Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 Packer Free Agents: Mike Neal Really Isn't A Linebacker

Mike Neal is a good story for the Green Bay Packers. After knee injuries kept him off the field for well over a year, and kept him ineffective for halves of two more seasons, he finally came on late in 2012 to provide them with another pass rusher. Last year they made the surprising decision to move an almost 300 lb. lineman to outside linebacker. If Neal wasn't the biggest linebacker in the NFL season, I don't know who was bigger.

Previous 2014 Packer Free Agents: Sam Shields, James Starks and Andrew Quarless, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, Marshall Newhouse, and a bunch of other guys.
There are already some rumors of interest in him, which makes sense because he's coming off his rookie contract and entering what should be the prime of his career. He finished 2013 with 5 sacks, which was fairly impressive considering he was playing through a few injuries late in the season. Because of LB Clay Matthews's hamstring and broken wrist, the lousy play from rookies LB Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba, Neal, and inconsistency/injuries with LB Nick Perry, Neal was the most reliable outside linebacker they had last season.

The big problem is that he's not really an outside linebacker. Thankfully he didn't drop back into pass coverage all that often, but he wasn't very good at playing in space against the run and he earned a negative run defense grade from Pro Football Focus. When he's out on the edge, he just couldn't react to a running back like any of the other linebackers on the roster. It's not really his fault; it's the reason why there aren't a lot of 280-290 lb. outside linebackers in the NFL.

There had been a rumor that the Packers were going with smaller defensive lineman next season so maybe a move back to the line would help him, but if they really liked him as a defensive lineman then I doubt they would have moved him to outside linebacker in the first place. Though he had 5 sacks in 2013, a large part of his success was that he had a lot of opportunities to rush the passer. He only earned a positive grade as a pass rusher in three games last season, according to Pro Football Focus (Lions and Bears at Lambeau, and Falcons).

At best, he's a complementary pass rusher, he's got a long history as an injury risk, and he doesn't have an obvious position. He's an interesting player who's young, played multiple positions, and been effective at times. I can see why other teams are interested in him. However, I don't see how he makes the Packers' defense any better in 2014, other than to provide depth. I'm not expecting the Packers to promise him a starting role next season, but I think he will get such an offer from another team.

Packers LB Matthews doesn't think the NFL can eliminate players use of racial slurs

In a recent interview with Dan Patrick, Packers LB Clay Matthews gave his take, in my opinion a logical one, on the NFL's recent attempt to make using racial slurs on the field a 15-yard penalty.

“I think it’s used as a term of endearment between players, and I think it’s so much a part of pop culture and culture in general that it's going to be very hard to eliminate from the game," Matthews said.  “I think is more something that should come from the locker room, organization, and team leaders to remove it if they see fit."
In this case, I 100% agree with Matthews. Right now, whether we like it or not, the N-word is constantly being used by players of all races, so why try to eliminate it if you simply can't?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Packers Need A Safety and Micah Hyde Might Be The Guy

After he was drafted, I thought CB Micah Hyde might play safety for the Green Bay Packers. Instead he spent the entire 2013 season playing cornerback, and probably playing a lot more than the team expected because of the injuries to CB Casey Hayward.
So the fact that Hyde could play safety is not news to me, and the stats back me up. According to Pro Football Focus, while Hyde earned a neutral grade in pass coverage, he was one of the few Packers who earned a positive grade as a run defender. He won't ever be outstanding in pass coverage because he lacks elite speed, but if he can keep learning through film study and experience, that along with his solid tackling could turn him into a very good safety.

The newsworthy portion is that Mike McCarthy said "I mean Micah's to me a multiple position player. I'd like to see Micah compete to play all three downs on defense, so if there's a personnel group that he has to play safety, yeah that's an option." I hadn't heard anyone from the Packers say that Hyde could be a safety before. When Hayward returns next season, and hopefully CB Sam Shields is re-signed, the Packers might have enough depth at cornerback to move Hyde to safety. He was one of their better DBs last season and he deserves a shot at more playing time.

