A Fork In The Road: Should the Milwaukee Brewers Buy at the Trade Deadline?

Is the brewers rebuild coming to an end? or should david stearns stay the course?

The Milwaukee Brewers trade deadline activity might be heating up, especially after they have defied the odds all season and have a 5.5 game lead in the division. Even the most optimistic fans did not see the division as winnable after expectations were low to start the season. Many others, myself included, figured there were too many unknowns with this club for it to come together this early. Yet here we are at the All-Star break and the Brewers are 50-41 and leading a surprisingly mediocre NL Central.

Many fans are thinking playoffs and are right to think so. The Brewers offense has shown an incredible amount of power despite Ryan Braun appearing in less than half of the 91 games played. Pitching has held up thanks to big first half performances by Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, and Corey Knebel.

The trade deadline is merely weeks away and some big names are available. Both the Oakland A’s Sonny Gray and Chicago White Sox Jose Quintana had been named as potential targets of the Brewers. Quintana is now off the board after the Chicago Cubs traded their top two prospects plus others for his services. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers is also rumored to be on the trade block. The Brewers may be tempted to make a splash with a rare opportunity to make the playoffs looming. Should they though? We’ll take a look at the arguments for and against buying at the deadline.

Milwaukee Brewers trade deadline and buying in

The Brewers have a 5.5 game lead in the division with 71 games to play. If they hold a similar lead by the end of July, the division will be theirs for the taking. One big reason to buy at the deadline is that playoff appearances are unfortunately rare in Milwaukee. Aside from 2008 and 2011, one must go back to the 1982 squad to find a playoff team. The Brewers have one of the highest rated farms in baseball, but there is no guarantee that the prospects will pan out as expected. Why wait around for something that may not happen?

General Manger David Stearns does not care about history though, his focus is on the future. Sonny Gray could be a smart pickup as he is under 30 and has two seasons of affordable team control remaining. This would not be a half season rental like C.C. Sabathia back in 2008. Gray would immediately be, at worst, the number 2 starter in the rotation.

The Brewers farm system is loaded with talent with a surplus in the outfield. Stearns could flip a couple prospects and not damage the overall health of the franchise. While they would still be underdogs in the NLDS, a playoff rotation of Gray, Nelson, and Anderson could at least keep the Crew competitive. If Stearns feels like the roster is built to compete within the next several seasons then adding a starting pitcher could be the final piece needed.

The Case For Standing Pat

David Stearns has repeatedly said that his goal is to build a long term winner in Milwaukee. Selling off prospects for a pitcher now could help this year, but could also hurt the Brewers down the road. The Brewers have done a remarkable job over the last two years flipping veterans for prospects. The team could very well sell off some prospects, getting burned in the process when a player they acquire does not live up to expectations.

In fact the Brewers are already benefiting from the trades they’ve made as Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, and Corey Knebel are big contributors now. The sheer amount of talent in the Brewers farm could have them set up to be a playoff caliber squad for a decade. Given Milwaukee’s rather non-competitive history I think most fans would welcome a sustained period of success.

In the end it’s about trying to bring a championship to Milwaukee and two seasons of Gray is unlikely to push the Brewers over the likes of the Dodgers, Astros, or Nationals. The Brewers have shown that they will go all in to acquire a front line starter; Sabathia in 2008 and Zack Greinke in 2011. Stearns may not feel that 2017 is the time for the big push, especially if either the Cubs or Cardinals close the divisional gap by the deadline.

My Opinion

The idea of acquiring Gray is tantalizing for sure. Winning the division title over the heavily favored Cubs would be sweet considering the meager expectations heading into the season. However I would not expect the Brewers to pull the trigger on a large scale deal this season. They might make another low risk trade similar to the one made for reliever Tyler Webb, but not much else.

The reality is that the Cubs gave up two of their top prospects to get Quintana. The A’s will want a similar deal for Gray which might require the Brewers to trade two of Lewis Brinson, Josh Hader, or Isan Diaz. Given the potential of those players I expect Stearns will pull out of any trade talks. There will come a time when the Brewers add a top line starter for a World Series push but it is unlikely to be this season.

 

Matt Kenseth hits free agency: Will JGR sign him to a new deal?

 

 

If Matt Kenseth hits free agency in 2018, where will he land?

When Matt Kenseth hits free agency in 2018, there will be options for him to continue his career in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Series. While Kenseth is indeed the oldest active driver in NASCAR’s top series at 45 years old, it would be a shock for teams pass on a driver who still turns in quality runs, even through a dismal first half of 2017.

Kenseth joked back in April that he could race another “15-20 years”. It seems as if Kenseth has no real desire to retire. But it is compelling that nearing the midway point of the 2017 season, there has been no real “progress” regarding a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing. With that being said, it is unlikely that Gibbs would hold Kenseth’s struggles entirely against him, as none of the four drivers in Gibb’s stable have won a race this year.

