Category Archives: 2011 Offseason

6

May

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson averages a draft whiff a year

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 10th NFL Draft as the Packers general manager. He has been arguably the biggest lightning rod for criticism over the years.

There is inherent value in every round of the draft, but the most consistent value lies in rounds 1-3, which is where I also focus my attention.

Thompson did a masterful job early on. When you land a guy like Aaron Rodgers as your first pick to begin your new job, things are looking pretty good. He added safety Nick Collins and wide receiver Terrence Murphy, who were both forced to leave pro football early after suffering neck injuries.

The next year, Thompson did another excellent job by adding fifth overall pick in linebacker A.J. Hawk, second rounders in guard Daryn Colledge and wide receiver Greg Jennings and third round guard Jason Spitz. The only guy that was a question mark was third round linebacker Abdul Hodge because injuries forced him to only start one game in four NFL seasons.

But after hitting so many home runs in his first two seasons, Thompson was due for some whiffs. And that’s exactly what happened in 2007. Justin Harrell, arguably the worst pick of Thompson’s career, started just two of 14 games in his three-year career. It was a little head scratching that the Packers even used a first round pick on Harrell, who entered the league hurt after tearing his biceps at Tennessee.

Brandon Jackson is another strikeout. The former Nebraska track star/football player was able to play bit roles but is now looking for a job. James Jones gave the Packers a good return on its third-round investment. He proved he could start but was never capable of winning the top receiver job. The final whiff of 2007 is Aaron Rouse. The safety played just three seasons before signing with the now-defunct United Football League.

The following year, there were two more whiffs sandwiched in between a couple of home runs. Obviously, second rounder Jordy Nelson has carved out a pretty nice career as one of Rodgers’ go-to targets. However, second rounder Brian Brohm, after not being able to get comfortable with the speed of the NFL game, is now playing quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. The other miss was second round cornerback Patrick Lee, who only started one game in his Green Bay career. The other great get that Thompson secured was third rounder Jermichael Finley. Although his mouth got in the way early on, Finley was one of the most athletic tight ends in the game when healthy.

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7

May

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part I

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

So now that the NFL draft is officially over, tons of fans will converge on Packers web sites to air their grievances about not drafting a particular player or reaching for another.  They will hand out grades to teams and players alike; argue with other fans about what should have happened, and how the analysts have no idea what they are talking about.

I frankly am uninterested in such things; you’re typically not going to find out how good a draft class or a player is for 3-5 years and a player’s success has a lot to do with the team and the environment they get drafted in.

Nevertheless, every team drafts a player with a role in mind, and in this article I hope to analyze what role I think each player was drafted for; I am not concerning myself with what I think will likely happen, I have not placed a grade or an analysis of each player’s potential for a reason.  I’ve also included who I think the rookies will be replacing, keep in mind I don’t necessarily think that a rookie will take a veteran’s spot (for instance I have Casey Hayward replacing Charles Woodson) only what type of role that rookie is like to take.

Nick Perry – Projected Outside Linebacker – Round 1, Pick 28 (#28 overall) – Replaces Erik Walden

Rationale: With no pass rushers taken until #15 (Bruce Irvin to Seattle), Ted Thompson probably just sat on his hands and waited for players to drop to him.  From a schematic standpoint I think Perry offers a good foil for fellow Trojan Clay Matthews III; Perry showed impressive strength (which is supposed to translate to explosion) at the combine with 38.5 inch vertical (tied for 2nd among defensive linemen and linebackers) and 35 bench reps (tied for 6th among defensive linemen and linebackers, though really he’s tied for 1st when you exclude defensive tackles) and while that didn’t translate to much of a power game on the field (though it could be argued when you are as fast around the edge as Perry is you’d probably neglect the power game as well), rookies typically get much “functionally” stronger with NFL weight rooms and trainers so Perry could be very good at setting the edge in the future.

