LeRoy Butler wants Pack to pick up veteran free agents for 2009

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Read here from jsonline’s fine column – 5 questions with LeRoy Butler. He makes sense most of the time and jsonline usually does a good job of asking good questions. I agree w/Butler re giving Aaron Rodgers the chance to win the game Sunday down at the 1 yard-line (and I’ve read since that McCarthy regrets the 2nd down hand-off call to Jackson).

But I especially agree with Butler’s comments this week re the need for us to pick up some veteran free agents in the off-season noting that the youth movement may not be working out so well. One of my criticisms of TT’s philosophy has been that it seems so draft-heavy and youth-oriented that, like Butler, I worry we lack proper veteran leadership (and I also worry on a more basic level that we miss out on major, proven talent in free agency). This is part of the reason why I wanted a veteran QB to back-up Rodgers…almost just to have another veteran on the team who could provide veteran guidance/leadership. Read below for Butler’s comments:

Q. If you’re the Packers’ general manager, what would be your off-season priority?

A. The first thing I’d do is bring in some veteran free agents because the youth movement now may not be the answer. I’ve got to see some veterans, whether it’s a backup running back or a linebacker or a pass rusher. Continue to draft, but I’m going to try to bring in the best available free agent veterans. If it’s trading for Kellen Winslow in Cleveland or going out and getting the best available pass rusher, I would improve the team with some free agent veterans. I think that may be the difference in this team getting where it needs to be. The leadership must improve in the locker room. These guys are in their 20s. They’re not used to being leaders, they’re used to following leaders. You need to get some guys who are used to playing in the playoffs and can lead. That would be my first mission. That was the formula for the ’96 team. We brought in a lot of free agents. Guys like Bruce Wilkerson, Desmond Howard, Andre Rison. A lot of these guys were other teams’ rejects and we brought them in to play a role, to fill a need. And one of the guys wound up being a Super Bowl MVP, Desmond Howard. He was a former first-round pick who the Jacksonville Jaguars said they couldn’t play at any position. That may be the formula you can go back to at anytime.

Leadership is an important facet of this team that has been hit hard over the last year. In one year, we’ve lost the main leader of the team in Favre, our defensive leader in Barnett and probably our emotional leaders in KGB and Rob Davis (being in the front office is different than playing). We’ve also lost a very popular player in Jon Ryan. As fluffy as some may think it is to evaluate such things, I can’t help but think these losses have affected team morale and leadership. Couple this lack of veteran leadership with inexperience at the coaching level, and I think Butler is on to something here.

My hope is that we’ve only seen the first part of TT’s team-building philosophy so far. He has focused mostly on drafting and picking up a bunch of young guys here in his first few years. Now we have a bunch of young guys on the team and we have a better sense for which players can play. And, we have been able to establish a core group of quality young guys and we’ve been able to use the available cap space to sign them – to keep them around for a while. Not a bad overall team-building plan (though again, still too shy in free agency for my tastes).

My hope is that in the second phase (starting this year), TT may start getting rid of/trading those younger guys who aren’t good enough (Poppinga, Colledge, Moll, Hawk???) along with some veterans not pulling their weight (Clifton), and will fill those spots with quality veteran free agents. Or perhaps he will add quality free agents using a “best player available” mentality, not really position-specific. Either way, adding free agents this coming year, like Butler argues, makes sense to me too. I agree when Butler implies that it just feels like the balance is off with this team in particular and some quality veteran players could make a positive difference both with their play and with intangibles like leadership.

And one last note I’d add is that we don’t have to just pick up guys through free agency – we can trade players too. I would hope we’d find a way to think outside the box here to plug the holes on our roster. And one last, last note: I’m not writing this from a doomed, we totally suck perspective. I think the team is basically decent and that it has some real potential based on some of the players we already have. I am writing this because I think we could go from decent to great with a few smart moves.

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7 Responses to “LeRoy Butler wants Pack to pick up veteran free agents for 2009”

  1. Aaron Says:

    Andy – while I don’t think it needs to be as dramatic as Butler is making it out to be, Thompson does need to dip his toes a bit further into free agency’s ‘dangerous waters’ this offseason. And I agree that leadership seems to be lacking (though I think the contention that Ryan’s release relates to that in any way is hilarious)

    Where I totally disagree is in your evaluations of current players: Get rid of Colledge? He’s the best player on the offensive line right now, and is coming off possibly his best game as a pro. Yes, he had one terrible play, down on the goalline – but he is a quality player about to enter his prime – you don’t get rid of him.

    Likewise with Moll. The guy came in cold against the Saints and played very, very well. So well that a lot of people forgot Tauscher was out for the majority of the game. Again, yes, he had one bad play on his first series. I think that’s allowable since he started the game on the bench.

    Where your ‘cut them’ argument gains traction is with Poppinga. I will state it now – PackerGeeks was spot on about Poppinga. I thought he came on strong at the end of last year, but wow has he looked terrible this year. I will say that he looked good rushing the passer on Sunday – but wasn’t that the plan in August? Why are they only getting around to doing it in a game in November?

    But all in all, I agree that Thompson needs to be more aggressive this offseason. Of course, this means he will not sign anyone and trade back 6 times and pick up another three wide receivers.

  2. awhayes Says:

    Aaron – good thoughts. I meant to tie Ryan’s release more to a morale blow because he was popular with players and fans. But I guess I could argue that his release in particular put a dent in the confidence we all feel re the team’s ultimate leadership – management – because that was a very bad decision (and a costly one). I don’t think Colledge has been THAT good and saying he’s the best player on the line right now isn’t saying much (though I’d rate him at least behind Tauscher and Spitz anyway). Moll did look good surprise me by looking decent against the Saints, and if the thought is that he will be Clifton’s replacement in 2009, I may be off there.

