Packers Free Agent Target: Muhammad Wilkerson

Should the Packers be aggressive in pursuit of muhammad wilkerson if he becomes a free agent?

 

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By: Mark Prott

The hiring of new Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine should bring optimism and excitement to the Packers fan base. While Pettine will not be able to fix everything, with the help of GM Brian Gutekunst, Pettine could put the pieces together to create a formidable defense.

Simply put, the 2018 defense needs more impact players if the Packers are serious about contending for the Super Bowl. Enter Muhammad Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, still just 28 years old, has shown that he is capable of being one of the most dominating defensive lineman in the game. His 12 sack season in 2015 and 44.5 sacks total over a 7 year career prove he is a force to be reckoned with.

He also likely has played his last game with the Jets. Over the past two seasons Wilkerson’s play has not lived up to his five year, 86 million dollar contract signed in 2016. It’s why the Jets are willing to part ways.

Signing Wilkerson would be not be without risk.  But then again, a certain guy named Charles Woodson was also a big risk signing back in 2006 and we know how that turned out. Wilkerson also would not command nearly as large of a contract as he signed in 2016 on the open market anymore.

The fit with the Packers makes sense on multiple angles.

The Packers with a healthy Aaron Rodgers at the helm are almost a lock for the playoffs next season. And like it or not, it’s human nature that playing on a winning team would probably light a new fire under a player that’s been playing on an awful team the past two years. A change of scenery to a winning organization might be all that is needed for Wilkerson to regain dominating form.

Wilkerson would also be reunited with his old defensive coordinator. Pettine coached Wilkerson with the Jets from 2011-2012 and should know first hand what type of impact the 6’4 305 pound lineman could have in his defense.

“He can be a dominant inside rusher on third down and a dominant defensive end on early downs,” said Pettine in a 2012 interview. Sound like something the Packers’ defense could use? Look no further than what the signing of the 31 year old defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who recorded 14.5 sacks this season, did for the Jacksonville Jaguars defense.

A defensive line including up and coming defensive tackle Kenny Clark, a Pro Bowler in Mike Daniels and Wilkerson would give the Packers a formidable trio in the trenches. Add in a selection of an outside rusher with the 14th pick in the upcoming NFL draft and suddenly the Packers’ pass rush and defense as a whole could become a strength.

Any spectator of the 2017 version of the Packers dreadful defense could legitimately argue that the lack of a consistent pass rush was the most glaring need on defense. Coverage is still important, but great quarterback play can still beat great coverage if given enough time. There is talent in the secondary, but the Packers desperately need a better pass rush.

The Packers decided coverage was their most important need in the 2017 NFL draft. They used their first 2 picks on Kevin King and Josh Jones. Both players have talent and potential, but their play on the field created little improvement over the 2016 defense. The pass rush was not addressed by Ted Thompson last off season. It will be up to his successor,  Gutekunst, who should make it his new number one priority.

The NFL Draft will and should always be the ultimate source of acquiring talent but free agency must be utilized. Gutekunst thankfully agrees. Potential impact players like Wilkerson will hit the open market soon. Then it will be time for the Packers new decision maker to put his words into action.

 

Green Bay Packers Free Agency 2018 Could See Change in Packers’ Modus Operandi

Green Bay packers Free Agency 2018 Outlook

Green Bay Packers free agency could take a sharp turn in 2018 with the hiring of Brian Gutekunst at General Manager. The Packers announced today that they have made a decision on who will be Ted Thompson’s successor at GM and they have chosen in-house candidate Brian Gutekunst.

Gutekunst has been with the organization for 20 years, as of this upcoming season and was part of Ron Wolf’s hiring tree. There might not be a more deserving candidate as Gutekunst, who no doubt has been Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers approved after there was much turmoil with the rumor that Packers executive Russ Ball was the front-runner for GM.

With that being said, will Gutekunst turn around a franchise that has been timid at best in signing free agents? The ultimate question surrounding Gutekunst will be if he has the killer instinct that Thompson (at let’s be honest Mark Murphy) lacked in looking outside the organization for talent.

