Channeling Fire Joe Morgan about Packers GM Ted Thompson and NFL Free Agency

I decided to go all Fire Joe Morgan on this piece written by Frank Schwab at Yahoo Sports about Packers GM Ted Thompson and NFL free agency. Enjoy.

In 2006, Packers general manager Ted Thompson signed cornerback Charles Woodson in free agency, and it was one of the best moves he ever made.

Ok. A good start to this post. I agree with that statement.

You’d think that experience would give Ted Thompson the warm and fuzzies about free agency and he’d spend his time chasing the next Woodson. Instead, Thompson might be off on vacation this week. Wherever he has been, he hasn’t been signing any players.

Starting to go off the rails a bit now. Thompson didn’t “chase” Woodson. He signed him well after free agency opened. I think part of the reason Thompson doesn’t dive into the opening frenzy of free agency is because it is a “chase.” Chasing to fill this roster hole or plug that weak area. Chasing a big-name veteran who fans are familiar with. Chasing the notion that you have to “DO SOMETHING!!!!” to get better like the other teams around you. Those types of chases are from guaranteed to pay off. Oh, and the “Ted Thompson goes on vacation” thing became an eye-rolling cliche three years ago.

Green Bay didn’t sign one player, outside of retaining his (sic) own free agents, in the first three days of free agency.

Gasp!

It’s not like they don’t have needs. A stud left tackle would have been great, allowing David Bakhtiari to move inside to guard. Any of the top centers would have worked. A pass rusher would be swell. They could have spent on a big-time safety, and it’s not like Antoine Bethea, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner or guys like that got a ridiculous amount of money.

Sign a stud left tackle and move a promising, young and inexpensive left tackle to guard when you already have one pro bowl guard and another guard coming off his best season (and Bryan Bulaga coming back from injury)? Was there a “stud left tackle” on the free-agent market this year? I didn’t see one. Stud left tackles, like stud QBs, typically don’t make it to free agency. If the Packers re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, that’ll meet the “any of the top centers” criteria. Yes, a pass rusher would be swell. Let’s see what the remaining days of free agency bring (yes, free agency lasts more than a couple days). Finally, none of the safeties Schwab lists are “big time.”

Instead, despite their status as contenders and the fact that everyone in their division and most teams around the league improved this week, Green Bay did nothing.

It’s a “fact” that everyone in the Packers division improved this week? Were some NFL games played that I wasn’t aware of? When did Roger Goodell start making teams play football in March? I know technology has advanced at a rapid pace with the internet and cell phones and drones and all of that stuff, but can we really tell these days which NFL teams are better and which are not in the middle of March? I seem to remember everyone raving about how the Lions “improved” last March after a free-agent signing spree. How’d that work out for them?

The Packers were lauded for being so home grown last season…

They were? Schwab obviously doesn’t interact much with Packers fans online. Thompson and the Packers being praised for a draft-and-develop philosophy instead of signing free agents is more of a national media narrative than an actual reality.

But going on free-agency signing binges is just as short-sighted as ignoring free agency altogether, as Thompson has apparently decided to do.

So Scwab has a mole in the Packers front office telling him, without a shadow of a doubt, that Thompson “ignores free agency altogether?” This is another lazy meme, usually pushed by national media types. Looking at the price tag, risk and potential return on investment, as well as future cap ramifications when it comes time to re-sign your own guys, Thompson says “thanks, but no thanks” to high-priced veterans early in free agency. It doesn’t mean he ignores free agency altogether.

They lost on a last-second field goal to San Francisco in the playoffs, and it stands to reason that a key free agent might have made one play that turned that game around.

It also stands to reason that a misstep or two in free agency would’ve thrown the Packers into salary cap hell and they would’ve went 4-12.

Thompson places a premium on drafting players and retaining the best ones to long-term deals. But when you completely ignore signing any outside free agents, you’re cutting off an avenue of player acquisition.

Here we go with the whole “ignore” thing again. Yes, ignoring free agency is stupid. I agree with Schwab there. But I doubt Thompson “ignores” signing outside players. I ignore my wife when she asks me to do the dishes while I’m watching Monday Night Raw. Thompson doesn’t ignore free agency. If Thompson were me, and my wife asked Thompson to do the dishes during Monday Night Raw, Thompson would 1) weigh the positives and negatives of missing the next match, 2) factor in how missing some of Monday Night Raw might impact future viewings of this fine television program, 3) consider the wrath my wife would reign on him should he refuse her request, and 4) say “no” and keep watching Monday Night Raw. That’s not ignoring, that’s giving serious consideration, examining all possible angles, and deciding to pass.

Thompson takes the extreme opposite approach to free agency. That’s a mistake, too.

