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Thompson's approach helps Packers maintain yearly model of consistency

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Thompson's approach helps Packers maintain yearly model of consistency

The success of the 2017 Green Bay Packers will hinge significantly on how well their draft picks perform. But the Packers didn't revamp various sections of their roster with just draft picks alone.

General manager Ted Thompson went out and cashed some checks, bringing six free agents to Green Bay—the most since 2006—with the hope that they'll fill some of the holes left behind by the seven free agents the team lost over the offseason.

"In terms of free agency, there's always surprises in it," Thompson said at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. "We try not to get too worked up about what could or couldn't happen. It's been our policy and it will continue to be our policy and if we can, we'd like to cotninue to keep our own free agents.

"Every year, it's a little different. As a whole, the market is different from year to year."

With talent lacking in one area of the roster after offseason departures, Thompson moved quickly to fill some of the gaps. Where the Packers lost Jared Cook, Thompson rejuvenated the tight end position by acquiring Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. Cook was gone, but in his place were two players with their own distinctive traits to help the passing attack.

Where they lost Sam Shields after five reported concussions ended his Packers career, they used their first pick in April's NFL Draft to select Washington cornerback Kevin King who played opposite Sidney Jones. They also reached out to Davon House to reunite him with cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. for a homecoming in Green Bay after fleeing to Jacksonville after the 2014 season.

Regaining veteran leadership lost in free agency was a point of emphasis over the offseason. The five veterans the Packers signed ties the total from 2006; the hope being that they can provide the same role in the locker room that players such as Julius Peppers and T.J. Lang once did. Before Peppers returned to Carolina to re-join the Panthers team that drafted him and before Lang ventured back to his home state of Michigan to play for the rival Lions.

Those are just some of the examples of the Packers balancing out the positional deficiencies suffered over the last five months. How these players mold into the winning formula that has been protocol in Green Bay over the last seven seasons, blend into the locker room and grasp a firm understanding of their respective jobs is going to be the determining factor for whether or not this offseason will be dubbed as a successful one.

As aforementioned, the last time the Packers dipped into the market this excessively was 2006 when they signed former Rams defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. They also threw some cash—$52.7 million to be exact—at Charles Woodson, bringing him to Green Bay. Three years later, he would be the AP's Defensive Player of the Year.

Via the draft, linebacker A.J. Hawk and receiver Greg Jennings—two major contributors to the Packers' Super Bowl run in 2010—were brought in to bolster their respective sides of the ball. Tramon Williams, another prime factor to that 2010 campaign, was also acquired as an undrafted corner and would go on to play the next nine seasons with the Packers alongside Hawk.

These aren't characteristics that fit the mantra of the Packers. The extravagant spending, yet, still preserving $18.3 million in cap space—12th-most in the NFL—is Thompson at his finest. Filling roster voids with quality players who can come in and contribute immediately at a cheap, but efficient cost. It's why the Packers have been a model of consistency under Thompson.

It's why the Packers will spend just $16.7 million this year on the six free agents they've signed this offseason.

It's why fans burn Thompson at the stake.

Of course to some, it's frustrating watching the grossly-advertised display of wealth across the league. The monstrous contracts issued to game-changing players, teams jumping at the opportunity to trade for a player whose negotiations with his current club have broken down or even in Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's case, is just at a complete crossroads with others in the locker room.

The Packers need that game-changing player; they need that game-changing corner, specifically. However, it was likely never even a thought that crossed the mind of Thompson. The long run has, and will always be, the big picture for Thompson and co. Not to trade and break the bank for a 29-year old corner just doesn't fit the reputation Thompson has built during his reign as general manager. Like the Woodson signing, the situation has to be just right.

So does the player.

Quality over quantity? Quantity over quality? In 2017, the Packers aimed for both and it's precisely what they ended up with. Six free agents: all with their own high levels of competency and understanding for what is trying to be accomplished in Green Bay and what their own individual jobs are.