The complex nature of NASCAR’s sponsorship woes in recent years, as well as a batch of new drivers waiting in the wings, adds more uncertainty to Kenseth’s position at JGR. When Kenseth left Roush Fenway Racing after the 2012 season, he immediately made an impact at JGR. Replacing Joey Logano was seen as a suprise move, but Kenseth initially proved it was the right decision. In 2013, he won seven races and was Jimmie Johnson’s main competition for the championship that season. Since then, Kenseth has had mixed results, but has always remained competitive, winning a total of 14 races with JGR.

One of the primary reasons Kenseth left RFR, was because their team was losing sponsorship. Something that has also happened at JGR. Since 2013, the #20 car has lost Home Depot and Dollar General as major sponsors. The team gained a familiar sponsor in DeWalt for the bulk of this season’s races. They also acquired Circle K for this season as well as next season. While Kenseth’s talent is undeniable, it will prove difficult to drive for a team without major sponsorship commitment. So here are a few possibilities of where he could land as we enter Silly Season.

Joe Gibbs Racing/Furniture Row Racing

Joe Gibbs would be incredibly farsighted to give up on Kenseth. Especially with sponsorship commitment from Circle K through next year and Kenseth still being a top 15 driver. With Kenseth’s recent struggles, he still brings a lot to their stable of drivers. The untimely retirement of Carl Edwards forced Gibbs to promote Xfinity Series Champion Daniel Suarez while having Erik Jones in the #77 car at FRR. With the added flexibility of working with FRR, Gibbs has options for what he could do with Kenseth.

Kenseth could very well remain in the #20 for another few years. It is also possible to shift over to the #77 team and work aside Martin Truex Jr. Truex Jr. has turned FRR into a respectable team in the garage area. Kenseth would go to a team that is a big threat to win the title this year. If Gibbs is interested in rolling with a youth movement and having Suarez in the #19 and Erik Jones to the #20, this would be a viable option for Kenseth to stay with a Joe Gibbs affiliated team.

Hendrick Motorsports

Rick Hendrick is no stranger to identifying talent and taking risks. Jimmie Johnson is the most obvious example of Hendrick finding an unknown talent and turning him into a superstar. Hendrick took a risk on a 50 year old Mark Martin in 2009. Martin had not run a full schedule since he partially retired in 2006. He would end up winning five races for Hendrick Motorsports that year in the 5 car. Martin would go on to race two more seasons for Hendrick and then finished two 24 race season with Michael Waltrip Racing.

If Hendrick were to take a risk on signing Kenseth, it would pale in comparison to signing Martin in 09. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring, there is at least one car open for Hendrick to fill. Kasey Kahne has one more year on his contract, so Hendrick will be looking to most likely fill two cars in the next year.

Kenseth would be a great fit here because Hendrick Motorsports only has William Byron and Alex Bowman as a possible prospects to bring up for now. Kenseth could sign a 2-3 year deal and provide Hendrick with a quality driver for the time being. Byron and others could then work through the Xfinity Series. Of course, Hendrick could opt to put Alex Bowman in the 88, giving him another year of cup experience. If he wants another viable option to compete for a championship, Kenseth would be his best bet.

Stewart Haas Racing

Tony Stewart knows what Kenseth has to offer as a driver. Stewart/Haas may have an opening, as Kurt Busch’s contract is up after this season as well. Stewart would add Kenseth next to Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick. Patrick has one year left on her contract, but sponsors have been concerned about her level of competition. For Kenseth to sign with SHR, he would have to have been denied seats at Hendrick and Gibbs first and most likely would accept a spot there as a last resort.

Brad Keselowski is also a name that has been discussed in the garage area regarding his contract status. Kenseth and Keselowski are no doubt the two hottest free agent names and both could very well change seats in 2018.  One of Keselowski or Kenseth will end up at Hendrick Motorsports next year if you ask me. Roger Penske has no real reason to cut ties with Keselowski, so I expect a contract decision with him real soon. But with Ryan Blaney’s recent success, could we see him in the #2 car, giving Penske a young face to build around? Let the Silly Season begin!

 

The Other Guys: Packers 2017 Free Agency Review

The Packers did not make the big splash, but they still helped themselves in Free Agency.

The longstanding criticism of Packers GM Ted Thompson has been his unwillingness to dip into free agency. While some of this criticism is unwarranted there are instances where it would have been helpful to look at available veterans. In the NFC championship loss in Atlanta the Packers had 14 rookies on their active roster. This inexperience can be dangerous in big games and it has burned the Packers the last several seasons.

The Packers faced a lot of uncertainty heading into the 2017 off-season. Several familiar faces departed for other teams. It appears Thompson finally reached a point where he realized the roster could not be filled solely through the draft. The Packers added some quality depth to the roster and were prudent in doing so. Here is a look at some guys who will help when injuries inevitably hit.

DEFENSIVE DEPTH

A vast majority of the defensive additions were made through the draft. The Packers added speed and versatility to the defensive backfield in Kevin King and Josh Jones. However they made two depth signings that could come in handy. Davon House returned after a two year stay in Jacksonville to compete for a spot at corner. It was obvious that Cornerback needed to be addressed given the struggles of Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins last season. House is far from a sure thing, but he is an option with some upside. Considering his meager contract that signing could pay dividends.

