Category: Uncategorized

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 2017 Milwaukee Brewers: What to Watch For

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

By: Jim Boyce

 

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

THE NEWCOMERS

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

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

THE YOUNG GUNS

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

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

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

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

THE CALL UPS

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

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

FINAL PREDICTION

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

Green Bay Packers' Best Remaining Free Agency Options:

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

By: Mark Prott

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

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

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

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

JOHNATHAN HANKINS: DL 

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

ZACH BROWN: ILB

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

CONNOR BARWIN: OLB

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

MORRIS CLAIBORNE: CB

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

ADRIAN PETERSON: RB

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

JAMAAL CHARLES: RB

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

DEANDRE LEVY: ILB

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

NICK MANGOLD: C/G 

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

DARRELLE REVIS: CB/S

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day One Recap: Initial Thoughts on Free Agency

Are the Packers off to a good start this offseason?

By: Jim Boyce

Perry Returns

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

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

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

Tretter and Hyde Depart

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

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

Questions Remain

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

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

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

 

Fallout from DeMarcus Cousins All-Star night trade

By: Bill Tewes

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

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

Cousins and his Designated Player Max Deal

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

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

Pelicans and the scariest front court in all of the NBA

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

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

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

The final verdict

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

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

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

The rebuild took a big hit Wednesday night.

 

By: Jim Boyce

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

THE IMPACT

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

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

WHAT NOW?

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

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

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

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

Historic Night For Patriots Running Back James White As He Sets Multiple Records in Super Bowl LI

By: Bill Tewes

Patriots running back James White posted a MVP-like game, as the Patriots topped the Falcons in an unlikely comeback to win Super Bowl LI 34-28. His impact was largely felt through the air, as White hauled in a Super Bowl record 14 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown. White also rushed for two touchdowns, taylling 29 rushing yards and also took an impressively called half back keeper for New England’s first 2 point conversion. White posted an additional Super Bowl record for points scored by an individual player with 20 points. He scored the game winning touchdown, completing the nearly impossible comeback for the Patriots.

Tom Brady deservedly took home the MVP for his role in orchestrating their comeback, but White’s impact was felt throughout the entire game. He was responsible for three of New England’s touchdowns and when it looked as if New England could not comeback after being down 28-3, he was there to pick up the slack and provide New England a sliver of hope.

Even the MVP of the game believed that White should have been the actual MVP. In a post game interview, Brady said, “I think James White deserves it,” Brady said of the Patriots running back. “It’d be nice for him. It took a real team effort. (Fox Sports).” According to Yahoo Sports, Brady may even give away the truck he won as part of his MVP award to White.

White’s swiss-army-knife-like level of play propelled the Patriots into ever having a chance at making last night’s game interesting. White has had some nice games for the Patriots since his rookie season in 2014, but has often been third on the depth chart behind teammates LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. White was inactive for the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX victory against the Seahawks that season and it would be hard to believe that not playing in that Super Bowl did not gave him extra drive and motivation to get him to where he is today; a Super Bowl record setting running back.

For many Wisconsin Badger fans, James White has always been a household name at Camp Randall stadium. Even though he was second fiddle to record setting running backs such as Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon for much of his collegiate career, White’s work ethic was already evident in his freshman season, where h won Big 10 freshman of the year, after totaling 1,052 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns (Sports-Reference).

He finally got his chance to truly shine in his senior season as the Badgers primary starter, where he totaled 1,444 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, while also amassing an additional 300 yards receiving as well as catching three touchdowns (Sports-Reference). It was not until his senior season that it became evident that White could be a dynamic threat catching the ball. White entered the 2014 NFL draft with a profile of barely getting draft, which was surprising, seeing as how he had an excellent career with the Badgers in a limited role for much of his collegiate career.

It was somewhat of surprise when Bill Belicheck drafted White at the end of the 4th round. White dropped in the draft largely due to size and speed, but many teams failed to recognize the tangible things he brought to the table. Perhaps if White was the starter for all four years he spent at Wisconsin, he would have been a much higher pick, regardless of the concerns with his size and speed.

In looking at the 2014 Running Back Draft Class, it is hard to believe that players such as Bishop Sankey, Tre Mason, Charles Sims, Jerick McKinnon, Dri Archer, Andre Williams, Ka’Deem Carey and De’Anthony Thomas all were drafted ahead of White. Most of these running backs have little to no role with their current teams and it is even more unbelievable now that White has proven his worth on the NFL’s biggest stage. He is developing well with the Patriots and may be the only running back from this class aside from Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill, that will earn a second contract in the NFL. His Super Bowl LI performance will certainly help that cause.

 

 

Should Packers Ask Aaron Rodgers to Restructure?

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.