Pair these new parts with some rookies whose hope is that they can come in and do their own part, and the Packers may have one of their most complete rosters in recent memory.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (36) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

BPEARSON21's picture

This is a great article and summarizes the front office of the Packers extremely well. For anybody out there who isn't a die hard fan this is a great synopsis of what our management is.

The consistency and winning is something to easily take for granted, I know I do and I try my hardest not to. But I also think the consistency is one of our teams most crippling attributes. Because we win the NCF North damn near every year we become complacent with just being a play off team. When in reality we're not a play off team... we just have an all-time great quarterback.

So while our consistent play off births shouldn't be undervalued, I sincerely hope people realize this dynasty we've got going has a clock on it. When A-Rod begins to regress (which I have no idea when that'll be) and eventually retires, I don't want to look back and think "damn I wish we would've put more quality pieces around Aaron Rodgers in an attempt to win now and worry less about the future after the all time great quarterback" (yes, I'm looking at you New England). Consistency is great, but I wish management realized the time is now. I would happily take 2-3 Super Bowls in the next 4-5 years and then 4-5 years of rebuilding instead of just making the play offs for the next 10.

pooch's picture

Sorry if we didnt have Rogers Packjers would be no were near model of consistency

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Mike McCarthy is one of the major reasons why Rodgers is who is he is today. I don't think many people realize how poor his mechanics were coming out of Cal.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

True, McCarthy did great work developing Rodgers. That's also why teams will soon salivate over Hundley.

dobber's picture

If the Packers didn't have Rodgers we'd be looking at a completely different team, with 10+ years of completely different drafts.

None of us really has any clue what this team would look like absent ARod.

TheVOR's picture

Thompson's approach helps Packers maintain yearly model of consistency - Ya, consistently underachieving as a GM and riding the backs for a HOF caliber QB and decent coaching staff right into the flipping ground. We should have been back in the Super Bowl 2-3 times since 2010, and the dude just went on autopilot, not quite using UFA to build up a slightly more competitive roster, and watched us tank opportunity after opportunity. His end can't come to soon enough. Let the young Wolf howl already..

pooch's picture

Sorry if we didnt have Rogers Packjers would be no were near model of consistency

Zachary Jacobson's picture

Thanks for reading!

Turophile's picture

The Thompson philosophy loses out in giving the Packers a short term boosted team for a year or two, by acquiring higher quality free agent veterans.

The other side of that coin is better financial health over time, and therefore the ability to pay enough to keep more core guys.

So, do you want the team to cycle between boom and bust (ie spend significantly more on vet FAs), or is it better to be a little worse than the boom peak, but have a chance every year. Thompson believes the second option is better, and he has been successful following that blueprint.

Staying young overall, as a team, is another way to save money and the Packers are routinely one of the youngest teams. Being good in the NFL has (in TTs world) a great deal to do with a team getting the maximum number of players outplaying their contract, allowing the Packers to afford more big contracts to the difference makers.

slit's picture

Model of consistency = Aaron Rodgers (single handedly carried a 4-6 team to the playoffs). A lot of people on CHTV had written the Packers off midseason, and were already talking draft. I have a feeling this article doesn't get written if GB misses the playoffs.
Draft & Develop is a hoax; it doesn't hold water, when you actually look at the # of players still on this team that have been drafted since the SB victory. AR is, and will continue to be, the reason GB makes the playoffs and consistently wins double-digit games.
All that said, TT drafted Aaron.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

"AR is, and will continue to be, the reason GB makes the playoffs and consistently wins double-digit games."

See, this doesn't work. Packer fans can't hold Tom Brady to the "it's a team sport!" standard and discredit his five rings all while giving Aaron Rodgers 100% of the credit for the Packers' success over the last eight years. Rodgers doesn't single-handedly win games. He's a huge factor, but not the sole contributor.

