Green Bay Packers: Ted Thompson Rolling the Dice in 2012
In most NFL circles, general manager Ted Thompson is known as one who is very conservative in his approach in putting together the roster of the Green Bay Packers. Thompson usually plays his cards close to the vest.
Since Thompson took control of the front office of the Packers in 2005, his modus operandi is to build the organization through a draft and develop process.
And that approach has been very successful.
Over the last three years, the Packers have been a combined 36-12 in the regular season and 4-2 in the postseason, including winning one Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLV.
Since Thompson hired Mike McCarthy in 2006, the Packers have been 63-33 in the regular season and 5-3 in the postseason, which includes the Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.
Thompson got off to a bumpy start in 2005 when he first took over front office operations, as the Packers stumbled to a 4-12 record under head coach Mike Sherman. Brett Favre had the worst season of his storied Green Bay career as well, as he threw 29 interceptions. 2005 was also the first losing season for the Packers since 1991.
But there was a silver lining in 2005. That was due to the 2005 NFL draft. The very first draft choice of Thompson's was a QB out of California named Aaron Rodgers. Thompson followed that up by selecting S Nick Collins.
The draft has turned out to be Thompson's main building block putting together the Green Bay organization. And Rodgers has been the foundation of that process.
As the Packers get ready to start the 2012 season, they have 30 players on their 53-man roster who were drafted by the Packers. That's almost 60 percent of the roster. Almost unheard of in today's NFL.
Thompson has also drafted a number of players who have been either All-Pro or selected to a Pro Bowl team.
This list would include Rodgers, Collins, OLB Clay Matthews, WR Greg Jennings, DL B.J. Raji and LB A.J. Hawk.
Overall, Thompson has selected 75 players in his seven drafts with the Packers. 63 of those 75 players made the Packers' roster.
Yes, every once in a while, Thompson will have a hiccup in the draft, like when he selected DT Justin Harrell in the first round of the 2007 draft.
In terms of pure free agency, Thompson does not dip his toes into that water too often, but when he does, he has hit gold at least once. That would be the signing of Charles Woodson in 2006, who was signed along with DL Ryan Pickett that year. Both players are still with the team.
Since his arrival in Green Bay in 2006, Woodson has 37 interceptions, nine of which were returned for TDs. Woodson has averaged almost 85 tackles per season. He has 10 sacks and 14 forced fumbles—one of which he recovered and returned for a TD.
Woodson was also the Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL in 2009 for the Packers.
Woodson has been named All-Pro four times as a Packer and has also been selected to four Pro Bowl squads.
Pickett has been a steady performer for the Packers since joining the squad in McCarthy's inaugural year. Pickett's game is stopping the run, and he has done that duty well for the Packers.
Thompson is better known for signing "street" or rookie free agents. Players like CB Tramon Williams, CB Sam Shields, QB Graham Harrell, TE Tom Crabtree, LB Robert Francois, S Sean Richardson, OL Don Barclay and WR Jarrett Boykin fall into this category.
But in 2012, starting with the NFL draft, Thompson has become much more of a gambler. Thompson traded up three times in the draft this year, which equaled all the times he had traded up in his entire career in Green Bay.
Then in free agency, Thompson signed four players, DL Anthony Hargrove, C Jeff Saturday, DL Daniel Muir and DL Phillip Merling. Later, after training camp started, Thompson also signed RB Cedric Benson.
The five-time Pro Bowler Saturday looks like a natural fit at center for the Packers. Muir was maybe the toughest cut the Packers had to make when they announced the 53-man roster last Friday and it was Merling who probably took his roster spot.
Benson has looked very good overall in his limited playing time thus far at RB.
Hargrove didn't get a lot of reps or playing time due to his eight game suspension and was among the first cuts made by the Packers.
Speaking of the roster, Thompson and McCarthy are really rolling the dice right now, as the team only has seven offensive linemen on the roster. That is quite a gamble. An injury to a key player, especially an OT, would put that situation into mayhem.
Right now, from left to right, the Packers have LT Marshall Newhouse, LG T.J. Lang, C Saturday, RG Josh Sitton and RT Bryan Bulaga starting in the trenches for the offense.
Evan Dietrich-Smith is the main backup inside, while the rookie free agent Barclay is the main option outside.
If Newhouse is ineffective or injured, the Packers could slide Lang over to LT and then put Dietrich-Smith at LG.
Time will tell what will happen. Thompson may add another offensive lineman before the opening game vs. the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. We shall see.
The Packers will have to make another roster decision after the game against the Niners, as OLB Erik Walden is due back after his one game suspension.
Plus, another roster decision will have to be made after Week 4, when the suspension of Mike Neal is over.
Here is the bottom line...people need to trust Thompson and his decision making.
Thompson has twice (2007 & 2011) been named NFL Executive of the Year by The Sporting News.
Thompson has a very solid track record. A track record of winning. Most importantly, a track record that includes bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown. Thompson isn't done yet, either.
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