Category: Green Bay Packers

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.

 

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!

 

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.

 

 

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

 

 

Green Bay Packers' Best Remaining Free Agency Options:

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should Packers Ask Aaron Rodgers to Restructure?

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Tom Brady restructured and the New England Patriots have been to two Super Bowls since

By: Bill Tewes

Another year goes by and it’s another year in which the Green Bay Packers will be watching the Super Bowl from the comfort of their homes. After the Packers ran into the buzzsaw that was the Atlanta Falcons, many questions are left unanswered as to how the Pack can right the ship and become a contender again.

A popular question in recent days, is whether or not the organization should ask Aaron Rodgers to restructure his contract, so that GM Ted Thompson can sign some top caliber free agent talent and give Rodgers a championship caliber team. Before we answer that, lets take a look at Green Bay’s cap situation heading into the 2017-2018 season.

Green Bay will head into the 2017 season with many difficult decisions that Thompson will have to make, as far as retaining some of his own players. Any Packers fan can tell you that Thompson typically favors his own guys and there has been some embarrassing examples of keeping his own draft picks too long (Brad Jones, AJ Hawk).

With the likely departure of Julius Peppers, Sam Shields, James Starks and most likely Letroy Guion, the Packers will free up over $20 million in cap space with those players off the books. Left guard T.J. Lang will be an interesting case, as he is certainly worth the money and is one helluva tough player. But injuries plagued him all last season and he departed the NFC Championship game with a foot injury. Peppers would be welcomed back with open arms, but only if he takes a veteran’s minimum deal.

In a meritocracy, hybrid linebacker/defensive end Datone Jones would have been gone about a season ago. There is slim to no chance that Thompson brings back Jones, as he has not performed to the caliber a first round pick warrants. Starks will also be gone after posting an atrocious 2.3 yards per carry and never coming back from a concussion sustained in a car accident.

One player, however, that does warrant a contract is linebacker Nick Perry. Perry looked like another disappointing bust following in the footsteps of his peer Jones, but Perry turned it up this past season totaling 11 sacks, a team high. According to Spotrac.com, Perry’s potential market value is in the 8.5 million per year range. I could see Perry fetching more than that on the open market to a team that is desperate for a linebacker. But I see Green Bay being that desperate team and getting a deal done with Perry. Two other players that should receive contracts are Tight End Jared Cook and Hybrid Safety Micah Hyde, as both will hit free agency, but played well enough to earn new contracts with the team.

The 2014 draft class is also something that the team will have to factor in when considering how much money they will be spending in free agency. Pro Bowl safety HaHa Clinton-Dix will most definitely get a contract extension, along with Davante Adams, who posted a turnaround season with 12 touchdowns and came up three yards short of 1,000 yards on the season.

Running back Eddie Lacy’s status with the team is up in the air, as the obvious weight concerns, injury concerns, the emergence of Ty Montgomery at running back and a loaded running back class in this year’s draft will put Lacy in the “prove it deal” category. It would be nice to have Lacy back for insurance purposes and the fact that he was averaging just over five yards a carry before his season was ended with an ankle injury.

With all this being said, Green Bay should be in the $35-40 million dollar range in cap space if the aforementioned cuts, cap rollover, as well as the cap going up to $163-$165 million (up from roughly $155 million in 2016). They will have plenty of money to play with in order to sign a couple players on the defensive side of the ball, adding crucial pieces they desperately need to get Aaron Rodgers another title on his mantle.

It would seem incredibly disingenuous to ask perhaps the best quarterback in all of football at the moment to restructure his contract. Rodgers is not even the highest paid quarterback in the league. Super Bowl bound and likely 2016 MVP winning QB Matt Ryan was the highest paid quarterback to start the 2016 season (Andrew Luck is now the highest paid) and took a team with a pretty average defense to the Super Bowl. The difference is that the Falcons added key free agents in Alex Mack (viewed as one of the best free agent signings this past offseason) as well as role players in Dwight Freeney, Courtney Upshaw and the speedy receiver Taylor Gabriel to compliment superstar Julio Jones.

Ted Thompson has absolutely no choice but to spend some of the cap money the team currently has. Rodgers has three years left on his current contract, which is set to expire at the end of the 2019 season. The only possible way Rodgers would restructure is if he was guaranteed a deal similar to Tom Brady’s back in 2013, in which Rodgers would receive his money differently than his current contract, but with more guaranteed money as well as an extension to the current contract.

