With the NFL free agency period officially opening for business Tuesday, fans covet the prospect of their respective team signing a big-name player, whether warranted or not. Since general manager Ted Thompson has been at the helm with the Green Bay Packers, fans have had those prospects crushed, as Thompson has relied heavily on building through the draft and swayed from testing the open market of free agents. This bold strategy paid off for Thompson and the organization in 2011, capturing a Super Bowl title behind a well-oiled offensive attack and timely defensive play, but it has left fans more and more frustrated since. With roughly $30 million in cap space this offseason, one would not be in the wrong to think Thompson will ignore free agency and revert to further building the team’s farm system, prompting fans’ patience to once again be at an all-time high.
Thompson and the scouting department have made their mark later in the draft, snagging future playmakers and role players. Jordy Nelson, Mike Neal, Randall Cobb and Casey Hayward were all drafted in the second round in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively. T.J. Lang and Brad Jones were selected in the fourth and seventh round, respectively, in 2009. As impressive as those late-round picks are, the Packers have not emulated that body of work elsewhere in the draft, particularly in the first round. Justin Harrell, a 2007 first-round selection, is no longer in the league. B.J. Raji, who was one of the team’s two first-round selections in 2009, has regressed since coming into the league, registering zero sacks last in 2013.
While the Seattle Seahawks and general manager John Schneider mirrored Thompson’s draft strategy, they were strong players on the free agent market, which ultimately paved the way for them to secure the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 2014. Thompson is not going to waver in his approach, but when he has dipped his hand in the open market, it has yielded success. In particular, the 2006 season proved to be Thompson’s most significant action during free agency, signing defensive playmakers Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett. Woodson would go on to win the 2009 Defensive MVP and Pickett was a strong force on the defensive line.
This, then, begs the question: Will Thompson reflect that strong 2006 activity during 2014’s free agency? Your guess is as good as mine. Simply put, Thompson will target players of specific need with minimal financial investment, and if those options are unavailable, it will be another short free agent period for the Packers.