The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 yesterday with a completely different philosophy than the Green Bay Packers in how the team was put together and what the defensive side of the ball looked like.
The Packers are well known for Ted Thompson’s draft and develop philosophy and have enjoyed sustained years of success through that. It’s the correct way to build the foundation and core of your roster. Most teams who go out and spend big in free agency come away disappointed and we have seen numerous examples of that over the years. However, as most are quick to point out when free agency doesn’t work out for bad teams, it must now be pointed out how John Elway won a Super Bowl with free agency as a huge tool.
Elway knew he had a limited window to win with Peyton Manning at quarterback and went all out to get this championship. The defense that mostly won him his Super Bowl was built in free agency a great deal with the signings of Aquib Talib, T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Demarcus Ware. On offense, Elway brought in Emmaunel Sanders, Evan Mathis, Owen Daniels and obviously Manning in via free agency. Elway supplemented some great draft picks with these signings and built a great team.
So what can the Packers learn from this? Thompson certainly isn’t in the same situation with Aaron Rodgers that Elway was with Manning with Rodgers having many years left. However, the lesson certainly has to be that free agency can work when used properly and that you cannot just ignore it. Thompson has seen it himself with Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers, Ryan Pickett and to a lesser extent Letroy Guion. Your draft picks should always be the main building blocks of your team, but if there are needs to address with free agents and somebody who fits is available they need to be considered.
Another reason the Broncos were the anti-Packers this season was their reliance on their defense and how little they got out of their quarterback. The Packers are usually always relying on Rodgers to carry them on his back to the promised land, this season not withstanding. Denver showed that you need a whole team and that defense can still dominate even if this era of video game stats from the offenses. Notice how Denver’s defense finished the Super Bowl after dominating the whole game. You’re actually allowed to finish the job after playing great defense the whole game. Three quarters wasn’t enough for them like apparently it has been in Green Bay the last two seasons.
The biggest difference between the defenses of Green Bay and Denver is speed at linebacker. Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall are blazers at inside linebacker and we also saw that in Carolina as well with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson. The Packers had to move their best pass rusher to inside linebacker to get a good athlete there. Also, Denver brought in Wade Phillips at defensive coordinator and if Green Bay had the foresight to do that maybe they have another ring.
Going back to the free agency point it just so happens that Trevathan is a free agent. The Broncos do not have a ton of salary cap space and Von Miller, Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson are probably higher priorities for Denver to re-sign, so there’s a decent chance Trevathon could be moving to a new team. Trevathan had 109 tackles and two interceptions this season, recovered two fumbles yesterday in Super Bowl 50 and had 129 tackles and three interceptions in 2013. He is in his prime at 25 years old and can run sideline to sideline to make plays while being a physical hitter. With the talent the Packers have in the secondary if they added a linebacker like Trevathan finding open receivers would be a big challenge for opposing quarterbacks.
Essentially, Trevathan is the quintessential fit of the modern day NFL inside linebacker and would be the perfect fit for the Packers to target in free agency. Ladarius Green is that same player at tight end on the offensive side of the ball as well. If they had to release Julius Peppers to do it then it should be done. If they kept Peppers and let Mike Neal, Nick Perry and B.J. Raji go to sign Trevathon that would be worth it as well. All three players can be replaced, but as the Packers have found out you can’t find players like Trevathon often. We all know there’s no chance of it happening with Thompson prioritizing his own players, and that is where he is missing the boat that Elway hasn’t missed.