I really like the signing of Ricky Jean Francois. He has been a useful NFL player for a while now and should provide key depth in the defensive line rotation. Adding Francois should allow the defensive linemen should remain fresh deep into the 4th quarter.

NEW ELEMENTS ON OFFENSE

Tight End is a position the team clearly wants to emphasize in 2017. The Packers were a different offense when they had Jared Cook on the field. Cook will not be back but the Packers look as strong at that position as they have in years. While he may not accumulate the statistics he did during his time in Chicago, I expect Martellus Bennett to be very effective working with Aaron Rodgers. Lance Kendricks has had an inconsistent career but should be a more than capable second Tight End. He also offers insurance in case of an injury to Bennett. A big plus with both of these players is they are willing blockers. With both on the field the defense will have a tough time predicting whether a run or pass is coming.

REPLACING A MAINSTAY

The biggest lost the Packers suffered was T.J. Lang departing in free agency. There was no one available in free agency or the draft who could come in and be the same player Lang has been the last half decade. It was a smart move nonetheless to acquire Jahri Evans when he became available. While no longer the Pro Bowl player he was in his prime, Evans still provided a solid season for the Saints in 2016. At 33 he should have enough left in the tank to fill the void for this season. Players at that age always carry some risk, but it was a weak draft class for Guards. Evans also provides more experience and consistency than the guys currently on the roster.

CONCLUSION

Ted Thompson is fairly predictable at this stage of his career, but on paper this looks like one of his better off-seasons. The Packers lost more players than they usually do which could be problematic, but Thompson added solid depth players. Thompson will still receive the maximum amount of compensatory picks in 2018. I am also a fan of Thompson’s strategy in the 2017 draft. Between the rookies and new veteran faces there should be quite a few battles for roster spots in training camp. Hopefully this results in a stronger 2017 Green Bay Packers.

 

 

Milwaukee Brewers: Can they sustain a top five offense?

Milwaukee Brewer’s First Baseman Eric Thames, a pleasant surprise this season

The Milwaukee Brewers are off to a hot start offensively to the 2017 season. Can they sustain it?

The Milwaukee Brewers have been off to a torrid pace offensively to start the 2017 MLB season. It is the middle of May! There is no way in hell the Brewers should be second in overall offense! Putting them just one spot behind the Washington Nationals for best offense in all of Major League Baseball.

Much has been made about the sensational season that Eric Thames has been having so far. Thames has smashed a lead leading 13 home runs out of the park and scored 37 runs. According to Fox Sports Wisconsin, the runs scored total is a Milwaukee Brewers record pace. A pace that dates back to 1980 and attributed to the one and only Robin Yount. But Thames is not the only one who is stepping up and contributing big at the plate.

The Milwaukee Brewers received third baseman Travis Shaw in a trade with Boston. This trade has already paid huge dividends for the Brewers, as Shaw has been pretty exceptional as of late. Shaw is batting .283, with eight home runs and a whopping 31 RBI’s. The RBI total puts him 6th in all of Major League baseball. To have Thames and Shaw perform at this rate definitely makes up for right fielder Ryan Braun suffering from perpetual injuries as well as covering for Jonathan Villar’s woes at the plate, which are surprising to be quite honest.

Villar was exceptional last year and it was not just on the base paths. In 156 games last year, Villar finished up with a .285 average and gave Brewers GM David Stearns a lot to be happy about. After hovering around the Mendoza line to start the season, Villar has picked it up just a little bit to .222. Milwaukee will need him to step up if they want to keep bludgeoning teams in the run department.

Keon Broxton is another player who has been playing well recently. After a cold start, Broxton has made a compelling case for taking the lead off spot away from the struggling Villar. In a game against the Red Sox, Broxton led off and finished up 3/4 with four RBIs. I think Craig Counsell will wait it out and see if Villar gets hot. But do not be surprised if Broxton keeps playing well, and moves his way up to lead off permanently. He might not be as fast as Villar, but he definitely has speed. Another name that we cannot gloss over is Hernan Perez, who is batting .318 in the month of May and has been huge as Ryan Bruan’s replacement.

  Pitching will crush Milwaukee if something does not change

Watching Milwaukee’s starting pitching staff is enough to give anyone heartburn. This past Sunday’s game against the Mets saw the Brewers down six runs by the 5th inning and to most Brewers fans, this comes as no surprise. The Brewers are simply not getting enough from Wily Peralta to warrant keeping him in the rotation. Once Junior Guerra is healthy, Peralta might be on his way out with an over 6.00 ERA.

Chase Anderson has been somewhat of a bright spot in the rotation, with a team leading 2.97 ERA. He takes the mound tonight against San Diego and will hopefully build on a decent season so far. According to GasLampBall, the Padres rely heavily on the home run ball for run production and Anderson has been exception this year at not giving up home runs. The Padres are a league worst in run differential, so expect Anderson to have a great opportunity to lower his ERA tonight.

