Packers G.M. Ted Thompson has a reputation for being stingy with free-agency dollars. That’s true, as applied to free agents who have been playing for other teams.
When it comes to his own guys, Thompson spends, baby.
Most recently, Thompson spent $39 million over four years on cornreback Sam Shields, a player Peter King dubs as “pedestrian.” Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel takes a broader look at the players Thompson has paid, from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to linebacker Clay Matthews to linebacker A.J. Hawk to cornerback Tramon Williams to guard Josh Sitton to guard T.J. Lang.
Silverstein points out that some of the in-house players who were paid became mistakes, like linebacker Brandon Chillar and (perhaps) safety Morgan Burnett. And Thompson perhaps shouldn’t have let defensive end Cullen Jenkins walk.
The only big-name player signed from another team under Thompson was cornerback Charles Woodson. And that came only after quarterback Brett Favre held a bizarre golf-course press conference as part of his will-I-or-won’t-I-retire campaign and openly lobbied for the team to land an impact player on defense.
“I know when we signed Reggie White, we knew we were going to be better right away,” Favre said in April 2006. “I think people associated with the Packers said, ‘There’s a signing that will make us better.’ I think that’s what we have to do. We have to make a statement again. You have to stay up with the NFL. Teams are making statements. Sometimes you hit on them. Sometimes you don’t.”
Less than three weeks later, Woodson was a Packer.
While Thompson obviously is more comfortable with guys he knows, Thompson welcomes a slew of strangers every year via the draft. But the financial risk is much lower.
Still, the same kind of scouting principles that apply when draft players surely can be used in free agency, and Thompson could be adding guys who’d come in and make the team, as Favre said nearly eight years ago, “better right away.” Jared Allen would, for example, make the Packers better right away. Other players on both sides of the ball (specifically, the offensive line) would make the Packers “better right away.”
They don’t need to be much better. They know how to get to the playoffs consistently. They’re just having trouble advancing. At some point, the formula needs to be revised in order to get the team back to the top.
At some point, they need to welcome strangers to the organization who have shown with other teams that they can play at a high level.