 

Another Monday Morning Hangover in Playoffs for Packers

By: Mark Prott

If you are a die hard Green Bay Packers fan like me, it was probably difficult for you to get out of bed Monday morning following the 44-21 drubbing handed down to the Packers by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. You might have even woke up in the the middle of the night thinking what’s bothering me? And then reality sets in and you remember. Oh yeah, at this point you are getting very familiar with that sick to your stomach feeling after your team gets bounced from the Playoffs. It’s becoming a yearly tradition in Green Bay.

Look I already know what the common narrative will be regarding the Packers’ 2016-2017 season. Boy, that team really came together after being 4-6, went through another injury riddled season and somehow made it within 60 minutes of reaching the Super Bowl. What grit and fight they possessed. And that’s all fine and dandy. I admit it was a blast following the Packers on their eight game winning streak following Aaron’s famous “run the table” phrase. Any Packers fan also knows how pleasurable it was to knock out the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys from the NFL Playoffs. Call me pessimistic or half glass empty guy, but I’m gonna remember this season in another way. Another blown opportunity to achieve greatness in what seems like a never ending cycle for the Packers in the playoffs. So who or what is to blame and how can this team get over the final hump?

Too Much Reliance on Youth

What has stood out to me most as I have followed the Packers in the playoffs over the last few years is that they simply are too enamored with the draft and develop philosophy and as a result count to much on young inexperienced players to deliver in big time moments. Just off the top of my head I think about a rookie Micah Hyde dropping a sure fire Colin Kaepernick interception that likely would have won a playoff game in 2014. Or rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looking helpless as Russell Wilson completed a Hail Mary 2 point conversion over his head in the NFC Championship collapse of 2015. Just last year rookie Damarious Randall blew coverage on Larry Fitzgerald which led to another playoff loss in overtime.

Notice a theme here?  Rookies and in general young, inexperienced players laying eggs in crunch time. There was plenty of inexperience showing in these playoffs as well, particularly in the secondary. The Packers took a big gamble back in March 2016 when they let Casey Hayward depart to the San Diego Chargers on a very reasonable 3 year $15.3 million dollar contract. While Hayward was not a great player by any means he was a proven starter. Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins had their moments as rookies but both took a step back in their sophomore campaign.

The point is that a team that prides itself in winning championships cannot afford to take the amount of risks on youth like the Packers do. Randall, Rollins, and Gunter had no chance against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons passing attack. It would have been nice to have a veteran presence like Hayward in a big time game like that. I do not want to suggest that Rollins and Randall are busts and hopeless to get better. I think there’s a good probability that at least one of them proves to be a good player. However, as we found out this year, you just cannot afford to count on substantial improvement from within as a given.

More Talent Needed In Addition to NFL Draft

Maybe it was the fact that we just played the New York Giants in the playoffs but I just could not help myself ponder what a difference a signing of a big name free agent such as cornerback Janoris Jenkins would have made for this team this year as I watched the secondary of the Packers fall apart against the Falcons. Sure he received a huge contract from the Giants but guess what it worked. The Giants statistically now possess one of the best defenses and all it took was adding a few key free agent pieces. We once did the same thing signing Charles Woodson back in 2006 and it transformed the defense into a Super Bowl caliber unit.

Those type of players are out there every year but the lack of free agency activity by Packers General Manager Ted Thompson makes it almost a certainty that no major additions will be made. What makes his inactivity most years even more puzzling is that when he does make a signing it generally works out. No way do the Packers knock out the Dallas Cowboys without the services of free agent acquisition Jared Cook at tight end.

Shakeup Needed in Front Office

While the draft is and should always be the prime source of talent acquisition, the Packers are missing out on Super Bowl opportunities because of the lack of activity acquiring talent from other sources such as free agency and trades. Aaron Rodgers will likely go down as one of the top quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL but at 33 he only has one Super Bowl appearance and title to show for his career. And he has taken notice. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re going all-in every year to win. And I think we can take a big step this offseason,” said Rodgers following the loss to the Falcons.

Was this a subtle message from Rodgers to Ted Thompson that he needs more help? Likely so, and now that Eliot Wolf and Brian Gutekunst, the Packers’ top two personnel executives under Ted Thompson, signed new deals to stay in Green Bay and pass on a GM opportunity with the 49ers, there is a slight glimmer of hope. While current Chiefs GM John Dorsey would be ideal to replace Ted Thompson, sources indicated to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Bob McGinn that Dorsey is under contract through 2018.