One would imagine that a new GM would want to make an immediate impact and look to free agency. The Packers, once again, cannot afford to sift through unproven talent in the draft to fill the holes and needs of the team. So what options does Gutekunst have? Here are some of the impact decisions that he can make that will immediately make it clear that the Packers are ready to make a quick re-build and compete:

Correct Current Roster Issues

The Packers are in desperate need of a current roster makeover. Players such as Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are big cap question marks heading into the off-season. It is almost a no-brainer at this point to cut ties with Matthews, who makes too much money for his current level of production. If the Packers are still concerned that they cannot find replaceable talent via free agency at linebacker, they can ask Matthews to restructure and stay with the team. Which I personally think would be a mistake, but it might be a viable option at this point.

Aaron Rodgers will most certainly get an extension to be the highest paid quarterback in the league. This will be another “difficult” decision for Gutekunst to make, but one that is clearly necessary and will get done no matter what. The interesting part of all of this will be how many years and how they plan on structuring the cap hit.

Nelson and Cobb are two players who are also not living up to their current cap hits. Nelson is an issue of an aging player taking a step back. But Cobb’s $10 million cap hit is not worth his level of production. I would imagine both players are restructure candidates and I could see the organization seeking to keep both. But Cobb would be the most likely outright cut to save cap money and give him an option to truly test free agency to see if he can catch on with another team.

Giving a deal to Morgan Burnett should currently be the Packers top priority. I cannot imagine this secondary succeeding without their most reliable player. Burnett has consistently proven throughout the years that he is a leader on defense. Burnett will be due a 2-3 year deal and I think the Packers can get him for a reasonable price.

Bryan Bulaga could be a potential cut, as he is just too oft-injured to make an impact. I think he is is a fine player and does his job when he is healthy. But his cap hit is too much for the potential that he will suffer yet another season ending injury.

Another aspect that most people will not look at initially is special teams. Mason Crosby will most definitely will be asked to restructure as his cap hit is $5.25 million this upcoming season. His compliance in this cap saving measure will come due to age and wanting to stay with a team that stuck with him through his struggles a few years back.

Finally Look to Free Agency to Fill Holes ahead of draft

The Packers must, and this time I truly mean must, look to free agency to add some talent. This roster is realistically only a few players away from being being good enough to make another playoff push. Gutekunst could make a big splash and prove he is capable of making tough decisions by dipping into free agency. Here are some players the Packers could target to bolster their roster.

Ezekiel Ansah

Ansah could be the answer for Green Bay’s pass rush. The current Detroit Lion is headed to free agency and will certainly be an expensive player. The Packers are waiting on Chicago’s decision to cut ties with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. If they get their guy in Fangio as D-Coordinator, I would imagine he would institute a 3-4 defense, even though it seems we have the personnel to fit a 4-3. The acquisition of Ansah would push both Kenny Clark and Daniels to the interior, where they could thrive. Green Bay would have a true edge rusher, which they have lacked for a while and it would be nice to pry an elite talent away from a division rival.

DeMarcus Lawrence

DeMarcus Lawrence is perhaps Dallas’ best defensive piece, will certainly be getting paid this off-season. Lawrence posted career numbers this year on a depleted Dallas defense, with no real notable pass rushers outside of him. Sean Lee was hurt on and off and Lawrence still proved he could get consistent pressure on opposing QBs. At 25 years old, Lawrence is entering his prime years and as long as this year was no fluke, should make good on his market value. According to spotrac.com, Lawrence’s market value is 9 million over 4 years. Lawrence will most likely command more as he is posting Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan like numbers. If Dallas chooses not to sign him, he might be an intriguing option for Green Bay’s revamped pass attack.

A look at the similarities between Lawrence and other dynamic pass rushers this season.

Jarvis Landry

Signing Landry also would come at a considerable price, but might be worth it to give Rodgers another dynamic, sure-handed weapon in the passing game. The Packers are looking at interesting times with their receiving core. They certainly expect Davante Adams to soar to new heights with his 4 year, 58 million dollar contract. As I mentioned earlier, they faced uncertainty with Cobb and Nelson. The receivers at the back end of the depth chart are unproven, or have only shown flashes. The Packers have two dynamic running backs and will not have to look to the draft or free agency to fill that void, so perhaps they could look at a free agent like Landry, or even Sammy Watkins (who should be cheaper) to add another weapon to the aerial attack.

