As we reflect on whether or not 2016/2017 was a successful season for the Packers, I want to take a look into the Packers draft history regarding compensatory picks. Compensatory picks are handed out when a team loses a player to Free Agency, and based on how much money that player received, a team is compensated a pick by round based on where that salary ranked among other Free Agents.
Many a Packer fan love to berate Thompson for his unwillingness to dive into Free Agency. Much of it is well deserved, but Thompson has a history of cutting ties with players before they begin to decline. I gave a grade based on how the situation has either benefited or hindered the Packers in the long term. In short, I attempt to make sense of the inner workings of the mind of a mad man – should be fun!
Marco Rivera (G) became Tony Moll (G-T)
Rivera was part of arguably one of the better offensive lines in Packer lore, and in a seemingly unthinkable move, the Packers kicked him to the curb, leaving the Packers line with Darryn Colledge and Jason Spitz at Guard. Moll bounced around the Packers offensive line between Guard and Tackle, and was eventually traded in 2009.
Net Grade – D: Thompson couldn’t pay all of that offensive line what it wanted, and instead decided to stick with its bookends in Tauscher and Clifton, to this day probably still the right move. It would take a few years to figure out the Guard situation, which will be touched on later, but this was mostly a cap move.
Bhawoh Jue (S) became Dave Tollefson (DL)
Bhawoh Jue had a couple of okay years for the Packers before he left for San Diego, and was out of the league 2 years later after signing a 3 year, $4.5 million dollar contract. Tollefson landed on the practice squad before the Raiders picked him up. He ended up on the Giants where he was a surprise Special Teamer and spelled the occasional Justin Tuck injury.
Net Grade – C: This was probably a net positive for Thompson, as it paved the way for the safeties of the future, but neither guy was very good or had prolonged success in the NFL. It helped their cap, but really, they got essentially nothing from it.
Craig Nall (QB) became Clark Harris (LS)
Guys, do you remember Craig Nall? Apparently incredibly close with Favre, neither really got along with Rodgers, which made this move unsurprising. Clark Harris actually turned out to be a decent long snapper for the Bengals, but nothing really ever amounted of his Green Bay career.
Net Grade – A: Ok, hear me out. Thompson knew what they had in their backup QB at this point. So much that the following season, they would let a first ballot Hall of Fame QB walk out the door. Not only was it a good cap move, it was an unbelievable bode of confidence for a young QB sitting in the weeds. That takes some gall, and man, if Thompson didn’t hit a home-run.
Ahman Green (RB) became Josh Sitton (G)
Fumblin’ Ahman Green. He rushed for just over 500 yards in 2 seasons for Houston. Whereas Josh Sitton became a premier left Guard in the NFL. This, obviously, before Thompson got a little too cute this off-season during the 53 man cut down and let Sitton walk.
Net Grade – A+: Don’t get me wrong, I loved Ahman Green back in the day, but he was a shell of himself that season in Houston. Plus, Thompson found Ryan Grant, and was more than OK with his production. It’s hard to find pro bowl offensive linemen. It’s still funny to hear Ndamukong Suh say Sitton was the hardest matchup he had. This might have been Thompson’s second best move ever.
Colin Cole (DE) became Marshall Newhouse (T)
I can’t say this often, but I remember almost nothing Colin Cole did for the packers. The funny part? Both are still kicking around the league! Newhouse, no matter how awfully he played for the Packers (and boy, was he awful) is still being paid to START for the Giants.
Net Grade – C: Fact of the matter is it was a great cap move, and Newhouse proved useful in the event of injury a couple of times. Thompson found their bookends eventually, but frugality prevailed here.
Aaron Kampman (DE/OLB) became Davon House (CB)
Aaron Kampman was a solid performer for the Packers for years, leading the team in sacks and setting the tone for the defense. It came as somewhat of a surprise to fans, but with a certain USC man waiting in fold, he became expendable. House was a decent CB in his time with Green Bay. Never had a great season, but had decent length and gave the Packers some depth (he was also the only CB that could stick with Julio in that Godawful 200 yard performance a few years ago).
