Packers’ “cheap” approach with T.J. Lang was smart

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A year and a half ago, the Packers watched as longtime starting guard T.J. Lang walked away to a division rival, the Lions, taking more money from Detroit than Green Bay was willing to pay. At the time, the Packers were criticized for that move. That criticism was wrong.

The Lions have placed Lang on injured reserve today, ending his second straight injury-plagued season in Detroit. Lang signed a three-year, $28.5 million contract with the Lions, but there’s talk that the Lions will release him this offseason rather than pay him the $9 million he’s due to make in 2019. Lang’s contract now looks like an expensive mistake by Detroit.

And declining to match that contract now looks like a wise move by then-Packers General Manager Ted Thompson. It was particularly prudent for Thompson because he knew he’d have to withstand criticism for his move: The Packers’ coaching staff was reportedly “incensed” that Thompson refused to top the Lions’ offer, instead letting Lang leave. Thompson was criticized for being too “cheap” to keep Lang.

But as PFT wrote at the time, the NFL has a hard salary cap, and one person’s “cheap” move is another person’s wise cap management. And Thompson was concerned that Lang’s age and injury history made him a risk of not being available for the long term. Those concerns turned out to be justified.

So when a high-priced player moves from one team to another in free agency, it’s not as simple as saying the team that lost the player got worse, and the team that signed the player got better. In the case of Lang, it was the Packers who were better off when a division rival spent a lot of money on a player that the Green Bay front office expected to decline.

46 responses to “Packers’ “cheap” approach with T.J. Lang was smart

  1. As a long time Lions fan I have no ill-will towards TJ. He has done his best to be out there on the field, his body is just breaking down.

  2. MDS, please do 31 NFL teams a favor and send them this story every day to warn them that this will be Le’Veon Bell once he gets overpaid.

  3. It wasn’t only Lang.

    When Ted let Josh Sitton walk and kept Lane Taylor, people thought he’d lost his mind.

    That move worked out very nicely for the Pack also.

  4. a good move for sure, but Ted T with his stubborn cheap stance didnt put as much talent around Rodgers as he should have. If he doesnt luck into Rodgers dropping on draft day, he wins nothing and is very average at best.

  5. Ironically enough, this flies directly in the face of so many of the stories about Bell. He could just as easily turn into T J Lang.

  6. There are certain positions that you can get by with not investing huge amounts of cap space… RB as Bell and others are learning is one of them…. Guard on the online is another and on defense the Safety position is one where you don’t need to tie up HUGE amounts of cap.

    While you can say it was “cheap” I think it was more about TT sticking to his guns about not resigning people that are over heading into their 30’s. He very rarely did. He was right on Sitton, Lang, and others like Jennings. While it may not be the popular choices at the time. 2 years down the road they were right ones.

    Even though he is loved by Wisconsin and many other football fans…. GB was right about moving on from Jordy too.

  7. shaggytoodle says:
    November 14, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    Even though he is loved by Wisconsin and many other football fans…. GB was right about moving on from Jordy too.

    ———-

    You’re right about Jordy. It’ll sting also when they let Cobb walk next year.

    But seriously, Jordy deserved better than that dumpster fire that the Raiders call a team.

  8. Cobb won’t bother me leaving, with injury and consistency issues its been frustrating, but I will miss his big crunch time games like the ones vs. the Bears.

    Jordy choose to go to Oakland as a FA, I don’t think ANYONE saw this happening though. Starting from the Mack trade and so forth…. but Gruden clearly wants to get “his kind of players” in (never forget the Jake Plummer trade). I would have sworn he would have been a Patriot.

  9. Not mad at TJ but I felt when he was signed that we overpaid for an aging player. Doesn’t matter who the GM is or if the player hasn’t missed a game with his previous team, when the Lions make those kinds of moves to bring guys in, It almost always never works out.

    Being as that Ive watched just about every single game since Charlie batch was the QB.. there are a few things that I’ve noticed:

    Nobody’s from the teams we play always look like super stars against us.
    We can’t draft anyone to help us.
    Can’t bring in free agents to help us.
    When coaches/players leave, they usually never play or coach in the NFL again.

