The first one I didn't even call "The Blueprint", but this sounds like a good name. The previous post was one that summarized the entire Packers' off season by the way I'd like to see it go, in a hopeful, yet realistic sense. If you want to read my first plan, click this link.
And please understand that this is not a prediction of what Ted Thompson and co. will do. This is what I would do, or what I hope would happen this off season.
This kind of already happened. As I predicted and strongly hoped for in my previous post, Tom Clements was promoted to Offensive Coordinator. A great move in my opinion. I was getting the feeling that he'd get offers to be the OC somewhere else, a job he'd gladly take, unless he was promoted in Green Bay.
There has been even more shuffing in the coaching staff, including the recent addition of Alex Van Pelt, our new running backs coach. Here's a rundown:
- Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements was promoted to offensive coordinator.
- Tight ends coach Ben McAdoo replaced Clements as quarterbacks coach.
- Running backs coach Jerry Fontenot replaced McAdoo as tight ends coach.
- Alex Van Pelt, a longtime friend of coach Mike McCarthy, was hired to replace Fontenot as running backs coach.
Free agency is pretty simple. You resign players, and you let players go. Then again, there is also the Franchise Tag to think about.
- Re-Sign Them
Scott Wells, C
Probably the main priority, Wells needs to be resigned. He'll probably give us a little discount, or at least a very good chance to sign him in Ted so chooses. I see him being in Green And Gold next season, but he's going to need a new contract first: 4 years, 22 million.
Pat Lee, CB
It's going to be between Lee and Bush. Something tells me Bush's days are over, that Davon House is pushing him down and out. Lee meanwhile can stay in his current role, as long as he isn't beat out by a rookie in camp.
- Don't Re-Sign Them
Howard Green, DL
Green is getting pretty old, 33, and the fact that he had 11 tackles and NO sacks last season tells me something. He has very little left, and he's still trending downward.
Jarrett Bush, DB
Like I said earlier, House pushes Bush down and out, he'll find a home elsewhere.
Ryan Grant, HB
Somebody is going to pay Grant more than Thompson is willing to offer, which won't be much. We're a passing team who is fine with a young committee of versatile backs.
Matt Flynn, QB
I'm starting to feel less and less confident that a tag and trade will happen. From National Football Post:
According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers simply don’t have the salary-cap room to make such a move – and they’d almost certainly need to have a trade worked out in advance to pull off such a plan.
So we'd have to clear up 14 million dollars in order to tag him. Plus, we'd have to have a deal in place for Finley, or else we'd be risking losing him. The fact that a 3rd round compensatory selection should be waiting in the wings, and our need to hold on to Finley make it unlikely.
I guess I spoiled the surprise that I want Finley to be tagged.
- Cut Them
Donald Driver, WR
Driver is one of the greatest Packers of all time, and nothing can change that. It's not like he completely can't play anymore, but I now feel that Gurley or Borel have much more to offer. They can play on special teams; Gurley is known to have the ability to block kicks (it helps that he's 6'4"), and Borel could play coverage and even returner if Cobb gets hurt. Driver, as the 5th receiver, isn't worth the money OR leaving a young player on the PS to maybe be snatched away. I actually expect to see Driver kind of cut himself...more like step down and retire with flash and style.
Chad Clifton, OT
Clifton's days are over in Green Bay. Cliffy was playing at a high level just a couple of years ago, but he dropped off pretty quick, and he's not nearly worth the 5 or so mil he'll get this season if he's on the roster.
- Franchise Tag Him
The more and more I read, I'm starting to really think the tag-and-trade with Flynn couldn't happen. Like I said ealier under heading "Matt Flynn", we'd have to clear up 14 million and have a deal in place with both the team we will trade him too, and Jermichael Finley. Plus, it doesn't appear that Finley and the Pack are making much headway in contract talks. Of course that's just speculation, but if Thompson were planning on tagging Flynn, we'd probably hear about intense negotiations with Finley and Wells. Here's another short write about Finley's contract talks.