Milwaukee has converted 67% of their save opportunities. That should get better with the promotion of Corey Knebel now closing down games. Knebel takes over for a struggling Neftali Perez, who has had multiple blown save opportunities in recent series.

So will their offense stay hot?

I would be surprised if the Milwaukee Brewers offense came crashing down to earth. The team is expecting Villar to come out of his slump.  Even though he has been disappointing to start this season, there is no good reason to think he cannot be back up to around .270 by the All-Star break. I think they can finish top five in all of baseball. They have also been exceptional even with Braun’s .287 batting average in and out of the lineup. Struggling teams like the Cubs will eventually snap out of their sub par offensive performances, but I still have faith that Milwaukee will keep up a good offensive pace this year.

The encouraging news for the Milwaukee Brewers is that they still have to bring up some new faces later in the year. They have a slew of outfield prospects, some which will be available as early as next year as starters. Even if the Brewers slip down in the standings later in the year, it is certainly fun to watch them score runs and contend in games. Especially in a season where most expected them to be dead bottom of the cellar.

NFL Mock Draft 2017: Derek Barnett and Mike Williams Moving Up

By: Bill Tewes

The NFL Mock Draft season is heating up. At Brew City Sports Report, we took a different angle and did a collaborative mock draft. Each of us chose three teams and alternated picks to get a unique twist on the traditional mock drafting process. Take a look at our NFL mock draft below as we discuss in depth the top 10 picks and reveal the rest.

Here are how the teams were split up:

Bill: Chicago, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Detroit, Miami, Kansas City, Dallas.

Mark: San Francisco, Tennessee, Carolina, New Orleans (1), Philadelphia, Washington, Denver, New York Giants, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans (2).

Jim: Cleveland (1), New York Jets, LA Chargers, Cleveland (2), Arizona, Tennessee (2), Tampa Bay, Oakland, Houston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta.

The top two picks ended up being Garrett and Thomas, which is par for the course with many experts. It seems almost too good to be true for Cleveland to pass up on a cornerstone defensive piece such as Garrett. The 49ers have expressed interest in trading out of the two spot, but they can also use a defensive player and their defensive line is essentially non-existent aside from DeForest Buckner, their 7th overall pick last year.

The Chicago Bears are allegedly interested in trading out of the third overall spot. Teams are fielding offers after seeing what  Tennessee received for trading out of the top spot in the 2016 draft. We have Chicago taking Malik Hooker, to bolster their secondary and get a player who has a nose for the ball, but will need some time to mature. Chicago is a good fit as they are beginning to rebuild and will have plenty of time to get Hooker experience.

Jacksonville needs a defensive end and will happily take Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen. Although I personally think that Allen will be the first player to take a serious tumble down draft boards on opening night.

The Titans definitely have a huge conundrum with having two picks in the top 20. Taking into consideration that they have secondary needs and can also use a dynamic receiving option, our mock has them taking Mike Williams with their first pick and then selecting a cornerback at 18 in Marlon Humphrey.

The first big shakeup in the draft comes with the Jets at 6, taking tight end OJ Howard. In fact, Howard’s stock has been increasing and he would be the first tight end since Vernon Davis to be selected with the 6th overall pick (Davis was 6th in 2006). This pick makes a lot of sense because the Jets will be rebuilding for a few years and should not be hell-bent on over-drafting a QB so early in the draft. I could see them picking up a DeShone Kizer or perhaps a Davis Webb, who is moving up draft boards, in the second round.

The Chargers nab one of the better talents, as Jamal Adams falls to them at pick 7. Most noteworthy is Adam’s leadership skills, which could end up moving him up, ahead of the likes of Hooker and other defensive backs.

Leonard Fournette, this draft’s version of Ezekiel Elliott, is taken by the Carolina Panthers. Carolina can use a running back to compliment an aging Jonathan Stewart. I could also see Christian McCaffrey landing in Carolina and giving Cam Newton a dynamic receiving option out of the backfield.

Another intriguing top 10 pick comes in at 9th overall with Derek Barnett. Barnett has all of the tools to crack into the top five in a really deep draft for defensive lineman. During Barnett’s freshman year, he tallied 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss. at 6’3″ 260, he ran a 4.88 40 and some mocks have Barnett as high as top 3.

The Green Bay Packers get homegrown hero T.J. Watt after an explosive season at linebacker for Wisconsin. Watt fills an immediate need for Green Bay at linebacker and gives them flexibility in moving Matthews inside or keeping him at his traditional spot of outside linebacker. The obvious concern with Watt is sample size. But he is definitely an intriguing option and will be worth a shot if he is there at 29. Will be interesting to see what Thompson does come draft night.

