Well, this is definitely not Ted Thompson’s team.
I’ll admit I was surprised the Packers traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. When I saw he was rumored to be on the trading block, I wrote it off as the typical Packer fan click-baiting that we see all the time.
Then it happened.
And I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
The first thought in my mind was “Well, Gutey isn’t Ted, so…” But then I thought deeper about it and realized it’s actually a pretty good deal for a few reasons:
On The Field Play
Sure, Ha Ha leads the team in interceptions and has a Pro Bowl on his resume, but really, I didn’t see anything all that spectacular. Sure, he made a play here and there, but for the most part, he’s been inconsistent, going back to last year. As I wrote in a preview article for Patriot fans this week:
“He’ll make a perfect read and blow up a sideline route, coming away with the ball in what seems like an impossible play… then he’ll follow it up the next drive by taking such a bad angle that he doesn’t even touch a runner, then he’ll get caught flat-footed and standing straight up in end zone defense while a crossing route catches a touchdown right in front of him.”
We’ve all seen it, regardless of assignment, he just has not been a consistent difference-maker. You could say that about other players on the team, too, for sure, but they aren’t necessarily on a contract year which they won’t be re-signed after and ready to garner a 4th round pick.
At the end of the day, he wasn’t playing terrible, but I’m not sure he has been much worse than Jermaine Whitehead, Josh Jones, or Raven Greene will be. Don’t forget that Tramon Williams played safety (at a very highly-rated level per PFF) under the Browns defensive coordinator… who just so happened to be Mike Pettine at the time.
Locker Room Impact
Earlier in the season, Ha Ha talked about not being here next year. I get the feeling Gutey heard those comments, saw his play on the field, and said “Well we can help with that!”
This is probably my biggest complaint on Ha Ha. Yes this is a business, but first and foremost, it’s about the game. If you’re thinking about your contract status, and talking openly about it with the media, it means your mind isn’t totally on winning right now and you’re distracting your team.
Ty Montgomery, whatever side of the equation you support, was distracting the team. He’s not gone because he fumbled at a critical point after a bad decision, he’s gone because of the sh!t show that erupted out of it afterwards.
That kind of distraction hurts a football team. Ha Ha isn’t gone just because he wasn’t playing at an All Pro level, he’s gone because of his attitude and comments. On top of that, if Ha Ha’s occasional apparently lackadaisical play polarized the locker room anywhere near as much as it did the fans, it was too much.
The Other Side of The Coin
This move also sends a message to the other players on the team: if you aren’t all in, you can get out. This can flirt with a dangerous line.
Fans knocked Ted Thompson because he stood by his players “too long.” Many fans feel players should be cut much sooner. But Ted rarely did that. I think part of it was managing the cap, but I think a bigger part was the message it sent to players.
Ted was sending the message that if the Green Bay Packers signed a contract, they honored it and paid it. At the same time, they expected players to honor their contracts. Looking back at Ted’s tenure, you saw that play out – there were not a lot of guys holding out under contract.
This isn’t the same as cutting a guy – since they will still get their contract paid out by their new teams – but it’s a move towards a different mindset and I’ll be watching to see how it plays out down the road.
The Packers got a 4th round pick in 2019.
This is good value.
A lot of fans feel they should have just made him play out the year and then pick up an easy 3rd rounder as a compensatory pick when he leaves as a free agent.
It’s not that easy.
Last year, the cutoff for a 3rd round compensatory pick was a contract that averaged $12M per year. No freaking way Ha Ha was drawing that kind of dime. The cutoff for a 4th round pick was $8.5M. I’m not even positive he would get that. That would be top 10 safety money – do you think he’s viewed as a top 10 safety? I don’t.
Consider that safety Eric Reid, who also has a Pro Bowl on his resume, and is younger than Ha Ha, had to wait a month into the season before getting signed and only garnered a one-year $1.7M deal. Tyrann Mathieu, a big play safety – without Reid’s perceived baggage – who can also play corner, only got a $7M contract this offseason.
That shows the state of the safety market.
If Ha Ha left in free agency, I think the Packers would be lucky to get a 4th round comp pick (probably more like a 5th) and it would come in 2020. This pick comes in 2019.
It may be more than they would have got if they made him play it out, but at worst, it was getting the same pick, but a year sooner – while getting rid of a potential distraction.
Editor’s note: After posting this article, Zach Kruse tweeted another great point – if the Packers let Ha Ha walk next year and they signed a free agent, it could potentially cancel out whatever pick they may have received as compensation.
The free agency point from Gutekunst was significant. #Packers weren't going to re-sign Ha Ha, but they plan on being "active" in free agency, so there's no guarantee they would have received anything back for him. Sign a big free agent and that'd cancel out losing Ha Ha.
— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) October 31, 2018
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was not going to be the difference between winning the Super Bowl and not Winning the Super Bowl. Plus, he’d already basically said that he didn’t want to come back.
Given that, and no upside at all to waiting for him to leave via free agency next year, the Packers sent him away for a solid return that will help the team next year.
The other thing that this does is allow the younger safeties on the roster, or potential conversion projects like Tramon Williams, more snaps. This gives the coaching staff a better idea of what they have to work with, which will help
I’ll admit, I was a little surprised, but after thinking it through, I think it was a good move for the Packers on pretty much every front.