Nigel Bradham

Bradham is another player similar to Lawrence who had a career year this season. The difference with Bradham is that he will not break the bank for Green Bay like Lawrence or Ansah would and would provide a consistent tackler at linebacker. The Eagles very well may keep Bradham and he certainly comes with character concerns. But the Packers would be foolish to not at least take a look at Bradham if he indeed becomes a free agent, after two relatively successful seasons in Philadelphia.

Malcolm Butler

It is no secret that Butler has not been happy with the New England Patriots. Perhaps the signing of Stephone Gilmore really got to Butler, as the Patriots have been pretty mum on what they will do with the former Super Bowl hero. A fresh start with a franchise who desperately needs a playmaker at cornerback, Butler would alleviate the pressure on Kevin King to immediately be Green Bay’s best cornerback. Butler and King would be the dominant forces on the outside and Randall/Rollins could split duties at the slot position or even play their natural position of safety.

A Backup Quarterback

Green Bay’s situation at backup Quarterback leaves much to be desired. While Hundley still has a year on his rookie contract, the Packers have no choice but to look at free agency options to backup Rodgers. Some options include Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. This team will no doubt invest some money in the backup position, in the event that Rodgers is out more games than they would expect and be better prepared than to roll with Hundley, who clearly is not the quarterback the team thought he would be after 3 years. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they drafted a quarterback and cut Hundley outright, or signed him to the practice squad. His time in Green Bay is most likely coming to an end.

Prince Amukamara

Amukamara could be an interesting prospect if the Packers are looking for secondary depth. Amukamara could be a nice piece to be had if the Packers do indeed bring in Fangio at D-Coordinator. He will not command a big cap when he signed with Chicago. Far from an elite player, Amukamara could be had for a relatively cheap cap hit and would, at the very least, be a similar signing to Davon House this past season.

Green Bay’s off-season Path is Fairly Clear

The Packers will now opearate with a new GM and defensive coordinator. Head Coach Mike McCarthy is here through at least the 2019 season and the offense should not skip a beat. The Packers have enough needs to fill through both free agency and the draft. They will most definitely look for EDGE help and maybe a cornerback with their 1st pick (14th overall) in this year’s draft.

Make no mistake about it, Gutekunst will definitely make a big move to establish his legacy early on. The Packers can no longer sit around and hope that their draft picks develop to be top notch players like in the Thompson era. That does not mean we will foolishly spend in free agency, but acquiring decent talent in the off-season, supplemented by solid drafts will hopefully net the team one more Super Bowl appearance in the Rodgers era.

If the Packers cannot provide a solid off-season contingency plan, one would have to ask why Rodgers would want to stick around? The past few seasons he has been battered and suffered essentially season ending injuries in the two of the last five seasons. Rodgers has a number one receiver in Adams, a player he has been vocal about the team keeping and has two running backs who are capable of supplementing the pass attack. It is now up to management to fix the rest of the team and bring back a winning formula to this team.

Thanksgiving: Wisconsin Sports Edition

The sports world can be hectic with non stop news and hot takes from talking heads. Sometimes we forget what we like about sports in the first place. In the spirit of Thanksgiving let’s look at some things Wisconsin sports fans can be grateful for.

hall of fame quarterbacks

An obvious place to start and one we should always be grateful for. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have given the Packers hall of fame quarterback play for 25 seasons. If you found yourself taking a player like Rodgers for granted then watching Brett Hundley should change that. The Packers have been in the playoffs for the vast majority of those 25 seasons and have two championships. Look at how other teams have struggled to replace hall of fame QB’s. The 49ers experienced similar good fortune with Joe Montana and Steve Young but that’s about it. Once Rodgers returns to the field be sure to enjoy it.

Giannis and the new bucks

Between the time Ray Allen was traded and Giannis Antetokuonmpo was drafted the Bucks were the definition of mediocrity. Never a threat to advance in the playoffs but never truly bottoming out. The Bucks were not even an NBA laughingstock, they were simply forgotten. The franchise became so bland that even much of Wisconsin stopped paying attention.

