When a deal is finally agreed upon between the NFL owners and players, the first day of the brave new NFL world will be an unprecedented one: with more than 700 newly free players looking for a payday and teams scrambling to build rosters that work under the new salary structure.
Here’s what I imagine Ted Thompson’s first few hours will look like:
7am: Ted’s on the phone talking to the handful of undrafted rookies he’s had his eyes on since the draft in April. Despite a talented, deep roster, the Pack could always use another diamond in the rough. Thompson can point to last year’s undrafted prizes: Sam Shields and Frank Zombo and show how even a Super Bowl contender can utilize guys who slid under the radar, for whatever reason. The Packers’ first six draft picks look like locks to make the roster. The rest of the guys look a lot like undrafted players hoping for a chance to show what they’ve got. There’s room for one or two undrafted guys to stick again this season.
8:30: Bathroom break. Lots of coffee this morning.
8:35: Time to address the current free agents. First, the two exclusive rights guys: Spencer Havner and Brett Swain. Two words: bu-bye.
8:37: Thompson knows he has a bunch of guys coming back from injuries. Throw in a truncated offseason and lack of structured conditioning programs and you really don’t know whom you can count on. Despite that uncertainty, he has to decide which free agents he can live without. He calls the agents of the following players and tells them they are free to look for a deal. He won’t be delivering an offer in the immediate future: Cullen Jenkins, Brandon Jackson, Korey Hall, James Jones, Atari Bigby, Jason Spitz, Erik Wilhelm and Anthony Smith. Not to say he won’t check back in a week or two, but these guys are not priorities. He calls back Jenkins’ agent and tells him that if they can structure a deal to pay Jenkins based on games he’s healthy for, Thompson would pay him handsomely. Jenkins’ agent hangs up on him.
10:00: Quick meeting with Mark Murphy, Mike McCarthy and a select group of other muckety mucks. Thompson fills everyone in on the calls he’s made so far. Subject is broached about available free agents from other teams. Thompson laughs and decides to spend 30 minutes on the elliptical machine.
11:00: Back to the phones, talking to Mason Crosby’s agent. There were a few shaky moments last season, Thompson reminds him. But we’d like Mason back. Not at top 5 kicker money, but top 10 money seems about right. Next up, John Kuhn’s agent. New deal is struck in 46 seconds.
11:15: One more call before lunch: the agent for Darren Colledge. This has been the toughest call of all the free agents. While Colledge is average at best and the most replaceable guy on the line, he’s also dependable and stays healthy. Thompson wouldn’t mind re-signing him, but only at a palatable figure. He lowballs the agent, not a horrible number, but not the one Colledge has in mind. The two sides elect to go their separate ways for now, but neither is closing the door on a return.
Time for lunch. If it were me, I’d head straight to Chili John’s. Something tells me Ted’s the kind of guy who orders in a grilled chicken sandwich with cottage cheese on the side.
Gotta eat fast. The afternoon promises to be even more hectic than the morning.