GREEN BAY, Wis. – Undoubtedly, you have heard coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson say numerous times over the years that the Green Bay Packers are a “draft-and-develop” team. Digging through the ESPN.com archives, one need only go back to last December to find a reference by McCarthy to that philosophy. It’s buried deep in a story about kicker Mason Crosby’s struggles last season, but it’s there.
Lately, you may have heard McCarthy amend that to include undrafted rookie free-agent players, of which they kept three in their final cuts.
It would appear the Packers have taken that philosophy to the extreme this year.
In writing about the Detroit Lions’ roster makeup earlier on Sunday, my colleague Kevin Seifert used the Packers for comparative purposes and noted that of the 53 players who survived Saturday’s roster cuts, 51 of them had never taken a regular-season snap for another NFL team.
The only two players who had were fullback John Kuhn, who played in nine games for Pittsburgh in 2006; and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who played five seasons for St. Louis before signing with the Packers as a free agent in 2006.
For the purposes of putting that into context, let’s look at the rest of the NFC North. On Minnesota's initial 53-man roster, 14 had previous regular-season experience with at least one other NFL team. Chicago had 20, while the Lions featured 24.
It helps explain why the Packers’ roster, as it stood on Saturday night, was the fifth-youngest in the NFL, per ESPN’s Mike Sando.
“I wasn’t aware of that, and it’s never something we talk about,” Thompson said on Sunday. “I don’t think it’s ever been brought up. It’s just how it works out.”
Thompson loves to reply on phrases such as, “it's just how it works out,” some of form of which he uttered twice on Sunday.
But Thompson is the one who makes it work out that way. And his philosophy came through when he was asked why he kept tight ends Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless instead of Matthew Mulligan, the only free agent with any significant NFL experience (50 games with the New York Jets and St. Louis) that he signed this offseason.
“In Matthew’s defense, we have more body [of] work with those guys because they’ve been here practicing and playing over the course of the last couple of years,” Thompson said.