Here is how the rest of the mock draft shaped up:

11. Marshon Lattimore CB- Buffalo

12. DeShaun Watson QB- Cleveland

13. Reuben Foster LB- Arizona

14. Gareon Conley CB- Philadelphia

15. Dalvin Cook RB- Indianapolis

16. John Ross WR- Baltimore

17. Haason Reddick LB- Washington

18. Marlon Humphrey CB- Tennessee

19. Taco Charlton DE- Tampa Bay

20. Christian McCaffrey RB- Denver

21. Caleb Brantley DT- Detroit

22. Ryan Ramczyk OT- Miami

23. David Njoku TE- New York Giants

24. Malik McDowell DE- Oakland

25. Patrick Mahomes QB- Houston

26. Kevin King CB- Seattle

27. Takkarist McKinley LB/DE- Kansas City

28. Jabrill Peppers S- Dallas

29. T.J. Watt LB- Green Bay

30. Corey Davis WR- Pittsburgh

31. Cam Robinson OT- Atlanta

32. Jarrad Davis LB- New Orleans

 

 

The 2017 Milwaukee Brewers: What to Watch For

The Brewers may not challenge for a playoff spot but there are still reasons to tune in.

By: Jim Boyce

 

Baseball is back! On the first Monday of April teams across the nation will begin the 162 game marathon in hopes of playing meaningful ball in October. Coming off a 73-89 campaign, and making no effort to hide the rebuilding process, the Brewers probably won’t be one of those teams. Chances are you may become discouraged early in the season if the Brewers fall too far below .500. However while the Brewers are not going to be taking down the Cubs for the division, there are things to watch for this summer.

THE NEWCOMERS

The Brewers did not make a lot of moves this off-season but one of the more interesting moves was acquiring 1B Eric Thames. Thames annihilated pitching in Korea and has the build of a power guy, but how will he perform in the states? With all due respect to Korea’s finest pitchers it’s a different world when Clayton Kershaw is on the mound.

3B Travis Shaw arrives from Boston via the Tyler Thornburg trade. Shaw got off to a hot start last season in his first extended big league action, and despite slowing down later in the season the Brewers are hopeful he can provide another power bat in the lineup. As a left handed hitter Shaw faced a daunting challenge in Boston in the form of the infamous “Green Monster”. Miller Park on the other hand is much more friendly to left handed bats, perhaps this will allow Shaw to put up some pretty solid home run totals.

THE YOUNG GUNS

One of the more interesting, and important, aspects of the 2017 Brewers will be the continued development of players who started in 2016. Can players who showed promise continue to get better? or were they just a flash in the pan?

The player I am most interesting in following is Jonathan Villar. After being acquired for basically nothing from Houston, Villar went on to have a stellar season. Showing flashes of power (19 HR) to go along with a solid on base percentage ( .369) and a whopping 62 stolen bases, Villar seems like the Brewers most likely All-Star candidate if he plays at the same level or better. He was a bit of an adventure in the field, but moving to 2B may eliminate some of the errors he had last season at SS.

Speaking of SS, Orlando Arcia is a player to watch. The highest rated Brewers prospect when he was called up late last season, Arcia showed the potential with the glove he was known for but struggled at the plate. Arcia’s calling card was and still is defense, his gold glove potential is what makes him so exciting. However he will need to hit at a decent clip to live up to the billing. Arcia himself believes he has taken steps to improve in that area, if he does watch out.

Other players worth keeping an eye on include CF Keon Broxton. He showed incredible potential late in the season and also made my favorite play of 2016. RF Domingo Santana lost most of 2016 to injury. No doubt he is hoping to display the power scouts loved in his game in 2017.

THE CALL UPS

By the time the All-Star break comes and goes, and you check the standings and realize the Brewers are basically out of the playoff race, you may be wondering what could possibly keep you interested through September. Well the good news is the Brewers will likely begin calling up prospects from that vaunted farm system we keep hearing about.

CF Lewis Brinson and starting pitcher Josh Hader are two players I expect to see at some point in 2017. Hader was named the best left handed pitching prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline. Brinson batted nearly .400 at Colorado Springs after being acquired last July. As these and other players are called up fans will finally start seeing the benefits of the Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy trades. Just remember patience is a virtue, and even if these players struggle at first it does not mean they are a lost cause.

FINAL PREDICTION

These elements are all exciting and should keep fans watching in 2017, however there are still too many question marks for the Brewers to contend this season. The starting rotation and bullpen both lack any star power. Many of the players in the lineup, even those mentioned above, are young and not guaranteed to play to their full potential. My prediction for the Brewers is 72-90 and a 4th place finish in the NL Central.

Green Bay Packers' Best Remaining Free Agency Options:

Johnathan Hankins could provide a Ryan Pickett-like anchor to the defense

By: Mark Prott

2017 NFL Free Agency has left many open lockers available in the home team’s locker room over at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. While as a fan I’m pleased with the resigning of Nick Perry, bringing back Davon House and the tight end additions of Martellus Bennett and Wisconsin’s own Lance Kendricks, there is no denying that the Packers thus far have lost a number of players who logged substantial meaningful snaps for them last year and enjoyed a good amount success in the past.