Net Grade – C: Kampman didn’t really fit into the newly found 3-4 Packer defense, and Thompson was looking to get rid of some big costs. Kampman ended up getting injured the next year for the Jaguars, and was never the same. House is probably on the cut list for the Jags after getting a ridiculous contract…more on that later. Packers come out ahead in the cap they saved and who took Kampman’s job, but not a whole lot else gained here.
Cullen Jenkins (DL) became Mike Daniels (DL)
Circle of life is funny, ain’t it? Packers’ defense struggled the following year without Jenkins, and got absolutely destroyed by the Giants in the playoffs. Jenkins had some success with the Eagles, and is still kicking around the Giants rotation. While it took a few years, Mike Daniels has proved to be BETTER than Jenkins. A menace and a wrecking crew on a 2 down linemen front (!), he has been instrumental in the Packers success against the run.
Net Grade – B-: Ok, so it can’t go understated, the Packers struggled mightily without Jenkins, and found no cohesion until Daniels took hold of the position. Packer fans endured a lot of defensive woes for a few years after that move, but Daniels brings a certain edge and attitude I think the defense had been lacking. In the end, that is what prevails in my mind.
Darryn Colledge (G) became Jerron McMillian (S)
Oh god, no. While Colledge was certainly not a world beater, had minimal success in Arizona and the Packers found 2 great Guards to replace him, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is just how BAD Jerron McMillian was. Not only did he flame out of the Packers godawful 2012/2013 Safety rotation, he got replaced by M.D. Jennings, who, as we all know, should have knocked down the damn pass (sorry, I’ll stop).
Net Grade – F-: Yes, I’m that teacher that gave an F-, an F was not enough. The 2011 & 2012 draft classes absolutely killed the Packers hopes of a repeat Super Bowl and dashed any hope of getting anywhere in those postseasons. McMillian was a big part of the problem, and this wasn’t solved until Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, which gave the Packers an earlier pick to select Clinton-Dix. To think of what could have been if Nick Collins was still healthy.
Scott Wells (C) became Josh Boyd (DL)
Here’s an interesting one. Scott Wells was big for the Packers during their Super Bowl run, and signed a pretty large contract with the Rams. He was cut a few years later as part of the rams MANY terrible contract signings of the 2010’s that went sour. Boyd’s career came to a screeching halt when he sustained a gruesome leg injury in 2015, and is now just this off-season, recovered and looking for work. Before that, he flashed some decent pass rush for a down lineman and was pretty stout in run defense. He would have proved to be a valuable asset this year when the Packers were starting rookies after Guion was injured and Pennel was still suspended.
Net Grade – C+: Wells never amounted to anything, Thompson continues to conjure up Centers out of thin air, and turn them into comp picks (more on that). Boyd was part of a pretty decent front seven before he got hurt. The cap savings alone here was astonishing, considering the Rams had to eat most of Wells’ contract.
Greg Jennings (WR) became Richard Rodgers (TE)
5 years, $48 million dollars. Greg Jennings had an okay year following the signing with the Vikings, amassing 800 yards in 15 games with Christian Ponder as his QB. All in all not bad. He was cut the following year, and signed with the Dolphins, and he was again cut following a sub-par year. While R. Rodgers draws the ire of many fans, he still has solid hands (that seemed to evade him this year) and was on the receiving end of three absolutely asinine throws from A. Rodgers (Hail Mary 1, and one in each Dallas Playoff games).
Net Grade- B-: Thompson had (and still does) an embarrassment of riches at the WR position. While Rodgers was still a reach in the 3rd round, he has delivered some spectacular and crucial touchdown catches. Jennings didn’t last but 3 years after the Packers let him walk.
Erik Walden (OLB) became Jared Abbredaris (WR)
Frankly, this one hurts. Walden was never a flashy player for the Packers. Never amounting more than 3 sacks, and 41 tackles in a season. He has been a mainstay in the Colts OLB rotation since the Packers let him walk, and racked up 11 sacks this year. Jared Abbredaris had some pretty clutch games for the Packers, and coming out of training camp, looked like he would be more involved with the offense. Sadly, concussions and injuries slowed his progression before the Packers reached an injury settlement with the former Badger product.
Net Grade – D+: Let me say this, it was still the right move. Walden had little production with the Packers, and off the field issues probably were the final straw. What made this grade was Thompson drafting Abbrederis knowing his injury history was checkered. There was simply no excuse.
