agency after the 2010 season haunted many Packers fans, but he was 30 years old after the Super Bowl. He was a valued member of the championship team, but Thompson clearly felt that his best days were behind him. The loss of Jenkins factored into the compensatory pick that brought Mike Daniels to the Packers in the 2012 draft, and I don’t think many Packers fans will be complaining about that “trade” anymore. Daniels is developing into a stud.
Green was an unsung hero during the 2010 Super Bowl run, and many credit him for helping turn around the defense. Also, he famously hit Ben Roethlsberger’s arm during a throw that led to Nick Collins’ pick-6. However, after the 2011 season, Howard was 32 years old and clearly not in the Packers’ plans. Despite missing on Jerel Worthy in the 2012 draft, Thompson hit on the Mike Daniels selection a few rounds later (see above), providing a long-term solution in the interior.
Like Flynn, Pickett (age 34 when not signed after 2013) and Jolly (age 31 when not signed after 2013) were definitely fan favorites when they were shown the door. However, age and injuries made them unwise investments, so Thompson looked elsewhere by signing the younger free agent Letroy Guion (2014) and drafting Khyri Thornton (2014) and Christian Ringo (2015) as the youth movement. In hindsight, despite nothing being shown yet by Thornton, Thompson made the right decision because Pickett had minimal impact for the Texans and Jolly’s injury scared off all other teams from signing him; Guion did have a very impressive 2014 season that resulted in a new contract.
Ryan Grant, RB
Grant was brought to the Packers in a trade, which was highly unusual for Thompson. He helped solidify the running back position for five seasons, but after the 2012 season he was not brought back to the Packers when he hit that magical age of 30. In the 2013 draft, Thompson brought in Eddie Lacy, who only went on to become the 2013 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Scott Wells, C
Following the 2011 season, Thompson let 31-year old center Scott Wells leave for a lucrative contract with the St. Louis Rams. It’s taken a few years to get his replacement solidified, going through Jeff Saturday (a strange Logan’s Run pickup and departure) and Evan Dietrich-Smith first, and then attempting to replace him with J.C. Tretter before hitting the jackpot with the Corey Linsley selection in the 2014 draft. The Packers clearly have their young center in place for a long time. Interestingly, losing Wells, along with Matt Flynn, factored into receiving the compensatory pick that ultimately led to the Josh Boyd selection in the 2013 draft.
John Kuhn, FB
Kuhn is one of the elder statesman currently on the roster at age 32. The 2015 season is most likely his last in Green Bay, as evidenced by the drafting of Aaron Ripkowski. Also, since Thompson gave Kuhn a small contract with little cap hit, it’s not even a guarantee Kuhn will make the final 53 this season.
I merely joke by calling Thompson’s roster management as Logan’s Run, but you cannot deny that there aren’t many players over the age of 30 on the roster. This approach allows Thompson to re-sign his younger stars to their second contracts, which are sometimes cheaper than some premier third contracts. By avoiding costly and frivolous third contracts that often overpay for players on their decline, Thompson frees up money and roster space for younger players on the rise.
Keeping the roster young and fresh freed up cap space for Thompson to re-sign Randall Cobb, B.J. Raji, Letroy Guion, Bryan Bulaga, and Sean Richardson during the 2015 free agency period. Thompson had a similar approach in 2014 by re-signing Jordy Nelson, Sam Shields, Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless, John Kuhn, B.J. Raji, and James Starks.
Another added bonus to the Logan’s Run approach is the possibility of compensatory picks. By letting other teams sign his aging free agents, Thompson has been able to accumulate 9 compensatory picks since 2012, which have only added to the youth movement.
Other notable compensatory picks since 2012 besides those listed above include Jared Abbrederis in 2013 and Josh Sitton in 2008.
I think when you look at everything as a whole, Thompson has done a spectacular job managing the roster. In almost every example of his Logan’s Run approach, the Packers have come out ahead with young stars on the rise.——————