Aaron Kampman – I am glad to see the team locked him up. My last column struck a nerve with some people who felt that I was implying that I saw it as a choice between Ahmad Carroll, Ahman Green and Kampman. I never intended for that to be the gist of the column. I just see Kampman as a hard-working, high motor, good character football player, who may not be a difference-maker on par with Reggie White or Julius Peppers, but who is a key member of the team. And the Packers cannot keep letting quality guys leave via free agency. There are a lot of bad guys involved in any industry; it is nice to see a good guy get rewarded.
Labor Peace – For a time, it looked like the owners and players were going to burn down the house they lived in with them inside. The NFL is the premier sports league in the world and it is that way because the players and owners have a system that rewards the players and gives the owners predictability. No one team can bury another because of the shared revenues.
Pro football would not long survive a scenario like baseball, where the Yankees spend something like $200 million on salaries and Tampa spends $30 million. The integrity of the game is compromised in a situation like that. It is hard to root for men with money arguing over more money, but it is relieving that they worked it out and the game will go on. The Packers are sitting pretty with a lot of money under the cap. Here is hoping they use it wisely and appropriately. As of now, they are not as active as some other teams, but Ted Thompson seems to be more deliberate then most.
The General Manager – Ted Thompson has taken a great deal of heat from fans and the media. Some of it is warranted and some is foolish. With my incredible ability to travel back in time, I believe that I can put myself in his shoes back before the 2005 training camp. He probably figured that the team was good enough as it was stacked to have a winning record and contend for the playoffs. They lost a few linemen and did not go out and sign any big-name players, but he probably felt that with Favre and Javon Walker and Jim Bates improving the defense, they could stay competitive and get the salary cap where he wanted it. Last I looked, the Packers have more cap space than anyone.
I tend to agree that this was a sound line of reasoning. I felt that last year's team was a playoff contender. The injuries are a fact of life, but I do not feel anyone could have predicted the amount and severity. Losing three Pro Bowl offensive skill players in Javon Walker, Ahman Green and Bubba Franks was too much to overcome. Brett Favre tried too hard and the turnover flood began. I still feel that the chance that Thompson took was sound. This team should have been better than it was and he put them in a position to reload and still be responsible under the cap. The still to be determined factor is whether he can judge talent. If he makes bad choices, then money will not help at all. Anyone remember Cletidus Hunt?
Free Agency – Three days into the free agency period, the Packers have only lost key players. Ryan Longwell left for Minnesota. Na'il Diggs got released. The Packers did sign Marquand Manuel, a safety from Seattle, but he was a reserve player for Seattle until their starter, Ken Hamlin was injured in an off-field fight about halfway through the season. Thompson obviously knows him, so let us withhold judgment until we see him in action.
The team did keep Kampman and Ahman Green, but Javon Walker is squawking about retiring if he is not given more money or traded. I am waiting for some moves along the offensive line and linebacker. If this team does not spend some money before the draft, expect the cap to grow by over $7 million, which is Brett Favre's portion, because he will definitely retire if he does not see some improvement soon.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.