Yes, it is. But nothing Schwab laid out in this piece made a case for why Thompson should do more in free agency. The problem isn’t the Packers lack of offseason free agent signings. The problem is the Packers constantly dealing with a steady stream of players ending up on IR or in street clothes with nagging injuries. Schwab’s contention that Thompson “ignores” free agency might get a little more merit if he doesn’t sign a few defensive players this offseason. But it’s far too early in the process to already start kicking and screaming about Thompson “ignoring” free agency.

31 Comments On “Channeling Fire Joe Morgan about Packers GM Ted Thompson and NFL Free Agency”

  1. Some FA players and agents can be/are like the tools in starting a Ponzi scheme.Get a GM to invest and invest some more with promises of great rewards from immediate to the sometime down the road theory.

    We know who the teams of the past,recent past and the now,who have jumped into this football type of Ponzi scheme and the ‘riches’ which they are still awaiting and those whose wait just started.

    The Broncos’ are the newest entrant to get ‘Ponzi-ed’ and the media will offer constant pats on the back to erase any possible or plausible regrets to the Owner,GM and fans until…someone else ‘Made Off’ with not only the Lombardi Trophy but their future.

    • The only sports “Dream Teams” can really work in is baseball because you don’t have to worry nearly as much of how “Player A matches with Player B”.

      And to back your point, just look at that Dream Team of 2011…

  2. Amen Adam. I simultaneously cringe and laugh whenever I read some of these types of articles. What’s funny is, everyone is willing to grill TT over his supposed “inaction” when the FA Frenzy is upon us, but do these “FA experts” ever come back and pat TT on the back when said FAs don’t play up to even 75% of their contract worth or flop all-together? No way in hell they don’t. I think one fact that these people don’t take into consideration is it’s really hard to recruit FAs to Green Bay in MARCH. It’s snowy, still cold, weather can be unpredictable to lousy. I read it somewhere else, but the quote sticks: “so many visiting players likely turn to their wife to ask that ‘what do you think, sweety?’ question only to be greeted by the ‘oh no way in hell are we moving here’ look”. I think a lot of people take for granted how difficult it is for TT to compete with teams in warmer climates (say Florida, New Orleans or even California teams) who can bring in FAs any time of the year and have relatively the same weather. Just keep the faith Packers fans. If we were really that proverbial “one piece away”, nobody would win the Super Bowl because every team would be one, two or three pieces away…ok, maybe only 10 of them, but you get my point 😉

    • yes warm climates can be a “draw” for FA but no one city has the charm,history or mystique of the packers, Lambeau Field or the storied past. I’d love to come to GB and play. It would be the ultimate dream.

      • I would too. Even if I wasn’t as big a Packers fan as I am…you can’t tell or convince me that having a city so much behind you and the team isn’t a draw! The stadium is always full and it ain’t because fans are all “we gotta keep the sellout streak!”

  3. Nice piece Adam. Some of these writers truly have no idea what they are talking about.
    People always complain about TT not signing FA’s, but the reality is, he has signed a lot. They just aren’t the high priced ones. Undrafted Free Agents are FA’s too, but people dont give credit to TT for signing guys like Kuhn, Tramon, Shields, EDS, Barclay, Lattimore, Bush, Harris, Grant, and Boykin.
    TT did spend on FA’s early on, but for every Woodson and Pickett signing, there was a Ben Taylor, Marquand Manuel, or Adrian Klemm. He even nearly wasted millions on Lavar arrington,and Chris Canty. Thank goodness they decided to sign with NY instead.

  4. Yes. This. Thanks Adam.

  5. Raji coming back: 1 year. 4 Million. Good. If he balls out like he’s capable of doing, we get better and we get paid. If not, well… at least we didn’t pay him much.

    This removes the NEED to draft a high NT this year. S/ILB/TE. S/ILB/TE. Repeat. (depending on Finhead’s final status)

    http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/250370361.html

  6. I don’t know where people are getting the idea that Ted Thompson isn’t signing any free agents! He does sign free agents: his own. And as others have pointed out on this site, don’t forget the team has other in-house business to take care of going forward, like signing Nelson and Cobb to long-term deals. After watching Mike Sherman ruin the Packers salary structure, I’m ok with Thompsons approach. And, it’s not like the Packers are the only team follow this philosophy. The Pittsburgh Steelers are another example, they don’t go out and spend stupid-money on free agents, yet somehow they manage to remain consistent playoff contenders year in and year out. People are so enamored these days with teams like SF and Seattle, while not taking into consideration that the salary cap is going to catch up to those teams sooner or later. How are the 49ers going to keep that set of vaunted LB’s together, when their QB is already priming himself to break the bank? (He’s already saying he wants 18 to 20 mil per season!)

