Green Bay Packers: The Likely Mistakes Ted Thompson Will Make This Offseason
Ted Thompson has long established himself as a top flight executive in the National Football League.
He has a great eye for talent, takes care of his own players first and—for the most part—avoids making bone-headed decisions on draft day.
Before coming to Green Bay, he had a great run in Seattle as Vice President of Football Operations. The Seahawks were able to gather a lot of talent, including record breaking running back Shaun Alexander. They made the playoffs numerous times, and the year after he departed for the Packers, the Seahawks made an appearance in the Super Bowl with his stamp all over the team.
Former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren said of Thompson in an interview, "Once Ted Thompson came on board and we settled down a little bit, we started making good decisions."
And that is what Ted Thompson is best known for. Making good decisions. But that isn't to say that every decision he makes is the right one.
Here are the most likely mistakes Ted Thompson will make during the 2012 NFL offseason.
Failure to Make a Splash in Free Agency
The Packers are a great team and are able to win right now.
However, they desperately need at least one more elite level pass rusher and maybe even more. Countless times in 2011, the Packers couldn't get to the quarterback, and the net result was one of the worst defenses in league history and no playoff victories.
Ted is primarily a "build through the draft" kind of guy, and there is nothing wrong with that. I fully expect the Packers to make a run on defensive lineman and outside linebackers in the April draft.
However, that won't be enough to get the Packers' pass rush to the level in needs to be in time.
Thompson must go into free agency without a fear of spending money and come away with an impact player. A young and promising pass rusher at either defensive end or outside linebacker to not only step in and dominate from the get-go, but to also groom the drafted guys into better players.
Not so long ago—although it feels like a long time—Thompson signed veteran corner Charles Woodson. Woodson was a game changer, and he still is. He has also morphed into the defense leader, the Packers equivalent to Ray Lewis in Baltimore.
Alas, knowing Ted Thompson, there will be no splash free agent signings—and that will be his first mistake.
Retaining the Services of AJ Hawk
AJ Hawk, the former fifth overall draft pick, has been nothing but a disappointment in his relatively short career with the Green Bay Packers.
Franchises and fans expect high draft picks to be as close to a sure thing as there is in the NFL draft. Unfortunately, there was no such luck when the Packers selected Hawk.
In every year of his career, Hawk has been out-shined in the Packers line-backing corps.
First, it was Nick Barnett, who manned the middle and was one of the best the league had to offer. Then it was Clay Matthews, the young and promising star line backer and pass rusher extraordinaire. Now, Desmond Bishop has joined the party as a player that is good at everything he does—it's that simple.
Heck, rookie linebacker DJ Smith shone more often in his limited snaps in 2011 then Hawk did in his starting role.
Hawk signed a massive contract extension with the Packers shortly after being released last offseason. He made $11 million last year, including a large signing bonus, and is set to make another $6.5 million this season.
Simply put, it has become painfully obvious that Hawk is not worthy of the contract he signed.
If the Packers were to part ways with Hawk, they would save over $6 million in cap space and see an increase in production at the position. Parting ways would be a win-win proposition for Ted Thompson.
However, that scenario seems most unlikely at this point in time and in the young stages of Hawk's new deal. Unfortunately, the decision to keep Hawk in 2012 will be Thompson's second mistake.
Signing Jermichael Finley to a Long Term Contract Extension
For too long now, Jermichael Finley has been deemed as one of the "up-and-coming stars" of the National Football League. It's time that he get the credit he deserves, and that isn't a whole lot.
Finley complains that he isn't getting the ball enough, even though he is one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets.
What I absolutely cannot stand in players is an overwhelming ego. Being confident in your abilities is one thing, but pretending like you are the best while not living up to your own potential is another.
For years now, Finley has declared that it is the "Year of the Takeover"—or YOTTO as he commonly abbreviates it—and that is how he celebrates his big plays—by telling the world that it is the YOTTO.
Finley has also declared that he is going to revolutionize the tight end position. How exactly he plans on doing that by being slightly above average, underwhelming and a sheer disappointment is beyond me.
He has almost mentioned that it is a goal of his to be one of the highest paid tight ends in the league. And while it may be a goal of every player who steps onto the field, they most certainly don't all proclaim it to their local medias start a huge contract controversy before it is even an issue.
Ted Thompson loves his draft picks—every single one of them, no matter how good or bad the player may be or may turn out to be.
However, if Thompson decides to shell out the big dollars to keep Finley in Green Bay, he will have committed third mistake of the 2012 offseason.
Pushing Donald Driver out of Green Bay
Donald Driver is a Green Bay Packer. And I don't simply mean that he is under contract with and plays for the Packers.
Driver embodies what it means to be a Packer. He is the definition of the word. He is a hard-working individual who fights for every yard that he gets. He never gives up on himself or his teammates, and the fire that he has to play football is unrivaled by anyone one the team.
To limit Driver's list of accomplishments to on the field would not be giving him the respect he deserves, nor the respect he has earned.
Driver is a great person. He is a great father and a great husband. The Driver family is actively entrenched in the Green Bay community and give everything they have to serve Packer Nation.
Yes, it's true that Driver is getting older and he certainly isn't getting any faster. However, if and when the Packers call his number... he will be ready to give it everything that he's got.
Driver deserves to retire in the green and gold. Anything less would be a travesty to this franchise and the sporting world.
Thompson has already pushed one legend out of Green Bay: he won't hesitate to do it again if it means saving a few dollars. And that will be his fourth mistake of the offseason—and the most egregious of them all.