Situations Of Current Packers
But will either of these guys be back with the Packers next season?
Greg Jennings (Unrestricted FA)
I'd love to resign Jennings, but it just isn't really practical. Jennings probably is going to need around 7-9 million per season, over about 4 years. Jennings is still a top-flight receiver, and he deserves the contract that he's going to get, but the Packers likely aren't suitors for him. Nelson, Cobb, and Jones proved last season that they can be a dynamic, play making group even without Jennings.
Finley's cap hit of around 8 million is a lot, and is more than he's worth. However, whether the Packers have to absorb that 8 million dollar cap hit or they can restructure his contract to a more friendly cap number, the Packers need Finley in Green and Gold this season. With Jennings gone and no solid receiving TEs on the roster, the team kind of needs his services.
Also, with Woodson recently being cut, opening 10 million in cap space on top of the 7 million the Pack already had, they aren't starved for cap space this year.
I had to update this after he was cut.
At this point, it looks like Woodson's career in Green Bay is no more. It's not totally impossible for the Packers to sign him again to a more friendly contract, but it seems like that isn't the plan. And, apparently, they Packers didn't talk to Woodson or his agent about a pay cut before cutting him.
Not to mention, he'll probably get offered a lot more money than anything the Packers would offer anyways.
Hawk certainly isn't playing up to the level of his contract, but Hawk still is a serviceable linebacker. Hawk is almost certainly going to be back next season, unless the Packers can find a good trade for him (maybe Hawk for a 6th rounder from somebody). Cutting him is extremely doubtful, as it would only lead to about 2.25 million dollars incap savings. So, he's not getting cut.
Erik Walden (UFA)
Walden's career with the Packers probably should be over. He's not the worst player every strictly for depth, but injuries do occur, and if they lead to him being on the field a lot then your screwed. He also provides little upside, he's not young and doesn't even have much raw ability.
Brad Jones (UFA)
I'd like to resign Jones. He was pretty good this season playing Inside, and he also has NFL experience playing Outside. Even with some young LBs just behind him on the chart, Jones should hold his own above those guys. Jones is pretty young himself (26) and he has experience playing OLB in the 3-4 scheme as well as playing a good season Inside this year.
The only issue? After his breakout season and his young age, he's probably going to need a 4 year deal around what Bishop got after his young breakout season (4/19).
Cedric Benson (UFA)
Benson should be brought back, considering he will be had for a single year non guaranteed. If his age catches up to him and he doesn't really recover fully from his injury, he'll be cut for no financial loss. If he comes back OK and has another year left in him (I think so) he could be worthy of getting some touches on the field.
Restricted Free Agents
Both being UDFAs, Thompson isn't bringing out the "original draft status" Tender, meaning he either has to use a 1st or 2nd rounder on these guys. I say hit them both with a 2nd rounder. The 2nd round tender accounts for 1.9 million against the cap.
Crabtree should be brought back, use the "right of first refusal" to match any offer he gets from another team.
Let Zombo walk, and Francois doesn't really have a play here anymore with 2 ILBs coming back from injury, and Lattimore and Manning continuing to improve.
Should Thompson Make A Play In Free Agency?
Contract extensions loom for Rodgers (he'll make 21 or 22 yearly) and Clay Matthews, and possibly Raji as well, meaning this isn't the best time for the Packers to sign a big free agent contract. But, the Packers don't necessarily have to make a big splash. There are guys out there who could be had without breaking the bank.
I think if Ted Thompson goes after a player in free agency, it's going to be an interior lineman, a Linebacker, or a Tackle.
A name I've been looking at is Alan Branch, a DT who played in Seattle last season. Branch is listed at 6'6" 325 lbs, so yeah, he's pretty big. He had a stellar 2011 season as a run stuffer, as Pro Football Focus named him to their NFC Pro Bowl squad that season, saying that he is "as good as it gets versus the run" but then go on to say he "gets little pressure" (on the QB). His 2012 season wasn't as good by what I've read (and he once again didn't pressure the Quarterback much, 1.0 sack), but he did log a lot of snaps for a great defense. I like his upside as a run stuffer on the nose. 28 years old isn't young, but I'm not too worried about his age. He's coming off a 2 year, 8 million deal. Maybe the Packers could nab him for 3 years, 9-12 million? Considering Worthy could miss the entire season and I'm worried about Pickett's age, another big man to run-stuff should be a priority.
As for OLB, some guys, like Connor Barwin and Anthony Spencer, likely will come too expensive and are off the radar, unless for some reason Ted Thompson is planning on letting Clay Matthews walk, which seems unlikely. Who is on the radar?
