Imagination is required while building a championship caliber football team. Yes, the fantasy element excites me. Ted Thompson's vision is founded upon youthful exuberance, heightened competition and salary flexibility.
Each year, Thompson has taken the approach that the Packers are going to build from within. He has acquired players that were going to develop under the tutelage of Mike McCarthy and his staff. To the average fan, it may even appear that the Packers have adopted the Chicago Cubs "Wait 'Till Next Year" approach. We've concocted a roster that includes hard working yet exciting players. But, as of today, there seems to be a missing ingredient within the roster. The missing component of the recipe is called "The Face."
"The Face" is that player that carries a team through adversity. He makes the big play when the game is on the line. He's your player that is marketed. It's Tom Brady and the Patriots. It's Peyton Manning and the Colts. It's LT and the Chargers. It's Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. It's Brian Urlacher/Devin Hester and the Bears. For the most part, as these guys perform, so do their teams.
I believe that the Packers thought AJ Hawk could become this guy. So far, AJ has let us down in this capacity. We need someone on our team to bring this degree of separation. We need someone to step up as the leader or else this will have to be our #1 priority in the 2009 off-season. Thus far, Thompson's disposition has been to add young, athletic competitors. He's brought in an abundance of guys that are fighting for their football lives. He's loaded up on selfless, win-at-all-costs football players. However, if none of these guys can elevate his game to take us to the next level, then Thompson must reach out to find this guy as a big time FA signing. With Seattle, Thompson acquired an abundance of young talent, but they did not make a Super Bowl appearance until they signed Grant Wistrom & Julian Peterson in FA.
The release of K-Rob is another example of the Packers continued push towards youth movement. To no surprise, Stack was on top of this transaction. Good journalism, Stack! A small piece of me is sad that K-Rob will longer wear the Green & Gold. While I believe that K-Rob was a mere image of his former self, I was pulling for him to fulfill his comeback dream. However, the NFC Championship proved that K-Rob was not the elusive runner that once made him a Pro Bowler. He could no longer evade tacklers to get himself into the open field.
K-Rob's departure also signals a big opportunity for guys like Brett Swain, Shaun Bodiford, Johnny Quinn, Jake Allen, Rod Harper, Chris Francies & Taj Smith. I have to believe that they showed promise during the rookie camp, which helped enable the K-Rob roster move to occur so early in the off-season.
You have to be impressed with what you read and see about Swain thus far. He's shown that he is committed to doing whatever it takes to make the roster. His hard-nosed, tough-minded mentality is a welcomed addition to our locker room.
Bodiford has shown me that his best is not good enough. I'd be disappointed if he makes the roster. His best value is kick returning and his ability is 2nd to T-Man's. Therefore, Bodiford does not have a spot on this roster.
I know almost nothing about Johnny Quinn.
My research on Jake Allen showed a 6-4 WR. I also found this:
Rod Harper is 6-0 and weighs 209 lbs. He played well against poor competition. His highlights show that he will fight in traffic to catch the football and he's active with the ball in his hands. See for yourself:
I am excited to see what Francies can bring to the table. He showed glimpses of promise while healthy two years ago. I'll never forget the slant pass he caught on third down at Miami. A crucial play on the decisive drive in the 4th Quarter. And then one week later, at home against Arizona, he kept a TD drive alive by drawing a pass interference call on Antrell Rolle in the end zone. Since, he's been injured and his durability might prevent him from ever making it in this league. I do not see the difference between Francies & Ruvell Martin. Francies did not drop a game changing pass in the NFC Championship. Therefore, I'll take him over Martin.
Taj Smith is an interesting FA acquisition. He was a topic in the pre-game talk when Syracuse played WVU. WVU blew the Orangemen away and I never heard from Smith. I'm curious to see what he brings to the table in training camp.
Thompson and McCarthy have shown that they like to keep the best 53 players on the roster. Last year they chose to start the season with 11 Defensive Linemen. I would like to see the Packers keep 6 WR's, but it'll be interesting to see whether the Packers keep 5 or 6 WR's. I figure that the Packers will keep 3 Specialists (K, P, LS), 3 QB's (Rodgers, Brohm, Flynn), 5-6 RB's (Grant, Jackson, Hall as locks), 2-3 TE (J-Mike, D. Lee as locks), 9-10 OL (Tauscher, Clifton, Wells, Colledge, Spitz, Barbre, Coston, Giacomini, Moll, and Sitton have all been drafted in the last 3 years as players to grow with the team), 9-11 DL (KGB, A-to-the-K, Jenkins, Thompson, Jolly, Pickett, Cole, Harrell, and Muir should all be on the team), 6 LB's (Hawk, Barnett, Poppinga, Chillar, and White leave Bishop/Hodge/Havner/Riley fighting for one spot), and 8-10 DB's (Chuckie, Al, Ras-A-tari, Nickie C, Patrick Lee, Rouse, and T-Man are locks with others battling for what will most likely be 2 positions). I agree with you, Stack. It'll come down to whether a DB or a WR can perform best on Special Teams unless the Packers only keep 2 TE.
When the Packers cut K-Rob, they also saved $730,000 in cap space. Can we please re-up the likes of Pickett, Kampman, Grant, Jennings, Clifton & Tauscher? Show them the $$$! Give it to them NOW! Let's keep the locker room's attitude healthy. The price of a proven WR & RB will not go down. They are both young enough to invest in them. I understand potential concerns that Grant might be a 1 year wonder, but he showed me enough to bet on him having a successful NFL career.
It's time to spend some of our cap space. It's time to secure our roster through 2011 and plan that we have built an infrastructure that includes a solid, young nucleus. And if one of our young guys can elevate his game enough to become "The Face" of the organization, hopefully youth will be served in the form of a Super Bowl caliber team.
Must Be Spring Time Again,