Another free agent possibility, another empty chance for the Green Bay Packers to improve their limited-personnel defensive line. Former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck ditched the chance to play in Lambeau Field in 2014, instead taking his talents to the Bay Area with the Oakland Raiders, signing a two-year, $11 million offer.
At age 30, the former Notre Dame star did not slow down in 2013, registering a team-high 11 sacks. His 2013 numbers are notable for a couple of reasons. First, it was the first time he played in all 16 games since 2010. Second, similarly, his season sack total was the highest it has been since his 11.5 output in ’10. For comparative matters, the Packers’ defensive line did not have a single player register above 10 sacks last year or even close, with Clay Matthews leading the team with 7.5 in an injury-laded season.
General manager Ted Thompson has made it a point of emphasis not to bring in big-time, flashy guys, either on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, because of the financial investment. But Tuck’s modest two-year contract was not something the Packers could not afford, especially given their comfortable situation in the cap. If anything, signing Tuck to a similarly-structured contract allows Datone Jones to continue to develop his raw skill set, especially in third-down packages, and provides an exciting combo of pass rushers off the edge with Mike Daniels.
On the surface, the logic behind Thompson’s move makes sense. Tuck was a force in a 4-3 defense, not a 3-4. The long history of injuries also solidifies the decision, but both of those facts were overturned by the reports of Green Bay being one of the legitimate front runners in the sweepstakes.
Herein, lies one of the many disrupting realities for the Green Bay faithful — Thompson rarely, if ever, gives free agent landings the opportunity to utilize the confines of Lambeau Field as a stepping stone. Sure, the organization has let players go, but a majority of them were under contract from the onset of their respective careers. In a way, it’s a borderline egotistic. The 61-year-old slaves to predicate the Packers on a team-first environment, which is completely fine and actually should be truly appreciated with the mess that happened with the Miami Dolphins, but that only goes so far in terms of on-the-field performance. Why not make a push in the next two years with Tuck, then turn the reigns over to Jones to solidify the future?
The disruption grows deeper when you throw that Green Bay has only won two playoff games since the 2011 Super Bowl run. The thinking when the Packers won the ’97 title with Brett Favre under center was that the ceiling was endless with a dynamic gunslinger and stifling defense. They would end up getting back to the big game the following year, only to lose to the Denver Broncos, but did not appear in a single Super Bowl after. On principle, it could not have been more identical when head coach Mike McCarthy‘s squad hoisted the Lombardi Trophy with a dynamic gunslinger and not-so-subtle stifling defense.
While some might think Aaron Rodgers‘ stay in Green Bay will last an infinite amount of time, similarly to what some thought with Favre, the fact of the matter is the window is slowly, but surely, closing for Green Bay to contend for a championship. It’s about time Thompson takes note.