22

February

Green Bay Packers Re-Sign TE Jermichael Finley with Two-Year Deal

According to several reports, the Green Bay Packers avoided any looming franchise tag battle by re-signing free agent tight end Jermichael Finley Wednesday with a two-year, $15 million deal.

Pro Football Talk first reported the agreement per a league source, and Finley confirmed the report through his Twitter account shortly thereafter.

Many have speculated that the Packers would be forced to use the franchise tag on Finley, who at 24 years old looked ready to command a top tight end salary on the open market if he remained unsigned by March 13. It was also widely assumed that Finley would argue for the receiver franchise tag tender, which is about $4 million more than what a tight end would receive from the tag in 2012.

This deal avoids any mess that a franchise tag battle could have created between the two sides.

With a two-year deal at around $7.5 million a year, the Packers might have gotten the best of both worlds.

While the money splits the franchise tag numbers for tight ends and receivers almost down the middle, a two-year deal allows Finley to show the Packers brass that he is worth a longer-term deal down the road. Finley will be just 26 years old when he re-enters free agency again in 2014.

An agreement between the Packers and Finley seemed far apart as recently as late last month, and some opined that no deal would come about between the two sides, especially after an inconsistent and sometimes frustrating 2011 season.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy made it very clear after the season how big a cog Finley was in the Packers offense.

“He wants to be a great player and thinks he’s going to be a great player. With his talent level, that’s half the battle,” McCarthy said in his final press conference of the season. “I look for him to continuing to develop and establishing himself definitely as one of the (great) tight ends, Pro Bowl tight ends, in this league.”

Finley caught 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011 after missing 11 of the Packers 16 regular season games in 2010 with a knee injury.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

21

February

Ted Thompson: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson

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.

2) Profile:

Ted Thompson

Position: Executive V.P., General Manager & Director of Football Operations
Years as Packers GM: 7 (2005-2012)
Age: 59

Biography: 

 

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.

21

February

Packers Preparing to Let Free Agent C Scott Wells Walk?

Scott Wells Packers

Packers free agent C Scott Wells might get the chance to test the open market.

Quarterback Matt Flynn and tight end Jermichael Finley have commanded most of the free agent spotlight this offseason in Green Bay, with it being widely assumed that the Packers would eventually come to a deal with highly valuable free agent center Scott Wells sometime in the process.

Not so fast, says Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

While mostly speculating on the issue, McGinn said his best guess would be that “the Packers will play with a new center next season.”

His reasoning?

A bull-headed approach from the Packers on the value of Wells, who has started 100 regular season games for Green Bay since being drafted in seventh-round of the 2004 draft, combined with an equally hot-headed response from the veteran center, who obviously thinks he deserves top-5 money at the position after a Pro Bowl season in 2011-12.

Simply put, the Packers do not think Wells is worth as much as the he and his representation do. Undersized and 31 years old, the Packers have some leverage in the talks.

But Wells has just as much leverage, as he has put together back-to-back seasons of Pro Bowl-caliber play and then watched several other centers, who are older and less talented, get big deals on the open market.

McGinn recalls that David Bass, 29 at the time of the contract, signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal with the New York Giants last offseason. At a $5.5 million salary, Baas ranks fifth in the NFL among centers. Ranking ahead of Baas and Wells are Carolina’s Ryan Kalil, who makes $8.2 million, New York’s Nick Mangold at $7.7 million, St. Louis’ Jason Brown at $7.5 million and Tampa Bay’s Jeff Faine at $6.3 million.

Wells is certainly looking to chisel his name somewhere in that list of top-paid centers. He likely earned it, too, as Pro Football Focus had Wells as the fourth highest rated center in the NFL last season.

The writing has been on the wall for Wells to get to free agency, and I have been under the opinion for a while now that the Packers wouldn’t get a deal done with Wells until after free agency had started.

General manager Ted Thompson has to get a better feel for what the market is on Wells, and to be fairly honest, Wells might get a little wakeup call when he finally gets a chance to hear offers from around the league.