  10. TJ Lang can still play, usually guys cannot play anymore & their play on the field sharply drops off when their bodies starting breaking down & that’s not the case with TJ. When Lang is healthy he is still a really good OG. I’d sign him for the price to a 1yr deal but only if I had a highly drafted OG behind developing. I wouldnt mind signing Lang as a backup if he returns next season, he’d be a quality depth signing for some team.

  11. 1 in a million ain’t bad…..
    -Meatloaf.
    —–
    SMH at the trolls. I’m assuming that’s a poor attempt at humor based on the song “2 out of 3 ain’t bad”? Not good my friend…not good.

  12. This has nothing to do with Lang per se. Ted let a lot of players go who are very successful elsewhere, to save a buck. Ted Played cheap ball refusing to resign players for mo mooney.
    The ones he kept like perry became over priced busts.

  13. Completely agree with Seahawkssucks1968. Had AR not fallen right into TT’s lap, GB would have tanked and competed with the Lions for last place in the NFC North. Does anyone seriously think that TT would wind up in the GB HOF without AR?

  14. Bengals took the same approach, not matching the Rams offer for a then 35-year-old Andrew Whitworth.

    Since Whitworth has stayed healthy, the Bengals look cheap. Since Lang has been injured, the Packers look shrewd.

    Hindsight is 20/20.

  15. Derty Ernesto says:
    November 14, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    This has nothing to do with Lang per se. Ted let a lot of players go who are very successful elsewhere, to save a buck

    ++++++

    Other than Hyde and Heyward and maybe Scott Wells, name two others out of the successful lot.

  16. Let’s see…the GM was really smart because he didn’t pay this guy. Was he smart when this guy was in the Pro Bowl in 2017? Sheesh. The player got injured…it happens to young and old (and this guy is only 31, so he should be able to play at a high level for at least a couple more years).

    Honestly.

  17. bondlake says:
    November 14, 2018 at 8:46 pm
    Completely agree with Seahawkssucks1968. Had AR not fallen right into TT’s lap, GB would have tanked and competed with the Lions for last place in the NFC North. Does anyone seriously think that TT would wind up in the GB HOF without AR?
    _______________________

    These are some of the sillyest arguments, like They say well take away ____________ as a player…. like the GM couldn’t find a different starting QB… No one knows what would have happened… but if it doesn’t matter he took a guy several teams passed on…. its not TTs fault teams passed on him. What if MM is a great coach and TT puts a great team around someone like Matt Stafford from very good to elite

    No one knows, and in reality it doesn’t matter you work with what you got.

  18. Completely agree with Seahawkssucks1968. Had AR not fallen right into TT’s lap, GB would have tanked and competed with the Lions for last place in the NFC North. Does anyone seriously think that TT would wind up in the GB HOF without AR?

    ————————————————————————–

    Dropped into his lap?? How about the other 23 teams before the Packers whiffed, including the Vikings who whiffed twice. And the Bears were prepared to slay the NFC North with Kyle Orton.

  19. Helluva a person,… but we knew he was beat up. Chronically bad back, broke his foot a couple times, his knees were suspect. Why do GM’s throw big money at these guys like it’s an auction and they need to win. And then a couple years later the team is still not good enough but the salary cap is tight. It’s dumb.

  20. bondlake says:
    November 14, 2018 at 8:46 pm
    Completely agree with Seahawkssucks1968. Had AR not fallen right into TT’s lap, GB would have tanked and competed with the Lions for last place in the NFC North. Does anyone seriously think that TT would wind up in the GB HOF without AR?
    ______________

    This is the kind of faulty thinking that drives me nuts.
    First of all, Rodgers could have fallen into a lot of team’s laps.
    Ted had the foresight to pull the trigger despite having a Hall of Fame signal caller already on the roster.
    He gets credit for that.
    It wasn’t like it was some kind of fluke, or a lottery win.
    It took guts for him to make that decision with a 1st round pick, as well has the hugely divisive decision to move on from Favre.
    One that he knew was going to cause major reverberations throughout Packer Nation and beyond.