However, Rodgers is not 35 and also has no guarantee from management that they have plans to upgrade the team and get him some help. What would be the point of sticking around after his prime years are well in the rear view mirror and the team still has no real change?

The real answer to the restructure question is to look at players like Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb as possible restructure candidates. Matthews has been an essential piece to the defense and the team would struggle without him. But he has trouble staying on the field and has not brought the production to match the contract. Cobb is in a similar boat. Cobb showed some flashes in the post season of his old self, but he has definitely not lived up to contract extension that nets him $10 million per year.

Our next offseason installment will focus on players that Thompson can target in free agency.

 

The NFL's Deepest Receiving Corps Propel Green Bay Past New York

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By: Bill Tewes

The Green Bay Packers looked like they were on their way to another lackluster playoff performance, until the deepest receiving corps in the NFL turned up the heat in the frigid cold. Aaron Rodgers and company struck back against a stout New York Giants secondary that had shut them out throughout most of the first half.

The second quarter almost spelled doom for Green Bay, as Jordy Nelson took flight to make what should have been a spectacular catch down the sideline. Instead, Nelson dropped the ball and took a punishing (and illegal) hit from defensive back Leon Hall. Nelson crawled over to the sideline and was down for a long time. It looked like Green Bay’s offense, which at that point was floundering, was completely doomed.

Enter Davante Adams, who became Rodgers’ first read after Nelson went out. The Packers marched down the field after a nice punt return from Micah Hyde and this drive would be all Adams. After getting no traction with Adams throughout much of the first half, Rodgers hit a huge pass to him down the sideline, with Adams shaking coverage en route to a 31 yard gain. The drive resulted in the most important sequence of the game, as the offensive line gave Aaron Rodgers all day. Rodgers, showing legendary pocket presence, took nearly nine seconds to find Adams in the end-zone, who is proving to be Mr. January by coming up big in playoff games.

The true wildcard in this game was Randall Cobb. No one knew how many snaps he was going to get or if he could perform at a high-level after being out for two games with an ankle injury, but he looked none the worse for wear. Cobb’s touchdown grab of Rodgers’ Hail Mary heave to end the half gave the Packers a monumental boost and some nice separation on the score board after a poor start. Cobb would grab two more touchdowns finishing with five receptions for 116 yards and leaving no question as to his importance to this team.

Green Bay’s receivers absolutely outclassed New York’s all game. Odell Beckham dropped multiple catch-able passes and finished up with four receptions for 28 yards, making him the fifth best statistical receiver for New York Sunday afternoon. Tavarres King, who had two catches in all of the games he played in the regular season, hauled in a nice touchdown grab on broken coverage by Damarious Randall. That catch accounted for 41 of his 73 yards. For all the talk of Green Bay’s secondary collapsing and potentially allowing for one of the more dynamic receivers in the NFL (Beckham) to completely trash them, they held their own and held him in check all game. Outside of King, they did not allow rookie Sterling Shephard to find room to work, as he has become a solid red zone threat for New York with eight touchdowns this year.

The Packers also got solid contributions from Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery. Cook was consistently getting open and even though Rodgers overthrew him a couple times, he connected with Cook on multiple second down conversions for 10+ yards. The Packers will need Cook to step up if Nelson as well as maybe even Montgomery miss time. Montgomery added three catches for 41 yards and if he suits up next week against Dallas, will add a short pass threat out of the backfield.

Geronimo Allison was an afterthought all game, catching only one pass for eight yards after having an impressive game against the Lions last week. Allison took a backseat with Cobb coming back, but still offers a dangerous weapon as well as quality depth at a position that is always seemingly deep for Green Bay. They will need all hands on deck to beat Dallas in Jerry World.

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Taking a look at advance metrics shows Dallas’ secondary ranks 26th in the league according to Pro-Football Reference. There will be plenty of opportunities for Rodgers and this deep receiving corps to do some damage through the air. Dallas’ defense excels in run defense as they are ranked first overall in the entire league, so the Packers will have to find unique ways to utilize Montgomery, Aaron Ripkowski and Christine Michael in the passing game and take what they can get on the ground.

Next Sunday’s game is shaping up to be an instant classic. Will the rookie duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott keep up their incredible maiden season and down the Pack in Dallas? Or will Aaron Rodgers continue his Run-The-Table campaign with a win in the same building he won his first Super Bowl in?