20

February

Green Bay Packers Franchise Tag Primer

TE Jermichael Finley

Tagging Jermichael Finley is one option for the Green Bay Packers this offseason.

Starting today, all 32 NFL teams will have the ability to place the franchise tag on one player of their choosing. The deadline for applying said tag is Monday, April 5, eight days before free agency begins.

The underlying purpose of the franchise tag is for teams to have the option of retaining a player with an expiring contract if a long-term agreement can’t be had before free agency begins.  Unlike previous seasons, in which a franchised player would receive the average salary of the five highest paid players at his position, the NFL’s new CBA introduces a complicated formula that now controls what the number for each position will be.

For 2012, the numbers figure out as such:

QB: $14.4 million in 2012; down from $16.1 million in 2011

RB: $7.7 million in 2012; down from $9.6 million in 2011

WR: $9.4 million in 2012; down from 11.4 million in 2011

TE: $5.4 million in 2012; down from $7.3 million in 2011

OL: $9.4 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011

DE: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13 million in 2011

DT: $7.9 million in 2012; down from $12.5 million in 2011

LB: $8.8 million in 2012; down from $10.1 million in 2011

CB: $10.6 million in 2012; down from $13.5 million in 2011

S: $6.2 million in 2012; down from $8.8 million in 2011

Since Ted Thompson took over as GM in 2005, the Packers have used the franchise tag just twice.

DT Corey Williams received the tag in 2006 and then was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round pick, and DL Ryan Pickett got the tag in 2010 but worked out a four-year, $25 million deal shortly thereafter.

In 2012, it’s widely assumed that the Packers will be using their tag on one of three players: quarterback Matt Flynn, tight end Jermichael Finley or center Scott Wells.

Let’s quickly run down each of those options:

TE JERMICHAEL FINLEY
6-5, 247 lbs
2011: 55 catches, 767 yards, 8 touchdowns

17

February

Could Packers Trade Up in 2012 NFL Draft to Pick a Pass Rusher?

Ted Thompson Packers

Packers GM Ted Thompson traded back into the first round to take Clay Matthews in 2009.

The day was April 25, the Saturday of the 2009 NFL draft, and Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson had a franchise-altering decision staring him in the face.

As he sat in the Packers’ war room, having already acquired nose tackle B.J. Raji from Boston College with the ninth overall pick, there was a name he couldn’t shake and a need he knew he needed to fill.

The name was Clay Matthews, and the need was 3-4 outside linebacker.

Matthews, a wavy-haired overachiever with Hall of Fame bloodlines, remained available as the first round came to a close. A walk-on at USC who didn’t play full-time until his senior year, Matthews was an ideal pass rushing outside linebacker for his new defense. And Thompson knew that if there were two positions most important to making the Packers’ new 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Dom Capers work, it was nose tackle and outside linebacker. Raji was the answer inside, Matthews could be the same on the edge.

In his hand was a weapon he rarely held, and uncharacteristically, Thompson pulled the trigger.

A man notorious for trading back in the draft to stockpile picks, Thompson sent a second and two third-round picks to the New England Patriots for the No. 26 pick in the first round and a later fifth rounder.

Shortly after, Roger Goodell announced Matthews as the Packers’ pick, and the rest, as they say, was history. Matthews turned into a superstar, registering back-to-back 10-sack seasons while helping lead the Packers to a Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers just less than 22 months later. Along with sticking with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Thompson’s decision to move up and get Matthews remains a defining moment in his building of a championship puzzle.

Fastforward to this April, and you could argue Thompson is in a similar state of need that he found himself in 2009.

Just a year after reaching the NFL’s peak, Thompson’s defense shattered in 2011. Better yet, it collapsed after under the weight of Thompson’s failure to find a starting-quality outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and his decision not to re-sign highly productive but aging defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who bolted to the Philadelphia Eagles but was entirely open to returning to the Packers. Green Bay won 15 games during the regular season despite giving up more passing yards than any other team in NFL history, then threw away their opportunity to repeat as Super Bowl champions with an undisciplined effort on both sides of the football.