I've heard some things about Victor Butler, who has backed up Ware and Spencer for 4 seasons, tallying 11 sacks and 5 FFs while only missing 1 game to injury. He looks like a guy who could do just fine with an increased amount of snaps. My only fear is that the Cowboys could make resigning him a priority if they decide Anthony Spencer is too expensive.
Once again linking to an Acme Packing Company article...this one covering Butler, as well as another intriguing OLB free agent, Antwan Barnes. Barnes has 11.0 sacks in 2011, but his numbers weren't as impressive in '12. Still, he remains intriguing and shouldn't be too expensive.
Could the Packers potentially try to lock up a Left Tackle in free agency?
Ryan Clady (ready to be tagged), Branden Albert, Jermon Bushrod, Jake Long, Sebastian Volmer, and Sam Baker are all on the market. With all those guys out there, I'd like to see Thompson at least really explore the possibility of adding one of them, without overpaying. However, I doubt that Thompson goes for any tackles in free agency, figuring he'll take his chances among Newhouse, Sherrod, Bulaga, Barclay, and any rookies added through the draft to fill the tackle spots.
If there was a guy to sign, though, I'd say Jermon Bushrod (Pictured Below) makes a lot of sense. The Saints reportedly are around 20 million over the cap, so even assuming they cut a lot of salary through cutting players, they still won't be able to sign Bushrod most likely. That said, Bushrod is probably the 4th or 5th best tackle out there, so that could help the Packers as far as signing him for possibly a bargain. He may only cost about 6 million per season.
Could a free agent Running Back be an option? Probably not, but with guys like Steven Jackson out there to be potential bargains, Thompson should at least do his homework (I know he will). Recently cut Ahmad Bradshaw interests me. He's been prone to little nagging injuries for a while, but they don't cost him to miss too many games. And considering he was making just 4.25 million when he got cut, he certainly won't break the bank if the Packers sign him as a free agent.
Felix Jones has been disappointing so far in his career, but he's still fast and can make plays in open space, and has good hands. He's just not a between-the-tackles type of runner.
I doubt any other positions are looked at in Free Agency.
2013 NFL Draft
In the 1st round, I'd like to see Thompson get the best available player at OLB, DL, S, or WR, depending on value and what happens in Free Agency. I'm going to do a rundown of how every position stands heading into the draft.
Quarterback: Nothing more than a Day 3 developmental prospect is needed, and even that isn't really needed with Coleman here.
Running Back: I wouldn't be upset if it was, but I don't really want to see a RB picked too high. Certainly not round 1 and preferably not round 2. With that said...I don't want to see Thompson wait until the 7th round or undrafted free agency to try to get someone, either. I want to see a RB between rounds 3-to-5. That's the best time to get one in my opinion.
Wide Receiver: Boykin is still unproven, so getting a 4th Receiver could be a need. Also, Nelson's injuries last season, as well as how often the Packers use 3- and 4-receiver sets increases the need. Not to mention, Jones is a FA next year and will be in for a pay raise. Due to injuries and how much the Packers use wideouts, Cobb entered this season presumed to be the #4 wideout, and finished with 80 catches and 8 TDs.
Tight End: (Spoiler) I have Finley coming back on his current contract, so he's a FA next season. The team should grab a TE at some point to have a year to develop before stepping into a role where he'll need to be a competent receiver for Rodgers...I'm not sure if Quarless or Williams can do that.
Tackle: The Pack now have four young tackles with some playing experience. Plus there's Datko, who seems to have some potential now that his shoulder should be healed. Unless there's amazing value at the end of the 1st, the Pack should wait until the late rounds to grab a developmental tackle.
Guard/Center: Sitton is the strongest link of the line. Lang is serviceable, but he could be upgraded. EDS is the same thing. I'm fine going into the season with those guys as starters, but I'd like to grab a prospect in the mid rounds to back up Center and Guard and maybe be a long term upgrade.
Defensive Line: Either a player worthy of getting real snaps needs to be added in Free Agency, or else this needs to be a Top 3 rounds pick. If no Free Agent is added AND Thompson plans on letting Raji walk, Thompson needs to grab a guy no later than the 2nd Round.
Inside LB: If Hawk is back, he'll likely start alongside Bishop. An upgrade could be had there over Hawk, which would probably take a 1st or 2nd round pick (or else your against the odds). Depth isn't really a need, considering the Pack have young guys on rookie contracts in Lattimore, Smith, and Manning.
Outside LB: This class is pretty strong with pass rushers. There's a need for depth here (nobody behind Matthews, Perry, and Moses), and plus if Thompson decides he can't afford what could be a mega-contract for Matthews next year, then we're needing perhaps a future starter.
