Too often in the NFL you see teams mortgage their future away for maybe a year or two window to try and win it all.
Star running back gets hurts, new free agents don't mesh, balls bounce the other team's way one too many times. All of a sudden your season is done, the salary cap is tight, and you have a set of old disgruntled players on your hands. To me this seems like an all too common scene in the NFL.
Green Bay Packer's GM Ted Thompson has taken a calmer, more calculated way of doing business. The Packers improved from a 4-12 record in 2005 to a 13-3 record in 2007 and an appearance in the NFC championship game, where the better team lost.
Even if the Packers hadn't done as well as they did this year, a lot of props should be given to Thompson. When Ted Thompson took over, the Packers were an aging team with salary-cap issues. Now the Packers are over $20 million under the salary cap and have a nucleus of young, up and coming players.
Lately, Packer fans have been criticizing Ted as taking too conservative of an approach for not pursuing free agents. I feel it's important for me to remind them to keep things in perspective.
Although I love the idea of adding a big name to the football team as much as anyone, it's important to remember that big names don't always work.
Need an example?
How about Joe Johnson, the defensive end who signed a six year, $33.5 million contract with a $6.5 million signing bonus in 2002. In two seasons with the Packers, Joe Johnson played in 11 out of 32 possible games, recorded 12 tackles, two sacks, and one fumble recovery.
After his second year with the Packers, the 31 year old was cut and hasn't played another game in the NFL. That's just one example of teams overpaying for free agents.
It also has been an undeniably weak free agency, with the most interesting prospect being Randy Moss, who quickly resigned with the Patriots (just like we all knew he would). The only other exception might be Asante Samuel, but again, that's a perfect example of how teams get involved in bidding wars and seriously overpay for players.
That being said, Thompson has signed free agents when the right oppurtunity came along, my favorite being CB Charles Woodson. Combined with Al Harris, they have formed what is, in my opinion one of the best CB tandems in the league.
Another prime example of Ted Thompson taking calculated risks is defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Althougn not a Pro-Bowler, Pickett has helped anchor a deep defensive-line for the Packers, a defensive line that in 2006 led the league in sacks.
My final arguement against free agency is the NFL Draft. The Packers have shown an eye for talent: James Jones, Greg Jennings, Nick Collins, A.J. Hawk, Brandon Jackson, Daryn Colledge, and Jason Spitz have all become key contributers to the Packers, they're all in their early-to-mid-twenties, and guess what? They've all been drafted by Ted Thompson.
With this kind of approach I seriously doubt the Packers will be like the Redskins of only a few years ago: a team with an overhyped, overpaid, and underachieving defense that didn't mesh and tied up their salary cap. Just because it looks good on paper doesn't mean it'll work in real life. This is the NFL, not Madden 2008.
Ted Thompson is leading the Packers in the right direction, and has created a plan and stuck to it. He has used common sense and wisdom to lead the Packers in the right direction, much like former GM Ron Wolf did.
With a knack for talent and his ability to create several draft picks out of a few, the Packers are being built into a team that is young, deep, and will be solid for years to come.
Now let's just hope Aaron Rodgers is as good as we all think he can be.
Did I make any factual errors? Feel that I'm seriously off on some of my statements? email me at firstname.lastname@example.org