Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and his pro scouts are hard at work.
On Tuesday, teams must reduce their rosters to 75 players. Next Sunday, those rosters must be pared to 53 players. That’s a lot of talent flooding the free-agent market. Some of those players will be proven veterans. Others will be rookies who the Packers might have coveted in the draft.
Thompson and his staff will be as ready as possible.
“It’s a vitally important time for a couple reasons,” Thompson said on Wednesday morning. “We get to know the teams a little bit better, what they’re probably planning going forward. Also from a personnel standpoint in terms of how the individual teams are going to break their teams down at the final cuts or at the two cuts. So, yeah, it’s very important. It’s a lot of working going on. That’s what we’ve been doing all morning, that’s what the rest of them are doing right now.”
How much of that work will be put to use, however, is a fair question. As much as he tried to spin it otherwise, it’s not Thompson’s style to grab a veteran. Two examples: In 2010, when Ryan Grant sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the opener, Thompson signed Dimitri Nance off the Falcons’ practice squad. When Bryan Bulaga sustained a season-ending ACL injury on Family Night in 2013, Thompson stood pat with fourth-round draft pick David Bakhtiari.
“I don’t know if I completely agree with you about,” Thompson said of a preference for young players over veterans. “I don’t want people to think I’m set in stone and I can’t make other decisions. We look for good people and good football players and that’s what we always look for. We don’t go into these meetings that I’m talking about that we’re watching a lot of tape, we don’t go in that with any preconceived notions of we want to find an older fella or we want to find a younger fella or anything like that. We’re looking for football players, especially at this time of the year.”
While Thompson and Co. scout the other 31 teams, no doubt the other 31 teams are scouting the Packers and trying to project who might become available after cuts or who could be had in a trade. He’s been evaluating his players for months but the finish line is approaching in a hurry. There will be one game, one practice and one more game to evaluate before getting down to 53.
“There will be a challenge to sort through all the information that you get as fast as it’s going to come and try to make good decisions for this team,” Thompson said.
Picking Green Bay’s roster will come with its own set of challenges. Opening suspensions to Letroy Guion and Datone Jones will impact how many players Thompson keeps on the defensive line. Is there a third tight end worthy of keeping? Then there are the numbers games. Two running backs or three? How many defensive backs and offensive linemen?
Potential and projection will play a role there.
“Just like when you go into the draft or any other kind of transaction from a player personnel standpoint, I would think you’d take all those things into consideration,” Thompson said. “You don’t try to lean too heavy, certainly, on potential, because you want to make sure people can play and play pretty fast. Like, it’s coming at them pretty fast right now.”
Half of the preseason and 16 of the 17 practices are complete. Still, a strong closing argument could swing the entire debate in a player’s favor.
“There’s always guys that sneak in under the wire,” Thompson said. “They don’t sneak in. They knock the wire down usually.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.