Cornerback: No real need here, the team has 4 competent corners, only one not on his rookie contract (Williams), and although I don't want him on the field much, Bush isn't bad as your 5th corner.
Safety: We're fine at one spot with Burnett, but the other safety position is a bit of a toss up. There's McMillian and Jennings, with Richardson the Dark Horse. The position is helped a bit by the team having 4 good corners...I tend to look more at the secondary as a whole rather than separating Safety and Corner completely (although I do understand they're not the same position...you just have to get what I'm saying). I could see a Safety really early, but I could also see a Safety not being picked until later if Thompson has confidence in McMillian.
Specialists: Cobb is the Return guy, but with him being a huge contributor on offense now, I'd maybe like to see the team getting a return guy through a receiver or a defensive back to take over the main duties for him. Give it to him in the 4th quarter, though.
Crosby probably should be replaced. Either a 6/7th round pick or get the best UDFA, advertising a fairly open job. Masthay is pretty good.
I think they should, and fully expect the Packers to trade up at some point. The Packers likely will have about 9 picks in the draft, before any trades. I don't really think their's space for 9 new players on the roster. So few players from last year's squad aren't returning...it was such a young team last year, and there aren't many free agents this off season.
Also, keep in mind that it's hard to stash players on the practice squad, except for maybe 7th round picks. It's really hard to stash a guy who was a 5th round pick on the PS without someone poaching.
My Mock Off Season
Obviously, this is very, very hypothetical. It's also fun.
Cut: Mason Crosby
I wish him all the best, I really do, but the Packers need an upgrade.
Crosby's cap hit is just over 3 million dollars. Cutting him would actually only save 800,000, so it's not for financial reasons as much as it's about football reasons. I expect a kicker to be drafted in the 6th or 7th round to take his place.
If Finley was to be restructured, he'd probably need a contract around 4 years, and 20-24 million dollars. Rather than give him that contract, I'd rather just let him play out this season on his 8 million cap hit, and draft his replacement in this year's draft. As I said earlier, the Pack aren't starved for cap space this off season, especially since they aren't going to do a whole lot in free agency, as usual.
Resign: Cedric Benson (vets min.)
Sign from the Pool: Alan Branch (1 years, 5.0 million)
I wanted to go ahead and put Bushrod on the "signed from the pool" list, since I think he'll be a bargain. But I just don't think it works for the Packers. Even if none of them have shown to be as good as Bushrod is now, the Packers have 4 young Tackles on rookie contracts.
Alan Branch provides another big body to stuff the run. Whether or not he starts, he'll log plenty of snaps with Worthy looking like he's going to miss most of the season. Branch was a Pro Football Focus Pro Bowler in 2011, and while he didn't quite replicate that performance in 2012, he logged a lot of snaps for a really solid defense. PFF lists him as their 4th best Free Agent Interior Lineman this off season. They think he'll probably nab a 1-year, "prove-it" contract because of his great 2011 season and average '12 campaign. I think so too.
This does mean Brad Jones walks. As I said, he'll need about 4 mil per year, although he may not even start with Bishop returning, and the Packers have young players on rookie contracts with some upside in Smith, Lattimore, and Manning.
2013 NFL Draft
I'll give the team a 4th rounder compensatory pick for Flynn's 3-for-26 contract, and a 7th rounder for losing Wells and signing Saturday.
Although earlier I said I fully expect Thompson to trade up at some point, I'm not going to predict when, rather just slot a player in at every spot.
1st Round- DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson, 6'1" 214 lbs.
CBSsports #35 Overall, #3 WR. WalterFootball #3 WR. SBnation #3 WR
Hopkins really impressed me this past season at Clemson. He was extremely consistent, totaling at least 59 yards in all but one game, as well as scoring a touchdown in all but one game. He stepped up in Sammy Watkins' absence, and even when Watkins returned he made it clear that he was the top gun. Hopkins had 1,405 yards and 18 TDs on the season, and capped it off with 191 and 2 TDs off 13 grabs against one of the NCAA's best defenses, the LSU Tigers.
CBSsports.com's scouting report says some good things about him, the types of things you like to hear about a prospect that you know is talented, you just don't know all the other things:
Competitive and physical attitude and wants the ball more than anyone else on the field, never conceding the top receiver distinction to Watkins. Dedicated himself to the weight room this past off-season and it shows on the field. Much improved maturity took even the coaches by surprise with his goal oriented approach and work ethic. Super productive the past three seasons, leaving with school with numerous school and conference records.