Packers sign former Chargers RB Michael Hill

The Packers, despite the fact that their running game seemed to be alright last year, apparently signed another Running Back yesterday, acquiring former Charger Michael Hill on a one-year contract, reports. Last season, Hill was on San Diego's roster for a couple weeks in the summer, before being cut on August 31 and never appearing in a regular season/meaningful game. 

Still, in his college career at Missouri Western State U, Hill set a school record with 4,969 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns, so yea, this signing could pay off. It probably won't, but, you know, it could. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Free Agency: DeMarcus Ware and D'Qwell Jackson

The Green Bay Packers need help on defense and both of these players are either available now or will be released soon. Unfortunately neither one would help them next season.
The Cowboys have major salary cap problems and have to cut players just to get under the cap. Ware is scheduled to receive $12.25 million in 2014 and probably provides as much savings as anyone on their roster. Depending on the pay cut offered, he's likely to do well receiving an Elvis Dumervil type contract and around $10 million in guaranteed money for his next contract. His name recognition might provide him an added bonus.

The problem is that he's just not the same player he was back in 2011. I was surprised how ineffective he was as a pass rusher when the Packers played the Cowboys last December. Pro Football Focus still gave him a positive pass rushing grade for 2013, so he's still useful, but he's probably going to be paid more than he's worth. Also, if the Packers were to pursue him, he'd effectively move LB Nick Perry to a reserve role, and Perry earned a higher regular season grade from Pro Football Focus in fewer games last season. What they need to do is draft a better backup behind Perry for next season.
As underwhelming as A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones were last season, ILB D'Qwell Jackson has earned a huge negative grade from Pro Football Focus over the last two seasons for his run defense. He isn't known for his pass coverage either. He's got all the leadership intangibles that sports writers love to write about, but that doesn't help him play better on the field. Hawk was so bad last season that Jackson would still provide an upgrade, but not much of one. Based on the intense interest the NFL has already shown in him since his release, he's likely to be paid a lot more than he's worth too.

Rumor: Packers showing interest in Arizona State DL Will Sutton

According to, the Packers are one of many teams currently showing interest in Arizona State DL Will Sutton. In 2013, Sutton racked up a total of 48 tackles (13.5 for a loss) for the ranked Sun Devils, while also collecting a nice 4 sacks and an interception.  

So yea, looking at those numbers, I'm already sold on this guy. Sure, he weighed in at a not-so-great 303 at the combine, but really, we can look past that, can't we? I mean, the Packers apparently can, and either way, we gotta remember that weight is never that big of a deal when you're a lineman. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2014 Packer Free Agents: Sam Shields Wants A Reasonable Contract

I've been going through the list of key free agents for the Green Bay Packers in reverse order, starting with the 19 players who aren't really free agents and/or aren't going to command a multiple year contract, and moving onto the 5 guys who aren't really important to re-sign. I had a few more players to write about before I wrote about CB Sam Shields, who I viewed as their most important player to re-sign, but some recent news made me decide to write about him now.
Those numbers rang a bell. Four-years, $22.4 million are exactly the same contract terms that CB Tim Jennings agreed to with the Bears back in January. Those two aren't exactly the same type of player (Jennings has played a lot of cover-2 and Shields is younger) but they're comparable players; starting caliber cornerbacks who aren't shutdown corners. They were within 0.1 of having the same overall 2013 grade according to Pro Football Focus. Maybe it's too much of a coincidence; someone is just assuming Shields should receive the same contract as Jennings. On the other hand, his agent (Drew Rosenhaus) isn't a dummy and probably knows his client's market value.

As a brief aside, there is a good argument to be made that their most important free agent this offseason is C Evan Dietrich-Smith. He had a very good 2013 season, better than I expected, and he played more snaps last season than any other free agent. He was very important to their team. However, he's a center, and he's playing alongside two veteran guards (who were both great in 2013 too). They might not want to re-sign another interior lineman to a big multi-year contract, and I think that if the Packers plugged someone like J.C. Tretter in at center alongside Lang and Sitton, we wouldn't notice the difference.

I really wanted them to re-sign Shields, but it would be an overpay to use the franchise tag on him, so I was concerned that they wouldn't be able to keep him from testing the market. Hopefully they can sign him to a new contract based on the terms that were reported yesterday.

Does McCarthy still want Raji and Pickett?

Well, right now it definitely appears that way. Just check out this quote I recently found in the Milwaukee JS:

"We're looking to sign those guys (Raji and Pickett) back, but we'll see what happens," McCarthy, who, let's keep in mind, is the team's Coach, not it's General Manager, said. "Those decisions, a lot of those will be financial. That's really not practical to keep them all."

So yea people, it now appears that, maybe, just maybe, the Packers will waste some of their surplus money this offseason. They might not, but C'Mon, that first sentence is pretty clear, isn't it?

Monday, February 24, 2014

James Jones' time in Green Bay likely over

James Jones' time in Green Bay is likely over, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn reports. According to McGinn, the Packers are yet to offer the 29-year old receiver a new contract and, "in all likelihood," never will. Jones has played each of his first 7 NFL seasons with the team, catching a total of 310 passes for 4,305 yards, so this definitely a big deal. 

Now overall, I've liked having Jones on the team, but really, he's not that good. He's basically just another Greg Jennings, meaning that he's only as good as his QB is. So yea, I guess I'm fine with this decision. I'll still miss Jones a little, but in the end, his absence probably won't affect anything that much. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 NFL Combine: What To Watch For The Packers

Is GM Ted Thompson smiling? That would seem unlikely, he's talking to a bunch of reporters, but you never know. Of course, he didn't say anything very interesting, unless you're shocked to learn that they'd like to re-sign CB Sam Shields and they haven't given up on last year's first round pick, DE Datone Jones.
I don't expect anything to be settled for the Packers based on this weekend's combine. Without a high selection (No. 21 overall), they're not going to know how things will work out until the draft actually happens on May 8th.

(Why the heck is it so late this year? They seriously couldn't figure out the logistics at Radio City Music Hall?).

Right now, there are a bunch of defensive lineman who are generally projected as late first round picks (Kony Ealy, Louis Nix, Dee Ford, Aaron Donald, Timmy Jernigan) but who knows which player will actually be available. If you'd like them to draft another player like Mike Daniels, then I'm a big Aaron Donald fan. Thompson's never drafted a defensive back in the first round, but I guess there's a first time for everything. He did it once with LB A.J. Hawk, but I'm not expecting he'll ever draft an inside LB in the first round again.

Also, their focus could change based on free agency, even if they don't sign any free agents from another team. Will they re-sign Shields? Will they give B.J. Raji another chance? Whatever happens with those players will effect their draft strategy.

Obviously this is an important week for their scouting department, but most everything written about it now is just going to be speculation.

Packers reportedly met with North Carolina TE Eric Ebron this weekend

According to's Matt Zenitz, the Packers met with North Carolina TE Eric Ebron this weekend. In 3 seasons with the Tar Heels, Ebron was pretty good, catching 112 passes for 1,805 yards (62 passes for 973 yards in 2013), so given their current situation it's not surprising that the Pack are looking at this guy. 

Still, I'd be shocked if Green Bay's seriously looking for a starting TE in this year's draft. I mean, Jermichael Finley will probably still be able to come back and Andrew Quarless is, of course, available, so why they would just doesn't make sense to me.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

McCarthy "open and optimistic" about Finley return

In an article recently published by ESPN Wisconsin, Packers HC Mike McCarthy was interestingly quoted saying that he is "very open and optimistic" about a Jermichael Finley return. 

“Pat (McKenzie) doesn't feel the same way about Jermichael as he felt about Nick,” McCarthy said in an interview at his Indianapolis hotel during a break in the annual NFL Scouting Combine. “So I'm very open and optimistic about Jermichael coming back. I think the specifics of their injuries are different."

So yea Packer fans, that's great news. It still doesn't guarantee anything, but still, it's a step in the right direction, isn't it?

Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 Packer Free Agents: James Starks and Andrew Quarless

With RB James Starks and TE Andrew Quarless, these are guys who could help the Green Bay Packers next season, maybe, but the team shouldn't make a huge effort to bring back.

Previously: Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji. Marshall Newhouse.
I really do like Starks, but the problem for him in the NFL is the same one he had in college; he can't stay healthy. A freak injury or two, like a broken collerbone, is one thing, but his injuries have been a persistent problem for years. The above picture is from his best game of the season (he played 64 snaps against the team from Washington in Week 2). The next week in Cincinnati, he got hurt, and he didn't play again until Week 8 against the Vikings. He was good in every game last season, his only negative scores from Pro Football Focus came in the weeks when he played on only a handful of snaps, but even in a relatively healthy year he still missed a few games. His unreliability is a big reason why he's no longer the starting RB and they drafted Eddie Lacy last season. He's good, but there's no need to spend big dollars or offer multiple years to a backup, injury prone RB.

Quarless was a major disappointment last season. After finally returning to health after a major 2011 injury, he was part of the rotation before TE Jermichael Finley's spinal injury (28 to 43 snaps per game) and he played even more (31 to 74 snaps) after it, but at no point did he improve. He wasn't a disaster as a receiver; he actually made little impact and was hardly featured (only 54 targets for the season), which wasn't good considering he was best known as a receiver coming out of college. Even worse, he was terrible as a run blocker, his cumulative 2013 season rating as a run blocker from Pro Football Focus was a minus 11.2, while he was considered the best blocker among the tight ends before his 2011 injury. A tight end who isn't a plus as a receiver and terrible as a run blocker shouldn't be a priority to re-sign.

Re-Signing Nelson a Packers offseason priority

Re-Signing star WR Jordy Nelson is a Packers offseason priority,'s Kevin Patra reports. Nelson, 28, has just one year and $2.5 million left on his current contract, so the fact that this news is beginning to be come out isn't at all surprising. 

Through six career seasons (all with Green Bay), Nelson has caught an impressive 302 passes for a nice 4,590 yards, so yea, if it were up to me, I'd re-sign this guy as soon as possible. I mean, he's obviously pretty good on track to getting even better, so why wouldn't anyone want him? 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cobb would "love" to sign a long-term deal with the Packers

When asked recently by's Dan Hanzus if he wants to sign a long-term deal with the Packers sometime in the future, Green Bay WR Randall Cobb made it clear to the media for the first time that yes, that's what he wants. 

"I would definitely love that," Cobb said. "But unfortunately that won't be my decision. That will be on the team to come to me with that decision."
Now while that last sentence probably is true, that quote, in my opinion, pretty much locks Cobb in Green Bay for many years to come. I mean, the Packers won't let a great receiver like him leave when he doesn't want to, wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Packers QB Coach Van Pelt appears to want Matt Flynn back

In an article recently published by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, recently-promoted Packers QB Coach Alex Van Pelt was quoted saying some obviously positive things about now free agent Matt Flynn. 

“The way he fits in the locker room, especially in the quarterback room," Van Pelt said. "The things he does to get Aaron ready to play on Sundays are little things that are hidden sometimes when you're looking at guys, so I'm excited to hopefully get him back in there.”

So yea Thompson, you hear him: sign Flynn again. Sure, he might not be great, but I can guarantee you he'll be a hell of a lot better than Scott Tolzein. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 NFL Franchise Tag: Might The Packers Use It?

The franchise tag period is getting a little overrated these days. The big problem is that there hasn't been much of an increase in the salary cap over the past couple years. It might be between $126 to $128 million in 2014, up from $123 million in 2013, but the franchise tag is such a big number (often over $10 million) that a lot of teams just aren't able to make it work. Plus, the players hate it because it's less likely they'll receive a long-term deal (and giant signing bonus) after they've been tagged. Only eight players received the franchise tag in 2013.

A former agent writing at noted that GM Ted Thompson has only used the franchise tag on two occasions (Ryan Pickett and Corey Williams) while mentioning only two possible candidates in 2014: CB Sam Shields and B.J. Raji.

Tom Silverstein thinks the franchise tag amount of $11+ million might be too rich for Shields, and I'd agree with him. Shields' cumulative cornerback grade at Pro Football Focus is just below (and similar) to CB Sean Smith, who signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Chiefs last March. The Bears recently re-signed CB Tim Jennings for four-years and $22.4 million, another player similar to Shields. The franchise tag of $11+ million would be a substantial overpay, though Shields could end up receiving more than either Smith or Jennings because he's younger and has more speed.

I have no idea why Raji's mentioned as a franchise tag candidate, he's listed as one of the top candidates according to, but he hasn't recorded a sack in forever and his run defense went into the tank late last season. Why would they pay him $9.2 million in 2014? It would be stupid to tag Raji, and Ted Thompson doesn't do stupid.

So it doesn't look like the Packers will be using the franchise tag in 2014. I still want the Packers to re-sign Shields, but I don't want them to use the franchise tag on him. No other free agent looks like a viable candidate.

Giants Wilson now expected to be ready for 2014

According to, Giants Running Back David Wilson is now expected to be ready for the 2014 season. You may remember earlier this offseason, when I wrote about how, if Wilson's neck didn't get healthy Packers backup James Starks could be a candidate for the team's starting job, so yea, this story does affect the Packers. Not in a major way by any means, but definitely in a notable one. It likely means that, whether we like it or not, James Starks will be Eddie Lacy's backup for at least one more season, which, I'll admit, I find exciting. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

So Who's Right About The Packers and Their Intentions In Free Agency?

Last week there were two media reports about the Green Bay Packers and how they might approach free agency this offseason.

The counterpoint came from Mike Vandermause, who doubts the source of the rumor was GM Ted Thompson and therefore it shouldn't be relied on. That's an excellent point, and it would be contrary to everything we've seen from the Packers in recent years. However, the Packers have kicked the tires on many free agents over the past few years, but they've usually balked at the asking price. In almost every instance, passing on an overpriced free agent was the best decision. Except there are a couple factors that have changed this offseason.

First, the defensive line was so bad last season that many free agents would provide an immediate upgrade, so long as it's not some Anthony Hargrove type bargain/reclamation project. Second, the Packers don't have a lot of big free agents of their own to re-sign. Sam Shields could be in line for a big contract, but no one else should expect a huge deal this March. Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and (unfortunately) Morgan Burnett all received extensions in the last year. There's no rush to extend Bryan Bulaga until he can prove he's healthy. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will have to be considered for extensions, they'll both be free agents in 2015, but neither one will crush the salary cap. Third, the Packers usually have room under the salary cap, but they don't usually have this much room (around $29 million). This isn't the same-old offseason situation.

I think the sources that Ian Rapoport mentions are probably agents, maybe B.J. Raji's agent since Rapoport's tweets addressed the defensive line and specifically mentioned Raji. Unfortunately most reports from unnamed sources turn out to be false, but I can at least see how it's possible that the Packers might actually open up their wallet for a defensive lineman or two this offseason.

Packers hire Texas Tech assistant David Raih onto coaching staff

The Packers, following last week's hirings of Ron Zook and Sam Gash, apparently added yet another piece to their 2014 coaching staff this weekend, hiring Texas Tech Outside Receivers coach David Raih as an offensive assistant, reports. As of now, the exact position Raih has been hired to is still a mystery, although it is expected to be announced sometime this week. 

From 1999 to 2003, Raih was the backup QB of the University of Iowa's football team, so it's definitely possible that his new position could involve working with the team's recently-promoted QBs coach: Alex Van Pelt. There's no evidence to support that statement, but, like I just said, it's definitely possible. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Report: Finley's neck should be "fully healed" in 4-8 weeks

According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Packers Tight End Jermichael Finley's neck should be "fully healed" in 4-8 weeks. Finley is a soon-to-be free agent, so the sooner he gets healthy the better for any teams interested in him(specifically Green Bay and New York).

On the other hand, while this news is still great, it remains unknown if Finley will be as good as he usually is when the season comes around. I mean, that neck injury was obviously pretty terrible, so him coming back at 100% is definitely unlikely if you ask me(not impossible, but unlikely).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Former Packer Van Roten signs with Seahawks

After being released by the Packers earlier this week, former Penn Offensive Lineman Greg Van Roten has signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks, reports. Van Roten, as I said a couple of days ago, has played each of his first two NFL seasons with Green Bay, so yea, it kinda sucks to see him go to a conference rival. 

Still, I guess I could care less about this news. Let's face it, Van Roten probably won't even make the team out of training camp, so it's a safe bet that, by the time September comes around, this signing won't even matter.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Packers Free Agents: B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett

I hadn't intended to combine both players into one post, but they are both expected to be playing for new teams in 2014 because its rumored that the Packers intend to spend money in free agency to re-make their defensive line.
For B.J. Raji, I'm surprised it's come to this. He was my preferred choice for their first round pick in 2009, and his strong finish in 2010 seemed to confirm that he was going to be a great player. His struggles began in 2011, when it seemed like the Packers were overworking him, but he wasn't much better in 2012 before becoming a non-factor by the end of last season. Unless they had some inside knowledge to explain why he struggled, it seemed like a good bet that the Packers would let another team sign him. And that was before it became known earlier this week that the Packers were looking at signing smaller, more athletic, defensive lineman. It'd be a surprise to see him back next season.

As for Ryan Pickett, it looks like age has finally caught up with him. He'll be 35 next season and certain to be one of the oldest players in the NFL. He was still good against the run last season, but not as good as he'd been in the past. Defensive lineman can age gracefully, as long as they stay healthy it's not a problem if they lose a step or two, but his days as a starter appear over. If he wants to play again in 2014, I'm sure he'll find another opportunity for a team who's looking for a backup NT, but I'm not expecting it'll be with the Packers.

It's unclear who will replace them next season, it's certain that some fresh players will have to be brought in via free agency and/or the draft, but this does look like the time to move on.

Packers sign free agent TE Raymond Webber

According to their official team website, the Packers have signed free agent TE Raymond Webber. Webber, a former college star who, despite being in the league for 2 years now has never played in a regular season game, has never really done anything notable in the NFL, but, in my opinion, could still be good. I mean, I know nothing about him, so I'm not gonna give up on him already just because he has no legitimate experience.

Anyway, Webber attended training camp with the Buccaneers in 2011, the Jets in 2012, and a CFL team last year, so yea, he obviously knows how to play football. He may not be particularly great at it, but he's apparently good enough to make the Packers like him.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Could the Packers make a run at Brandon Weeden?

Yesterday, as you might've heard, Browns QB Brandon Weeden made headlines around the sports world by saying that he wants to leave the team. Now of course, it's still likely that he won't actually get his wish, but hearing that story immediately made me wonder: could the Packers make a run at him, if he becomes available? The simple answer to that question: yea, they could.

Last season, Weeden had an awful QBR of 24.7, which, while terrible, was still 5.3 points higher than Matt Flynn's 19.4. So yea, in my opinion, Ted Thompson should at least check in on this guy. He could actually end up being the backup they've been looking for.

Not A Joke: The Packers Plan To Spend In Free Agency

I hope you're sitting down for this surprising news:
And where might they want to spend their hard earned salary cap dollars?
They'd be looking for faster lineman in the 290 lb. range, with a similar body type to DE Datone Jones. Maybe the ideal player would be similar to DE Mike Daniels.

And now might be the perfect time to make a change. DE B.J. Raji did nothing in the final year of his rookie contract, and NT Ryan Pickett had one of his worst seasons (he received a negative grade from Pro Football Focus and his run defense rating fell hard). Both of them are free agents, and their absence will free up a lot of salary cap space; they combined for almost 10% of the 2013 cap charge.

I don't know if the Packers are thinking of making one or two big signings. Or maybe they want to sign multiple players at mid-level contracts, similar to what the Seahawks did last season when they signed LB Cliff Avril and DE Michael Bennett for about $10 million combined in 2013. Either way can work, but I'm going to throw a couple names out there if the Packers want to go big:

DE Greg Hardy. He should be the first name to leap to everyone's mind. He's 25 years old, weighs 290 lbs. and he's coming off back-to-back double digit sack seasons. He'll be looking for a monster Mario Williams like contract, and I can't say that I blame him. His price could be too high, but he does belong at the top of the list and he immediately changes the defense.

DT Jason Hatcher. He's an inside rusher versus the lighter Hardy, but he's still under 300 lbs. and he'll get after the quarterback. His 11 sacks and gaudy 26.9 rating as a pass rusher according to Pro Football Focus in 2013 are screaming "career year" but he's been good for the past few seasons. He'll turn 32 before the start of next season, which isn't as appealing as the much younger Hardy, but he's more likely to be available. Jerry Jones is so bad that the Cowboys have to shed $25 million just to get under the 2014 salary cap.

DT Randy Starks. He's even less like Hardy; over 300 lbs. and turning 31 before the end of the 2014 season. But he's also a very good interior pass rusher who's only gotten better in that regard over the past two seasons. The Dolphins actually have even more salary cap space than the Packers, which would seem to indicate that Starks is a lock to re-sign, however, the Dolphins' front office is a mess and it wouldn't be a shock to see them bungle it. Their new GM was something like their seventh choice, who knows what he'll do this offseason, and a likely playoff berth in 2014 with the Packers might have a lot more appeal to Starks than another 7-9 finish in Miami.

The Packers were so bad on the defensive line last season, the only defensive lineman to earn a positive grade from Pro Football Focus was Mike Daniels, that the Packers could settle on some lesser names, and they'd still provide a huge upgrade. They can't mess this up if they're serious about spending.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Packers release OL Greg Van Roten

According to, the Packers have released Offensive Lineman Greg Van Roten. Van Roten, an undrafted free agent out of Penn, has been in the league for two years now (both in Green Bay), yet has played in just a total of 10 games (7 in 2012, 3 in 2013) due to injuries. 

For the last two years, Van Roten has made a decent annual salaray of $480k, which was scheduled to go up to $570k for the upcoming 2014 season. So yea, I guess this is a good move by the Packers. They're not getting anything out of the guy, so they might as well just cut him to save a little extra cash.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

McCarthy: "Our defense is going to change"

In an article recently published by, Packers HC Mike McCarthy, a coach not known for his defense, promised for what seems like the hundredth time that, in 2014, the team's defense will finally change. 

“Our defense is going to change some," McCarthy said. “You don’t ever stay the same. I’ll set the vision for the defense. Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out.” 

So yea, again we're hearing that Pack's defense will be good next year. That's probably not true, but at least the staff has faith, something that you always need in a hopeless situation. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why The Packers Might Favor Tolzien Over Flynn

While I'm writing a post about why the Green Bay Packers might want Scott Tolzien instead of Matt Flynn as their No. 2 quarterback in 2014, I'd like to remind everyone that I'm writing about two quarterbacks who were released by other teams in 2013 (twice in Flynn's case). Neither one of them is very good, and neither one should be challenging for a starting job on any NFL team. Both quarterbacks were terrible for the Packers in 2013, and it's not going to matter much whether they choose one over the other.

Having said that, there are a few points in Tolzien's favor. He had a better QPB (ESPN's advanced metric) of 24.3 to Flynn's 19.4 in large part because he didn't fumble, while Flynn had two (including a killer one against the Steelers). Just a reminder, both of their QPBs are terrible, only a score over 50 is acceptable, so it's still the lesser of two evils.

Tolzien also didn't take part in training camp, so by the time he took the field against the Eagles on November 11th, he might have had close to zero snaps with the first team offense because Seneca Wallace probably took all the snaps in practice that week. While Flynn had to shake off the rust, Tolzien was thrown into the fire (to mix my metaphors). Mike McCarthy was impressed with Tolzien after the Eagles game, and he might be bullish on how Tolzien would play in 2014 after a full offseason under his belt.

The first problem for Flynn is that he's a free agent. Obviously he won't need much to re-sign, but GM Ted Thompson isn't exactly known for accommodating free agents. Also, he was incredibly inconsistent last season, mixing a couple of good games (Vikings and Cowboys) in with a couple of absolute horror shows (Lions and Steelers). Depending on the circumstances, that might not be something that's acceptable for McCarthy. Finally, how healthy is Flynn's elbow? The Packers now know a lot more about his health status, and the prognosis might not be good. The injury could be causing a problem with arm strength and accuracy. As a general rule, it's probably better to go with the healthy player.

This isn't a slam-dunk endorsement for Tolzien. My first preference would be that both of them return in 2014 with Flynn as the No. 2 and Tolzien as the emergency quarterback. But if the plan is to chose one over the other, Tolzien could turn out to be the better player.

