Thoughts on Favre, upcoming free agency

Why Thompson should dip into open market more this offseason

Brett Favre
I expect that the Green Bay Packers will hear something fairly soon from Brett Favre regarding his status for 2008. I believe it will be within the next couple of weeks. It's been almost a month now since the painful NFC Championship loss to the New York Giants, and Favre should be ready to announce that he will be coming back.

A lot of blame is coming down on Favre for his overtime interception. And that pass will stick with Favre all winter. But Favre twice got the Packers the lead after deficits. Through three quarters, Favre was having a very solid game. But it wasn't all on Favre. The defense couldn't put pressure on Eli Manning. The defense couldn't hold two leads. The defense had trouble in the secondary with schemes and adjustments. The defense committed stupid penalties.

Special teams, except for one return and Mason Crosby's kicking, did not play well, either. The key was the punting team not jumping on a fumble late in the game on a punt return near midfield. The coaching staff had issues as well. The play calling was not consistent, as the Packers did not stick with the ground game. The Giants often had eight men in the box, trying to stop the run. Play-action passes and other type passes like slants and quick outs were necessary. The 90-yard TD pass to Donald Driver was on a play action pass.

But in the fourth quarter, the Packers hardly attempted to run. It put all the pressure on Favre in miserable conditions. But this game was a classic case of a TEAM loss. But the game was lost for several factors. Blame needs to be shared by the O-line (especially their run blocking), the defense (giving up two leads), the special teams (not getting a key fumble recovery on a punt return late) and the coaching staff (not being committed to the run, lousy play calling and bad adjustments).

But Favre also has to look back on the 2007 season and smile. Under Mike McCarthy, Favre has obviously improved. His completion percentage of 66.5 was the best of his career. His seven 300-yard passing games tied a career high, and his 4,155 passing yards (third-best of his career), 95.7 passer rating (third), 15 interceptions (tied for third) and 356 completions (fourth) were among the best marks of his 17-year career.

Add to that, all of the all-time passing records that fell and now belong to Favre. Favre now has 160 wins as a starting QB, which is now the best all-time mark, 12 games better John Elway's 148. 160 wins over 16 seasons. Think about that for a minute. That's 10 wins a year for 16 straight years on average. In the NFL!

Favre also added to his unbelievable consecutive game started streak by starting all 16 games in 2007 and adding to his astronomical amount of 253 games started consecutively. That's now 275 games if you include the playoffs. Plus, even with the interceptions in the Giants game, Favre threw five TD passes to just two interceptions in the playoffs this year with a QB rating of 99.0 over the two games he played.

Favre also now has the all-time TD pass record (442) that used to belong to Dan Marino (420). Favre also now is the all-time passing yardage leader as he now has thrown for 61,655 yards in his career, which topped Marino again, who threw for 61,361. Favre is also the all-time leading passer in attempts (8,758) and completions (5,377). Favre actually set the completion record last year, before adding to it this year.

Favre doesn't have a lot to prove right now. He has his 3 MVPs and a Super Bowl ring. He has earned nine Pro Bowl honors as well. Favre has almost all of the passing records. But Favre also plays on a team that is on the rise. He came back after the 2005 season when the Packers were 4-12. Nobody knew how the Packers would play in 2006. Favre and McCarthy led them to a 8-8 record that year. 2007 was even better. A 13-3 record, a NFC North title (Favre's 7th) and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.

The 2007 Packers were the youngest team in the NFL for the second straight year. This season I expect Ted Thompson to not have as many draft choices and to use free agency a bit more, as the roster is starting to solidify. Like in 2006, when Thompson brought in DT Ryan Pickett and CB Charles Woodson. Favre and the Packers need a little more veteran help, along with some quality rookies. Thompson has proven that he can have a very nice draft the last three years.

Favre knows that this team has the talent to get to a Super Bowl. But the important thing is that FAVRE still has the talent as well. Favre proved that in 2007. Favre also simply loves the game. Favre also loves playing with this young group of talented players with the Pack. Aaron Rodgers will have to wait at least one more year for his chance. Rodgers' chance as the Green Bay signal caller will come, just not in 2008.

