Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson is proving to have the Midas touch.
Whether it’s his drafting, signing of free agents or claiming players off waivers, most of his transactions have turned to gold.
One of the prime reasons Thompson has fared so well is because of the confidence and trust he places in the players he signs. Those players respond to that trust.
It’s no secret that Thompson isn’t a huge spender in free agency, which has shown to be a wise decision. Free-agent signings that pay off are the exception and not the rule.
There are few high-profile free-agent signings like Charles Woodson or Julius Peppers that benefit both parties. Most free agents in the NFL end up costing a team far more than they deliver on the field.
But Thompson’s method of re-signing his players has paid dividends.
Take for example nearly every re-signing he made before the 2010 season. Thompson re-signed or gave contract extensions to Nick Collins, Ryan Pickett, Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Donald Driver and Woodson.
Which of those didn’t pay off? The argument could be made that signing Tauscher was a mistake, but that would be hindsight. Coming into the season, Bryan Bulaga was an unknown and wasn’t a guarantee to start or be effective.
Also consider some lesser-profile restricted free agent re-signings like John Kuhn and Jarrett Bush.
Kuhn was offered a one-year deal before this season despite the Packers having two fullbacks already under contract at a position that’s becoming extinct across the NFL.
In his fifth year as a professional, Kuhn broke out and became a member of Packers folklore. As a fullback, halfback, short-yardage specialist and receiver out of the backfield, Kuhn has demonstrated his versatility and established his worth.
In 2009, Bush signed a three-year offer sheet with the Tennessee Titans as a restricted free agent. Thompson showed his faith in Bush, matched the offer, and watched him become arguably the best special teams player for the Packers this season.
Bush still has problems on defense, but his modest deal worth a little over $1 million was deserved for his special-teams value alone this season.
The maligned cornerback is so well respected by his teammates that he was voted a Green Bay captain for the entire playoff run. If the Packers happen to make it to the Super Bowl, Bush will be out there for the coin flip, representing his team for the entire world to see.
“We have the tradition of having weekly captains, but this is something that’s voted on by the team, and it shows a lot of respect, and I know every individual is proud of it,” said head coach Mike McCarthy before the playoffs.
After this season, Thompson and the Packers will have several tough decisions to make on pending free agents, perhaps none tougher than wide receiver James Jones.
Jones was roundly criticized for dropping a deep, second-quarter pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers that hit him square in the hands and could have pushed the score to 21-3 before halftime at Philadelphia.
The criticism has been fair. Jones dropped passes that could have gone for long gains or touchdowns against the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants as well. And who can forget his fourth-quarter fumble in Week 3 at Chicago?
Some observers have argued that Jones is too inconsistent and should be allowed to walk away.
But that’s not the Thompson way. By rewarding him with a contract and showing faith in him, Jones could become the next player in a long line of Packers to show a return on investment.
By virtue of his drops, Jones probably won’t command a huge contract on the open market. There’s reason to believe he’ll be available to come back to Green Bay at a Packer-friendly rate.
That’s the Thompson way.