Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson is now synonymous with the term “draft & develop”. After 10 seasons in his current role, he has clearly established his M.O. when it comes to acquiring talent: the NFL draft. Sure, he has signed some free agents and brought in undrafted free agents as well, but the primary talent pool for Thompson’s Packers has been the kids coming out of college and into the pro’s.
Thompson has also managed his salary cap well and has never really left the Packers unable to keep a player they really wanted to. The team is always several million under the cap and able to carry over some money from the previous season. And with the recent cap increases over the past few seasons, the Packers look to be in good shape for the immediate future.
When it became evident that the Packers were not going to extend receiver Randall Cobb or offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga prior to the start of free agency, there was panic in Packerland. Despite the cap space the team had, there were valid concerns that other teams would grossly over pay for one or both and the Packers would have to let them walk. In Cobb’s case, it was hard to justify his being allowed to walk out of Green Bay. A 24-year old former second-round receiver coming off of his best season and who was arguably the team’s best player in the postseason this past year, Cobb was the epitome of a player Thompson had to do everything he could to keep. Fortunately, Thompson did enough and Cobb realized that his best opportunity both now and for his next shot at free agency was to remain in green and yellow.
Cobb did have other offers out there however, and the idea of his playing in another uniform came a little too close to real for some. Successful teams often find their players in demand when free agency rolls around and it makes sense. Besides obviously playing well, they come from an organization that has a culture of breeding upstanding veterans who don’t cause many problems in the locker room or off the field. They also know how to win.
Earlier this week, it was reported that safety Sean Richardson was the latest free agent Packers player that another team was coveting. The Oakland Raiders signed Richardson to an offer sheet reportedly worth $2.55 million for one year. Richardson was not drafted by Thompson and the Packers, but he has been retained in the hopes that he can turn into solid depth at safety. So at least the “develop” part of the equation is still in play with Richardson. Currently, he is a restricted free agent and the Packers gave him the lowest tender possible. The Packers have until Monday to match the offer and keep him. And because Richardson originally signed with Green Bay as an undrafted free agent, if the Packers choose not to match Oakland’s offer, they will get no compensation.
Richardson was one of the team’s best special teams players last season and also saw some action in defensive packages that featured a three safety look. But was it enough for Thompson to pull the trigger and spend what is considered to be starters money for the fourth option at safety? Earlier this offseason, the Packers let go of two starting-caliber members of the secondary in Tramon Williams and Davon House. The team likely wanted to retain at least Williams, if not both, but were not willing to pay more than their price for either. The Packers are still over $18 million under the salary cap and certainly have the room to retain Richardson if they choose. They would still easily be able to cover this year’s draft class and have some cap space to roll over to 2016.
With another special teams ace still unsigned in that of Jarrett Bush, can the Packers afford to lose Richardson? With Bush being yet another defensive back the Packers may not bring back, does that increase Richardson’s value and force Ted’s hand? This is yet another opportunity for Thompson to show his true colors when it comes to “draft & develop”.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: