Thursday, March 29, 2012

Run Defense: Grading Desmond Bishop

Pro Football Focus grades out linebackers in run defense, and Green Bay Packers LB Desmond Bishop grades out as the best by tackles. Then they change the measurement by looking at Run Stop Percentage instead of tackles, and it turns out he's only one of the best. But there are some other factors that make this analysis complicated.

What isn't complicated is that there's no mention of A.J. Hawk. That's no surprise since he wasn't very good last year. I'd be stunned if the Packers replaced him next season, but he won't last much longer if he doesn't turn it around in 2012.

Back to Desmond Bishop. While he rarely came off the field, except for a couple games when he was hurt, he had the fewest run snaps of nearly every linebacker mentioned by Pro Football Focus. Teams didn't run the ball a lot against the Packers, so Bishop doesn't have as many stops. He wasn't often (maybe never) in a situation where his opponent was obviously trying to run out the clock last season.

Also, Bishop was asked to play run defense on a team that played in the nickel on about 75% of their snaps. Many times, there wasn't a defensive lineman in front of him to occupy the offensive linemen, and he certainly had to fight through many blocks to make plays.

He's a good inside linebacker and nothing here that really changes my thoughts on him. He grades out well statistically, even with a couple of factors working against him in their defensive scheme.

Ted Thompson Talks About Free Agency

This isn't anything new, at least to me, but Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson spoke to reporters at the recent owners' meeting, and he does a good job of explaining exactly how the Packers proceed in free agency. From JS

"I know (people) don't believe me, but we're always active in free agency," Thompson said during a break in the owners meetings Monday. "There have been a couple years here in a row that we haven't actually signed anybody.
"It doesn't mean we weren't active pursuing leads, trying to understand the market, doing all that. In the case of Jeff Saturday we were able to address a specific need that we felt like we needed to address because we were unable to sign Scott ( Wells)."

It's hard to notice because they don't (usually) end up signing anyone, but free agency is still part of their annual process. However, they've done such a good job of building the team (primarily through the draft) over the past few years that they don't have a big need to sign a particular free agent. The annual March free agent frenzy has been a sucker's game, and they've done well to avoid the high priced troubles.

Thinking more about Jeff Saturday, his signing had a perfect alignment of events to make it happen. The Packers had an immediate need to fill after Scott Wells left. Nick McDonald might have been the future, but he was bad last preseason, I understand why he was released, and it left them with no young successor waiting in the wings. Saturday still wanted to play, but he wanted a two-year deal when most teams probably viewed him as a one-year solution. And he's still good enough to start, so the Packers offered him starter's dollars when apparently no other team would. I can understand why no other team offered him a competitive contract, why shake up their center position for a one-year solution, but if there was another team seriously interested in him, it's likely the Packers would have been outbid.

Now the Packers can draft Saturday's replacement, give the rookie a year or two to develop (as they did recently with T.J. Lang), and give Saturday the opportunity to start for a couple more years. It's not what I was expecting a month ago, but it's seemed to work out for both sides.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Packers Were Awarded Four Extra Compensatory Draft Picks

It is possible to actually determine the formula by which the NFL awards compensatory draft picks, but it's as exciting as trying to figure out the salary cap. Because other teams signed Cullen Jenkins, Daryn Colledge, Brandon Jackson, Jason Spitz, and Korey Hall in free agency last summer, and the Green Bay Packers signed no one from another team, they were awarded the maximum amount of compensatory draft picks: four (two in the fourth round, and two in the seventh round). The picks come at the end of their respective rounds.

There's not a lot to get excited about here. The picks can't be traded, and while the Packers have sometimes gotten a good player with them, a lot of them have been misses. But it will provide them with a lot of extra quality depth in training camp, and if even one of them works out, it's a win.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bring On The Colts: Packers Sign Jeff Saturday and Daniel Muir

I'm probably not as enthusiastic as most Green Bay Packers fans are about the signing of free agent center Jeff Saturday, who's spent the previous 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He was ranked as the 5th best center last year and the Packers need a center after Scott Wells signed with the Rams.

But many people expected him to retire. The Colts were willing to offer him another contract, but not as a player. They wanted him to work in their front-office. While he apparently wanted and received a two-year contract, this looks like a one-year stop gap. The Packers should still have a center on their wish list in the upcoming draft. At least now they have a veteran option if the rookie doesn't work out, or a rookie available in case Saturday decides to retire.

I'm really surprised Saturday didn't join Peyton Manning in Denver, but they must not have offered much money and/or showed any interest. GM Ted Thompson doesn't splurge in free agency and isn't known to outbid anyone. While the terms might not be rich, maybe two-years and $6 million, Mike McCarthy had dinner with Saturday, and it appears the team made an effort to show that he was wanted. That bit of respect can go a long way. [It ends up being two-years and $7.75 million, $4 million in 2012, which is richer than I expected. It's probably what they wanted to pay Scott Wells, but Wells was obviously able to find a more lucrative contract with the Rams.]

