Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson: Use all your tools, please


Ted Thompson hit a home run with Eddie Lacy, but the Packers’ GM has to utilize all of his personnel tools to keep up with the rest of the league.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

All the talk this offseason among those following the Green Bay Packers has been focused on the defensive side of the football – and for good reason. The Packers fell into the bottom third in most categories in defensive statistics once again in 2013. They simply gave up too many yards, too many big plays and couldn’t get off the field on third down.

The defensive line couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback and leaked like a sieve against the run. The linebacking corps was decimated by injuries and ended up playing third- and fourth-stringers. And as for the defensive backs, especially the play at safety – well, we won’t even go there – it’s just too depressing.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald – could he be an option for the Packers? Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

That said, everyone expects that Ted Thompson will most likely go after some fresh, young defensive talent come the NFL Draft – and there should be plenty of talent available to the Packers given the projections. The names of safeties Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, defensive linemen Ra’Shede Hageman, Aaron Donald and Kony Ealy, as well as linebackers Ryan Shazier, Dee Ford and even Chris Borland, among many others, could still be on the board when the Packers’ turn at #21 comes around.

But as day 2 of the NFL Combine kicks off today, Packers fans should sit up straight and pay attention. Being paraded in front of the nation and the National Football League will be the quarterbacks, the running backs and the wide receivers.

WTH are you talking about, Rivard, you might be asking? The Packers already have the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Rodgers, the rookie of the year in Eddie Lacy, and some of the league’s best and most consistent wide receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

That’s all well and good, but we all know how the injury-prone Packers have done when their best players go down with injury. In this day and age of “next man up,” the Packers have to continue to build through the draft and add needed depth at all positions.

Don’t be surprised if Ted Thompson does indeed stick to his “best player available” and surprise everyone in the first three rounds of the draft by looking at players on both sides of the ball. The Packers need impact players, the Packers need players to be developed, but most importantly, the Packers need to utilize all of the personnel tool available to them – especially in light of the fact that the team has nearly $30 million in salary cap room.

Does that mean that the Packers will use some of that money to invest in Nelson and cornerback Sam Shields? Does it mean they let B.J. Raji, Johnny Jolly, and Ryan Pickett walk in free agency? Does it mean they also allow WR James Jones test the market’s waters?

Could be and probably should be.

The Packers could also use some of that money to bring in experience at D-Line or safety through free agency – because we all know that if the Packers are going to fill all their holes, they need to utilize every available means to do so. The draft and develop idea is great, but in this win now and at all costs league, TT has to get off

James Jones, though a valuable Packer, might be allowed to walk in free agency.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

the pot and start spending money on experience – players that come in and make a difference today. He does that through free agency. Heck, how about if he does it through a trade? How novel of an idea would that be?

We’ve seen teams like the New England Patriots use all the tools available to them to keep a solid team in place around Tom Brady. On the contrary, Ted Thompson has gotten complacent with his draft-only mentality an the Packers are showing signs of falling way behind the rest of the elite teams in the NFL.

It’s got to stop. Ron Wolf should be ashamed. If there was one lesson Thompson should have learned from his mentor it’s that there are more ways than one to build a team. That 1996 defensive line that won a world championship was built through free agency. The Packers did not draft any of these guys: Reggie White, Sean Jones, Gilbert Brown and Santana Dotson.

So, as the second day of the NFL Combine plays out this afternoon we’re hoping that Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy are paying attention to the quarterback class, the running backs, and especially the wide receivers on the field. They shouldn’t be backing away from the idea that a good backup at these positions will lead to strength and depth.

But they should also be playing all the markets when the getting is good. If they use the draft as a starting point on both sides of the ball, and then complement that with free agency, the waiver wires and trades, this team will be better off.

Jordy Nelson isn’t going to be around forever and neither is Randall Cobb or Jarrett Boykin. We all know that James Jones is probably as good as gone. As a matter of fact, looking at fresh bodies along the offensive line might also be a good thing.

In the NFL, the time is now, and winning a championship starts in February, not August.

Our hope is that Ted Thompson sees the light … and sees it right now.