Free Agency
There has been a lot of speculation as to who the Packers may go after in free agency. You can be sure that Thompson and the Director of Pro Personnel, Reggie McKenzie, have had several meetings already. The Packers are about $25 million under the salary cap. Besides free agency, that money will be used for draft choices and upgrading contracts of players whom the Packers believe are deserving. The saga of DT Corey Williams is still ongoing, for instance. Here is the list of free agents who the Packers might have a realistic chance of pursuing, knowing Thompson's history ...

Ken Hamlin
Thompson drafted Hamlin in 2003 while he was the head of the Seattle Seahawks draft. The Packers feel pretty good about their safeties, especially with Atari Bigby. Nick Collins, however, has not made the progress many thought he would achieve at this point of his career. Aaron Rouse played well in his limited opportunities. Charlie Peprah was mostly a key player on special teams.

Hamlin has excellent size and can lay a lick. He also picked off five passes in 2007. Thompson liked Hamlin enough to draft him, and if he is not satisfied with the progress being made at that position, Hamlin would be a good alternative. Both Bigby and Collins had their share of key mistakes in 2007.

OLB Lance Briggs
There are rumors that the Washington Redskins are pursuing Briggs. Briggs would replace Brady Poppinga at OLB for the Packers, as Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk are very solid.

Poppinga actually had a pretty good 2007 season, compared to 2006. Poppinga has a big motor and plays the run very well, but has issues in the pass game. Briggs is more of a complete LB. If this happened, I could see the Packers using Poppinga in pass rush situations, similar to how they use Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Plus, Poppinga is very solid on special teams.

Even though this probably will not happen, a LB unit of Barnett, Hawk and Briggs would be very scary for the rest of the NFL.

CB Marcus Trufant
This is another guy Thompson drafted (2003) in Seattle. With aging veterans like Woodson and Al Harris, Thompson has to keep improving the depth at this position, either through free agency or the draft.

I don't think Thompson would sign a guy like Trufant to sit on the bench. Thompson liked Trufant enough to draft him as well, plus he made the Pro Bowl this year. The only way Thompson would sign someone like Trufant, is if a guy like Woodson perhaps might move over to safety. Another Woodson, Rod Woodson, did the same thing late in his career and played very well. Woodson is physical enough to play safety and is a natural ball hawk. Trufant has nice size, and is relatively young, plus his career will only get better.

MLB Zach Thomas
The reason I am even thinking of Thomas is that Thompson played this position for many years in the NFL for the Houston Oilers, and he knows what a great veteran like Thomas can bring to a squad. Thomas also has played in several Pro Bowls over his career, and he also played under defensive coordinator Bob Sanders in Miami.

At this point of his career, especially with the injury issues like the concussions he had recently, Thomas is at a crossroads. I'm sure he wants a ring before he retires. He knows the system that Sanders employs in Green Bay. He would add quality depth at LB. He wouldn't necessarily have to start. The Patriots have been bringing in grizzled veterans for years to add depth to their defense. By bringing in a guy like Thomas, the Packers would do the same, plus give a guy like Thomas a chance for a ring.

Bottom Line
There are a few more free agents that might interest Thompson. Guys like S Gibril Wilson of the Giants, G Jake Scott of the Colts and G Rex Hadnot of the Dolphins. I don't believe Thompson will go after G Alan Faneca of the Steelers. Faneca is an older veteran, similar to Mike Wahle, who just signed with the Seahawks. I believe Thompson will stay with his philosophy of staying young at guard. The Packers have a lot of young players at the position right now, and guys like Scott and Hadnot are fairly young as well, as they are 4 year veterans.

Another guy that the Packers might be interested in is DE Jared Allen of the Chiefs. However, it appears that the Chiefs will tag Allen as a franchise player. Pro Bowler Allen would have been a great bookend to Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins could then have slid over to DT.

Overall, Thompson may surprise like he did in 2006, and sign a big name free agent. The Packers are very close to getting to the Big Dance, and Thompson might roll the dice a little. Next week we will talk about Thompson's draft strategy.

Bob Fox is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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