The Packers are in the position they are in because of Ted Thompson’s draft and develop philosophy. Now, what position you think the Packers are in depends on whether you are a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of person.
Thompson’s draft and develop strategy helped the Packers win a Super Bowl in 2010, has allowed the Packers to make the playoffs for the past five years, and has kept them out of the salary cap trouble that teams like the Cowboys and Panthers currently find themselves in.
Conversely this philosophy is also a big part of the reason why the Packers have been eliminated early from the playoffs the past few years, the defense has continued to struggle, and they have been surpassed by the likes of the 49ers and Seahawks.
So without deviating from Thompson’s philosophy, which we all know will not be happening anytime soon, what has to change to get the Packers to the top of the NFC and give them another shot at a Super Bowl?
A good start would be to hit on their first round draft picks, something they haven’t done since Clay Matthews in 2010. Bryan Bulaga looked like he could become a potential Pro-Bowl right tackle before injuries stalled his career. Derek Sherrod is going into his fourth season and has yet to start a game. Nick Perry has shown flashes at times, but some still question whether he is a good fit at outside linebacker, and he has also had his fair share of injuries. And Datone Jones was a non-factor his rookie season, but there is going to be a lot expected of him going into his sophomore year. This season finding an impact starter on defense, or possibly another offensive weapon for Aaron Rodgers, is a must for the Packers.
The Packers also need to avoid injuries. And I know this is easier said than done, but it cannot be overstated how much this has cost the Packers over the past few years, especially with their younger players. Not only is there a large drop off in talent when you have to replace a Bryan Bulaga with a Don Barclay, or a Clay Matthews with an Andy Mulamba, but it also stunts the evaluation process of the Packers’ younger players. How can the Packers possibly make fair assessments of guys like Jerel Worthy, JC Tretter, or Sam Barrington, with them missing so much time due to injury?
Making the money they spend on their own free agents count will also be important. The packers signed four players to large extensions last offseason, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Morgan Burnett, and Brad Jones. Even though Rodgers and Matthews missed a lot time due to injury last year, there is absolutely no doubt that they were correct to give them both extensions. Burnett and Jones are another story. Both the Burnett and Jones signings were projections based on what the Packers thought they could do in 2013 and beyond, rather than what they had done, and both fell way short of living up to expectations this past season. The Packers can’t afford to give out more big dollar contracts extensions to players who don’t live up to them.
This offseason the Packers have made two more signing based more on potential than actual production. Outside linebacker Mike Neal signed a two year extension, details of which have not yet been made public, and Sam Shields signed a four year deals worth $39 million. Neal has only had one fully healthy season, and has only played outside linebacker for one season, but much of the risk is mitigated by the fact that it is only a two year deal. Shield’s deal is a bit more of a risk, Shields has looked like a number one corner at times and has done a pretty good job shutting down some of the best receivers in the league, but he has also missed time due to injury and has been somewhat inconsistent.
Ted Thompson deserves his fair share of criticism; he let some potential free agent signings slip through his fingers, and he has missed on more than a few draft picks. But there aren’t more than a handful of teams in a better position to make another Super Bowl run.——————