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About That 53rd Roster Spot…

September 22, 2011

On Monday, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy announced that safety Nick Collins would be placed on season ending injured reserve. In the “next man up” philosophy the Packers have come to know all too well, the 28-year-old Charlie Peprah now steps into Collins’ sizable shoes in the defensive backfield.

Peprah proved his worth last season while filling in for an injured Morgan Burnett, and while Collins will be missed, Dom Capers’ defense knows exactly what they will be working with in Charlie Peprah’s humbly effective play.

Behind Peprah, however, is where the question marks begin. As the Packers roster currently stands, the depth chart lists undrafted rookie M.D. Jennings as the backup at both the strong and free safety positions.

In addition to safeties Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, and M.D. Jennings, the Packers have special teams ace Jarrett Bush, who is officially listed as a “cornerback/safety.” If circumstances forced Capers’ hand, Charles Woodson could likely fill in at the safety position as well. (Is there anything Woodson can’t do?)

With such little depth and experience at safety, any other team’s general manager would dash out and sign the best available free agent. Not Ted Thompson. The Packers general manager has never been one to make a hurried decision based on a perceived need.

But with the Packers yet to officially place Collins on injured reserve, the questions of when and why remain.

Whenever asked about the possibility of bringing in new players, Thompson’s stock response has consistently been that the team is always doing their “due diligence” on every available player, but Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel envisions two possibilities for the lack of an official roster move.

“My guess is #Packers are either 1) thinking about a trade, or 2) evaluating every safety on the street. Not a whole lot out there,” McGinn wrote on his Twitter account late Thursday evening.

The idea of a swap with another team is intriguing, but now entering his seventh season as general manager, Ted Thompson has only pulled the trigger on one in-season trade; coincidentally, that exchange was for a safety, Anthony Smith.

While a trade could still conceivably happen, the more likely scenario is McGinn’s latter prediction. Signing a free agent that most fans have never heard of would fit within Thompson’s history and philosophy, and with his proven record of plucking gems off the street, why not stay consistent with what has worked so well in the past?

At the end of the day, we can speculate all we want about Thompson’s next move, but he will likely do something that will surprise us all. Many pigskin pundits have attempted to gaze into the mind of Ted Thompson, but rarely have any been able to predict the man’s methods.

But that certainly doesn’t stop us from trying.

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