Ted Thompson: “There is always an evolution of a team”
What is a general manager to do when 15 player’s contracts are expiring at the end of the 2009 season and seven of them are starters? Out of those 15 free agents three have been to the Pro Bowl and another one is one of the most electrifying punt returners in the NFL. That is the issue Packers G.M. and VP of Player Personnel Ted Thompson has to deal with throughout this season and into next off season. And he thought the “Favre Saga” was a pain in the rear end.
When asked about the issue, Thompson said “there is always an evolution of a team. At different points in peoples careers things happen. And we’re trying to take care of our business the best we can.” Thompson added “Each year your team matures, and we have a larger number of young guys that are getting ready for the next phase of their careers, and that’s something that’s our job to deal with.”
The 15 players that have expiring contracts on the Packers are Linebackers Aaron Kampman, Brandon Chillar, Safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby, Cornerbacks Will Blackmon and Tramon Williams, Offensive Linemen Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz, Chad Clifton, Tony Moll, Defensive Linemen Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, Wide Receiver Ruvell Martin, Tight End Tory Humphrey and Fullback John Kuhn.
A good example of that is the way Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings and Packers safety Nick Collins have handled their contract situations with Thompson.
Jennings , who has been highly productive on the field and an even better person off of it, kept his negotiations private and said publicly that the Packers would do the right thing and he would not hold out. And on June 23rd Jennings got his big pay day when he signed a three year deal with $27 million dollars in “new money” and $16.25 in guaranteed money. Collins on the other hand made his first Pro Bowl last year after tying for the NFC lead with 7 interceptions and finally showing the play making skills that made him the Packers second round pick in 2005 (the 51st overall selection). Collins has taken the opposite stance as Jennings by saying he would not rule out a hold out in order to get a new contract. Talks are currently on going and the hope is he will be in camp when it starts next month.
This will also be a key year for Aaron Kampman, who not only is in the final year of his deal, but also playing a new position, outside linebacker since the Packers switched their defense to a 3-4. Kampman has 37.5 sacks in the last three seasons and has been a leader on and off the field. He is the “key” to the Packers new defense because of his ability to rush the passer and how quick his transition to OLB may determine how much he gets paid. I don’t see the Packers letting him go.
Daryn Colledge is a different story. He was the Packers most consistent linemen last year and according to my friends at packerupdate.com is the Packers number two priority this off season (behind Jennings ). Jason Spitz will take over at center for Scott Wells and also will get his pay day, but the same can not be said for long time Packers tackle Chad Clifton. Clifton is on the down side of his career and injury and age have caught up with him. I was told the Packers would bring him back for a reduced price tag, some where around six million dollars for two years. The question is would he except that pay cut, my guess is no.
Atari Bigby, Will Blackmon and Tramon Williams are all in the same boat to me. All three have showed flashes but were either injured, in Bigby and Blackmon’s case, or had veterans playing in front of him as was the case with Williams. All of these reasons has kept them off the field. Williams will get the most money of the three because the Packers look at him a future starter. Bigby needs to show the Packers he can remain healthy and cover while Blackmon also needs to stay on the field, not just because of injury, but coverage ability as well.
Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly are interesting scenarios because of age (Pickett) and legal issues (Jolly). Pickett, who will be 30 this year, has been everything the Packers wanted and more since they signed him away from the Rams four years ago. The new defense, along with first round pick B.J. Raji, will make Pickett an even bigger force in the middle of the defensive line. Jolly, who is facing a four game suspension for possessing over 200 grams of codeine and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, is in a position to take a little less from the Packers because of his legal issues. I suspect both will be back.
I would say Clifton , Scott Wells, John Kuhn, Humphrey, Martin and possibly Bigby are the players that are in their last days as a Packer with Thompson resigning the rest.
Ted Thompson has the Packers in a position of strength with their salary cap situation. He is a GM that plans ahead, and one has to think he knew this day would come. I dare to say that this is a position most GM’s would want to be in, having to resign the young talent they have amassed by shrewd drafting and free agent moves. Thompson’s job is to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Green Bay, and he is building this team for that exact goal as well as be competitive for a long there after. He has the money to do so, now it’s time to go to work.
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