Nobody was really expecting much from a 15th overall pick with an impossible to pronounce name, but slowly the Bucks fortunes have turned. The Bucks selected star Forward Jabari Parker in the 2014 draft. Herb Kohl sold the team to new ownership who quickly rebranded and began securing a new arena. NBA hall of famer Jason Kidd came to town as coach and in 2015 the Bucks landed Greg Monroe in free agency. The latest sign that the Bucks are no longer NBA outcasts came earlier this fall when Eric Bledsoe named Milwaukee as a place he would like to play.

Antetokuonmpo has become an All-Star, potential MVP type player and the Bucks are an exciting club with a bright future. The on court product may still be rough at times but no one can deny that the Bucks are back on the NBA landscape. A welcome change from the apathy of the 2000’s.

David Stearns

Stearns has been with the Brewers for a short time but has already experienced success. It became obvious in 2015 that the Brewers had peaked with that group of players and a rebuild was necessary. Stearns immediately began restocking the farm system which was regarded as one of the worst in baseball at that time. Fast forward to 2017 and the Brewers are regarded as a top 10 farm across all publications.

Stearns crowning moment thus far was sending Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to Texas for Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell. Neither Lucroy or Jeffress are with the Rangers anymore, Brinson and Ortiz are nearly ready for the majors and Cordell was used to acquire reliever Anthony Swarzak last season. Oh and as for rebuilding, the Brewers won 86 games in 2017 and now face an important offseason which Stearns will oversee.

PAUL CHRYST

Paul Chryst is from Madison, WI. He went to school in Wisconsin, coached in Wisconsin and even just sounds like Wisconsin. Chryst is about as Wisconsin as it gets and under him the Badgers are in great shape as a program. Hopefully Chryst remains in Madison for a long time.

Wisconsin sports overview

Bad things are always going to happen in sports whether it be an injury to a key player or a tough loss. However we as Wisconsin sports fans do have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. The Packers with Rodgers are always in the hunt. The Bucks are as exciting as they have been since 2001. The Brewers rebuild is roaring along and the Wisconsin Badgers have a shot at the College Football Playoffs.  Here’s to our teams, may they continue to give us fans reasons to cheer.

 

 

The Aftermath: What Needs to Happen For Brett Hundley to Succeed

The Packers season was dealt a major blow but here is how they can survive

As Aaron Rodgers was carted off the field on Sunday afternoon it felt like the 2017 season went along with him. No one denies that Rodgers is a hall of fame player and the main reason for Green Bay’s success over the last decade. The Packers can not dwell in the past though, the injury happened and it is what it is and opponents are not going to let up on the Packers. Brett Hundley is the man going forward whether we like it or not. We have not have seen much of Hundley over the years so it is difficult to know what to expect. Here are a few things the team can do to help Hundley succeed.

Good Protection

Green Bay was finally able to see their starting line in action in Minnesota, but boy it did not last long. David Bahktiari, Bryan Bulaga, and Lane Taylor were all sidelined by the games end. The extent of the injuries is unknown but this is the biggest concern going forward. Brett Hundley may or not may not be a good quarterback, but he has no chance if he’s getting crushed on every pass attempt. In Minnesota Hundley was under constant duress which no doubt hurt his final line which included 3 interceptions. The Packers need to find a way to get healthy and give Hundley time to go through his progressions. If not, Mike McCarthy needs to scheme a way to get the ball out of Hundley’s hand quickly. Otherwise he might be joining Rodgers in the trainers room.

Skill Players going above and beyond

The Packers have a wealth of talent at wide receiver and these players will need to play at an extremely high level to help Hundley. Jordy Nelson was around when Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn took snaps in 2013 and still finished with solid numbers. He along with Randall Cobb and Davante Adams will need to get open and be the dependable targets Hundley needs. The receivers do not worry me, however the running backs could take a huge load off Hundley by being effective. Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones, and the offensive line absolutely needs to be productive and maintain offensive balance. The Packers can not ask Hundley to step in and win games on his own the way Rodgers can. Martellus Bennett also needs to ramp up his production and give Hundley a reliable target in the middle of the field.

Time For The Defense To Step Up

If the Packers are going to stay in the playoff hunt they will need their defense to play well. There really should be no excuses for Dom Capers group at this point. The Packers defense is stock full of high draft picks. There are five first round picks alone among the starting 11. Many others were selected in rounds two through four. It is time for these players to play at the level they are capable of. The defense did keep the Packers in the Vikings game by forcing two turnovers in the 2nd quarter. Overall they did not break as the Vikings were limited to 23 points, but the next two games are against Drew Brees and Matt Stafford. Brett Hundley can not get into a shootout against QBs of that caliber, the Packers defense will need to make impact plays and get off the field on third down.

