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Cheese Curds, 2/22: Canceled Combine takes away gathering place for teams, agents

Hopefully we know where the cap will be with some time to spare.

NFL: FEB 25 Scouting Combine Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week would normally be when the NFL Combine takes place. A meeting ground for over a thousand media members, 300-plus players, and hundreds of NFL team employees normally generates a ton of information, between media interviews and athletic testing, but with COVID the event has been called off for 2021.

In fact, this year will be almost a perfect reversal of last year, when the Combine took place but Pro Days were almost entirely canceled. But one other aspect of the Combine that lies quietly underneath the primary purpose of the event is that it is a chance for players’ agents to get face time with general managers and other team decision-makers. In other words, a chance for some contract negotiations to take place and for a feeling-out period about certain players’ price ranges.

That is a useful exercise, even if misinformation gets distributed faster than drinks at the Indianapolis J.W. Marriott hotel bar. (Much faster, in fact.) Instead, teams will have to rely on other methods of communication to judge the free agent market.

As for the Green Bay Packers, before they make any forays into acquiring players, they still need to come up with a plan to get under the salary cap before March 17th. There are a few ways to do it, but the main subject of today’s curds are the team’s finances and free agent discussions.

Aaron Jones or Corey Linsley: Which FA should GB prioritize? – The Athletic (subscription)
Linsley ranks above Jones for Matt Schneidman and for me, but the team has practically telegraphed that they won't bring back the center thanks to their recent additions on the interior of the offensive line.

Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling earns proven performance escalator | Packers Wire
MVS earned a nice bump in his base salary for 2021 thanks to hitting a certain number of snaps over his first three seasons. That does increase the Packers' overall cap charge by about $1.25 million, though, adding to the squeeze a bit.

Green Bay Packers Can Afford J.J. Watt, Other Free Agents - Sports Illustrated
Bill Huber still says that his sources believe the cap will be in the mid-to-high $180s, perhaps even as high as $190 million. That would make a Watt signing much easier to swing, though the Packers would still have some work to do to get there.

Packers don’t have the luxury of rolling the dice on J.J. Watt | Packersnews.com (subscription)
Let Tom Silverstein be the wet blanket here, arguing against the financial aspects of a potential Watt deal.

Five Reasons Packers Could Keep Preston Smith - Sports Illustrated
If the team doesn't end up bringing Watt aboard, perhaps Preston Smith might actually stick around after all. Depth is one concern, as is Smith's familiarity with Joe Barry, as the only player on the roster who has played for Barry.

Inbox: That should tell everyone something | Packers.com
There’s an interesting question in Mike Spofford’s most recent mailbag: is Ron Wolf or Ted Thompson’s career more “impressive?” You could make an argument for either one, though Wolf’s almost singlehanded turnaround of the franchise would earn him my vote.

Viral Ice Cream Challenge Videos Lead to New Arizona Law | Phoenix New Times
As it should be. Don't mess with ice cream, people.