Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thompson's Passive Approach Whiffs Again

Today, Chris Canty signed with the New York Giants. Big money, too. A big free agent signs with a team that is not the Packers.

You might expect me to begin the ranting and raving that has become commonplace the past few seasons, the knee-jerk "we didn't get the free agent that I said that I wanted Ted to sign a few weeks ago" panicked wail that the Thompson defenders have become so adept at defusing. Because, as we all know, free agency is the devil.

No, I gave up crying about Thompson's avoidance of free agency several seasons ago. I remember making this little Free Agent Nazi banner, and then accepted the inevitable. And believe it or not...I'm okay with it. We hear all those pie-in-the-sky bloggers and posters who predict we'll end up signing Haynesworth, Peppers, AND Canty once free agency begins, and we see them all collect their paychecks elsewhere.

Then we move down a tier, from the superstars of this year's free agent pool to the serviceable starters...and they all sign a contract somewhere else, too. Eventually, we sign a Frank Walker or a Brandon Chillar, almost as if it were a token pickup to prove that Thompson is actually aware free agency actually exists.

And I'm okay with it. Really. I give Thompson credit for sticking to his guns. He wants to build with the draft and reward guys from within. I get it. I'm glad to see him, for the most part, sticking with the plan he said we was going to go with from the beginning, instead of panicking himself and doing something drastic just to save his own arse. Like, say, firing most of his assistants and completely changing his defensive philosophy, claiming that was what he had actually wanted all along.

Now, given this sudden defensive philosophy shift (since I subtly brought it up), it has been a pretty general consensus that the Packers are lacking in prototypical talent for a 3-4 defense. Guys like Aaron Kampman are going to be shoehorned into a linebacker spot, after starting his career as a defensive tackle. Even the most optimistic proponents of the shift have to admit we are going to have a couple of square pegs trying to fit in round holes.

In allowing Canty to sign elsewhere, it is a sign that Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers can't rely on any instant infusions of talent to jump-start this transition. McCarthy has already lived through this once, when he implemented the transition to the Zone Blocking Scheme, and was handed a stable of unproven rookies to make it work.

Again, if bypassing expensive free agents is Thompson's shtick, bully for him. Mike McCarthy may end up being a fall guy for this delayed acquisition of talent, but that's the way it goes.

However, this doesn't excuse Thompson for failing to get his bid in on a player that he allegedly really wants, and according to SI, it looks like he was willing to make Canty a cornerstone of the new defense.
Canty was prepared to leave the Giants complex and fly to Green Bay for a free-agent visit Sunday night -- if New York didn't hit the $7 million per year average that he was seeking. According to a league source I talked with, the Packers weren't scared off at all by the $7 million average salary and would have likely topped New York's offer. But Green Bay, which is switching to the 3-4 defense this year, wanted Canty to come to town and meet the coaching staff before negotiations began in earnest. link
If Thompson wants to pass on free agents simply because they are too big of a risk, or they will eat up too much of the salary cap, that's one thing. But to be so passive and conservative that the players you actually want to acquire end up slipping through your fingers is inexcusable.

We can all tell ourselves that missing out on Albert Haynesworth was a great move on Thompson's part. He is always hurt, and the amount of money he took was something only Daniel Snyder would do. Ha ha! We were geniuses for not signing him.

Well, as far as we know, we (the bloggers and forum rats) were the only ones who really thought signing him was an option, and we've learned over the years that Thompson isn't looking very hard at anyone who is going to his Joe Johnson.

But according to most reports, Thompson was interested in Canty. Very interested. And according to the SI article posted above, he was prepared to outbid the Giants for his services. But he never got the chance.

This is inexcusable. If this is the guy you want, you need to go get him.

It is remarkably reminiscent of the Randy Moss debacle. Bob Harlan said that on the evening of the first night of the 2007 draft, that he fully expected Moss to be a Green Bay Packer the next day. The trade was on the table. The man was targeted. All we had to do was wait and the deal will eventually happen. Wait and see.

But it didn't. The Pats came in and made a slightly better offer to the Raiders, and ended up with Moss. The Packers didn't even get a chance to counteroffer.

Now, I can't stand Randy Moss. I think it would have been a mistake to have acquired him. But it doesn't change the fact that the Packers ended up not getting the guy they planned to get, and they lost him by being passive and waiting around. Why wait until Day 2 of the draft? If the deal is on the table, what can you expect to happen in the meantime that would be an advantage? The Raiders would have countered with an offer asking for a 5th rounder instead of a 4th rounder?

Another team was more aggressive, and ended up making it look like the biggest steal since the Packers acquired Ahman Green for some scrubby cornerback.

Look, I have no idea if Chris Canty was going to be The Chosen One for the Green Bay Packers. I can't tell you that this is the make-or-break decision that will dictate how the season will go for the Pack in 2009. Maybe he's a clown and the Packers are better off without him.

The point is, however, that the Packers are losing their ability to choose what players they can bring in by being so passive in their pursuit of them. If the Packers truly believe that Chris Canty was worth enough to outbid the Giants for his services, then they need to get that deal on the table ahead of time, or they need to get on the phone and make sure that his agent knows that there's a better deal in Green Bay.

It's not a criticism of who Thompson picks and chooses to chase in free agency, its a criticism of what he does (or doesn't do) once he has targeted them. And I'm sure Mike McCarthy is hoping that Thompson gets a little more aggressive, for his sake. I don't think he has three years to wait for mid-round rookies to develop into solid starters along the defensive line.


Aaron said...

Damn fine post L.A. Onenit to pick - Kampman was drafted as a DE, no?

C.D. Angeli said...

Good nit, Aaron. Actually, he was drafted as a tweener (DE/DT) and spent much of 2003 on the interior line in replacement of Joe Johnson. I remembered them saying how they were going to "move him outside" in 2004, which made me think he was a straight-up DT those two years. In actuality, he had replaced KGB on the power end spot in 2002, then Johnson inside in 2003. He became a full-time started at DE in 2004.