    I must admit, I do worry re your last sentence coming true. At one point, I had gone back and seen just how many WRs TT has drafted and I believe he’s drafted more WRs than any other position! Of course, we are deep there now I suppose.

    Good post talking about Sanders. I need to comment on that one. He is one guy for whatever reason, I had decided to give a chance this year and now it’s looking more and more like you’ve been right. We should pay the Steelers’ Dick LeBeau 10 million per year to come work his magic here.

  3. Ron La Canne Says:

    Andy and Aaron, good comments on the possibillity of trades and FA’s to prop up some of the many weak spots. Especially, as I have said since training camp, both lines. One big problem, TT is an arrogant ass and will do the same thing he has always done. NOTHING!!!!!

    The Exec Committee is no longer an action oriented body. MM to the 1st power, TT and MM squared pretty much control everything. Action will be slow until it may be too late. Jones and other owners with big markets and big bank accounts are waiting for a no cap year. The NFL as we know it could change very fast. Goodell hasn’t shown any leadership to date. Why would he now? GB needs to be very aggressive in trades and FA’s this coming year.

  4. RayMidge Says:

    I agree with the general sentiment of the post and Butler’s thoughts. I am a supporter of TT and I think we have to remember where this team was, and was heading, when TT took over and what free agency in the NFL usually consists of. Sherman had adopted a year-to-year strategy which seemed to me to have been centered around maximizing the remaining good years that Favre had left. The last Sherman teams were mostly older vets and some re-treads cobbled together to take a shot each year. I agreed with the approach at the time because with Favre I felt like we needed to just get a puncher’s chance in any given year until he was gone. but that approach did real damage to the depth and overall talent of the team. And this is where we need to be realistic about what free agency can do for you. There are a handful of really good, smart FA acquisitions every year and many many more which are flashy and bold and which end up being money wasted because the team wasn’t good enough for the FA to matter, or money wasted because the player acquired was past his prime and used up. I think TT’s main goal up until now has been to assemble a high volume of good players to build a solid core around a certain approach to football (WC offense, zone blocking run game, press cover D). it seems TT’s main concern has been to solidify the two lines while getting younger. The key to this approach is volume, getting as many potentially good players in as possible to sort out which ones can play and which can’t. Coming from the old team he started with, I do think that while there have been disappointments along the way, especially on the O-line, TT has managed to create a core of good young players who should be together for a while (Rodgers, Jennings, Nelson, Grant, Jackson, Collins, T. Williams, Colledge, D. Lee, Hall). The next step is to supplement this core with smart free agents who fit the system and are difference makers.

    I am not convinced that TT is a genius or that it will all work out. but I do think he has a plan and an approach that is rooted in the lines being deep and the skill players being numerous without having to overpay for free agents that are mostly damaged goods. I also agree that with the core mostly assembled it is time to bring in a stud O-lineman or D-lineman or perhaps an explosive LB. And I do think that TT realizes that with this team now built for the long-term it is time to start spending that cap room to be more short-term oriented. The cautious approach was the right one for the last few years; I think a more aggresive approach will be more appropriate now. We shall see.

  5. Taggart Craig Says:

    All of you sound like intelligent committed Packer fans and I always find the comments and opinions interesting and so refreshing from other blogs etc.
    But I’m curious, last year the media raved about the young talented Packers lead by the grizzled veteran and how this team would be great for years even without Favre and how TT was this brilliant GM, who planned for BF’s demise three years ago when he drafted Rodgers and then subsequently built this youthful team, all in waiting for the Young Pretender.
    But now all I hear from media/fans is grouching because the team IS so young. What happened? Could it be that last season’s team was not that good to begin with and I don’t want to hear about injuries for this season. Every team has injuries and no-one gives a damn and it should never be used as an excuse.
    This team is pure Thompson and McCarthy, bereft of passion, excitement and leadership.
    Packer drones seldom give Favre any kudos and that is there right, but nothing they say will convince me that he, in this year of utter mediocrity in the NFC north, would NOT have this team in first place.
    Winning is still the name of the game for GB fans…or is it?

  6. awhayes Says:

    RayMidge/Taggart – great thoughts. Taggart, just to clarify, we have been pretty consistent here re calling for a few more veterans on this team…even last year we expressed concern re that. And, as I noted in the post, losing a veteran leaders like Favre, KGB, Davis, didn’t help the veteran/young guy balance any.

    But Taggart it’s your comment re this being a pure TT/MM team bereft of passion that interests me most. I have a quiet worry that you could be right on this. Neither guy seems to be too outwardly emotional (TT clearly less emotional) which certainly can have its advantages for their respective jobs. But I also worry that it could lead to a certain level of lifelessness out on the field – thinking from a basic top-down leadership/behavioral modeling perspective. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that we’ve been less physical this year than in the past. Even though even Packer fans tired of the constant “Favre loves the game” media crap, we all knew it was true and that he brought a passion to the game and probably, importantly, to the locker room.

  7. Aaron Says:

    Taggart/Andy – Bob McGinn had a great column two weeks ago about this Packers teams lack-of-passion and how it seems to stem from the fact that TT and MM are so devoid of emotion. Its a good read.

    http://www.jsonline.com/packerinsider/35266299.html

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