The Miami Dolphins’ acquisition of receiver Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos has several ramifications, but the one most interesting to the Green Bay Packers is Dolphins’ receiver/return man Ted Ginn Jr. has now been labeled the odd man out in Miami.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Ted Thompson is about as likely to make a trade for a known commodity as the Red Sea is about to part again. After all, this is the guy who wouldn’t part with a fourth-round pick to acquire Randy Moss from the Raiders.
Ginn will require a draft pick to acquire and since Thompson is smarter than everyone and the greatest drafter of all time, he’s surely not going to give up any draft picks.
But let’s pretend the Packers have a normal general manager for a moment. You know, a guy who builds not only through the draft, but through free agency and trades. The Packers trading for Ginn makes a lot of sense.
This is not to say Thompson hasn’t made a trade before. On the eve of the 2009 season, he sent guard Tony Moll to the Baltimore Ravens for cornerback Derrick Martin. Martin became a key special teams contributor for the Packers.
So let’s look at why this scenario makes sense and how it might play out.
This offseason, the Packers have been looking for ways to improve their special teams units. Namely, they’ve been sniffing around speedsters like Mississippi’s Dexter McCluster and LSU’s Trindon Holliday and talking about improving their return game. The Packers most viable return man on the roster is Will Blackmon, who is coming back from a torn ACL. Anyone who expects Blackmon to step on the field in September and return immediately to his flashy, speed-burning form of yore doesn’t know much about football or knee injuries.
Enter Ginn, who is now in a logjam of receivers in Miami. In addition to Marshall, the Dolphins have four players who’ve proven themselves capable or were high draft choices.
Davone Bess is a great slot receiver, Greg Camarillo has been productive, and second-year player Brian Hartline showed promise as a rookie. The Dolphins also have last year’s third-round pick, Patrick Turner, who was taken ahead of Hartline.
While receiver is low on the Packers’ list of needs, there are three things that make Ginn very intriguing.
First, his prowess in the return game, which is an area of need for the Packers. Ginn has two kickoff return touchdowns and one punt return touchdown in his career. His career long kickoff return is 101 yards and his career-long punt return is 87 yards. In 2009, Ginn averaged a career best 24.9 yards on kickoff returns.
Jordy Nelson averaged an admirable 25.4 yards on 25 kickoff returns for the Packers after Blackmon went down in 2009, but if the Packers wanted Nelson filling that role, they wouldn’t be looking at other solutions. On punt returns, Tramon Williams averaged 10.4 yards after Blackmon’s injury. While that’s above average, Williams isn’t a player the Packers want to expose – he’s the nickel back if Al Harris returns to form as a starter and, more likely, the starting cornerback opposite Charles Woodson.
If the Packers wanted to use a starter to return punts, they’d put the guy who won the Heisman at Michigan back there.
The second thing that makes Ginn intriguing is Donald Driver. No one doubts Driver’s work ethic, but he’s 35 this season and showed a definite drop in production as the 2009 season wore on. We still expect Driver to be productive in 2010, but he isn’t getting any younger. While Ginn has had a problem with drops throughout his career, he’s still only 25. If the Packers’ coaches think they can correct the problem, Ginn not only makes the Packers’ receiving corp stronger, but helps protect against Driver’s inevitable departure.
Third, is Ginn’s ability to stretch the field. Ginn hasn’t put up huge receiving stats in his career – his best season was 2008, when he caught 56 balls for 790 yards – but he has blazing speed and has shown an ability to get behind the secondary and catch the deep ball. His long catch in the past three seasons, respectively, was 53, 64 and 54.
The Packers happen to have a quarterback who throws the best deep ball in the NFL. In theory, Ginn and Greg Jennings would give the Packers’ offense two home run threats.
That brings me to the stumbling block – price tag and compensation.
Ginn is under contract for three more seasons at modest base salaries – $1.03 million, $1.39 million and $1.8 million. While those numbers aren’t huge by NFL standards, Thompson may view them as too steep to pay for a return man.
Compensation is the bigger red flag, however. Word is, the Dolphins want as high as a fourth-round pick for Ginn. I can say unequivicably that Thompson will not meet that price. Of course, it’s doubtful anyone other than Al Davis would, either.
Right now, it looks unlikely Ginn will have any takers until the draft. However, if the Packers don’t nab their return man, the sixth round rolls around and Ginn is still available, there could very well be some discussions.