Smith 'recall' casts shadow on Thompson
Packers general manager Ted Thompson may have not come out and said he made a mistake when he cut safety Anthony Smith in the final roster cutdown of 2009, but his actions speak louder than words.
Green Bay again acquired Smith this week in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars for a conditional draft choice, reportedly a seventh-rounder.
The addition of Smith adds depth at a position where Morgan Burnett and Derrick Martin have been placed on injured reserve since the start of the regular season.
The transaction also helps the Packers in short term until Atari Bigby can return. Bigby is eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list this week, but the team is only going to activate him when he is absolutely healthy.
But it never should have come down to trading for Smith in the first place. The Packers signed him as a free agent prior to 2009 and never should have let him go.
During the '09 exhibition season for the Packers, Smith proved to be a reliable player with experience in a 3-4 defensive scheme and notched two interceptions in his short time in Green Bay.
Almost inexplicably, Smith was cut and later picked up on waivers by the St. Louis Rams. The Packers instead kept Aaron Rouse, who ended up being released after Week 2 and was replaced by Matt Giordano, who's also no longer with the Packers.
This unfortunate series of events could have been prevented had the Packers just kept Smith. He didn't cost that much, and because he had previously been released from the Steelers, he didn't even factor into the league's formula for awarding compensatory draft choices to teams who have more free-agent losses than additions.
Instead, the Packers had to give up a draft choice just to re-acquire Smith, and he becomes a free agent once the season is over.
It's not the first time Thompson made a mistake releasing a player who could have helped the team, either.
Before the 2008 season, Thompson let loose of Jon Ryan. The Packers haven't had a reliable punter since.
It doesn't matter who's been punting for Green Bay since Ryan left. Derrick Frost, Jeremy Kapinos and Tim Masthay are the same person: middle-of-the-road gross punting average, horrible net punting average.
Some of the punting problems can be attributed to the coverage units and the special teams coordinator, but the fact remains the Packers would be much better off if Ryan was still around.
In a similar vein, one more curious move was the release of special teams standout Tracy White. Cut in midseason of 2008 to make room for practice squad linebacker Danny Lansaneh (who's no longer with the team), the Packers lost White, who sill makes a living as a special teams expert with the New England Patriots.
There's the possibility Thompson let some additional players slip through his fingers in final roster cutdowns this season as well. Players such as running back Kregg Lumpkin, outside linebacker Cyril Obiozor and tackle Breno Giacomini—among several others—all signed contracts with new teams since being released.
The Packers can ill afford for Thompson to make any more mistakes in cutting players he should keep. The margin for error this season is already razor thin, considering the injuries the team has sustained.
Over the next few weeks, the Packers possibly will have to make room for the players coming off the PUP list—Bigby, Al Harris, James Starks. Thompson can't afford to let go of another player the caliber of Anthony Smith.
Perception is reality, and it reflects poorly on Ted Thompson when the Packers have to trade for a player they once had.
Brian Carriveau is the editor of Maple Street Press Packers Annual and also writes for CheeseheadTV.com