    And secondly, had Rodgers been selected by another team, or Ted had passed on him, Green Bay wouldn’t have just settled for one of the gaggle of backup QBs that have come through 1265 over the last decade.
    They probably would have dedicated a few of their premium picks towards that search.
    They might have ended up with one of a handful of good QBs still viable today, or maybe they’d still be searching.
    The point is, we’ll truly never know.
    Your legacy is your legacy.
    And good or bad, Ted has earned his.
    Very deserving to be in the Packers Hall.

  21. bondlake says:
    November 14, 2018 at 8:46 pm
    Completely agree with Seahawkssucks1968. Had AR not fallen right into TT’s lap, GB would have tanked and competed with the Lions for last place in the NFC North. Does anyone seriously think that TT would wind up in the GB HOF without AR?

    ———-

    Troy Williamson and Erasmus James, do those names ring any bells?
    Those were the players the Vikings picked at 7 and 18 in the 2005 draft ahead of Aaron Rodgers.
    Maybe if the Vikings knew how to draft, they could get a player of Rodgers caliber to fall into their laps too.

  22. Thompson’s biggest mistake was to hire and keep McCarthy. TT was short on drafting stars, but his first 2 picks of Aaron Rodgers and Nick Collins make up for anything else he did, and trading up to get Clay Matthews was also a great move. There are a lot of players that didn’t work out in GB and then became starters elsewhere, some even all-pro level; Hayward, Hyde, Giacomini, Newhouse, Guy, Barbre, Tretter, Randall, Tollefson, Ringo, Biegel, Amichia, Mays. TT drafted NFL caliber players – almost 100% of his picks made an NFL roster – but MM and the coaches MM hired were/are inept. With Rodgers career winding down, I’d like to see the team replace McCarthy and have Rodgers enjoy playing again. It has to be difficult to play for a “highly successful” inept coach.

  23. And secondly, had Rodgers been selected by another team, or Ted had passed on him, Green Bay wouldn’t have just settled for one of the gaggle of backup QBs that have come through 1265 over the last decade.
    They probably would have dedicated a few of their premium picks towards that search.

    ++++++++

    Well said. We can’t have any idea what would have happened. The beauty of sport.

    Read a chat by Tom Silverstein from the Dolphin game, Silverstein contends that Red Cochrane begged Bart Starr to select Joe Montana in the draft but that the Packers selected Charles Johnson instead.

    I had never heard this before. I have no idea if it’s true, don’t even know who Red Cochrane is/was. Apparently Starr wrote in his autobiography that he wanted to draft Montana but was talked out of it, Silverstein said it was cya.

    Can you imagine the jealousy from the West if Green Bay had gone Montana (assuming he did Montana-like things for GB without Walsh) to Favre to Rodgers? But the beauty of sport is you can only talk about what actually happened, and speculate on the rest.

  24. djvh2 says:
    November 14, 2018 at 10:28 pm
    Thompson’s biggest mistake was to hire and keep McCarthy. TT was short on drafting stars, but his first 2 picks of Aaron Rodgers and Nick Collins make up for anything else he did, and trading up to get Clay Matthews was also a great move. There are a lot of players that didn’t work out in GB and then became starters elsewhere, some even all-pro level; Hayward, Hyde,
    _______________

    Hayward started his rookie year as a BEAST Thompson CLEARLY saw something in him…. but then Hayward had injury issues, and the team moved on, Hyde is very good but wanted more money…. the team had used Josh Jones with success in a similar role but I don’t know what is the issue this season I thought he would see the field more. Also it was NOT a mistake to hire MM. He helped coach a superbowl team and been the nfc title game 4 times.

    While it may be time for a new voice, its silly to dismiss what he has done in GB If he goes to another team and struggles then we can talk about it, but look at Andy Reid, he has helped coach multiple QBs to pro bowl levels McNabb, Foles, and now Mahomes.