Evan Dietrich-Smith (C) became Christian Ringo (DL)
Love him or hate him, Ted Thompson sure knows how to find offensive linemen. Evan Dietrich-Smith (EDS) signed a ludicrous contract with the Buccaneers after 1 year as the Packers Center. He is now a backup. Ringo spent his first year on the practice squad, and is now part of the Packers rotation of young DL. He will likely compete for the 53 man roster next year with whomever the Packers draft. He did, however, deliver us one of the funniest GIFs of the year.
Net Grade – C: In the 6th round, it is hard to find any success, much less with a pick that is pretty much a 7th rounder. The fact they cut cap room here, found two(!) replacements for EDS, and have that pick still in the rotation is a win. Just not much of one.
James Jones (WR) became Kennard Backman (TE)
On it’s face, this looks like a loss. James Jones was part of one of the better Packer WR corps in recent memory, was picked up by the Raiders, and given a pretty hefty contract. While Backman is no longer on a team that employed dad-bod Justin Perrillo for the better part of this year. However, the Raiders cut Jones after an uneventful year, and the Packers resigned him after Nelson tore his ACL, and basically saved the Packers season in 2015.
Net Grade – B-: You could argue that he should have never cut Jones, and that Backman was a bad pick, and you’d be right about the later. Thompson was never going to pay Jones that much, and got him back a year later for the veteran minimum. Plus, he basically spent what they would have spent on Jones to pick up Jared Cook…we all know how that turned out.
Tramon Williams (CB) became Blake Martinez (ILB)
Tramon was arguably the Packers best CB through some pretty rocky defenses. He was instrumental in their Super Bowl run and was an Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA). He signed a $21 million contract with the Browns, something the Packers were never going to do. After 2 uneventful seasons with the Browns, he is likely on the chopping block. Whereas Blake Martinez was a 13 game starter, totaled 69 tackles, 1 int, and a sack. Not bad for a rookie. He got hurt down the stretch, but should be back in the Packers starting rotation next year.
Net Grade – A: Hear me out. Thompson turned an UDFA into a 4th round comp pick, which they spent on an inside linebacker that started 13 games this year and put up decent numbers. Meanwhile, the guy they lost played horribly for a organization marred in a playoff slump. I would take this result 100 times out of 100.
Davon House (CB) became Dean Lowry (DL)
Davon House got how much money!? This was a no brainer for the Packers. House was a third stringer-at-best corner and never so much as batted an eye as House walked out the door. House is being paid $24 million dollars over 4 years to ride the bench in Jacksonville…my head hurts just thinking about that. Dean Lowry slipped because he’s got short arms and he’s not the strongest player alive despite a lot of success in college. He was seldom used because of the packers 2 man front, but towards the end of the year, put together some decent tape.
Net Grade – B+: This might seem high, but it has two pieces of reasoning. Thompson basically turned Aaron Kampman into two comp picks, and Davon House is being paid to not play in Jacksonville. Lowry is still on the team and showed some flashes. I doubt he ever becomes a star, but a full fledged starter on a base 3-4 defense isn’t unheard of.
Thompson’s overall Compensatory Grade – B-:
All in all these moves have been mostly successful. Thompson has taken it in the teeth for being too frugal in Free Agency, and rightfully so, as the secondary is still a problem. However, most of the players he ditched were either successful as part of the system, or in the twilight of their career. What has yet to be seen is what the Packers do with their comp picks this year.
The Packers will likely receive 2 comp picks in this draft: a projected 5th rounder for Casey Hayward, and a projected 7th rounder for Scott Tolzein. This is also the first year in which GM’s will be allowed to trade their comp picks, a rule change to keep a sharp eye on. While many people have given Thompson grief for the Hayward move given his great year, at the time it made sense. Hayward had a total of 3 INT’s in his final 3 years, ALL of which came in 1 year.
Hayward has benefited from the revival of a stellar San Diego defense, and saw more playmaking opportunities. It’s hard as fans to take the long view with this team, especially given the drubbing the Packers just received, but let’s just slow our roll before we lambaste Thompson for a bad move that has yet to come full circle.