The departures of T.J. Lang, Micah Hyde, Jared Cook, and Eddie Lacy all come to mind. In all the above mentioned cases I believe the Packers’ front office made the right call to not overpay and match the market prices each player received, or in Cook’s case what he will receive.

However, NFL Free Agency is not over. Almost a week into free agency, there still remains valuable options out there that could help the Green Bay Packers offset the loss of and dare I say even improve their team heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. It all depends on how active General Manager Ted Thompson decides to be in the second and third waves of the NFL Free Agency Period.

With league wide salary cap space shrinking after the first week of massive contracts being doled out, it only makes sense that the contracts players receive now will be much more reasonable and team friendly, which is exactly what Ted Thompson likes. Let’s take a look at players out there who could fit in the Packers’ plans.

JOHNATHAN HANKINS: DL 

Still only 24 years old, the 6’2 320 pound Hankins is probably about as sure as a bet as anyone left on the free agency market to become a major contributor to whoever lands his services. Hankins is best known for his solid run defense but also is capable of providing some pass rush at defensive tackle as evidence by his 7 sack season in 2014. It’s difficult to not compare him to former Packer Ryan Pickett as both players are also Ohio State alums. Pickett proved to be one of Ted Thompson’s best free agency signings. Could Hankins be next? A starting 3 of Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, and Johnathan Hankins in the defensive line sounds awfully nice to me. As the old saying goes, it all starts in the trenches.

ZACH BROWN: ILB

It bothers me that I have not heard any connection of Brown with the Packers in the free agency period. Coming off a 149 tackle 4 sack season in 2016 in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, Brown’s production is off the charts when compared to the likes of Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, and Joe Thomas. Still only 27, and owner of a 4.50 second forty in the 2012 NFL Draft, Brown would bring much needed speed and play making ability to the middle of the Packers’ defense. What’s there not to like here?

CONNOR BARWIN: OLB

Barwin is another player that would make a lot of sense for the Packers. While it was time to move on from Julius Peppers, his 7.5 sacks of production needs to be replaced at the outside linebacker position. The 30 year old Barwin could fit the bill and would likely love to get back to playing 3-4 outside linebacker after being miscast in Philadelphia last season as a defensive end.

MORRIS CLAIBORNE: CB

While Claiborne carries a substantial amount of risk given his injury history and not so long ago label as a top 10 bust, there is no denying his talent and upside at only 27 years old would be appealing. By all reports he had a good year in 2016 for the Cowboys when he was on the field, which is something that cannot be said for any of the Packers’ cornerbacks in 2016.

ADRIAN PETERSON: RB

I’ll admit when reports surfaced that Eddie Lacy was signing with the Seahawks, my knee jerk reaction was that the Packers need to sign AP immediately. My emotions have now cooled but I’m still intrigued by Peterson. Yes, he is about to turn 32 years old and he did look awful in very limited playing time in 2016 but let us not forget that Peterson ran for 1,485 yards in 2015 when he was last healthy. And if there’s one guy to defy the odds at his position and be a successful running back into his 30s, I cannot think of anyone more likely than Peterson. Plus, how sweet would it be to make the 2018 Super Bowl held in Minnesota with Peterson sporting green and gold?

JAMAAL CHARLES: RB

Rumors are out there that the Packers could be a landing spot for Charles. I think it would be a struggle to find a player in recent years with worse injury luck than the 30 year old Charles. You almost have to think he could be due for a bounce back year free of major injury. If so, he could be a high upside signing which could add an extra electric dimension to the Packers’ backfield. Fun fact: Charles’ career 5.5 yards per carry average is best in NFL history for a running back. Not too shabby.

DEANDRE LEVY: ILB

Maybe it’s just the Wisconsin football homer in me but Deandre Levy has always been a player I wanted to see in the green and gold. I admire the passion he plays with and much like Jamaal Charles his last two seasons have been a total loss due to injury. So there’s obviously risk here, which is why a 1 year prove it deal would be what the Packers would be looking for in this case. Levy even has a believer in Lions GM Bob Quinn despite being released. “I think he can be the same player he was a couple years ago. It looks like to me, he was getting healthier and healthier as the weeks went on when he came back. That’s what we envision’’

NICK MANGOLD: C/G 

Report has surfaced that teams are interested in the recently released 33 year old former All-Pro center making the switch to Guard. Count the Packers among teams that should be interested if Mangold does indeed agree to make that switch. Mangold strikes me as the perfect 1-2 year veteran stopgap starter the Packers could use this year as they potentially draft their guard of the future in the upcoming draft.

DARRELLE REVIS: CB/S

All recent criminal charges have been dismissed stemming from Revis’ recent bar altercation. Add in his renewed desire to prove doubters wrong, the Packers’ documented interest in signing Revis in 2015, and the fact that the Packers sorely need another play-making veteran presence in the secondary and it’s easy to see that Revis starts to make a lot of sense. The veteran cornerback could be used much like Micah Hyde was last year and similar to how Capers employed Charles Woodson all over the field in the latter stages of his time in Green Bay.