And the Packers defense pulled a complete turnaround late in the season last year. Rodgers was already playing decently from the start of the season albeit a handful of msised throws on film that he would normally make in his sleep (25:7 TD/INTs during the 4-6 stretch), the turnaround just took way more than one guy continuously playing well.

slit's picture

Actually, it does work. And Brady is the MAIN reason the Patriots have been so successful, but not the only. The difference between Brady & Rodgers, is that one has BB and the other has MM. One has consistently a top 10 scoring DEF, the other has a bottom half DEF. The difference in those areas is the difference between almost making the SB, and winning the SB. To think otherwise is foolish. I never said AR single handedly wins games (you love to put words in people's mouths), but to think he isnt the reason the Packers are winning 10+ games every year is asinine.

slit's picture

By the way, go look at the teams we played late in the season; coincidence? What happened when they went up against the Falcons in the Championship game? The Packers have given up an avg of 35 points/gm in their playoff losses, in the AR era. Take the green & gold glasses off, for just one minute, and actually look at the data.

slit's picture

You also realize you're helping my argument when you state that the Packers went 4-6, when AR had a 25/7 ratio. Tell me what that same ratio was when the Packers ran the table. He played at a level that no QB ever has.

slit's picture

Also, who ever discredited Tom from winning his 5 rings? Seriously, why do you just make up random crap to try & create a foundation for your argument?

Zachary Jacobson's picture

I'm not sure if you're an avid social media user or whether or not you've met someone who loathes the Patriots, but that's the universal argument against Brady and the Pats: "W/L's aren't a QB stat," and his highly-ranked defensive groups that were a major factor during the first three title runs.
Nobody put words in your mouth, quit crying about everything anyone says to you.

JJtheTraveler's picture

We have a GREAT QB, how is it Bill Belichick and the Patriots do better??? Why can't we find that 1-2-3 players to make it over the top again???
Year in, year out Belichck produces a GREAT team that's WON BIG. Why can't we do the same with the BEST QB in football??

Zachary Jacobson's picture

That's because Bill Belichick is a much better coach than Mike McCarthy, yet McCarthy, to me, is still top-three in the league. That's more of a testament to the mastery of Belichick than it does McCarthy.

Since '61's picture

Belichick is not a better coach that MM, however he is a better GM than TT.
Belichick looks at the players he signs and drafts like a coach (which he is) who is expected to win today. BBs approach as a GM is to win today while TTs approach is to manage the cap and build for the future. MM wants to win now but until this FA season he has not necessarily received the support from TT to win today. BB as GM makes that BB the coach has the players he needs to win now. That's the difference between NE and GB. Remember the last Packer coach to win championships consistently was also the GM and coach. His name was Lombardi. Thanks, Since '61

slit's picture

You think MM is a top 3 coach in the league? You must not watch much football....

dobber's picture

Brady gives the Pats a leg up, but that is the most flexible and functional team you're going to find. They're able to adapt and adjust on a weekly basis like no team I've ever seen. Never know who is going to be featured. Never know how they're going to attack their opponent.

There are a lot of people out there asking why their teams can't be more like the Pats.

Icebowler's picture

The fact that we won our only recent Super Bowl as a 6th seed proves that 'you have to be in it to win it'. First get in, then get hot!

packrulz's picture

I usually agree with Ted's position on high priced free agents, and most of the time he has the Packers in good shape with the salary cap. Injuries have hobbled the Packers for years, I don't know why, just bad luck. If they could stay healthy they could be Super Bowl caliber.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

If there is one aspect of Ted's approach I truly love, it's his handling of the cap. This makes it hard to break through and win it all, but it also prevents big crashes.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Russ handles the cap. Not TT.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Russ works under TT, and TT also chooses the players with whom Russ must negotiate.

Ted most certainly handles the cap.

Pikeman's picture

One cannot argue about the consistency and success of the Pack. There are times when consistency doesn't quite get you there. The big game is where we want to be. Last year our pass rush wasn't good enough to get us there. I honestly think two players would have got us there. I would have picked Danny Trevathan and Dwight Freeny.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I liked Freeney, but honestly, I don't think this team had the inside push to help him succeed. Clark was a year away.

I think Freeney would simply have been stoned at the line or steered upfield on the edge. That, combined with our utterly horrendous outside CB's, would have left Freeney arriving helplessly as QB's rifled easy strikes from a comfy pocket.