That is too much time for Thompson’s current lackadaisical approach to drain away two more years of a prime Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps President Mike Murphy will wise up and make the necessary decision that needs to be made sooner rather than later. Time for an ultimatum. Either it’s time for Ted Thompson to step down into a lesser role with the organization or finish out your current contract while giving more control and responsibility to the likes of either a Wolf or Gutenkunst to make independent decisions regarding personnel including the free agency avenue. Both men are wanted commodities in the NFL and it’s only a matter of time before they leave the organization for a better opportunity.  Give one or both an opportunity to see if they are the future top decision maker and in the process hopefully end the continuous cycle of Moday morning playoff hangovers currently haunting the organization.

NFC Championship Predictions: Green Bay at Atlanta

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce

We are down to the final four of the NFL. In many ways an appearance in the NFC Title game would not have been a surprise to any of us making predictions back in August. The road Green Bay has traveled to get here though is truly remarkable. 60 Minutes will determine if they get a shot at the Super Bowl. Here is what we think will happen.

JIM

PACKERS 38 FALCONS 34

As fans these last two months are ones we will remember for a long time. I believe many of us have a new found appreciation for Aaron Rodgers’ greatness after this eight game win streak. Aaron Rodgers will need to continue to play on an MVP level no doubt, because the Falcons present challenges.

I believe Matt Ryan will win the NFL MVP award this season and it is pretty hard to argue against that. He has really played at a level I did not think was possible after a couple sub par seasons leading up to this one. Julio Jones will be less than 100% but still will provide an enormous challenge to Green Bay’s corners. I expect the two headed monster of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to cause a lot of problems for the Packers defense, perhaps more so as receivers than running the ball. There really is no stopping the Falcons offense from picking up yards, in order to win this game the Packers may need to force a key turnover or two.

Green Bays WR situation is in a bit of disarray as Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Geronimo Allison all appear to be game time decisions. If both Nelson and Adams can’t go it might be too much for the Packers to overcome, though my guess is both will try to tough it out. Jared Cook has been a big part of the offense and will continue to be fed. Randall Cobb is playing how I thought he would in the regular season, with 12 receptions for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns during the playoffs. I think Cobb is going to end up having a big game both in terms of volume and impact.

Last weeks game against Dallas was truly an instant classic and I think we may be in store for another one. This match-up truly feels like a toss up and if Atlanta comes out the victor I will tip my hat to them. Aaron Rodgers looks like a man on a mission however, and I just can not pick against him right now. Green Bay takes a thriller on a late score.

BILL

PACKERS 41 FALCONS 31

It was just after Week 8’s loss to Atlanta that I wrote this article suggesting that Aaron Rodgers was indeed clutch, when the sports world was melting down and questioning if he was losing his touch. The Packers lost to the leagues best offense by one point and were missing the services of Clay Matthews, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Randall Cobb, Jared Cook and Ty Montgomery. All are expected to play Sunday, barring any setbacks, and will help send Green Bay to the Super Bowl.

It appears as if Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison will gut out their injuries in the biggest game of the season. For Adams and Allison, it is the biggest game of their careers and can separate them from many other receivers in the league with big performances. At this point it is safe to assume that Rodgers is going to bring his A+ game to the table, but it remains to be seen if all of our banged up players can do the same.

Matt Ryan had an MVP worthy season this year and has a plethora of weapons at his disposal. The Falcons have a healthy Tevin Coleman to compliment Devonta Freeman and even though Julio Jones is banged up, he is always a threat to go off for 150+. Which makes it even more important that Green Bay’s defense has a much different look and will than when they played Atlanta earlier this season. If Morgan Burnett sits it’ll pose a bigger challenge for Green Bay, but I think he toughs this one out and contributes big on Sunday.

I think Green Bay goes back and forth with Atlanta until late in the game when they go up 10 points and seal a Super Bowl berth. It seems as if things are just going right for Green Bay this year and Rodgers is making the best of his Run The Table campaign. Hard to bet against Green Bay, especially with our defense being as healthy as it has been in quite some time.

MARK

PACKERS 41 FALCONS 34

It seems a lot of times when people predict a shootout it fails to live up to the prediction and more defense shows up than originally anticipated. In this case, I don’t anticipate either of these defenses being able to slow down either potent offense. However, one thing the Packers’ defense does have and what I believe will be the key difference in the game is their ability lately to force turnovers. While Matt Ryan has been brilliant most of the year and rightfully deserves the MVP award for his consistent play, he has shown in the past that he will throw interceptions. Remember that just last year he threw 16 interceptions.

A lot has been written about the Packers and their injury problems this week with the questionable tags on pass catchers Jordy Nelson, Geronimo Allison, and Davante Adams. However, all three are expected to suit up and it’s just a matter of how effective they’ll be. I honestly feel either way Aaron Rodgers and whoever is out there catching passes will be able to move the ball at will on the weak Falcons’ secondary. Simply put, Aaron Rodgers is in a zone and also very comfortable playing in the Georgia Dome, which will give him an edge in a shootout.