Hopkins lacks the truly elite size and explosiveness, but nonethless he's a good athlete who makes fluid cuts to evade defenders (although sometimes making too many cuts), and his straight-line speed is good enough. He's not the type of guy to run through tacklers, but he did surprise a lot of people by weighing in at 214 lbs at the NFL Combine. He might be stronger than we think.
And before you tell me that Wide Receiver isn't big enough of a need, consider this: Randall Cobb entered this past season assumed to be the #4 receiver by most people. He made 80 catches and caught 8 Touchdowns. Back in 2011, Donald Driver entered the season assumed to be the #4 receiver and had 37 catches and 6 Touches, while the #5 guy Cobb had 25 catches himself.
So I think it's safe to say the 4th receiver for the Packers actually is a pretty important player...he could be out there for 30-40 snaps a game. Injuries happen, and when they do, I'd rather see Hopkins out on the field than Boykin. And foreseeing another big year from James Jones, he could be gone to a lucrative Free Agent Contract (not saying he will be, but maybe), meaning Hopkins will be the #3 Receiver as early as his 2nd season.
2nd Round- Johnathan Cyprien S FIU, 6' 209 lbs.
Cyprien leaves Florida International with the most starts (45) ever by a Safety in the program. He capped off his solid career with 93 Tackles, 4 Interceptions, and All-Sun Belt Honors as a Senior. He quickly took his talents to the Senior Bowl, where scouts raved about him.
He certainly indicated the ability to do so by taking full advantage of his opportunity to practice at the Senior Bowl. Playing alongside more well known athletes including Southern California's USC's T.J. McDonald and Georgia's Baccari Rambo, Cyprien was arguably the most impressive safety in Mobile, earning praise as one of the biggest risers at any position throughout the week of practice.
Yahoo! Sports listed him as a Riser at the Senior Bowl.
Cyprien doesn't have the length or elite speed to thrive as a lone, center field Safety, but that won't be asked of him in Green Bay. He more looks the part of the role Charles Woodson played this season (whenever he was healthy), and Cyprien has the physicality, instincts, and acceleration to be good in that role. He has really good closing speed when attacking the LOS from the Safety position, but is a bit prone to missing tackles because he's closing too hard.
Cyprien is a fierce competitor, and never takes a play off. He won't let up on a ball carrier until he's fully down, even if he already has two of his teammates on the guy.
Watch the video below to get a feel for Cyprien's game.
3rd Round- Brian Schwenke C/G California, 6'3" 314 lbs.
CBSsports #88 Overall #3 C. WalterFootball #4 Center. Mike Mayock #2 Center
Schwenke had quite the collegiate career, playing in 48 games and logging 36 starts, capping off his career with an All Pac-12 selection. He played guard his first 3 seasons at Cal, before making the switch to Center as a Senior, as position he thrived in.
Mike Mayock clearly thinks very highly of Schwenke...he ranks him above Barrett Jones, who many classify as a late 1st Round pick. As a rookie, Schwenke would battle Dietrich-Smith for the starting Center job as a rookie and maybe push T.J. Lang a bit, but most likely would back up the Inside lineman positions.
(LINK) Senior Bowl video. Mayock loves him as a Center and says he's a good fit for a Zone-Blocking scheme.
4th Round- TRADE- Jamie Collins OLB So. Miss, 6'3" 250 lbs.
Packers trade 4th Rounder, 5th Rounder, and 2013 6th Rounder to move up between picks 5-15 in the 4th Round.
Why not spice it up a bit? Anyways, as I said, I expect the Packers to trade up at some point, and this is a good opportunity. At this point in the draft, I think OLB (or RB) is the most important position left to address. Collins might be available here, but likely won't fall 20 or so more spots.
I like Collins as a player, and I think he's a good fit for the Packers. As a Senior, he led his team with 91 tackles, 20 for loss, and 10 sacks. He finished his career with a ridiclous 45 tackle for loss. Collins did this against fairly weak C-USA competition, but he has the athletic ability to transition into the pros.
His transition to the Pros also will be massaged by his experience as a 3-4 Rush OLB...he played a very similar position in college (End in a 4-2-5, stood up most of the time, dropped into coverage frequently). I'm confident that he'll be able to log limited snaps as a Rookie for the Packers, and possibly even take some 1st- and 2nd-down snaps from Perry if he doesn't continue to improve his overall game. Collins' athleticism can make him a really good player...if he can iron out some of his flaws.
Click this Link to watch him play against a strong opponent, Nebraska.
4th Round (Comp. Pick)- Mike Gillislee RB Florida, 5'11" 208 lbs.