OTHERS TO CONSIDER:  OLB Elvis Dumervil, RB LeGarrette Blount, CB Brandon Carr, CB Brandon Flowers, ILB Gerald Hodges, OLB Erik Walden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day One Recap: Initial Thoughts on Free Agency

Are the Packers off to a good start this offseason?

By: Jim Boyce

Perry Returns

The morning started off with a real bang. Nick Perry is staying put in Green Bay on what was later revealed to be a 60 million dollar deal over 5 years with 18 million guaranteed. I am definitely glad to have Perry back. While it is a hefty price to pay for a player who only had one big season the Packers would have been in a tough spot without him. Had Perry left the edge rushers would have become as big a hole as Cornerback.

Some may be concerned about the contract becoming a burden if Perry fails to play up to the standards he set in 2016, but the base salary rises considerably over the life of the contract. This would allow Green Bay to cut Perry after two seasons and only about 20 million spent.  That being said I think Perry will prove to be a productive player as long as he stays healthy. With Clay Matthews injury woes last season Perry was often one of the best players on the defense along with Mike Daniels and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Just because the Packers signed Perry though does not mean they should not continue to add pass rushers. Connor Barwin was released by Philadelphia and I think he would be a nice addition. He was miscast in the Eagles 4-3 system last season and would welcome a return to a 3-4 scheme. Also he would not count against future compensation picks the Packers would receive. Barwin is the exact type of free agent Ted might consider.

Tretter and Hyde Depart

Shortly after the Perry deal it was announced that JC Tretter was headed to Cleveland to become the Browns starting Center. He received 16 million over 3 years with 10 million guaranteed. This is a reasonable price for a player with Tretter’s abilities and injury history. If Ted Thompson does not re-sign T.J Lang then I would have to question his decision not to pursue Tretter. Though Tretter may not be as effective a Guard as he is a Center.

Micah Hyde’s departure was not a huge surprise. While a useful role player, Thompson was never going to give Hyde the big deal he received from Buffalo. The Bills gave Hyde starter’s money, and it will be up to him to prove he is worth 30 million over 5 seasons. Hyde was a nice piece to have in the secondary but I think he is replaceable.

Questions Remain

Many Packers fans, myself included, are feeling nervous about the Packers who remain unsigned. T.J Lang, Jared Cook, and Eddie Lacy specifically. All three have meetings with other teams which include all of the Packers division rivals as well as annual nemesis Seattle. I would like to see all three back in Green Bay, but I think Lacy would be the most easily replaced as it is a strong draft for Running Backs. If Lang departs it would leave a hole at Guard which Ted would need to address. Don Barclay is back on a one year deal but he is not an NFL starter. Look for the Packers to draft a lineman in the early rounds if the team is unable to bring Lang back. At his age and with his recent injury troubles, the Packers may not want to get into a bidding war.

I think Jared Cook should be brought back. The offense was a different beast when Cook was on the field and we saw how effective he can be with a QB like Aaron Rodgers. It is a good draft for Tight Ends, but Rodgers needs weapons now and rookies rarely are difference makers in their first season.

The next couple days will continue to be hectic and I expect we will have a much clearer idea of the Packers draft needs by the end of the weekend. I do not expect Ted Thompson to make any waves during the first portion of free agency asides from signing his own. The Perry signing was a big move, especially as other teams reportedly pursued him. Time will tell if the Packers are “all in” on 2017.

 

Fallout from DeMarcus Cousins All-Star night trade

By: Bill Tewes

All-Star night was primarily dominated by the likes of Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Isaiah Thomas. What no one expected, was to learn of a trade between the Sacramento Kings and the host town’s New Orleans Pelicans, which had the Kings send superstar center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Omri Casspi to the Pelicans for rookie guards Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and a 2017 1st and 2nd, the deal first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

This monster blockbuster deal sent ripples throughout the NBA. Many think of this trade as highway robbery, with the Kings being heavily taken advantage of. Some see this as a good move for Sacramento, as they can now freely enter a true rebuild without the distraction that Cousins has brought to the team. What are the implications of this trade for both teams?

Cousins and his Designated Player Max Deal

The Sacramento Kings would have had to commit to a designated player max deal of $209 million over five years. It would be a massive risk that both sides seemingly were interested in, even though Cousins has clashed with the organization since he was drafted 5th overall in 2010. According to ESPN senior writer Brian Windhorst, the Kings had this option via the new CBA agreement, because the dedicated player max is designed so that teams can sign the players they drafted and also so that the player has an extreme incentive to stay with that team.

The Kings are now free of a player who matured into a dominant big, but one who also failed to mature in other aspects of the game. Cousins leads the league in technical fouls with 19. Sacramento is now able to completely tank out this season and build around players such as Hield, Rudy Gay and their slew of young centers.

Pelicans and the scariest front court in all of the NBA

One would be hard pressed to find a front-court that is even remotely close to as good as what now exists in New Orleans. The Pelicans made a huge splash, as they simply could not compete with Golden State by having Anthony Davis surrounded by average guards, or ones that need to mature like rookie Buddy Hield. Cousins and Davis are 4th and 5th respectively in the league in points per game with essentially 28 per game.

