The Packers finally lit up their section of the NFL free-agent scoreboard this week by signing tight end Jared Cook to a 1-year deal.
After the deal was officially announced, cheese curds rained down from the heavens in Green Bay and the water in area lakes and streams magically turned into Spotted Cow.
Ted Thompson had FINALLY signed a free agent! It's time to rejoice!
Well, that didn't really happen (there would've been a lot of drunk fish). But people seemed genuinely happy, both to have Cook on the team and to verify that Ted and the Packers front office were actually still alive.
For today's Surviving Sunday, let's go back to every offseason since the Packers won the Super Bowl and use the benefit of hindsight to see if Ted screwed up or did a good job in signing or not signing a specific free agent. I tried to pick players who I had my eye on for the Packers at the time, or who Packers fans in general were hoping would land in Green Bay.
DT Cullen Jenkins. In this case, the Packers best free-agent option was simply to re-sign one of their own in the oft-injured, but impactful-when-healthy, Jenkins. Instead, Jenkins signed with Philly for 5 years and $25 million. The Packers defense was atrocious in 2011 and definitely missed Jenkins' presence inside. Would Jenkins have single-handedly prevented the Packers defense from falling apart? No, but he would've helped, and probably should have been brought back, even if it meant overpaying him. The Packers had a chance to win two straight Super Bowls. It's ok to to overspend on a quality player in that situation.
Final verdict: Ted screwed up.
DL Red Bryant. As soon as Bryant hit the open market, I hoped Ted would swoop in and sign him. At 6-foot-4 and 323 pounds, I viewed Bryant as an under-the-radar talent who could be had for a fair price. He also seemed perfect for the Packers 3-4 defense that struggled against the run. Turns out I underestimated the market for Bryant. The Seahawks re-signed him for 5 years, $35 million ($15 million guaranteed). After re-signing, Bryant had a couple of nice seasons on a dominant Seattle defense, then was cut in early 2014. He's bounced around the NFL ever since.
Final verdict: Good job, Ted.
DL Michael Bennett
I'm going to get some flack here for cherry-picking, but I swear to you, I wanted the Packers to sign Bennett. I even mentioned it during my first post here at CHTV. Instead, Bennett signed a 1-year, $5 million deal with Seattle and became one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the NFL. To me, Bennett was the perfect player to take a flyer on: Young, cheap, and if he didn't work out, easy to cut loose. Yes, having Bennett on the defensive line would have increased the Packers' offsides penalties exponentially, but it also would have made the defense significantly better.
Final verdict: Ted screwed up.
S Jarius Byrd
After watching Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings bumble through the 2013 season at safety, Packers fans were desperate for help on the back end of the defense. I never thought signing Byrd was a realistic (or wise) move for the Packers. But fans sure got upset when Byrd inked a 6-year, $56 million deal with the Saints -- a team that's always in salary-cap hell but still manages to sign name free agents -- and didn't land in Green Bay.. Byrd tore a knee ligament early in 2014 and has only managed one interception in 17 games with the Saints.
Final verdict: Good job, Ted.
(Ted also receives bonus points for signing DE Julius Peppers, who was cut by the Bears in March.)
MLB Brandon Spikes
Like pretty much every offseason, the Packers were in need of an inside linebacker and Brandon Spikes seemed like a logical, low-cost option. Instead, Spikes signed a cheap, 1-year deal with the Patriots, then got cut after his possible involvement in a hit-and-run. He hasn't been heard from since.
Final verdict: Good job, Ted.
(Extra bonus points to Ted for re-signing Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga.)
MLBs Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman
Fast forward to 2016, and whaddya know? the Packers still need a middle linebacker. Trevathan and Freeman seemed like logical, lower-cost, options and Ted didn't even bother giving them a call before they both signed with the Bears.
Final verdict: We'll find out soon enough.
Packers news, notes and links
- He wouldn't have been a free agent signee, but former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley said Marshawn Lynch wanted to be traded to the Packers during the 2010 season. Lynch ended up being traded to Buffalo for a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft and a conditional selection in the 2012 draft. The Packers had two fourth-round picks in 2011 and ended up taking cornerback Davon House and tight end D.J. Williams. Of course, the Packers went on to win a Super Bowl without Lynch, but I think it's safe to use hindsight here and say they probably still would have won it all in 2010 with Lynch. I thank it's also safe to use our hindsight tool and say Lynch would've helped the Packers much more in subsequent seasons than House or Williams did.