Final Outlook

There is no point denying reality, the injury to Rodgers is bleak. With him the Packers were looking at home field advantage, now it’s fair to wonder if they will make the playoffs. Brett Hundley has a great chance to help the team as well as himself. If he plays well he could be traded next offseason and start for another team. As fans we can only cling to hope right now. Maybe Hundley plays well enough to win the Packers some games. Nonetheless he will need help from the rest of the squad. Football is the ultimate team game, that is never more apparent than now.

 

Aaron Rodgers Breaks Collar Bone : Who can they sign to compliment Hundley?

Jay Glazer tweets out about Rodgers' status

On what looked like a late hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers breaks his collar bone and it is said that he may miss the rest of the season. This collar bone injury appears to be more severe than the one he suffered against the Bears in 2013. Rodgers able to return for the final game of that season.

The rest of the season now belongs to third year backup Brett Hundley. Hundley will take the reigns and hopefully give this Packers’ team some life with over half of the season left. Hundley will be thrust into a rocky situation, as the offensive line is seemingly just as hurt as Rodgers. The coaching staff will initially have to use a playbook that plays to Hundley’s strengths.The Packers currently do not have another quarterback on the depth chart. They do have Joe Callahan on the practice squad, but there is no doubt that Green Bay will be looking for an upgrade. It is possible they will just stick with Callahan. If not, who will be available for the Packers to sign? Let’s take a look.

Colin Kaepernick

The fist name to come up will no doubt be Colin Kaepernick. The much maligned quarterback will be in the spotlight yet again. Recently, Kaepernick filed a grievance with NFL owners saying they colluded against him in his attempt to be signed. I am not sure how that will help his cause in signing with a team, but desperate times call for desperate measures. My opinion on this is that Kaepernick will have a difficult time learning the playbook. The team would have to honestly believe the noise he brings with him will be worth having him ride the bench. Unless McCarthy is willing to craft a playbook at this point in the season to fit Kaepernick’s skill set, it would not make much sense to bring him in.

Tony Romo 

Thrust into the Green Bay quarterback conversation is CBS announcer Tony Romo. Mostly by rabid twitter users, but it definitely is fun to consider. Romo at 37, has the skills, but his obvious injury history and age would be big question marks. He would have to give up a cushy job with CBS, where he is already getting rave reviews for his color commentary and knowledge of the game. The former Dallas Cowboy QB would certainly bring excitement to what seems like a lost season for Green Bay, but this option is obviously unrealistic.

Robert Griffin III 

A lackluster career has Robert Griffin III on the outside looking in. Griffin would make sense if the Packers are trying to pair a quarterback with a similar skill-set to Hundley’s. After the Rodgers injury in 2013, the Packers carried backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. I cannot see why they wouldn’t at least consider Griffin on a short list of players to backup Hundley. Either way, a pairing of Hundley and RG3 is something no Packers fan ever envisioned seeing.

Brett Favre

They would have to at least make the call, right???

 

 

The X-Factor: Aaron Jones Could Take The Packers To Another Level

The Green bay packers offense is already good. Aaron Jones could make it elite.

The NFL season is well underway as we enter week six and the Packers are off to a good start. Among the top teams in the NFC, some things have gone as expected. Aaron Rodgers continues to be an elite QB and the WR group is producing. One of the main storylines coming into the season was Ty Montgomery and the running game. Montgomery has proven to be a dynamic player, but the traditional running game had struggled through the first three weeks. The Packers did play several good defensive fronts to go with their own injuries upon the line, but Montgomery barely eclipsed three yards per carry. This is where Aaron Jones enters the equation.

