Green Bay Packers: The Biggest Decisions Awaiting Ted Thompson
Packers general manager Ted Thompson has some big decisions to make as soon as the Packers' 2012 season concludes (ideally for Thompson that would be in February with another Lombardi Trophy in tow). The Packers wide receiver group could look significantly different as well as the tight end position and the secondary.
Thompson has never let sentimentality cloud his judgement, and he has been more right than wrong when making big decisions regarding the team's on-field future.
Packer fans can only hope that pattern continues as Thompson faces multiple tough calls during the 2013 season.
Here are a few of them.
The Finley Debate
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Perhaps not since Brett Favre circa 2008 has there been as divisive a figure in Green Bay as Jermichael Finley.
When he entered the league, many Packer fans and coaches were salivating over Finley's potential. His performance late in the 2009 season gave Packer fans hope they were getting an explosive weapon on offense at the tight end position.
Finley missed much of the 2010 season with an injury and last season was a wreck as Finley displayed a knack for dropping the ball. It's a label that has stuck with him ever since.
Last year, Thompson signed Finley to a two-year contract paying him around $7.5 million a year. With Finley's on-field performance, as well as his loose lips off of it, it's hard to see Finley being a lock to be back in Green Bay in 2013.
If he does return, it's do or die. If he struggles in camp, look for the trade drum to be beaten pretty heavily. The Packers could trade him this offseason as well and get a decent draft pick for him. Finley's career can still be salvaged, but it may take a change of scenery to do it.
What About Greg Jennings?
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If you had asked earlier in the season who would be a lock to return to the Packers for 2013, it was Greg Jennings, who is in the final year of his contract.
However, thanks to a second straight season being hampered by injury, as well as the emergence of James Jones and Randall Cobb, Jennings very well (perhaps likely) could find himself playing football in a different uniform come 2013.
Thompson won't give him the big money he may be looking for and Jennings all but admitted earlier that he probably won't be back. You never know, though.
Will Woodson Be Back?
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A year ago, if Woodson had broken his collarbone and missed the majority of the season, the Packers would have been in even bigger trouble on defense.
This season, however, thanks to a defense-heavy draft by Thompson in April as well as the improvement of other young players, the Packers not only withstood the loss of Woodson but they actually improved as well.
Thanks to the play of Casey Hayward, M.D. Jennings and Morgan Burnett as well as the return to form by a healthy Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, Woodson has remained on the sideline the past few weeks despite practicing. Mike McCarthy may just be holding Woodson for the postseason, but the Packers very well just may not need him at the moment.
Thompson very well may cut Woodson at the end of the season if he chooses not to retire. The Packers have some extensions on younger players looming, and they may need the cap space. It's sad to talk about one of the great players in franchise history like that, but Thompson won't let that get in the way of him making a decision that could be best for the franchise.
Who to Extend First?
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Speaking of pending extensions, the Packers have several they are going to have to address over the next few seasons.
Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews are both up pretty soon, and Thompson will want to get them extended sooner rather than later. Rodgers and B.J. Raji are up after 2014, and Matthews is scheduled to be a free agent after next season.
You don't like your franchise players going into the final year of their contract without an extension due to the uncertainty it creates, so Thompson will want to get them done sooner rather than later. So who will be first? Despite Matthews being due up first, it wouldn't be surprising to see Rodgers get the first extension.
Rodgers' price went up after the big extension Drew Brees signed last year with the New Orleans Saints, though Rodgers could give the Packers a hometown discount. He's not going anywhere, but since Rodgers' extension will be the largest of them all, Thompson could choose to do it first.
The Crosby Conundrum
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It's no secret Crosby is having the worst season of his NFL career.
Despite the poor performance, McCarthy has stuck by his kicker despite struggles that show no sign of ending. The Packers coach has stubbornly refused to bring in any other kicker this late in the season, which in some ways make sense, but what Thompson does at the end of this season is anyone's guess.
What if Crosby wins you a playoff game or even a Super Bowl? Such a scenario seems laughable right now, but it's a real possibility. Do you then keep him around despite a horrible regular season field goal percentage?
At the very least, there will be a kicking competition in training camp next year, but Crosby could give himself a leg up (pun not intended) if he can perform in the playoffs this year.