Another minor move was the signing of DT Daniel Muir. I don't want to make a big deal about it because I don't expect he'll even make the team next year. But with the recent suspension of Mike Neal, and no guarantees that they'll find a good defensive lineman or two in the draft, they could use some more bodies. Muir was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Packers in 2007, and he showed some promise as a pass rushing defensive tackle in his first season. After the Packers traded Corey Williams in 2008, I was expecting Muir to emerge to take Williams's place as a rotational tackle. Instead, he had a poor preseason, and he was released before the start of the 2008 season. He did land with the Colts, and he had a solid 2009 season (10 games started, 52 tackles) during their Super Bowl run. But he was really bad in 2010, He barely played at all last season before his release in November. He's got NFL size (6-2, 312 lbs.) but not NFL ability.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Pat Lee Era Ends: The Packers Former Second Round Pick Signs With The Raiders

The Raiders have signed free agent CB Pat Lee away from the Green Bay Packers, and I can't say I'm at all surprised. He suffered injuries in 2008 and 2009 that got his NFL career off to a slow start, but that isn't the entire story. When healthy in 2010 and 2011, he couldn't get on the field, and he never developed as a player. The Raiders only gave him a one-year deal, and it couldn't have been for more than $2 million. He's a former second round pick with six round talent.

His best game was in the Super Bowl XLV, when he replaced CB Sam Shields as the third cornerback for a couple quarters. Lee didn't give up any big plays, but it didn't seem like the Steelers realized he was there either. They should have done a better job of challenging him.

Lee barely kept his roster spot at the start of the 2011 season. He played extensively in their final preseason game against Kansas City, and he was OK. He gave up a lot of yards against the Tyler Palko led Chiefs. But he was the best of the rest, and he deserved his roster spot. Only later did we see how bad the Packers secondary was in 2011, and despite all their struggles as they gave up the most passing yards ever in a season, Lee was never given an opportunity. It isn't that "he just needs game experience" he just isn't that good. But if his only competition for a starting job is Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, then he may be given a chance to start at some point in 2012. If he makes their roster.

And don't forget his amazing special teams play from last season. Safety! The Raiders have not found their new kick returner, if they were looking for one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tim Tebow Won't Be Traded To The Packers

Tim Tebow is headed to the Jets. The Jets gave up a 4th round pick (with a swap of a 6th rounder for a 7th rounder) which is certainly more than the Packers were probably offering (rumored to be only a 7th round pick). I'm not a fan of his, and he seemed like a poor fit in Green Bay due to his Florida ties and unconventional skills, but a young, healthy, backup quarterback with starting experience is certainly worth a 7th round pick. And I'm not surprised another team offered more.

And now Jets fans have to live through another roller coaster season with a very popular backup quarterback sitting behind a pretty unpopular starting quarterback. Except to hear calls for Tebow after every failed third down conversion by Mark Sanchez.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NFL Teams Don't Go Wild: Jarrett Bush Returns To Green Bay To Play Special Teams

I cringe every time CB Jarrett Bush takes the field on defense for the Green Bay Packers. But on special teams, it's another story. He used to be called for too many penalties on kick coverage, but it's rarely a problem anymore. Instead, he's become the special teams captain and he occasionally pins the ball near the goal line in punt coverage.

So it's not a terrible thing that the Packers have re-signed him for another three-years. It was almost inevitable: his coaches love him. I'm just always afraid they'll think he's a good cornerback and play him on defense. He's only to be used on special teams, and in case of an emergency (if Charles Woodson is hurt). The three-year deal is supposedly better than his previous three-year contract ($4.5 million, $1 million guaranteed) but I doubt it's better than the three-year, $4.2 million contract the Bears gave to Eric Weems. That contract seems to be the going rate for a top special teams performer. Maybe it has more guaranteed money (Weems got $1.5 million) than Bush received the last time.

I'm not surprised he visited with the Jets and Cardinals because it's his right to see if some cornerback needy team would actually go insane and think he can play in the nickel, or even (shudder) start. His agent said that Bush would have only left the Packers for starter's money, so it's obvious no NFL team has lost their collective mind.