Montgomery was off to a solid start week four but unfortunately sustained an injury. Later that game Aaron Jones entered after yet another injury, this time to Jamaal Williams. What has happened in the game and a half since has been extremely encouraging. Jones has rushed for 174 yards on 32 carries and added 2 touchdowns. Against Dallas the rookie put up 125 on 19 carries, showing great patience and vision as he was able to set up his blocks and generally keep the offense in favorable down and distances. While it is a small sample size there is reason to believe the Packers may have found a keeper in the 5th round pick out of UTEP. If Jones is the real deal, pairing him with the pass catching threat Montgomery could take the offense to a new level.

offensive balance

The Packers draft strategy did not involve spending a high pick on a running back. Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon were both on the board when Green Bay opened up the 2nd round and neither got the call. Ted Thompson did not want to put all his eggs in one basket with a high pick instead taking three players in the later rounds. Not a bad idea by any means, late round running backs can be successful. Jordan Howard, for example, was 2nd in the NFL in rushing in 2016 as a 5th round pick. Aaron Jones’ college tape showed a dynamic player who dominated his competition. In an offense led by Aaron Rodgers the pass will always be the first option. Nonetheless the Packers need a good running game if they want to be serious contenders.

While the Packers have been consistent playoff contenders in the Rodgers era, they have been at their best when balanced. During the Super Bowl run in 2010 James Starks was used heavily in the playoffs. His 123 yard performance in the Wild Card game was crucial that season. In 2011 the Packers running game struggled. When Rodgers and the receivers had an off day against the Giants the season was over. 2014 brought us the strongest Packers team since the Super Bowl victory. Aaron Rodgers was league MVP but they also had Eddie Lacy running for over 1200 yards. Jones, Montgomery, or any other player may not get enough carries to put up those kind of individual stats but the Packers could put up huge numbers as a team.

Conclusion

Aaron Jones will be an exciting player to watch for the rest of the season. Coach McCarthy has always preferred to use multiple backs, so he should receive plenty of carries even with Montgomery healthy. Both runners offer the ability to be receiving threats as well. This will make Green Bays offense less predictable and should allow Aaron Rodgers to exploit defenses even more than he already does. Time will tell if the Packers got a day three steal with Jones, if they did the rest of the NFL should watch out.

 

 

Green Bay Packers Preseason: Why You Should Watch

Preseason marks the return to the hallowed grounds.

The games don’t count but they are still important.

Preseason football can be a drag. We are happy to see the games return after a long offseason, yet almost immediately we long for the regular season. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson will not be on the field much if at all. Players are not familiar with their teammates and ball security issues tend to dominate. Play can be sloppy and the outcomes don’t matter. So why even bother watching these exhibition games? Here are a few reasons.

the rookies

The NFL draft is almost an American holiday by now. As our favorite teams announce their picks we begin to have visions of these players making plays on the gridiron. Preseason is our first chance to see those visions become reality. Vince Biegel and Montravius Adams are out with injuries but Kevin King and Josh Jones are healthy. Expectations should always be tempered with rookies, and King had a couple rough moments in the first preseason game. We hopefully will see some splash plays from the pair before the month is over.

Running back is a position to watch this August. Three rookie runners are vying for spots on the roster. Jamaal Williams seems to be the leader, but Devante Mays and Aaron Jones will receive plenty of opportunities. Which of these runners will separate themselves and become a big part of the offense in 2017? Ty Montgomery is the starter but the others will be needed for the Pack to be successful.

Preseason position battles

Ted Thompson will have no choice but to cut one or two good receivers. Beyond the locks like Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams there appear to be seven players fighting for four spots. Trevor Davis and Deangelo Yancey made nice plays against Philadelphia that stood out. Jeff Janis scored a touchdown and Max McCaffrey was targeted numerous times. Have you heard of Michael Clark? An intriguing prospect who also scored against the Eagles. The Packers simply won’t have room on the roster for all these players and competition will be fierce.

The cornerback and safety positions feature a lot of depth behind the starters. The corners are especially interesting, as any number of players could move into a starting role with a solid camp. Also worth watching is QB Brett Hundley, he isn’t going to take Rodgers job, but a solid showing could land him a starters role elsewhere. Packers fans should be used to this by now, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, and Aaron Brooks are players who proved their value in Green Bay before starting with other teams.

it’s football

Be honest here, you want to watch football even if it is preseason. Heck, use it as a tune up for yourself. If you haven’t grilled in awhile fine tune your skills so you are ready for Week 1. Practice some clever insults for the officials that will make your friends laugh. Enjoy the return of football, the team is on the field again and will be until February if all goes well!

 

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

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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

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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.