Step Away From the Ledge Packers Fans, Ted Has a Plan.

The dreaded Ted Thompson stare

Spring brings about noticeable change. The sunshine brings about warmth, the snow begins to melt, and grass starts becoming more noticeable. There is whining, complaining, claiming the general manager can not field a competitive team. This is not something new; it’s just another March in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Packers fans have complained for years since Ted Thompson arrived in 2005 about his lack of activity in free agency.

Since 2005 Thompson’s marquee free agent additions have been defensive lineman Ryan Pickett, and defensive back Charles Woodson. Certainly there have been other options over the year as the Packers have had various needs during Thompson’s tenure in Green Bay. Every season there is a marquee guy that fans are enamored with, and demanding Thompson acquire or keep. In 2007 it was Randy Moss, 2008 was keeping Brett Favre, 2009 it was Albert Haynesworth, 2010 Julius Peppers, 2011 was Nnamdi Asomugha, and finally 2012 was Mario Williams. Every year the Packers fan base finds a reason to dislike Ted Thompson based on his perceived lack of activity in the off-season.

Thompson is not infallible by any means, like any GM he has made his fair share of mistakes. Drafting Justin Harrell who was already hurt, allowing Cullen Jenkins to walk, and not pushing harder for Marshawn Lynch in 2010 are a few that come to mind. More often than not however, Thompson’s philosophy is proven to be championship worthy.

This year was no different. A player that was reportedly a previous target of Ted Thompson that also fits one of the Packers primary needs was available on the free agent market. The player’s name was Steven Jackson.  Jackson has spent his entire career with the St. Louis Rams and been a productive player in his time there.  He accumulated over 10,000 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. All of these numbers were piled up by Jackson without a formidable passing game to take the pressure off him.

Unlike the Rams, the Packers have not had a viable running game since the days of Ahman Green. Some could argue a few years sprinkled in of Ryan Grant were formidable, but none the less Jackson certainly would have been an upgrade. Just because Jackson would be an upgrade however, does not mean that the move would have been perfect for the Packers to make. Jackson will turn 30 before the 2013 season begins. 30 is often seen as the kiss of death for NFL running backs. There have only been 22 seasons that a 30 year old back has rushed for 1,000 yards.  Only 11 of those backs rushed for 1,000 at the age of 31, and only six at 32. The list continues to decline from there. Jackson very well could have been one of the exceptions to this general rule, but true to his form Thompson correctly did not overpay for a running back that had hit the age where most backs run into the wall, and are never the same.

Thompson’s form since he has been here has always been to acquire players through the draft, and develop them within the Packers system led by Head Coach Mike McCarthy.  Not only has he done well with this philosophy, but he’s flourished in it. Thompson’s first draft pick as Packers General Manager was selecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He selected Rodgers despite having legendary quarterback Brett Favre on the roster, and this draft also gave fans a preview of what Thompson drafts would be like going forward. Thompson tends to do his dirty work on day 2, or the 2nd and 3rd rounds of each respective draft. The year he selected Rodgers he also selected little-known safety Nick Collins. Collins was a bit of a late bloomer, but eventually evolved into a play maker that was arguably the best player at his position at the time of his retirement

Other picks in Thompson’s tenure that have gone well for the Packers include Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, among others. Of all 32 teams in the league the Packers have the highest percentage of drafted players currently on their roster. The success in the draft has translated on the field as well with the Packers averaging 12 wins the last four seasons including a Super Bowl championship in 2010.

This off season will be no different; the Packers recently were outbid by the Atlanta Falcons for the services of Steven Jackson. It came as a surprise to some, as reports surfaced that the Packers were favorites for Jackson’s services, and were even close to a deal with him. It would appear based on Jackson’s rejection of the Packers that Thompson drew a line in the sand for how much money he was willing to offer and would not budge from that. That decision is sound financially, and will keep the Packers out of cap trouble in future years. With looming extensions to Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and B.J. Raji they will need all the cap flexibility we can get. So how will the Packers address their various needs?

The answer is the same it has been since Thompson has been here. April’s draft has been a key to any team sustaining success, and the Packers as previously stated are no different. Some players that could fill the hole that not signing Jackson leaves are Gio Bernard, Eddie Lacy, or Le’Veon Bell.

Bernard fits the Packers scheme perfectly as a spread type back that catches passes out of the backfield and is also a willing blocker. Bernard is not simply a spread back; he is more than willing to run between the tackles, and able to pick up tough yards that the Packers offense has been missing. Bernard projects as a second round pick and has much less tread on the tires than Jackson.

Lacy burst onto the scene with a big national championship game against the top ranked defense in the country. Lacy dominated the game and showed off his skill set to future pro scouts. Lacy is a bruiser, he runs through defenders rather than around them. There are some concerns about his speed, and whether playing behind the Alabama offensive line made him look better than he really is. Lacy has been projected in the late first round and could be a target for the Packers with the 26th overall pick.  This scenario could be unlikely with the Packers having other needs, and the RB class having the depth that it does.

The final prospect is Le’Veon Bell. Bell is not the big ten running back most Packers fans are hoping for, because he is not Badgers running back Montee Ball. I believe that Bell actually fits the Packers better. He’s a better pass catcher, and pass blocker, two things that are paramount in the Packers offense. Bell is also a big back, standing at 6’2 and weighing over 240 pounds. He is a pounder the Packers have been missing in their offense. Bell is projected as a fourth round prospect because he lacks elite speed and the home run hitting ability, but pairing him with DuJuan Harris may be the best option for the Packers going forward.

Just like any other year, spring has come and along with it NFL Free Agency has arrived. With free agency’s arrival Ted Thompson’s detractors have come out in full force with yet another free agent disappointment.

Do not fret Packers fans, and step away from the ledge, Ted Thompson has a plan that has proven to be successful.

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Jacob Westendorf is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Jacob on twitter at

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