2013 Packers' Offseason Elephant Issues: Jerel Worthy's Knee Injury

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The Packers are plagued with more background issues in 2013 than any other offseason of recent memory. These elephants in the room are forcing the Packers into tough choices and possibly diverting the team from its radical draft and develop strategy. For example, Jerel Worthy’s knee injury may force the Packers to become larger players in free agency this year.

Right now the Packers are breaking from the norm we see during the offseason. The Packers are being connected to some in demand free agents, cutting ties with high profile members of the team, and possibly using the franchise tag on an aging wide receiver. I don’t know about you, but as I read it I’m starting to think that I’m taking crazy pills.

Really, the Packers are reacting to a series of issues that are facing the team right now. Some of these issues are just under the surface. Other issues are out there as plain as day. It may be a big contract on the horizon, a key injury, or a player just not developing the way he should. All of the issues are elephants in the room, causing the Packers to change their operating norms and find new ways of growing the team.

To try and capture these issues we are going to focus on a series of articles over the few days touching on each of these issues individually. I’m also going to warn you now that the single biggest elephant in the room is probably going to be the last part of this series. It’s not the best way to organize an intervention, but it is good for a dramatic ending to a story series. So like good repressed Mid-Westerners we are just going to overlook that particular issue for now and focus on a few other pressing issues to start things off. The first issue we are going to address is one that is fueling much of the free agent talk that the Packers are experiencing right now, namely the injury to Jerel Worthy.

What Is The Problem?

Worthy injured his knee in the regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. The injury appears to be serious is genuinely threatens his 2013 season. Worse, it will significantly set back Worthy’s development. While Worthy did not have an overly impressive rookie campaign, he does appear to have more ability to develop into an every down DE than Mike Neal, Mike Daniels, or C.J. Wilson. Worthy’s injury thus creates a significant problem for the DE rotation in 2013 and removes the luxury of hoping that a player on the roster can grow into the type of player the team needs.

How Did We Get Here?

While I’m sure many are going to use this as excuse to bring back the Cullen Jenkins debate (especially now that he’s a free agent and would be interested in a return to Green Bay), the reality lies slightly elsewhere. In 2012 offseason the Packers seemed to have a single focus to upgrade their defensive line with guys who could bring an interior pass rush. Yes, part of this had to do with the hole Jenkins left, but I would argue that more of it had do with the setbacks had by Neal and the realization that a good pass rush needs to come from as many different areas possible. The end result of this mind set left the Packers drafting interior pass rush guys like Worthy and Daniels as well as keeping a guy like Philip Merling over Daniel Muir when final cut downs came. Now the Packers have a defensive line that is heavy on pass rushers (Neal and Daniels), question marks (Wilson and B.J. Raji) and light on reliable run defenders (Ryan Picket).

How Are The Packers Reacting?

Right now the Packers seem to be targeting free agency as the primary means of dealing with this issue. So far the Packers have scheduled an interview with Chris Canty and have been connected with 49ers backup Ricky Jean-Francois. It’s unusual to hear the Packers make this much noise going into free agency…let along from a single position group. If the Packers continue to schedule free agent visits with free agents along the defensive line (like say Jenkins), then it may not be a shock to see the Packers make some moves early in free agency this year.

Now that would be a change of pace.

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