William Henderson, along with Brett Favre and Rob Davis, is the team's elder statesman. Let me re-phrase that, he was an elder statesman. He is gone. He might be back, but it will be up to the Packers.I honestly feel that if Brett Favre had played last year like he did in 2005, that he might be gone. Hard to say if the folks at 1265 Lombardi Avenue have the stones to send him packing publicly.
I am not advocating that Green and Henderson should still be Packers. Green is getting old for a running back and the Texans gave him a lot of money. I do not know what the Packers offered him if anything. Is he on the down slope of his career? Probably. Could he help the Packers win games? Yes. Will the Packers miss him? I don't know; depends on who they get to replace him.
As for Henderson, the writing has been on the wall for a couple of years. The Packers have tried to unseat him for at least three years. They were less than successful, but he has seen his playing time and impact decrease as time has marched on. Is he a positive influence on the locker room? Yes. Does he make a play here and there that makes you appreciate him still? Yes. Is he the player he was four or five years ago? No.
For the better part of a decade, these two players were major parts of the game plan and the publicity surrounding this team. For a span of two to three years around the turn of the century, Green was maybe the best back in the league. Coming back last year from that thigh injury was a major accomplishment on Green's part. No one out works him.
Green has had some off-field issues and Henderson is a promotional machine, doing TV shows and commercials in the local area. The difference between them was neither the basis nor the hurdle that caused or stopped their exit from the team.
The NFL is first and foremost a business and the Packers have made a business decision. Green's street price was more than they were willing to pay. Henderson has aged beyond his effective date. Could Ted Thompson be wrong about them? We will see. Will they find anyone to replace them at what they deem market price? Again we will see.
The Packers' only action in street free agency has been to let guys go. Al Harris got an extension, sure. Green and tight end David Martin are gone. Other teams have been signing guys left and right for big money. Some of these guys are getting stupid money. The new salary cap has opened up the wallets of more than one owner. The Packers have resisted this up until now.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Ted Thompson will not mortgage the future by signing loads of vets to big bucks to make a run. That is a good thing in theory. Why fill the cap with dead money for aged veterans who are past their prime. But on the other side of the coin, there is no progress on improving the roster without some player acquisition.
Last year, Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Marquand Manuel came aboard via free agency. Woodson and Pickett had positive impacts. Manuel not so much. It is all well and good that the Packers are going to build through the draft. I see the logic of it, but that takes time and there is no guarantee that it will work. Hitting it in free agency accelerates the process, but has its own risks.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that once this round of free agency calms down, the Packers will be more active. I would expect that there will be a name or two that will pop up here before training camp. It is just a little disheartening to see other teams making news and in some cases, improving their teams, while the Packers fiddle while Rome burns.
Right now the only improvement this team has made is six more months of maturity. The draft had better produce some results or Favre's last run may be more of the same.
The Green Bay Packers owe no one anything. They do not owe Ahman Green any sense of loyalty. He made a lot of money to play here. Same goes for William Henderson and Brett Favre. They owe the paying public nothing more than they are getting. Packer games are great entertainment, even when they lose. They can stash all that cash for a rainy day and fuddle around as a middle of the road team, but it would be nice to see some urgency from them. Moderate activity in free agency would be great. It worked last year. Why not this year? Loyalty would be great, but it is a dream that long since left the conversation. What has replaced it is results. If the team improves this year, then the plan will be validated. If not, heads will roll. Once the players strike to save a Coach or GM's job, then I will have some sympathy for them when the Coach or GM lets them go. Until then, loyalty is out there somewhere with unicorns and cold fusion.
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.