Tag: Ted Thompson

The Other Guys: Packers 2017 Free Agency Review

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE DEPTH

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

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

NEW ELEMENTS ON OFFENSE

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

REPLACING A MAINSTAY

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

CONCLUSION

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Josh Hawkins and Kentrell Brice: Packers' Latest Diamonds In The Rough

Green Bay Packers new dynamic duo of rookie free agents in the secondary look to be the real deal 

By: Mark Prott

The NFL rookie free agent talent pipeline to 1265 Lombardi Avenue has a chance in 2016 to be as rich as it has ever been in recent history. Packers GM Ted Thompson, along with his personnel staff, have made it a yearly ritual to search every nook and cranny for the overlooked college prospect with NFL talent who happened to slip through the scouting cracks for one reason or another. Look no further than safety Kentrell Brice out of Louisiana Tech and cornerback Josh Hawkins out of East Carolina for likely the two newest members, in a long line of rookie free agents, to become meaningful contributors for the Green Bay Packers.

A quick analysis of the Packers 2016 opening 53 man roster tells you Thompson values rookie free agents and counts on them while building his roster. The Packers currently have 14 players, who entered the league without being drafted. It seems to be a growing trend in the NFL today.

Now in a majority of cases rookie free agent are not talented enough to become full time starters and instead are used to fill out rosters and carve out roles as reserves or special teams players. But there are always exceptions to every rule, as was the case with Packers top cornerback Sam Shields who entered the league as a rookie free agent in 2010. However, the difference in a case like Shields was he was bursting with talent highlighted by his 40-yard dash time of 4.30, making him as physically gifted as the top corners in the 2010 NFL draft. Fast forward to 2016 and the same line of thinking can be used when we analyze the physical tools of Brice and Hawkins in comparison to the other top prospects at their respective positions.

The numbers don’t lie. It’s even likely Sam Shields name came up when the Packers were scouting and evaluating Josh Hawkins in the first place. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote an interesting piece comparing the measurables of Hawkins with Shields and the similarities were shocking. At his pro day the 5-10 189 pound Hawkins ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and completed a 40.5 inch vertical jump, both impressive results which would have given him a top 5 finish in those categories among all cornerbacks participating at the annual NFL scouting combine. Not to be outdone, Hawkins’ new teammate Kentrell Brice put up equally if not even more impressive physical testing numbers at his pro day given that he plays the safety position.

In fact, it’s probably not a stretch to assume Kentrell Brice would have blown up the NFL scouting combine with his results had he been invited. It happens almost every year when a lesser known prospect tests out of this world and begins to shoot up draft boards due to more exposure. The Green Bay Packers are probably secretly relieved that Brice and Hawkins for that matter weren’t invited. To put Brice’s remarkable physical testing numbers in perspective, the 5-11 200 pound safety would have ranked first among all safeties participating at the combine in both his vertical jump of 42 inches and broad jump of 11-1. While both his 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds and 21 bench press reps would have placed him second in those categories.

According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, the fifth pick in the draft, might have been the only defensive back at the combine to test better than Brice.”

Now I don’t want to suggest here that testing numbers and measurables should be the main focus of building a championship roster. If that were the case, the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis would have been fielding powerhouse football teams every year during his tenure, given his love for acquiring great athletes with big time speed. A great athlete is of little value if he is unable to apply instincts and skills on the football field. Production on the field still is the ultimate deciding factor of player evaluation, which is another reason for Packers fans to be excited about Hawkins and Brice.

With 2 picks in the preseason and a confident presence on the field, Josh Hawkins looked like a potential playmaker on the outside. And the range, closing speed, and physicality displayed by Kentrell Brice while he roamed the middle of the field was reminiscent at times of another great athlete and former Packers safety Nick Collins.

Yes, it was just preseason football and the competition in the regular season is a whole new ball game but the results so far for both Brice and Hawkins are encouraging nonetheless. Lots of development and coaching will still be needed to find out a final verdict on the potential impact either player can make down the road. But as of today, the evidence is there that the electric physical tools of both players are translating into production on the field, making me believe both players could have very bright futures in Titletown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packers deal LB Lerentee McCray to Bills

Green Bay Packers will receive an undisclosed 2018 NFL draft pack in exchange

By Mark Prott

In a move to get closer to the 75 man roster reduction due at 3 P.M. Central Aug. 30, Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson has dealt Lerentee McCray, the 6-2 246 lb outside linebacker to the Buffalo Bills for a 2018 undisclosed draft pick.

It’s an interesting move as Lerentee McCray was thought to be in contention for one of the final outside linebacker positions on the 2016 Packers squad. McCray was also a known contributor on special teams with his former team, the Denver Broncos, and figured to play a similar role with the Packers if he made the 53.

In addition, at least in the 2016 exhibition games McCray seemed to be outplaying outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, thought to be his main competition for earning a roster spot. However, Elliott has shown flashes of play making ability in the past and also is a valued special teams player.

Perhaps Ted Thompson does not view the competition the same way and was going to cut McCray anyhow. If so, it would be another shrewd move for the Packers General Manager, who has long been known to covet NFL draft picks.