Jermichael Finley hasn't had his final first down as a Packer just yet.
Oh, and the thing about Finley being classified as a WR and therefore getting more money for being tagged won't happen.
- Re-Structure Them
Charles Woodson, CB
We couldn't afford to lose him, but we are paying Woodson too much money. He's still playing at a high level, but I think he's dropped off a little more than many think. The guy is still getting the INTs, but he's getting beat in coverage more than ever, and his tackling isn't as good as it was (although he's still good in run support). There's no justifying paying him a 10.5 million figure this season, and then 6.5 million in salary each of the next 2 seasons. I don't exactly know the restructuring rules, but I know it occurs a lot and Tom Silverstein mentioned it in a blog post. The alternative would be to not pay his 4 million roster bonus in April and allow him to be a free agent. Or to convert some of it to a roster bonus and pay it over the next few years.
Maybe he could be released (after not paying him the bonus) and then resign him to a new contract. If that's possible and he'd be willing to do that (he should) then I'm all for that.
A.J. Hawk, LB
I doubt Hawk will get cut, Thompson seems very in love with this guy, and I happen to think he's a bit underrated around this blog. Look, he certainly is not worth the 6.5 million figure he's due to receive this season (plus his contact still has a few seasons left), but I don't think it'd be a good idea to cut him and let him walk.
I can never find where I read this, but I'm positive I once read something about Capers' scheme using Hawk pretty much as a body to free up Bishop on many occasions. Which makes sense to me. I did notice that on stunt blitzes where they both blitz and cross, Hawk crosses in front of Bishop and runs into the line first, taking on a blocker. Just something I noticed since I read that article (still trying to find it). Not to mention, Hawk's production still hasn't been bad-- 84 tackles, 2 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 PDs-- Just not as good as Bishop's production. So I say restructure his contract: 4 years, 16 million. Pretty much equal to Bishop's latest deal, which was 4-19.
- Sign This Free Agent
Andre' Carter, DE/OLB, New England
Before you call me crazy about signing a 32 year old coming off a quad injury which ended his season, hear me out. Carter has 3 multi-sack seasons in his last 5, which includes last season's 10.0 sack (and 2 FFs) effort in only 14 games. And this Quad injury isn't as bad as it seems. The reason he got put on IR is because it was Week 16, so there was no chance of him recovering before the Super Bowl. The quad is a concern, but it's not like a torn ACL or something. And he's quite durable as a player, having appeared in atleast 14 games in all but one season of his career.
Carter played in a 3-4/4-3 hybrid defense last year, and was part of a 3-4 in WAS for 5 seasons. He's a perfect fit for our scheme, and he can still play. He's very under-the-radar, and at his age he'd come cheap. I'll throw a deal out there: 2 years, 4 million.
- Extend Them
Aaron Rodgers, QB
If it didn't happen this off season, it would happen next. The fact that the league's MVP isn't among the Top 10 highest paid QBs doesn't make sense, and everyone knows it. His contract isn't extended, it's instead restructured. He gets a 7-year, 110 million dollar deal, 45 mil guaranteed.
Tim Masthay, P
After a couple seasons of crappy punting, we found Tim Masthay. He's due to be a FA next off season, so Thompson extends his contract 4 years, 4.5 million.
T.J. Lang, G
Thompson knows that if Lang has a breakout season, he'll likely test the free agent waters to try to get a Top Guard contract, one similar to the contract Sitton received. In that case, we'd be back to square one, looking for a Guard once again. Have to get him locked up, now's the right time, and he's only 24 years old so he's poised for a breakout season. He gets an extension worth 4 years, 14 million.
If your wondering why Matthews and Raji aren't extended, here's why: Matthews and Raji are both coming off down years production-wise, plus the defense was the worst in the league, including a poor run defense. They won't want to negotiate contracts now.
