On Sunday, Green Bay Packers fans will sit at home watching two other teams play in the Super Bowl for the fifth straight season. If you can stomach watching the game, pay attention to how the rosters of the Falcons and Patriots were constructed.
The Falcons have transformed themselves from a team with a good passing game and a terrible defense, to one of the most well-rounded teams in the whole league in just two seasons. They invested heavily in the draft, but they also addressed the weaknesses on their team through free agency and trades. On offense, they added WR Taylor Gabriel and C Alex Mack after they were cut by the Browns, WR Mohamed Sanu as a free agent, and traded for G Andy Levitre. Their offensive line immediately paid dividends, as they’ve become a really good running team in addition to the aerial show from Ryan to Julio Jones, Sanu, and Gabriel.
On defense they’ve supplemented their young talent from the draft with DEs Dwight Freeney, Tyson Jackson, Adrian Clayborn (now on the IR), and OLBs Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw. They’ve been able to acquire veteran presence and proven talent through means other than the draft, and it has paid huge dividends for the Falcons. Perhaps their most aggressive move dates back to trading a bunch of picks to the Browns to move way up in the draft and take Julio Jones.
The Patriots have always used free agency and trades better than any other team in the league. On offense they have acquired WRs Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Michael Floyd (who was cut midseason for off the field issues), TE Martellus Bennett, and re-acquired RB LeGarrette Blount. On defense you’ll see DE Alan Branch, Chris Long, Jabal Sheard, LB Shea McClellin, and S Patrick Chung. They’ve also traded for LBs Barkevious Mingo, Kyle Van Noy, and CB Eric Rowe. The Patriots are constantly taking on veterans other teams didn’t want to pay. They get them at a discount and allow them to revitalize their career. Some players move on after short contracts and New England gets compensatory draft picks. Some players enjoy winning and stay with the team. There is a reason why the Patriots are in the AFC Championship or Super Bowl every year.
I am not asking Ted Thompson to go out and make a splash on one or two big name free agents. I would prefer 5-7 veteran minimum deals or trades for lower draft picks. Following the model of the two teams in a Super Bowl would help to alleviate some of the major concerns on the defensive side of the football, and allow the Packers to utilize their picks on players who can really put them over the top (like another athletic pass catching Tight End). If the Packers are not aggressive this offseason, we will probably be watching our favorite players in the Pro Bowl instead of the Super Bowl again next year.Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig