Ted Thompson takes a lot of flack and it’s no secret that I don’t think he deserves very much of it. For all his faults, he more than compensated with his great moves. Yes, age and health really impacted his effectiveness the last few years, but he was still great in his time in as the Packers GM.
In hindsight, it’s becoming clear that some of his most difficult decisions were the right moves.
Ted build one of the best offensive lines in football over his tenure. He showed a knack for finding Pro Bowl players up and down the o-line in the middle rounds.
But a GM’s job isn’t just to pick good players, he also has to decide which to re-sign and which to let walk.
Ted drafted Josh Sitton and TJ Lang, who became the best guard tandem in all of football. Both of them earned second contracts with the team.
Sitton missed 2 starts in 7 years as a full-time starter with the Packers and Lang missed on 5 starts in his 6 years as a full-time starter. Both of these guys were playing at a high level when Ted let them go.
Sitton missed 7 starts in two years with the Bears before getting cut with an option year left on his contract. Then he went to Miami and was placed on IR after 1 game this year, possibly ending his career. He cost his teams almost $20M for those three years.
Lang missed a few starts for the Lions last year and was just placed on IR this year. He still has a third year left on his $28.5M three-year deal.
It’s almost like Ted knew that the tread was wearing off these guys. I loved them both – Sitton was my favorite Packer after Charles Woodson’s departure – but it was the right business move to let these stalwarts go.
But what did Ted do after making the correct decision to let them leave?
He plugged in guys like Lane Taylor and Justin McCray for a combined salary of about $2M – that’s a savings of about $15M a year over the previous incumbents.
Now, I’m not gonna sit here and say Taylor and McCray are in the same league as Sitton and Lang were, but they are playing solidly for a fraction of the cost of two 30 year-old guys whose bodies wore down to the point they were put on IR.
And if McCray wasn’t going great, you plug Byron Bell in there.
Ted knew his studs were past their prime, not worth their contracts, and had bodies that were ready to fall apart. He also knew that he could find guys with enough skill for James Campen to mold into functional guards in a unit that PFF ranks as #2 in the league heading into the Seattle game.
At the time, both losses were emotional and hard to stomach, but looking back, they were brilliant.
Oh, while we’re talking about Ted’s great moves on the interior line, let’s not forget that he also let JC Tretter walk for $5.5M per year. Sure he’s doing good for the Browns, but Corey Linsley has done great and the compensetory pick they got from letting Tretter go was used on Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
You can whine all you want about drafting Justin Harrell and Datone Jones, but don’t forget all the great things Ted did in managing this team.
He’s earned his spot in the Hall of Fame.