I just think Freeney would have been wasted here, so I wouldn't have spent the money.

Pikeman's picture

You may be right, but he looked pretty good against us in Atlanta

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

True.

Jonathan Spader's picture

One thing people continually overlook when comparing the Packers and the Patriots is that we play in the NFC vs. The AFC. It's the same game but the NFC seems to be more competitive. I'm biased in that assessment I'll admit. What do you guys think is a tougher divison AFC or NFC?

marpag1's picture

It depends a lot on what your time frame is. Perhaps the best indicator is the head-to-head records of the AFC vs. NFC in inter-conference matchups. Based on those numbers, the NFC has been better than the AFC over the past six years. Here are the records, shown as "games above 500." In other words, in 2016 the AFC was 3 games over 500 vs. the NFC.

2016 - AFC +3
2015 - NFC +6
2014 - AFC +3
2013 - NFC +4
2012 - NFC +14
2011 - NFC +2

To summarize, the NFC was better in four of those six years, and was 20 games over 500 vs. the AFC during that time.

Prior to 2011, however, the NFC was getting kicked around by the AFC every which way from Sunday. From 1996 to 2010, the AFC bested (or tied) the NFC for 15 consecutive years, and in many of those years the NFC just got totally blasted. Here are the margins in favor of the AFC over those years.

2010 +4
2009 +10
2008 + 5
2007 even
2006 +16
2005 +4
2004 + 24 (most lopsided season in interconference history)
2003 +4
2002 +5
2001 even
2000 even
1999 +16
1998 +2
1997 +3
1996 +4

In other words, the AFC was +97 over those 15 years... almost 6.5 games over 500 per year.

Overall, the AFC is 1335 - 1235 (.519) against the NFC.

Handsback's picture

We have heard the term "bite of the apple" when its applied to drafting players, but apply it to playoff appearances and it works there as well. Every time you make the playoffs, you get a chance to win the SB.
The Patriots, because of their weak division, get into the playoffs most years. The Packers are in a similar situation, weaker division, great QB, and playoff qualified.
The Patriots have one thing that the Packers haven't had for a few years...a squad with depth. The Pats haven't had to deal with losing great players like the Packers have to injury. Every team has injuries, that's correct, not every team loses one of their key play makers to injury almost every year. Do you wonder how the Atlanta game would have been if the Packers had both Hyde and Shields? Nelson at 80%? Cobb at 90%? Lacy at all?
I hate winning about injuries, but you're not winning in the NFL w/o a full complement of weapons and Green Bay has come up short multiple years.
I would love to see a Green Bay verses New England game for the SB.....it could the game of the ages.

dobber's picture

"you're not winning in the NFL w/o a full complement of weapons"

I agree with your sentiment in general, but the Pats played about 2/3 of their season without their best offensive weapon (Gronk) and played several games without Brady. Is it depth? Is it a coaching staff that knows how to adjust in the face of injury or how to game plan better than just about anyone else week after week? Is it a team with a completely different mindset from the rest of the league? Probably most of those things...

RCPackerFan's picture

"but the Pats played about 2/3 of their season without their best offensive weapon (Gronk)"

True. but they did have a pretty good fallback option in Bennett. For most teams Bennett would have been their number 1 TE.

Lets be honest with Patriots. They are one of the best teams that can get the very most out of every players strengths. A player like James White for example. A lot of teams would be JAG. But with the Patriots he is a Super MVP candidate.

Ferrari Driver's picture

Your quote: "The Packers need that game-changing player..."

I recently posted on a different topic, but part of what I wrote there fits here as well:

"...The Packers simply don't have the superstars that put the fear into quarterbacks and offensive coordinators these days.

The elite guys like Khali Mack; Von Miller; Brandon Graham; and Joey Bosa are found in the top half of the first round of the draft...an area the Packers simply don't get to see when the annual draft comes
around. ..."

I think Thompson has done an excellent job by taking a quarterback who was passed over by 20 some teams a little over a decade ago and managing the annual draft while doing so in the bottom 1/3 of each round.

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