It happens every Summer when Training Camp rolls around in Green Bay, at least under the TED THOMPSON’S regime. Some familiar veteran names show up as ‘cuts’ from the PACKERS roster as the team gets under way preparing for the upcoming season both financially & athletically. It may be less frustrating to deal with this year than most because the team has the Lombardi Trophy on display within the bowels of Lambeau. But once again a rather long list of vet players will no longer wear the Green-and-Gold.
Let me remind you who is MIA as the team prepares for its first Pre-Season game.
NICK BARNETT/ILB BILLS Too much $ already being paid to HAWK/BISHOP inside.
ATARI BIGBY/S Once he got his big contract he’s been fighting HARRELL for hot tub time too often.
BRANDON CHILLAR/LB Was coming back to team until he hurt his leg (again) in offseason.
DARYN COLLEDGE/LG CARDINALS Never completely satisfied coaches with inconsistent play. Too expensive.
KOREY HALL/FB/ST SAINTS Pure Special Teamers get too expensive after a few years.
JUSTIN HARRELL/DE The king of the training room was never available.
BRANDON JACKSON/RB BROWNS Solid 3rd Down RB, but wanted, and got, more $ than that role is worth.
CULLEN JENKINS/DE EAGLES Great attitude, average athlete who greatly benefitted under CAPERS schemes.
DERRICK MARTIN/S Marginal player who helped during injury rash last year… no upside.
BRADY POPPINGA/LB RAMS Too old, too expensive for ST and back-up OLB with no speed.
JASON SPITZ/OG JAGUARS Looked like the real deal until back injury made him a risky investment.
MARK TAUSCHER/RT Could still play, if he wanted, but BULAGA & SHERROD are in town.
ANTHONY SMITH/S TITANS See Derrick Martin
I also believe JAMES JONES would have been on the list without a verbal shout-out from AARON RODGERS to bring back one of his favorite targets.
For those of you mathematically challenged, that’s a baker’s dozen vets no longer around to do their thing in a PACKERS uniform. It’s not as though they were all chopped liver. Even though most will not all start in their new NFL homes it is clear that other teams perceived value in most of the PACKERS cast-offs.
Under the THOMPSON philosophy it was time for these guys to move on to make room for younger, less expensive, ascending players on the roster. Makes sense to me, and as I previously pointed out this is the NFL’s reigning championship team, or what’s left of it. I must honestly admit that I have called for the departure of about half of these guys in the past 6 months. But when you throw in the balance of the names I’m thinking that the team is gambling quite a bit on youth developing to fill the depth charts at some positions right now… maybe too much for a Super Bowl rerun.
Do I even need to mention that there have not been, nor should you expect to see any new Veteran Free Agent names to appear on the transaction wires as headed to Green Bay?! Since the year that WOODSON & PICKETT came to town VFA is pretty much a 4-letter word around the PACKERS offices.
So what does it mean to the team’s repeat plans to have so many roster spots open?
It mens that young, injured players from 2010 have to become productive starters this season. MORGAN BURNETT/S, MIKE NEAL/DE, & FRANK ZOMBO would be the main names popping into my mind at the moment.
Young players who the team nurtured last season need to emerge as serious competitors to push for starting jobs and at the least provide reliable, quality back up for the starters. In this list I think of names like T.J. LANG, NICK McDONALD, C.J. WILSON, TOM CRABTREE, JAMES STARKS fit this category.
There also has to be an assumption that vets who missed parts of last season will be healthy and able to return to form in 2011. The big names here are RYAN GRANT/RB, BRAD JONES/LB, JERMICHAEL FINLEY/TE.
And last, but not least, the 2011 DRAFT Class has to step up and provide some immediate help, ay least on a part time basis.
I would also sense that with the serious pruning of the roster an injury epidemic similar to the one suffered in 2011 could have more serous consequences that were avoided in 2010.
No gnashing of teeth, or wailing and whining PACKERS fans. This is still a good team with a solid corps of quality players headed by AARON RODGERS, who is considered in any “elite QB” discussions in current NFL circles. But before you start proclaiming dynasty, and chanting of LOMBARDI era domination, please understand a lot of things still have to go right to consider championship repeat talk. Heck, let’s start by aiming for an NFC North title first.
Next up I will take a look at specific roster positions where I think the soup is a bit thin unless good health prevails and some younger players really strut their stuff over the next month.