While Tim Tebow Rumors Dominate, Jeff Saturday Visits and Manny Lawson Is Mentioned

The Packers may have interest in trading a 7th round pick for Tim Tebow, if the former 1st round pick signs a new (i.e. cheap) contract. I've mentioned the idea of using a 7th round pick next April on a rookie quarterback, and that's effectively what the Packers are interested in doing here. Except Tebow has a couple years of NFL experience under his belt, which can only help the situation. I don't see why the Broncos would only accept a 7th round pick in return, Tebow has more value than that pick is worth and another team is sure to offer more. I'm not a fan of Tebow, I don't ever think he'd ever be an effective starter in Mike McCarthy's offense, but at that price (a 7th round pick with a cheap contract), he'd be worth it.

With Scott Wells in St. Louis, the Packers brought in former Colts center Jeff Saturday for a visit. I could see their interest in a one-year deal, but if the Broncos are truly interested, I can't imagine him signing anywhere else as the Broncos look to surround Peyton Manning with his former teammates. I still think their next starting center will be arriving in next April's draft, with veteran backup Evan Dietrich-Smith as a Plan B.

The Packers might have some interest in free agent Manny Lawson. At 6-5 and 240 lbs., he might be a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, but he's had a lot of experience as a 3-4 OLB with the 49ers. He's very good against the run, and he's better in coverage than expected, but he brings almost zero as a pass rusher. The former 1st round pick never developed as a pass rusher, and his 6.5 sacks in 2009 seems more like a fluke than a sign of hope. He would add depth to the position, and he might be a good fit in a rotation with Brad Jones, but a Jones/Lawson rotation would hardly be a major upgrade. But still, they might be better than Erik Walden was last season.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Packers 2012 Free Agency: Wells Leaves, Then Flynn. Who Will The Packers Sign?

Scott Wells to the Rams. Here's my previous post. I expect the Packers will look for his replacement in the draft, and they'll only with a veteran if they can find someone who's good and won't cost a lot. The last time the center position was unsettled, after Wells struggled with injuries in 2008 and Jason Spitz appeared to be ready to take over, they signed Duke Preston from the Bills. Preston was released before the 2009 preseason ended.

Matt Flynn to the Seahawks. Everyone knew he was gone, and the Seahawks had long been rumored as a possible destination, but the Dolphins didn't really put up a fight with a low ball offer. It looks like their owner still believes he's in the hunt for Peyton Manning, and he doesn't want to settle for Flynn. And Flynn picked up on that. Now the Dolphins will end up missing out on Manning, and maybe they'll get desperate and sign Alex Smith. I guess they'll always have Matt Moore. And there's no way the Seahawks should be choosing Tarvaris Jackson over Flynn.

DE Kendall Langford to the Rams for way too much money. $12 million guaranteed? I'm not even sure why the Packers showed interest in a guy with no sacks and 1 QB hit in 2011. He reminds me of another player the Packers showed some interest in back when they were made the switch to a 3-4 defense and needed a DE: Igor Olskansky. For $8 million guaranteed, he lasted two seasons with the Cowboys and gave them 1.5 sacks.

The Packers show some faint interest in Kamerion Wimbley. He'd be a slight upgrade at outside LB, but he's not that much better then Erik Walden. And I'm not a big fan of Walden. The Packers probably made contact with his agent so he knew about their interest, just in case the free agent market turns out to be tepid. However, Wimbley should have no problem finding someone to pay him $10 million per season. It just won't be the Packers.

It's no surprise to see the Packers lose their players who were unsigned at the start of free agency, and then only show mild interest in a couple of other free agents who were/are certain to sign with other teams. To have done otherwise might have messed up their long-term salary cap and ability to re-sign their best young players, so while it's disappointing now, their patience should be rewarded.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Scott Wells Signs With The Rams

Back in 2005, after Green Bay Packers Marco Rivera was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl, GM Ted Thompson didn't re-sign the 33 year old right guard. Instead, Rivera signed a five-year, $20 million contract ($9 million guaranteed) that turned out to be an injury riddled disaster for the Cowboys.

Fast forward to 2012 when, once again, Thompson allowed a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, this time Scott Wells, to sign a big free agent contract with another NFC team. Though Wells has been healthy for the past three seasons, he's had some back troubles in the past. And just like Rivera, he's on the wrong side of 30.

Maybe Rivera's story guided Thompson's decision with Wells, but the driving factor may have been that the Packers have too many good players to re-sign. Could they afford to pay Wells $6 million per season, and re-sign T.J. Lang after next season?

Unfortunately, what's done is done, and it's time to look ahead. Tom Silverstein thinks their next starting center will not be a player currently on the roster. Unless the Packers find a low cost veteran free agent to their liking, it probably means they'll be looking at the draft.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Moving Back Day

After 5 years and two weeks writing for SB Nation about the Green Bay Packers, my time as the manager of the Acme Packing Company has come to an end. It was a change that I had been thinking about for a while, but it wasn't my choice. I'm not exactly sure what the future holds, but in the meantime, I'm going to go back to the blog where it all began for me.