- I'm keeping the Packers links section light this week because I want to give as much attention as possible to the CheeseheadTV 2016 Pro Football Draft Guide. Every year, the draft guide gets better and better and this year's version is the best one yet. Seriously, it's really good. More than 300 college prospects ranked, video scouting reports of the top 3 at each position, position-by-position breakdown of the Packers roster, mock drafts, scouting reports on all NFL teams, and much, much more. Stop reading all the other silly draft coverage you get on the web and just get the CheeseheadTV 2016 Pro Football Draft Guide. You won't regret it.
Non-Packers links and other nonsense
This week's non-Packers section is dedicated entirely to the best sports simulation game you will ever play: Out of the Park Baseball 17 (OOTP). I've been playing OOTP for 15 years, and somehow, some way, the game manages to get better with each new version.
What is OOTP 17? It's a baseball management simulation. Instead of mashing buttons on a controller, you act as a baseball team's version of Ted Thompson (general manager) and/or Mike McCarthy (coach). OOTP is a game that rewards your team-building knowledge and coaching acumen, not how fast you can tap the "X" button to try and hit a home run or make a diving catch.
You start your quest to become the next Billy Beane or Joe Torre by taking over a modern-day MLB franchise, any team from the history of baseball or a completely fictional team in a fictional baseball universe of your choosing. Yes, you read that right. You can take over the Brewers right now and try to re-build them into a contender. Or you can take over the Brewers during the Robin Yount era to see if you can guide the franchise to more success than they actually achieved in real life. Or you can create a fictional baseball world that features teams based only in small Wisconsin towns.
The game allows you to do pretty much whatever you want to do.
My personal favorite way to play the game is the "random debut" option. After selecting your team and starting year, the game creates a player pool filled with random players (stars, scrubs and players in-between) from throughout the history of baseball. An initial draft is held, and as your league evolves, each new draft class features additional players from baseball's history.
My current Twins franchise features Mickey Mantle in center field and Joey Votto at first base. I just lost Tony Gwynn to free agency, but I drafted Joe Carter as a (hopefully) viable replacement.
The more you play the game, the more you'll also understand why Ted Thompson steers clear of free agency. Like in real life, every offseason feature plenty of top-dollar free agents to be had. The spending is fast and furious, and sometimes you strike gold and land a big-name free agent who takes your team to the next level. But sometimes you don't. And when you tie up a bunch of cash into free agents who flop, it can set your franchise back for years.
For example, with Mantle and Votto anchoring my random debut league lineup, I needed starting pitching help. Alex Fernandez was the top starter available, so I signed him for 6 years and $147 million. He proceeded to lose more games than he won and had an ERA north of 5.00. Whoops. Now my owner says my team payroll has reached its ceiling, which means I won't be able to fill the holes on my roster at second base and in the bullpen via free agency.
Another cool feature of OOTP 17 is the 3D field view. If you choose to play out each at-bat during your team's games, you can now view all the action from up above in a 3D field view. It adds to the drama and excitement to watch a long fly ball drift toward the outfield and go over the fence for a home run.
If playing out each game isn't your thing, you can simulate entire seasons in minutes. Sometimes I'll start in 1901 and simulate the complete history of baseball just to see how things shake out compared to real life. In one such simulation, the Brewers won three straight World Series thanks to a stating rotation that included Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens.
The game features full MLB and MLBPA licenses, so real players, player photos, logos and team names are included.
If you like sports games where you use your brains instead of your thumbs, OOTP 17 is for you. Fair warning: If you give OOTP 17 a try, you will become addicted. When that happens, you may want to warn your spouse and children that they might not be seeing much of you as you try to guide your team to another World Series ring.
There's also an iOS and Android version of OOTP that is just as fun and addicting (although a little lighter on features). Finally, the same group who makes OOTP 17 is hard at work on a football game called Beyond the Sideline (BTS). Just like I can't wait for every new version of OOTP, I can't wait to see what the new football game will have to offer. Will I stay disciplined like Thompson and avoid the lure of free agency? Or will I dive in and start signing guys left and right? First thing I'll probably do is listen to Brett Favre's advice and bring Randy Moss to Green Bay.
BTS won't be released for a while. For now, it's back work trying to get Mantle a ring with the Twins and seeing if I can get anything out of Fernandez during the last five years of his contract in OOTP 17. Be sure to check out the game. You'll get hooked, just like I've been for the last 15 years.
Round 5 of chemotherapy kicked off on Thursday. It's currently Saturday night and I'm not feeling too bad (knock on wood). The focus is shifting in the Czech household from my cancer battle to preparing to welcome our second son into the world sometime within the next month. The crib is set up, bottles are washed, baby clothes are filling the drawers....we can't wait! And we're ready...at least I hope we are :)
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