  25. Even Zygi Wilf doesn’t want to live in MN…. says:

    November 14, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    bondlake says:
    November 14, 2018 at 8:46 pm
    Completely agree with Seahawkssucks1968. Had AR not fallen right into TT’s lap, GB would have tanked and competed with the Lions for last place in the NFC North. Does anyone seriously think that TT would wind up in the GB HOF without AR?

    ———-

    Troy Williamson and Erasmus James, do those names ring any bells?
    Those were the players the Vikings picked at 7 and 18 in the 2005 draft ahead of Aaron Rodgers.
    Maybe if the Vikings knew how to draft, they could get a player of Rodgers caliber to fall into their laps too.
    ————-

    You mean like when the Packers took Damarious Randall before Eric Kendricks and Quinton Rollins before Danielle Hunter? Nick Perry with the selection before Harrison Smith?

    Yeah, all the Vikings have to show from their last decade of drafting is one of the best defenses in football and a couple receivers with their names in the league record books. But you keep holding on to 2005 there buddy

  26. I have no problem with them not investing in Lang.. and Sitton for that matter.

    But look at the cr@p sandwich the Packers have had on the interior this year. They’re getting WHIPPED. PERIOD.

    THAT is a huge issue right now. Its cost them W’s.

  27. Completely agree with Seahawkssucks1968. Had AR not fallen right into TT’s lap, GB would have tanked and competed with the Lions for last place in the NFC North. Does anyone seriously think that TT would wind up in the GB HOF without AR?
    ======

    It can be argued.

    Wolf was the guy that insisted on getting Favre.

    But while they had #4, the Packers drafted the following QBs;

    Mark Brunell – 11 year starter, 19 years on a roster, 3x Pro Bowler
    Matt Hasselbeck – 11 year starter, 18 years on a roster, 3x Pro Bowler
    Aaron Brooks – 6 years starter, 8 years on a roster
    Ty Detmer – 2 year starter, 14 years on a roster

    Thompson wasn’t running the team at that point. Credit Wolf if you want. But Thompson was running the scouting dept when those picks were made.

    .. and you also have to account for the 1992-1999 Drafts.

    Wolf, Holmgren, Favre and White may have been the driving forces behind the 3 Championship Games 1995-1997, but Thompson and the scouts really crushed it in the Draft. Great hauls… The same can be said for 2005-1010.

    Bottom line, he assembled parts or the whole of 3 Super Bowls teams and 6 teams that got to the NFCC Game.

    Outside of New England, Pittsburgh, and Seattle, who has done it better the last 25 years?

  28. While it may be time for a new voice, its silly to dismiss what he has done in GB If he goes to another team and struggles then we can talk about it, but look at Andy Reid, he has helped coach multiple QBs to pro bowl levels McNabb, Foles, and now Mahomes.
    =====

    Reid should have been Holmgrens successor. That still kills me.

    Who knows where we’d be had that happened.

  29. This has nothing to do with Lang per se. Ted let a lot of players go who are very successful elsewhere, to save a buck
    ++++++
    Other than Hyde and Heyward and maybe Scott Wells, name two others out of the successful lot.
    ======

    Sitton was an All-Pro after leaving.. and remained a top rated guard by PFF in 2016-2017. The Packers G situation is a disaster.

    Woodson could have contributed considerably as a S.. He had 10 ints his final 3 years…. Burnett didn’t have 10 HIS ENTIRE CAREER!!!

    Cullen Jenkins carved out 6 more years after leaving.. the Packers D-line was in constant flux until last year.

    .. I think Ted was right FAR more often than he was wrong on these guys.

    BUT, the Packers also seemed to be a player or two away specifically in 2007, 2011, 2014. If he had kept a couple of these guys, perhaps they get that 2nd Ring.

