With the "New Year" only 25 days away, the Packers season hanging in the balance, and a "must win out" scenario, I console myself with the fact, there is always next year! Still hoping for a "White Christmas" and Packer wins! Especially December 15, 2013, against the hated Cowboys!
I am hoping that somehow, me seeing my first Packer's game in person, will "spring-board" this team to the most unexpected Super Bowl run in NFL history! In the mean time, I thought I would look at available Free Agents and see if there is anyone I think might fit the 2014 Green Bay Packers.
QB's ~ Personally, I think Scott Tolzien is capable of being our back-up QB next year. I would not be surprised if TT drafted a QB this year either. If we wanted to bring in a veteran for competition there is a laundry list available.
All three have won games in relief or starting. Chad Henne probably has the most up-side. Decent arm and ability to run if pressed. I believe he would benefit from Mike McCarthy's QB school and would be an asset if Aaron Rodgers missed time next year.
RB's ~ The Packers finally have the "Work Horse" RB we have lacked since early last decade! Eddie Lacy is well worth the 2nd round pick invested. He is the "REAL" deal! Dujuan Harris should be back next year, along with Jonathan Franklin, and possibly Kahlil Bell. It is also possible that TT has someone targeted in this year's draft class to provide youth and competition.
The Packer's have some decisions to make. James Starks is a free agent at the end of the year and we need to decide if he is worth extending. Other veterans who might be brought in for a look under the right contract/circumstances may be:
WR's ~ The receiving corp of the Packers is solid, yet with James Jones becoming a "Free Agent," the Packer's need to assess their current situation and improve where and when we can. Nelson, Cobb, and Boykin are an excellent group, but if James Jones isn't extended, that means we will have to look to the draft or the extremely long list of available "Free Agent" WR's.
We all know TT isn't going to over-pay for FA's, so top names like Hakeem Nicks, Emmanuel Sanders, Eric Decker, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Maclin, and Anquan Boldin are probably not on TT's radar. James Jones may not be elite, but he is a known quantity, excellent teammate, and fits well in Green Bay! I believe if TT offers James Jones a reasonable contract, he will be a Packer next year.
It would not surprise me if TT drafted a WR rather high, middle, or late this draft.
TE's ~ Jermichael Finley going down to a "freak" neck injury, from an awkward hit, has made it painfully evident that TE is now, one of the weakest position groups on the team. Personally, I would not be upset if we signed a veteran and drafted a TE rather high. Dennis Pitta, Fred Davis, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Graham, Brandon Pettigrew, and Scott Chandler are all available in free agency.
Finley and Quarless are both FA's and if it were up to me, I would not re-sign either.
OT's ~ We have drafted two Offensive Tackles in the 1st round to replace Chad Clifton and neither has been able to stay on the field. Brian Bulaga's best position is probably Right Tackle. Derek Sherrod, if he can stay healthy, may eventually be our Left Tackle of the near future, but he will have to unseat a proven commodity in David Bakhtiari. Bakhtiari has stepped in as a rookie and played nobly. Marshall Newhouse is a FA, and while I have defended his play in the past, this author, can no longer do so. (I use the term author very loosely, like APC! : ) JK...
I don't foresee TT bringing in any FA OT's, but stranger things have happened.
OG's ~ I don't foresee TT bringing in any FA OG's, either, but we will see sooner rather than later.
CENTER ~ Evan Dietrich-Smith is a FA. If it were up to me, I would sign him to back-up our starting Center, whoever that may be. Centers that may be of interest to the Packers, besides EDS, in free agency are:
Now to the side of the ball everyone is really worried about... Defense!!!
DE's ~ Green Bay Packers have four out of the 31 listed DE free agents. Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, Mike Neal, and CJ Wilson. I am fine if we let CJ Wilson walk, I didn't like the pick to begin with. I would expect TT to offer Mike Neal a contract. Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly are solid, but could the Packers do better? I don't know. We will have to wait to see what TT will do, but my guess is he'll draft at least one DE.
FA DE's are mostly 4 - 3 DE's... But I am sure TT will look at all available possibilities.
DT's ~ BJ RAJI is not listed as a Free Agent in the DE's or DT's, but we know he is in a contract year. If rumors of TT offering him $8 million a year are true, and he turned it down, I say let him test Free Agency. If he is signed to a huge contract, wish him good luck and find a replacement, either through the draft or via free agency.
OLB'ers ~ The Packers have two first round picks playing OLB. Clay Matthews III and Nick Perry are a formidable duo when healthy. Mike Neal has been adequate, but with him in a contract year, the Packers need to add talent at the position regardless if the Packers re-sign him. I expect TT to draft at least one, but I hope he also explores:
ILB'ers ~ One of my areas of notable concern, AJ Hawk and Brad Jones would be great back-ups in my opinion. I would love for TT to go after Wesley Woodyard of the Denver Broncos, this off-season. I would also expect at least one draft pick going towards the position group. Rob Fancois and Jamari Lattimore are both free agents and I would think we can do better than both, so I would let them walk.
CB's ~ Sam Shields is our best cover-corner and needs to be extended. Tramon Williams is thought to be too expensive, while regressing in his play. Casey Hayward should be back to full strength next year and Micah Hyde has been a pleasant surprise for a rookie. I would expect TT to draft at least one CB and bring in a few UDFA's.
Safety ~ Everyone's favorite subject these days! MD Jennings is a free agent and unless he plays light out the last quarter of the season, I doubt he'll be brought back in anything but a back-up roll. I would expect TT to draft at least one safety this year, even if he brought in Jairus Byrd, who is the top rated FA safety. Other possibilities are:
Kickers ~ Mason Crosby has been the definition of enigma... I believe the Packers will stick with him, but there are some great kickers in the last year of their contracts.
NO NEED TO LOOK AT PUNTERS!!! Tim Masthay is "THEE MAN!"
Safety, DL, Center, ILB, CB, OLB, and TE's available in "free agency" and the draft, ought to be TT's highest priorities, in my opinion.
Ted Thompson has been a great leader, but even great leaders, need to take stock in their current situation, and plan for the near future, as well as the long term.
Looking at every available free agent, it is obvious to me, that there are definitely some guys that TT will be looking at, to bring in and solidify this team. I am confident that with thee addition of a solid draft class, a few choice "free agents," and a healthy Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are sure to be contenders! As Aaron goes, so goes the Packers!
Go Pack Go!