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New Orleans will be not be forced to pay the Dedicated Player Max contract that Sacramento would have had to pay Cousins in order to keep him. If they had to, Cousins would become the highest paid player on the Pelicans roster by about $16 million per year over Davis, who already makes $17 million per year. This signing will cost $30 million, according to a report by CBS Sports. Cousins can now only sign for five years $180 million, which still makes him the highest paid player on the Pelicans.

New Orleans has no guarantee that Cousins will even stay with them, as he can hit the open market and become the highest paid player in the NBA after the 2018 season. It would be a massive blow for New Orleans to only get a season and a half rental out of Cousins if he indeed decides to test free agency and walk away from New Orleans, considering the assets they gave up in order to get Cousins.

The final verdict

Rumors have swirled for quite some time regarding a Cousins trade with multiple teams. Phoenix was rumored to be involved as well as in state rival Los Angeles. No one knows for sure how substantial these trade talks were and on the surface it looks as if Sacramento gave up Cousins for an oft-injured Tyreke Evans, an unknown in Buddy Hield and a 1st round pick that will be coming from a playoff team. The truth of the matter is that Sacramento just could not see the long term benefit of committing to Cousins, who has been with them for six seasons and the Kings have yet to make the playoffs. While definitely not on Cousins, the Kings have a lot of work to do before they can become a real contender and an organic rebuild is what they truly need.

For the Pelicans, they create a ridiculous mismatch that teams will have a terrible time defending. Can they put sub par players around Davis and Cousins and hope that these two superstars cover for the rest of the team? Will Cousins stay and form a dynamic duo with Davis that will haunt the Western Conference for years to come? The risk is certainly high, but may prove to be worth it for New Orleans in the long run.
Winner: New Orleans 

Owning the Future? What Jabari Parker's Injury Means For the Bucks

The rebuild took a big hit Wednesday night.

 

By: Jim Boyce

By now if you are a Bucks fan you have heard the news, Jabari Parker tore his ACL again on a non contact injury Wednesday night against the Miami Heat. This is the second time in just three seasons Parker has experienced this injury. Suddenly the dreadful month of January in which the Bucks have lost 11 of their last 13 meant little. The Bucks have already faded out of contention this season, but right now that means nothing compared to the long term effects Parker’s injury may have. A dark cloud now hangs over the future of this franchise.

THE IMPACT

The devastating thing about this injury is there is not much, or any, history of NBA players coming back from two torn ACL’s and being successful. A local example is Michael Redd, who was essentially forced to retire after his second major knee injury. Redd was at a much later stage of his career than Parker is now, and our fingers are crossed that youth helps Jabari make it back onto the court.

Expectations need to be tempered though. Even with a full recovery Parker will not be back on the floor for 12 months and then it will take some time for him to work back into the rotation and feel comfortable. Even an optimistic view does not see Parker back and playing at full strength until the Bucks open up their new arena in the fall of 2018. It’s impossible to say right now if Parker will be anywhere near as explosive when he does return, and for a player as dependent on explosiveness as he is that is incredibly concerning.

WHAT NOW?

The Bucks should tank, plain and simple. Tanking is an ugly word but the Bucks need to take a long term approach with this setback. Let Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, and Rashad Vaughn get the bulk of the minutes and see what you have in these guys going forward. While playoff experience is useful the Bucks do not have much to gain by chasing the 8th seed and it is not a lock they will even have enough firepower to get there anyway.

The ultimate goal here in Milwaukee is to win a championship and to do that you need an a star studded core. Recent examples such as the Cavaliers and Warriors show that star power is what wins in the NBA. The Bucks have one already in Giannis and Khris Middleton was a fringe All-Star last season before getting hurt to open 2016-17. The other piece was Parker, who garnered All-Star consideration with his best basketball to date. Right now though the Bucks can not be sure Parker will still be that player. If he loses explosiveness or is battling injury throughout his career he can not be counted on to be that piece that gets them to the big stage. Thon Maker could develop into a star player, he is certainly willing to put in the work to do so. Still while Maker is an exciting young talent, there are no guarantees he reaches the level that Parker was trending towards.

The best way for the Bucks to land another potential star is through the draft. The 2017 class is considered deep by many, and the Bucks could land a really good player with a high draft pick. This is mainly why I believe “tanking” is the way for the Bucks to go now. It is no fun watching a team finish with 30 or so wins, but the reward down the line could be great. Adding a top talent to this team could help offset Parker’s cloudy future and if Jabari is able to overcome his injuries and play at a high level the Bucks will have a truly special, championship level core. A draft pick, even top five, carries no guarantees but it is the best the Bucks can do at the moment.

In conclusion this is a devastating turn of events for the Bucks and their fans. The rebuild almost certainly has been delayed, and for how long is yet to be determined. I am still optimistic that the Bucks window has not shut before it even opened, but the road to success just became a whole lot more difficult.