For the record, Thompson has made some significant moves thus far in free agency to beef up the defense. He has signed two of ESPN.com's top 10-rated free agents in Aaron Kampman and Ryan Pickett. Thompson also landed Seattle safety Marquand Manuel and re-signed running back Ahman Green. The 2006 salaries of the aforementioned players will cost the Packers nearly $20 million in cap space, so the Packers have been quickly utilizing some of the $35 million of cap space, and not exactly sitting still.
Fortunately, Thompson has avoided falling into the same trap that many other NFL owners do at this time of year – shell out big money, mortgage the future of their teams, and hope that their team improves drastically. Washington owner Dan Snyder comes to mind. Snyder has always been a spender, but he never seems to have a plan nor results. How many division titles have the Redskins won lately? Answer: Except for last year when they went 10-6, which was good for second in the NFC East. The Redskins had losing records from 2002 through '04. They were .500 in 2000-01. They haven't won a division title since 1999 under Norv Turner. In between, Snyder has spent millions on overpriced unrestricted free agents, and even restricted free agents, with little return on his investments.
Meanwhile, the Packers have won three straight division titles prior to last year's train wreck. But the Packers also have been wise, prior to Thompson arriving, and now not to overpay for free agents and not to restructure Brett Favre's mega-contract into future seasons. The Packers have made some mistakes (see Joe Johnson and Cletidus Hunt) but have tried to live with them. That's why the Packers are healthy now with cap space and are able to selectively sign players from other teams, or re-sign their own free agents. Perfect example: The Packers were able to compete and land the 26-year-old Pickett rather than pay the 33-year-old Grady Jackson and hope that his knees hold up in the next couple of seasons. Pickett is a major upgrade over Jackson and will pay dividends as the Packers try to improve at sacking opposing quarterbacks.
Free agency is far from over, yet the Packers still have plenty of money to spend hopefully on a kicker, or veteran cornerback, or wide receiver, or all of the above. Credit Thompson and his staff for using patience and wisdom to not spend foolishly.
The Minnesota Vikings are on the verge of obtaining guard Steve Hutchinson. Sure, he's one of the better guards in the game, but is he worth $50 million? How many touchdowns will he score for Minnesota next year? Can he block more the entire defensive line at once? For that price, you would think he can. Putting that much money into one player is irresponsible on the part of the Vikings. Fortunately, the Packers don't have to worry about that kind of scenario under Thompson.
Thompson proved last year that good players can be picked up off the "street" for the NFL minimum salary. Tight end Donald Lee and running back Samkon Gado are prime examples. Both are expected to be major contributors this season, and they both have the ability to put points on the board for Green Bay, as well as block for others!
If you're concerned that Thompson isn't making a big enough splash in free agency, relax. The Packers still have plenty of time and money to obtain quality free agents at a reasonable price, and are in position to obtain a few potential play-makers in the upcoming NFL draft.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.