The Green Bay Packers entered 2017-2018 with hopes of it being a Super Bowl season. This year’s free-agent signings were supposed to get them over the hump. How have these moves paid off so far?
“We need to make sure we’re going all in every year to win, and we can take a big step this offseason.”
For Packers fans, this was music to their ears. However, this song was not played for fans; it was a whaling guitar solo meant for GM Ted Thompson. Sadly, based on his track record, there was little reason to think he would grant Rodgers’ request and go “all in.” This became clear when the GM responded by saying,
“I think our philosophy is pretty well-stated, I don’t necessarily think it would change. We will explore every opportunity. We are reluctant to take on things if we think it’s going to be a problem.”
Although Thompson’s close-mindedness towards free agency can be tough to take, the consistency of his draft and develop formula has proven to work.
It looked as if another offseason would follow a familiar path. Re-sign or release several of last year’s players. Bring in a new crop of rookies. Hoard as many undrafted free agents as possible. Rinse-repeat. For Thompson, there’s little reason to change, the formula led to five Division Championships in the past six years.
The Packers GM has made it clear; his goal is to get to the post-season and then let the cards fall as they may. But, with Aaron Rodgers entering the second half of his career and speculation about Thompson’s own longevity, the GM stepped outside his comfort zone and made several splashes in the free-agent market.
The decision to add Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, in theory, made the Packers a more dynamic offense. Signing veteran’s Davon House and Jahri Evans brought leadership and experience at key positions. And, the late additions of Ahmad Brooks and Quinton Dial provided further evidence that Thompson was on board for going “all in.”
But after six weeks of football, injuries and poor play have taken away the excitement surrounding Ted Thompson’s revival.
On defense, Davon House and Ahmad Brooks have spent a majority of their time on the bench, combining for just 10 tackles. This has contributed to Dom Capers constant scrambling for players. Luckily, there is still time for the two veterans to return and shore up a defense that will be relied upon to win games.
On offense, Jahri Evans should be applauded simply for his ability to stay on the field. While Pro Football Focus grades Evans a 74.6 (Average), fans realize his value to the team has been far higher.
The real disappointment lies with the two tight end’s who were expected to open up the middle of the field for Aaron Rodgers. After six games, it is fair to say that Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks have failed to live up to the hype. Despite ranking #13 in tight end receiving yards with 216, Bennett is listed as the 62nd at his position by Pro Football Focus. Much of this has to do with his three dropped passes.
Thankfully, this is an early season review, leaving plenty of time for Bennett to improve his play. For Packers fans, the situation is similar to last year’s early production from Jared Cook. But, after an extended time on the injured list, Cook still went on to prove his worth and was considered a successful acquisition.
Kendricks’ was not anticipated to be the leading option at tight end, but Ted Thompson was looking for a more dynamic option than Richard Rodgers. To date, this has yet to happen. This may lead to a role increase for the sure-handed third-string tight end.
Although the early returns on the Packers 2017 free agent class have not lived up to expectations, there is still time for them to turn things around. While injuries have played a significant role in their impact, there has also been poor play across the board. With Aaron Rodgers likely out for the season, it will be especially important that these veterans provide leadership both on and off the field. Packers fans should be rooting for these players as it may play a role in Ted Thompson’s future free agent decisions.