[size=18px]GM says Packers not done[/size]
Thompson still hopes to improve team
By TOM SILVERSTEIN
Posted: April 4, 2006
On the Green Bay Packers' Web site a poll asks readers, "Which recent free agent signing will have the greatest impact in 2006?"
The three choices: wide receiver Marc Boerigter, kicker Billy Cundiff and linebacker Ben Taylor.
The Packers might want to keep Brett Favre away from their Web site.
That's hardly a Murderer's Row of free agents who are going to turn the Packers from a 4-12 team to a 12-4 one. Granted, it doesn't include their two biggest free-agent additions - defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and safety Marquand Manuel - but it does speak volumes about what the Packers have accomplished in free agency.
Especially on offense.
General manager Ted Thompson has said publicly that he doesn't do things "based on one player or three players or five players" and that his concern will always be the overall good of the Packers, so it's clear he isn't signing players just to please Favre. But he has re-signed a number of offensive players from a team that dropped to 30th overall in offense last year and some wonder whether he wouldn't have been better off replacing them with new faces.
"We'll have a different offense this year because of a different coaching staff, but I expect some of our guys who were banged up to be back playing and I think that will help certainly quite a bit," Thompson said. "Like I said before, we were 4-12 for a lot of reasons. Part of the reason was my fault, and some of it was our players didn't play to their capability.
"We're not trying to be cocky and say we're set. I think we're a little bit better than the (team) we were last year. That means we have to get better and we'll try to get better with the people we have and get better if we can find good players on the outside."
Thompson's only non-Packers signing on offense has been Boerigter, and given the picked-through crop of players still available in free agency the former Kansas City backup receiver will probably stand as the most significant addition of the spring market. Thompson insists that the Packers aren't through adding players and will compete for anyone who is cut or on the trading block, but it's clear his options are limited.
Thompson said the Packers did go to bat on several bigger-name free agents early in the signing period but found themselves shut out. Whether it was because deals were done before free agency started or the Packers werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t willing to pay the going rate is unknown.
The Packers are known to have inquired about Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson and to have considered Dallas guard Larry Allen, Minnesota wide receiver Koren Robinson and Arizona guard Reggie Wells, but all signed with other teams.
Thompson wouldn't comment on many specifics, but it's not hard to figure out that he wasn't going to play the "poison pill" game with his old club in the pursuit of Hutchinson, wasn't going to get Allen to pick Green Bay over a team close to his California home and wouldn't be able to construct a restricted free agent deal for Wells that the Cardinals wouldn't match (they ended up matching Buffalo's offer sheet).
"The guys on offense, the higher-profile guys went pretty fast, and quite frankly we didn't think there were that many hot guys out there," Thompson said. "Some of those guys went off the board really fast and it just never worked out.
"If I felt like at any particular position where we needed help there was one guy who would really give us a boost and there were six who really won't help us and we lose out on the one, it doesn't make sense to go after those other six guys. That's the way I look at it."
Thompson said he didn't think "there were a ton of premier guys on the offensive side this year" and thought it was more important to re-sign players like running backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport, receiver Rod Gardner and tackle Kevin Barry. He said he had no problem taking shots from angry fans who want him to do more, but he said he refused to sign players who he thought couldn't help the Packers.
Thompson has heard threats from Favre that he will retire if more isn't done to improve the team and criticism from others who question why he hasn't done more after starting the free-agent period with roughly $30 million of salary cap room. The Packers currently have $19 million of room, second most in the National Football League behind San Diego's $19.46 million, but probably won't use much of it because the market is almost dry.
They are still in the running for Oakland free agent cornerback Charles Woodson, who visited Monday but hasn't received an offer from them yet. The Packers are competing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Woodson's services and have the ability to offer a better contract, but Woodson's familiarity with Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden could be the deal-breaker.
If Woodson doesn't get a big-money offer, he might wait until after the draft to see if other teams become interested.
Regardless, WoodsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s addition wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do much for an offense that ranked 30th in the NFL last year and will be relying heavily on a host of injured starters whose futures arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a given. If Green, Davenport, Javon Walker and Terrence Murphy all return to form, the Packers have a chance to be very good on offense. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a big if.
The most questionable decision Thompson might have made was not going after Robinson, whom he drafted in the first round in Seattle in 2001. Robinson was cut from the Seahawks a year ago after fighting a substance-abuse problem and made the Pro Bowl with the Vikings as a kick returner with a 26-yard average.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Robinson fit the Packers' need for a big receiver and a talented returner, but to get him they would have needed to construct a contract that the Vikings would not match. Robinson was a free agent but had a clause in his previous deal that allowed Minnesota to match any offer.
The Packers could have constructed an offer that would have cost the Vikings a lot had they matched it and either robbed their division rival of a valuable player or forced them to eat up a lot of salary cap space. Thompson wouldn't say specifically why he didn't try harder to sign Robinson, but either he had reservations about his recovery from alcohol abuse or didn't think he was worth overpaying in an attempt to pry him from the Vikings.
"If he was just a free agent we probably would have been in there pitching," Thompson said.
As it stands now, the Packers probably wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a chance to do much for their offense in free agency until after the draft, when teams start paring down their rosters. Thompson insists that the Packers arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t done accumulating talent.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not saying weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re sticking pat on offense,Ã¢â‚¬Â Thompson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re working every day to get better. Things change. All of a sudden a player becomes available, a trade happens during the draft. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s some time left. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not set in stone.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Date changed: The deadline for the roster bonus Favre is due has been moved back to April 15, an NFL source familiar with the deal confirmed. Favre doesn't have to make a decision by then, but the Packers are hoping he does.
The Packers and agent James "Bus" Cook changed the deadline from April 1 to April 15 on Friday, a day before the bonus was due.
From the April 5, 2006 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GM says Packers not done