Greg Jennings is a candidate to be extended; but Ted might have to wait on it. It would be tough to extend Jennings, who could command about 8-10 million annually, while knowing that Finley still isn't under contract, and Cobb is on a great track. If Cobb has a semi-breakout season this year and overtakes James Jones, Jennings may be let go and have Cobb step in (it would be his 3rd season) to start with Nelson (who's proven he can be a #1), and Jones the 3rd receiver. Then Finley would have to get resigned. If Cobb's good enough by then, it'd be a hell of a lot of money we're saving.
The NFL Draft
Last year, the Pack filled 2 needs in the first two rounds, snatching a Left tackle in Derek Sherrod, followed by a return specialist and slot receiver Randall Cobb. It should be interesting to see how Thompson approaches the draft this time around. If I'm him, I'm going defense, defense, defense, and maybe a OL here or there.
1st Round (28)- Fletcher Cox, DT Mississippi State.
Ranked #21 Overall (3 DT) by CBSsports.com; #26 Overall NEpatriots.com
6'4", 295 lbs; Cox is just what we're looking for in a Defensive Lineman. He's the right size for a 5-tech player, and has the ability to become a dominant player there. From Yardbarker:
has played tackle in a 4-3, and also end in 3-4 sets. Used at nose tackle on occasion. Also has some experience dropping into zone coverage. Dominant on special teams; three career blocked kicks....Does not have an array of pass rush moves; relies almost exclusively on the bull rush... It’s tough to find players with Cox’s size and athleticism, which will make him a highly sought after prospect.
What I get from that (plus other reports that said similar things) is that Cox should be able to take on multiple blockers, and will be able to at least push the pocket against the pass even if he won't be a 6-8 sack per season guy. Considering Wynn and Wilson couldn't push the pocket at all, I'll take what Fletcher has to offer.
Alternatives: Brandon Thompson CLEM, Jared Crick NEB, Billy Winn BSU
2nd Round- (60) Cam Johnson DE/OLB Virginia
Ranked #77 Overall (#9 DE) CBS; #71 Overall NEpatriots.com; #100 Overall fftoolbox.com
6'4" 267 lbs. Johnson is a good talent and a good fit in the 3-4 scheme as a OLB. Unlike many 3-4 OLB prospects, Johnson actually has experience playing the position. Virginia played a 3-4 his first two seasons in college, where he lined up at linebacker. He later switched to End when the team shifted to a 43, but it's hard to imagine he won't be able to tap into his linebacking instincts.
Johnson had a nice showing at the Senior Bowl, where he tried to show his pass rushing ability after only registering 4.0 sacks as a Senior. Johnson should be able to rush the passer OK just off strength/athleticism (random stat, he ran an unofficial 4.80 at Junior pro day last year), but the Packers' coaching should be able to teach him a few moves and improve his technique to make him a consistent pass rusher.
Alternatives: Ronnell Lewis OKLA, Shea McClellin BSU, Chandler Jones SYRA
3rd Round (88)- Casey Heyward CB Vanderbilt
Ranked #153 Overall by CBSsports; Ranked #47 prospect by NEpatriots.com; #62 Overall fftoolbox.com
5'11" 188 lbs. Well, the jury is out on Heyward. He's ranked 47 and 62 by two sites, and 153 by another. MockingTheDraft has him as the 12th best corner (should be around 100-120 overall).
Heyward has a lot of physical tools and skills to be a solid corner in this league. He's tall enough, listed 5'11" in some places in 6' in others, but just needs to add a few pounds to his frame. He's only average speed but he anticipates the passer, and gets a lot of interceptions. He had a good showing in his bowl game as well. Woodson is aging (even if it's slowly) and Shields will be a FA next spring. It's a good idea to get a corner now.
