Author: Bill Tewes

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.

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???

 

 

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!

 

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.