The Missing Link in Ted Thompson’s “Draft and Develop” Approach

ron 1Ted Thompson has done an admirable job drafting new blood to keep the Packers’ deep in young players, which has in turn helped keep the coffers deep, rather than blowing everything on high priced free agents. At its root, this draft and develop approach is one that I agree with. It’s a young man’s game and the Packers are consistently one of the youngest teams in the league. But I think Thompson is missing part of the “develop” part of the equation in his seeming steadfast refusal to sign free agents. But first, a disclaimer:

It is not entirely fair to say that Ted Thompson refuses to sign free agents. Thompson, after all, brought in both Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers, so the statement is not entirely accurate. But I think it is fair to say that Thompson rarely goes after top tier free agents and rarely signs them. The reasons for this are manifold and include:

  1. Top tier free agents are expensive and can easily wreak havoc on the long-term financial stability of the team.
  2. Top tier free agents can as easily fail as succeed. They are older and sometimes the big paycheck does not amount to big time play.
  3. The signing of a big-time free agent to a big contract can also wreak havoc on a locker room as it values a player above others at the position that have worked their way up. It is not ideal for the social circle that is a locker room.

So Thompson has reasons for being less than trigger happy in signing top-tier free agents. He tends to wait and look for players that have been devalued by injury (Woodson) or age (Peppers). But waiting also amounts to missing the chance at many of those free agents. Money loves speed and Ted’s “offer and stand pat” philosophy means that there will be a lot of free agents that find better offers and accept them. Randall Cobb is an exception that proves the rule (read: exception that tests the rule) in this case and thankfully, Cobb came back for less money.

But there is one problem I have with the Packers not picking up key free agents in the “draft and develop” approach. It has to do with player development and I think it is one aspect that can hamstring the entire Packers’ team as they try to get another Super Bowl in the books.

I think Ted Thompson underestimates the fact that veteran players are a big part of the development of young ones.

One of the things that I love about Mike McCarthy is that he lets the players do the pregame speeches and really gets the team leaders involved in the develpment and inspiration of the younger players. There is nothing like a veteran stud to make younger players perform. Can you imagine how influential Charles Woodson was in the development of a guy like Nick Collins? And Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews have made guys like Jake Ryan better because there is a certain expectation when you are playing alongside an established player in the league. Julius…well he was a free agent acquisition.

The development of young players takes place on the field and the presence of veterans in the form of great free agent acquisitions really makes a difference. The Packers could use a key free agent acquisition this offseason to help the young players excel. Of course, I am not minimizing the fact that free agents…especially top tier ones, can add to the team simply by being great at what they do. But the greatness extends beyond the player himself. There is a synergy that comes from bringing in a really high end free agent to help the team reach its goals. Yes, it costs money but can you put a price tag on another Championship?

Guys like Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers have done more than play well for this team. While the onus of development inevitably falls on the coaches, great players brought in through the free agency option have made an immeasurable difference and could be the difference between a playoff team and a Championship team.

So Ted…go out there…take a chance…bring someone in…help us be…GREAT.

Go Pack!

The Missing Link in Ted Thompson’s “Draft and Develop” Approach

2 thoughts on “The Missing Link in Ted Thompson’s “Draft and Develop” Approach

  • February 15, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    It’s a great point Brady. Not only has Thompson avoided FA for the most part, has he ever done a trade (other than draft picks occasionally on draft days)? You don’t build your team around free agency or trades, but you shouldn’t ignore 2 of the 3 available tools to build your team either. And Thompson has a habit of over paying some players (Matthews, Daniels, Guion, etc.) while letting affordable talent walk away (Jon Ryan, House, Cullen Jenkins, etc.).

    • February 16, 2016 at 4:24 am

      Yeah, I fear we will too often find ourselves one player short. And if I am right about the effect being more than just in individual play, then the reverse is true too so we are being short-changed more than just one great player…also the inspiration and leadership they can instill in the younger ones. I would like to see the balance of this team tip just a bit more toward FA. Like you say, you don’t build the team around it, but we need one or two more. Thanks for reading!


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