Alternatives: Josh Norman CCAR, Jamel Fleming OKLA, Coryell Judie TA&M
4th Round- Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin
#188 Overall (#10 QB) CBSsports; #10 QB NEpatriots.com; #7 QB NFL Draft 101
If there is an NFL offense where you can be short and still thrive, it's here in Green Bay. Rodgers, Flynn, and Harrell are all listed at 6'2", and looking at Harrell, I don't know if he's that tall. Wilson isn't quite that tall (5'10" and change) but he's got everything else you look for in a QB. He has a strong arm, good accuracy both from the pocket and on the run, and good decision making. The only negatives are his height and that his pocket presence is questionable sometimes. But you'd be surprised how often his passes get batted down...I think I saw one all season (I watched at least 5 games). He should compete with Graham for the backup job.
4th Round (Comp. Pick- Cullen Jenkins)- Ronnie Hillman RB SD State
#110 Overall (10th RB) CBSsports.com
5'10" 190 lbs. Hillman is a bit light at 190, but he's only a redshirt Sophmore so he's a young guy. He has good speed and bouncing ability, but needs to work on his pass blocking. I know it's not typical to see a guy picked by the Packers that don't have good pass blocking, but the coaches will work with him, and he's a good receiver so that's a plus.
5th Round- Jeff Allen T/G Illinois
Ranked #130 Overall (12 OT) CBSsports; #11 OT Draftcountdown.com
6'4" 315 lbs. Allen played mostly Left Tackle in college at Illinois, where he made 2nd team All-Big Ten as a Senior. At the Senior Bowl, he played mostly Guard and was impressive. That showing plus the fact that he's only 6'4"-6'5" means he'll be a guard at the next level. Allen should provide good guard depth and as an emergency tackle as a rookie, and as long as T.J. Lang is resigned he should stay in that role for a while.
6th Round- Eddie Pleasant S Oregon
#256 Overall CBSsports.
5'10" 210 lbs. Pleasant played for the fast and explosive Ducks defense, where he was an important player in the defensive backfield. He adds some depth and training camp competition at Safety.
Any other picks we might have should just be Best Player Available, including at least one Fullback/Tight End tweener because Ted loves those.
New Depth Chart
QB: Aaron Rodgers; R. Wilson; G. Harrell
RB: J. Starks; A. Green; B. Saine; R. Hillman
FB: J. Kuhn; R. Taylor
TE: J. Finley; DJ Williams; A. Quarless; R. Taylor; T. Crabtree
WR: (1) G. Jennings; (2) J. Nelson; J. Jones; Randall Cobb; Gurley/Borel
Tackle: (L) B. Bulaga; (R) Marshall Newhouse; Derek Sherrod; C. Campbell; H. Taylor
Guard: (L) J. Sitton; (R) TJ Lang; E.D. Smith; J. Allen; R. Dominguez
Center: S. Wells; E.D. Smith
DE: (L) R. Pickett; (R) F. Cox; M. Neal; CJ Wilson; J. Wynn; L. Guy
NT; BJ Raji; R. Pickett
OLB: (L) C. Matthews; (R) Andre' Carter; C. Johnson; B. Jones; Zombo/So'oto
ILB; D. Bishop; A.J. Hawk; D.J. Smith; Rob Francois
CB: C. Woodson; T. Williams; S. Shields; D. House; C. Heyward; P. Lee
SS: N. Collins; C. Peprah; E. Pleasant
FS: M. Burnett; MD Jennings
What do you guys think? I really feel that this off season could put us back on top, by strengthening the defense (upgrades OLB and DE, depth in secondary) and retaining everyone from the league's best offense, and still keeping the future bright by extending the contracts of some of our current stars, and not adding any new large Free Agent contracts.
If there's anywhere you feel I messed up, or simply your opinion differs, or you want to tell me to interview for GM positions around the league, let me know in the comments section. And like I said at the beginning of the post; this isn't prediciting Thompson's moves. This is what I would attempt to do and what I hope happens this off season.