The third of a three-part series
With inside linebacker suddenly an area of concern for the Green Bay Packers, let’s look back at one of the main reasons: Their releasing of Nick Barnett prior to the 2011 season.
As a first round draft pick in 2003, it did not take long for Nick Barnett to crack the starting lineup. He played in 15 games in 2003 and quickly established himself as the leader of Green Bay’s linebacking corps.
But his departure is a classic illustration of Ted Thompson’s draft and develop method. Barnett had an excellent 2010 campaign and came into 2011 with high expectations. He lasted just 4 games before a season-ending injury put him on the shelf and gave backup linebacker Desmond Bishop an opportunity.
And that’s all it takes with the Packers.
Bishop, a sixth round pick in 2007, had been waiting for a chance and he and the Packers never looked back. A solid performance in 2010 led to a long-term contract with the Packers.
Barnett, after his seventh season, was released and ultimately signed by the Buffalo Bills. He has, by all accounts, become the Bills’ defacto leader on defense. Let’s take a look at a side by side stat comparison between Bishop and Barnett:
As we have discussed before, Ted Thompson and Packers have shown that they are willing to sacrifice one or two years of great performance from a player in exchange for not being on the hook for unproductive later years (see Cullen Jenkins). Barnett is still productive, but Bishop has been a beast for the Pack and another example as to why the Packers’ strategy works.