In a further sign that the apocalypse may actually occur in 2012, the Green Bay Packers have waded into the free agency waters with Ted Thompson at the controls.
As someone who prefers to mainly build through the draft, Thompson largely bypasses the free agency period but with center Scott Wells leaving for the St. Louis Rams, Thompson was backed into a corner a bit and signed former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday to a two year contract.
The Packers needed a center and Thompson signed one, one that arguably may even be an upgrade at the position. It’s been a move fans have largely approved. Thompson signing a “name” free agent worked out pretty well when he signed Charles Woodson in 2006 and fans hope to see the same in the signing of Saturday.
Thompson is apparently not done in free agency this year, either. Seahawks defensive end Anthony Hargrove apparently took to Twitter to announce he was likely headed to Green Bay to become a Packer. The Twitter account claiming to be that of Hargrove’s is unverified, so it is unknown whether or not it is Hargrove actually sending those tweets, but the Packers earlier hosted the real Hargrove at Lambeau Field on his free agency tour.
There’s little doubt the Packers could use someone like him. The Packers had an anemic pass rush in 2011 and it was one of the big reasons an otherwise highly successful 15-1 campaign fizzled out in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. Hargrove is a decent pass rusher who recorded five sacks in the 2009 Super Bowl-winning campaign for the Saints before heading to Seattle for one year in 2011. He was drafted by the Rams in 2004 and recorded 6.5 sacks his sophomore season in 2005.
Here is the catch: Hargrove has a series of off the field troubles, most recently being named as a player that may have received a bounty in the now infamous New Orleans Saints bounty program that rewarded players in cash for knocking opposing players out of the game with extra incentive if they left the game on a cart. Hargrove was implicated in the NFC Championship game where Brett Favre took the biggest pounding of his career in the Minnesota Vikings’ loss to the Saints.
Hargrove maintains there was no bounty on Favre for that game, but the league clearly disagrees with that statement as evidenced by the one year suspension handed down to Saints head coach Sean Payton and the eight-game suspension of GM Mickey Loomis.
Throw in a year-long suspension for Hargrove handed down in 2008 to go along with a four game suspension in 2007, both for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and the signing of Hargrove would appear to be a crapshoot for the Packers.
The Packers clearly are in desperate need of help on the defensive line, but are they really this desperate?
In Green Bay more than any other NFL city, character matters. Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy constantly talk about the need for “Packer People” in their locker room. “Packer People” can be defined as selfless individuals who are also good citizens off the field. It’s that model that led the Packers to twice passing on wide receiver Randy Moss and other players that would have been assets on the field yet trouble off of it.
Hargrove has spoken many times about the kicking of his addiction, but that doesn’t mean he still won’t be trouble. Two drug suspensions plus allegedly participating in a bounty system and then, after the Saints ADMITTED to the program’s existence, still deny that one existed on Favre?
Commissioner Roger Goodell is still discussing punishment for current and former Saints players for their roles in the bounty system, so it’s very possible Hargrove will not be available for the first quarter (or more) of the 2012 regular season. It baffles me that Thompson would sign a player in free agency that is staring a lengthy suspension right in the eye.
Anthony Hargrove could do very good things for the Packers on defense, but he is not “Packer People.” Thompson learned the ugliness of drug addiction firsthand with Johnny Jolly and it’s hard to believe he would take a chance on going down that road again. The Packers have one of the strongest locker rooms in the NFL and Thompson should not take a chance on upsetting that.
Introducing someone like Hargrove is introducing “an unstable element to a critical situation” for the Packers. This could be a make or break year for Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme and the last thing he needs is a misfit like Hargrove in the locker room.
Follow your gut and your heart, Ted. It’s served you well in the past and it will serve you well again in this situation.
Just say no to Hargrove.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke