GREEN BAY - The big question of the Green Bay Packers’ offseason is whether Ted Thompson will change course and become more active in free agency after falling short of the Super Bowl for the sixth straight season.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ “all-in” comment after the NFC championship game was an obvious plea for the general manager to do just that. Rodgers said the Packers need to reload, not rebuild, and that, “We've just got to make sure we're going all-in every year to win.”
But Mark Murphy, the Packers’ president and CEO, says he has not and will not urge Thompson to be more active in free agency.
“Ted and I talk all the time, and he knows that he has all the resources he needs,” Murphy said in an extensive interview this week. “But the way I manage and work with people, I would never tell Ted what to do. My philosophy is hire really good people, give them the resources they need and you support them. I think that’s worked well for us. And yeah, we haven’t been real active, but when we do go into free agency we usually get pretty good players.”
Thompson has signed the occasional free agent in his 12 previous offseasons as Packers GM. Among his best signings were Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Julius Peppers. Last year he signed two players from other teams, tight end Jared Cook and linebacker Lerentee McCray, to low-risk, one-year deals.
Cook ended up being an excellent signing and was a key piece of the offense during the Packers’ eight-game winning streak leading up to the NFC title game. The Packers traded McCray to Buffalo near the end of training camp for a seventh-round draft pick.
But Thompson has been on the far end of the draft-and-develop spectrum and generally has eschewed free agency for most of his tenure with the Packers. Murphy fully endorsed Thompson again this week — "I think Ted is an excellent GM," he said — and leaves the player personnel calls to his GMs.
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“It’s obviously Ted’s decision,” Murphy said, “but you can look across the league, there’s a lot of people that have tried to make big splashes in free agency and it ends up backfiring. I think the best thing that Ted has done is obviously the draft and develop but identifying our key core players and extending (their contracts).”
Also from Murphy:
» He said the competition committee, of which he’s a member, will explore at least two issues this offseason: Offering more protection to quarterbacks outside the pocket, and speeding up games.
“What can we do to make the game safer for all players? But particularly I think there will be discussion with some of the stuff with Cam Newton about protections outside the pocket,” Murphy said.
Murphy suggested the league will consider conducting replay reviews from a centralized office or by on-site review official, rather than by the referee on the field.
“Can we speed up some of the administrative aspects of the game?” he said. “Does the referee have to go over to the sideline (for replay reviews), and things of that nature?”
» Murphy, on Rodgers’ season: “What he’s achieved is pretty remarkable. I think this year, although we didn’t get to the Super Bowl, I think he really added to his legacy and the way he played, kind of putting the team on his back, run the table and the confidence and leadership he showed … Aaron should be very proud of the way he played this year. I hope it was a very rewarding year for him. It should have been.”