Ted is committed to building this team from the draft because, like all good organizations, the more you can build a solid foundation and have players grow together from within the better most teams are in the long run. I know there have been questions as to what in the heck is he doing, but let's really take a look at what he has done in the last two years.
Thompson he made some mistakes, yes, and he took some risks on some players, but if you look at those mistakes they weren't real costly. He missed on offensive linemen Adrian Klemm and Matt O'Dwyer because they couldn't fill the hole at guards in 2005, and this year they cut Will Whitticker, but he was only a seventh round pick. As I see it in the growing process, it was a small price to pay. He also missed on safety Marquand Manuel and Cory Rodgers, who was supposed to be the punt and kick off returner this year. But Thompson also got rid of some dead weight, such as Ahmad Carroll and was smart enough to realize that he was nothing but trouble. Enough was enough.
So, let's look where this team stands at this moment. The Packers are roughly $30 million under the salary cap, which allows them to go get some key free agent players to add to what they have in place because they still have some glaring needs. If you look at the 2006 draft class, anyone that knows football can see how bright the future is for this team. They went from a 4-12 record to 8-8 with a bunch of first- and second-year players that only will get better next season.
Let's take a look at what Thompson has put in place for the future:
If injuries or money don't get in the way, the offensive line can play together for the next five years. Clifton, Tauscher, Wells, Colledge and Spitz will only get better as they learn together. Talk about a bright future with Moll, and another free agent or drafted player. This is a solid unit, whether Brett Favre comes back or not. This offensive line only allowed 24 sacks last season and helped get Ahman Green another thousand yards, and that was pretty good.
Even though Vernon Morency might not be a starting back he is an excellent change of pace running back, and he is only in his second year. Another good pick was Greg Jennings even though he tailed off at the end of the year, he still showed sparks of having a good future in the NFL. Let's not forget how that ankle injury slowed him down. With that said, there were some other young guys that showed some ability such as Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday. Are these guys the answer? Probably not, but if part of Ted's plan is to get another top-notch receiver to go with Donald Driver, this receiving group could really be one to be dealt with. It's a shame Terrence Murphy got hurt because add him to the mix and who knows how good they could be.
Now as for Aaron Rodgers, the jury is still out because I haven't seen enough of him in the right situation to say whether he is the guy or not.
On defense, I believe Ted has done another excellent job. If you look at the youth he has drafted over the last two years, you have to say what potential! Please remember that's what you sign young guys on and that's what you envision they might do in the pros.
As a general manager you try to project what they might be able to do at the professional level. There are no crystal balls that can give you a 100 percent guarantee that they will be what you think because of the learning curve, injuries, you name it. So when Ted drafted Marviel Underwood and Will Blackmon he had plans for them, and if they could have stayed healthy maybe some of the mistakes that were made might not have been in the secondary. Remember, Nick Collins is still a baby at safety.
I also see a large upside to Michael Montgomery and Johnny Jolly on the defensive line because they are aggressive and want to get on the field. You can never have too many of these guys.
So, as I see it Ted Thompson has this team going in an excellent direction. Let's not forget all the mess he had to clean up from Mike Sherman's mistakes. I believe he has done an outstanding job dealing with so many things, such as the Brett Favre situation, firing Mike Sherman, hiring Mike McCarthy when the world wanted Jim Bates. He never lost sight. He never blinked and now I ask you HOW'S TED'S DRIVING SO FAR?
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.