  30. Congratz, another 2-bit hindsight article. If Lang had had monster seasons then we’d be reading an article on what a cheapskate TT was. If these guys get paid for writing this fluff, where do I sign up? 😀

  31. shaggytoodle says:
    November 14, 2018 at 7:36 pm
    There are certain positions that you can get by with not investing huge amounts of cap space… RB as Bell and others are learning is one of them…. Guard on the online is another and on defense the Safety position is one where you don’t need to tie up HUGE amounts of cap.

    While you can say it was “cheap” I think it was more about TT sticking to his guns about not resigning people that are over heading into their 30’s. He very rarely did. He was right on Sitton, Lang, and others like Jennings. While it may not be the popular choices at the time. 2 years down the road they were right ones.

    Even though he is loved by Wisconsin and many other football fans…. GB was right about moving on from Jordy too.
    *****************

    You had me until the end there buddy. I will grudgingly concede on Jennings, though the truth is we’ll never know. Nelson though, mmmmnaaaah I can’t say that was a good move at the time. Jordy had his most unremarkable season prior to being released, but he was catching for a guy that never threw downfield (which could have totally been the coach’s doing)! Add to that he got traded to a crappy offensive team…I dunno. I think he still had plenty more in the tank and would have been back to form once AR came back from his injury and I think he still could have been productive on another team that knew how to throw a football.

    Sure, cut the guy before he asks for more money, but there’s something to be said for receiving targets your QB loves and has chemistry with. And yeah you could say the AR\Nelson combo was not going to win a superbowl. But it’s not like they went out with that saved money and surrounded AR with offensive weapons or an impregnable wall of an O-line. Cheap for improved results is one thing, but cheap just for the sake of being cheap is harmful.

  32. While you can say it was “cheap” I think it was more about TT sticking to his guns about not resigning people that are over heading into their 30’s. He very rarely did. He was right on Sitton, Lang, and others like Jennings. While it may not be the popular choices at the time. 2 years down the road they were right ones.
    =====

    Are they better off without Sitton and Lang? Sitton was All-Pro caliber the last 2 years. Lang was clearly better than anything they have on the roster today. The interior line is a catastrophe right now. They getting pwned by everyone.

    .. and it should be mentioned Thompson attempted to re-sign Jennings and Lang. They LEFT for more $$$.

  33. You had me until the end there buddy. I will grudgingly concede on Jennings, though the truth is we’ll never know. Nelson though, mmmmnaaaah I can’t say that was a good move at the time. Jordy had his most unremarkable season prior to being released, but he was catching for a guy that never threw downfield
    ___________________

    Jordy has 25 catches 3 TDs and 350 yards halfway into a season on a team that needs to pass a lot because they are always behind….. you can say what you want and while the rapport with Nelson may have been good for some things… along with the good hands max effort every play even if its run blocking… creating separation such as he did when he was an Elite reciever is no longer one of them, like when he and Rodgers use to connect on long plays.

    Jimmy Graham is a decent replacement while they are asked to do different things in the offfense I feel it will take time to to build that rapport you mentioned much like it did with Jared Cook, but then the Packers ended up clicking very well as the season went on.

  34. Yeah, all the Vikings have to show from their last decade of drafting is one of the best defenses in football
    +++++

    WAS one of the best defenses in football.

  35. aarons444 says:

    Are they better off without Sitton and Lang? Sitton was All-Pro caliber the last 2 years. Lang was clearly better than anything they have on the roster today. The interior line is a catastrophe right now. They getting pwned by everyone.

    .. and it should be mentioned Thompson attempted to re-sign Jennings and Lang. They LEFT for more $$$.
    ___________________________

    Both Lang and Sitton are on IR…. and even they were on the team last year them blocking for Hundley would NOT have made them a playoff team. I don’t think the interior is getting DOMINATED they have good games and bad games…. they open holes her a RB who has the highest YPC in the league… and while they do give up sacks some of that is on Rodgers too holding the ball trying to go deep or trying to make a play on his own scrambling.

    I am not trying to say they are anywhere CLOSE to what Sitton or Lang were… but when you tie in the amount of Cap Space they would demand, guard isn’t a spot like DE QB or LT where you tie up a huge amount of cap space.

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