CBSsports #138, #11 RB. WalterFootball #6 RB. SBnation #11 RB
This seems like a good spot to target a Running Back. Gillislee fits the bill of what will fit with the Packers. He's pretty versatile as a runner, and has good hands. CBSsports says about his pass-protecting skills: "A bit slight for pass protection but gives good effort when facing up or cutting defenders." If you want to see some of that "good effort" in pass protect, scrub to 0:17 in the video below. Also feel free the watch the whole thing and get a good feel for Gillislee.
Gillislee seems capable of running between-the-tackles, but doesn't seem like the best at it. He's not that big at 207 lbs., and thus doesn't really carry tacklers for exra yardage. His strength is more on the edges, as he accelerates to quickly and has great top speed. His speed isn't quite elite, but it's good enough to break some big runs, and with the right opportunity, take one to the house.
6th Round- Cory Grissom DT South Florida, 6'1" 306 lbs.
CBSsports #182 Overall, # 16 DT. WalterFootball #16 DT. SBNation #19 DT
Grissom starting 40 career games while at South Florida, and had his best season as a Senior. During that season, he totaled 38 tackles, 7 for loss ad 2.5 sacks. Grissom plays with a good motor and has good stamina, playing hard through all four quarters.
Grissom isn't quite the size to man the NT position, but he's a good size for 3-4 DE, as he has the ability to occupy blockers.
With the signing of Alan Branch, there really isn't space for him on the roster, assuming he can't beat out Wilson or Daniels. He's destined for the PS.
7th Round- Quinn Sharp K/P Oklahoma State, 6'1" 205 lbs
CBSsports #211 Overall #2 P. WalterFootball #3 K.
Mason Crosby's career is spiraling down. He actually has been a bit underwhelming over his whole career, hitting 76.8% of his attempts. Coming off a career year in '11, hitting 24 of 28 attempts, Crosby hit just 21 of 33. Sure, 7 of those 12 misses were from over 50 yards, but in the NFL hitting just 2-of-9 from over 50 yards is still blasphemous. You should be hitting at least 50% from that distance.
Sharp was both a punter and kicker in college and hit 28-of-34 attempts as a Senior, and was an AFCA 1st Team All-American, as well as receiving other honors. As a Junior, Sharp made 22-of-25 attempts and kicked 61 touchbacks.
7th Round (Comp. Pick)- Mychal Rivera TE Tennessee, 6'3" 242 lbs.
Rivera was a solid TE for the Vols, especially during his Junior and Senior seasons. As a Senior, he gained 562 yards and scored 5 times, while averaging a strong 15.6 yards per catch. Rivera does offer something as a blocker, as he regularly lines up in the traditional TE position and gives effort, but is a bit lightweight and struggles with leverage at times.
He has some solid receiving skills, but he's not long or athletic enough to be a serious threat in the NFL.
Packers Salary Cap Situation
Of course, I can't do this entire mock off season without taking into account the salary cap.
As a result of Saturday's release, the Packers gained $3.75 million of salary-cap room. Combined with the $10 million they gained with the release of safety Charles Woodson and the escalator increases, the Packers are around $19 million under the salary cap.
The Packers still have to make qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, which will cost them around $3-4 million, depending on what level of tenders they hand out.
The Packers started the off season with 7 million in room. Releasing Woodson freed up 10 million more, and now Saturday's release. It's at 19 million because some players have increased numbers due to escalators in their contracts (I'm confused too).
Setting aside 5 million for the NFL Draft pool takes it down to 14 million.
The RFA tenders for Shields and Dietrich-Smith are about 4 million, taking the salary space down to 10.
Branch's new contract will account for about a 5 million dollar cap hit.
The number for cap space for the Packers will be approximately (very approximately) 4 million dollars. Not bad, right?
***If there's something that I'm missing or misunderstanding that will change the final number, please let me know.
Rough 2013 Depth Chart
This isn't a 53-man roster, rather a general look at the players at every position after this off season.
Newcomers during the off season are italicized.
Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree, DJ Williams, Andrew Quarless, Mychel Rivera, Ryan Taylor
Fullback: John KUUUUUUUUHHNN
Center: Evan Dietrich-Smith, Brian Schwenke, Garth Gerhart
Kicker: Quinn Sharp
Punter: Tim Masthay
So, there you have it. Feel free to dissect, discuss, whatever. I won't take anything personally, I probably don't know as much about football as I think I do.
Oh, and by the way, I'd rather your comments not all be some type of feedback to my mock off season. Try to start discussions about free agency or the draft, not always necessarily in correspondence to what I "mocked".