  7. Please someone pass the Kool Aid down here. You people are dilussional! There is a place somewhere between the now or never Denver approach, and the I’m signing all my guys and a few street free agents working at Wal Mart philosophy Thompson subscribes to. Fact is, we have gaping holes that were exposed, especially when AR went down. We should have gone 0-8 for crying out loud! And don’t think Mathews or Heyward would have flipped that around. Everyone knows that, but TT still insists on bringing back all his “guys” If signing Raji doesn’t clinch it, nothing will. He was in a CONTRACT year in ’13 and played like he didn’t give a shit! Nobody in the league wanted him…..but guess who?? You guys pass the bong around and keep dreaming….this team will never take the next step as long as this asshole and his hometown cheap ass philosophy is around!

    • After reading that rant, it sounds like you could use a hit off our bong.

      • lol! 😀

      • What a troll. Wah wah, we haven’t made it to the Super Bowl in 3 years, I wanna win now. Grow up Bobby.

        The 49ers, Seahawks, & Denver were all a joke a couple years ago while the Packers have only missed 3 playoffs appearances in the past 13 years. TT is making smart moves to keep this team in contention every year. We are only missing 1-2 players from this defense and we are back on top.

        Sorry that this is real life and not a game of Madden.

        • Well said, Coz. I lived through the 70’s when we were terrible and had a few good seasons in the 80’s But the Packers started their dynamo run when Majik man arrived and rode the wave with brett Favre and now with Aaron. I think a lot of teams could be a dominant contender year after year.Don’t you?

    • You mad Bro? I traded my bong for a crack pipe and I still never had the hallucinations you’re having dude! I too am not particularly fond of everything TT does or doesn’t do, but hey, take a chill pill.

  8. I normally agree with Adam, and this is a complicated issue, but I think TT’s near complete lack of FA signings over the last 7-8 years is ample evidence of “ignoring” free agency. If the FA market is good enough for Seattle, New England, and the 49ers, why isn’t it good enough for the Packers?

    • A very valid point, BR. I do think TT was one of the few GMs ahead of the curve on mostly staying away from free agency. But I can see how now he might be missing some possible value opportunities with shorter contracts for experienced guys.

      We’ll see what happens over the coming weeks. If TT doesn’t sign anybody to help on defense, then the “ignoring” accusation might be a little more valid.

    • You’re comparing apples and oranges. Brady will be 36 years old next season. NE has to push all their chips in, just like Denver and New Orleans. they will be rebuilding anyways once the QB’s fall apart (which could happen any minute). Kaepernick & Wilson are both still on their rookie deals so their teams can temporarily use that space in free agency. Seattle will also lose a bunch of space when they have to pay Sherman and Thomas next season.

      You can’t treat each year like it’s in a vacuum. Different teams are in different parts of their “life cycle”, in a manner of speaking. Green Bay began their run a few years before both SF & Seattle, and their core is mostly not on rookie deals now. New England, New Orleans, and Denver are at the end of their runs, so there is no drawback for them mortgaging the future, since there isn’t really a future. Do you want the Packers to spend now and then have to rebuild for a couple years while Rodgers still is in his prime?

      The trick is just to make it to the playoffs each year. Then all you have to do to reach the SB is get hot, like you would have to do anyway. Ravens, Giants & ’10 Pack all squeaked in and won it all

  9. Maybe Gomer will pull his head out long enough to smell the sweet free agent oppurtunities…nah who am I kidding he’ already used to a different smell…

  10. Noooooo!!!! We re-signed the blob – the fat slob who is not a football player, who wouldn’t play hard in a contract year.

    I have trusted that TT knows what he is doing. He is shaking my trust.

  11. on point, adam – as always.

  12. There are times when I want to see TT go after a particular free agent. More often than not, he doesn’t.

    I also have to remind myself he did sign Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett as free agents. Brandon Chillar was also a free agent.

    An area where TT does extremely well is immediately after the draft with UDFAs. Sam Shields, Frank Zombo and others have been signed to Packers contracts during this period.

    How many other teams find players like Sam Shields as an UDFA? I believe the answer is not many.

  13. Yes, Woodson was one of the best moves TT ever made in free agency. It’s funny how all these bloggers blow steam because Thompson didn’t move fast enough for them. How many of them can’t balance a check-book, yet can tell a real pro how to handle his money? Don’t forget TT was the same guy that dumped Woodson too. He hasn’t been making front page too often since then either.

  14. Yes, Woodson was one of the best moves TT ever made in free agency. It’s funny how all these bloggers blow steam because Thompson didn’t move fast enough for them. How many of them can’t balance a check-book, yet can tell a real pro how to handle his money? Don’t forget TT was the same guy that dumped Woodson too. He hasn’t been making front page too often since then either.

  15. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I believe that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but usually folks don’t speak about these issues. To the next! Many thanks!!

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