Packers reportedly favoring Tolzien over Flynn for their 2014 backup QB job

According to, the Packers, despite the fact that Matt Flynn led them to two big wins last season to keep them in the playoff race, are currently favoring Scott Tolzien for their 2014 backup QB job. Tolzien was terrible last year, going 0-2-1 in the three games he played, so why they're doing this is confusing if you ask me. 

On the other hand, Tolzien definitely could improve this offseason, but of course, it's still too early to know that for sure. I personally don't he will, but since I can't guarantee anything I guess we'll just have to watch the preseason.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Rumor: Packers Safety Burnett responsible for Tony Gonzalez's retirement

As you probably already know, Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez, a definite future Hall-of-Famer, retired earlier this offseason for what many assume to just be aging. But apparently, according to him, that's not actually the case. In his view, he's leaving the league because his teammates, during last season's Falcons-Packers game at Lambeau, didn't stand up for him while he was taunted by Green Bay Safety Morgan Burnett, who has since denied the rumors. 

So yea, what we're learning here is this: whether this story is true or not, Tony Gonzalez is an emotional wimp. This is pro football, not a high school clique, so if he really can't stand just being taunted then I guess it is in fact his time to leave.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Finley's agent to the NY Post: "Finley wants to play his entire career in Green Bay"

In response to the recent rumors surrounding his client, Packers TE Jermichael Finley's agent, Blake Baratz, told the New York post this earlier this week. 

“Right now he is a Packer and I know he would love to play his entire career there," Baratz said. “For the next five weeks or so they have his exclusive negotiation rights. If it doesn’t work out in Green Bay for whatever reason then I believe there are a number of teams that could use a talent like Jermichael.’’
So yea, while #88's departure is definitely still possible, I no longer see it as likely. I mean, his agent apparently doesn't think he wants to leave, so why should we?

Friday, February 07, 2014

Packers Hire Two New Coaches: Ron Zook and Sam Gash

UPDATE: The last significant coaching news was that Assistant Head Coach Winston Moss would now coach the inside and outside LBs, taking over OLB duties from Kevin Greene. I thought that might happen, instead of bringing a new LB coach they'll defer to Moss since he carries the AHC title. It's not a big deal, I recall being a little surprised when they split the positional LB duties into two coaching positions in the first place.

At first, this headline made me wince because Ron Zook has become a bit of a punchline after two failed head coaching jobs at the Universities of Florida and Illinois. But his new job is as the assistant special teams coach, so the reality is that it's not a big deal. Zook knew Mike McCarthy because they worked together with the Saints over a decade ago.
I had missed that McCarthy previously let former assistant special teams coach Chad Morton go. As a unit, despite a comeback season for K Mason Crosby, it was a down year for special teams and they were given a negative grade by Pro Football Focus. Morton might have lost his job because of the failed Jeremy Ross as a kickoff returner experiment, but I'm just speculating. It was an area that needed improvement and Zook certainly has a better resume than Morton.

Actually his resume is a little too good. Usually the assistant special teams coach is a young guy, not someone with head coaching experience. It looks like Zook just wanted to get back to coaching in any role. That's not really unusual. Last season, Steve Spagnuolo was given the vague title of "Senior Defensive Assistant" by the Ravens after a couple of failed jobs as the head coach of the Rams and DC for the Saints, probably so he could keep his foot in the NFL door. In Zook's case, this might an attempt to jump start his career or maybe he just misses coaching. In either case, I don't see why it would hurt to have him on the staff.

As for the other hire, after Ben McAdoo left for the Giants and McCarthy shuffled his coaching staff in response, it left him with an opening at running backs coach. Sam Gash had a very good career as an NFL fullback with two Pro Bowl appearances, so he certainly knows the position. He lost his job in 2012 with the Lions, probably because Mikel Leshoure hasn't developed into a legitimate NFL running back, and it didn't help that former Lions HC Jim Schwartz probably had to do something after a disappointing season. He looks like solid hire as someone to mentor RB Eddie Lacy.

Nick Collins: Packers Dr. McKenzie "only" doctor to not clear me

In an article recently published by ESPN Wisconsin, former Packers Safety Nick Collins, now a free agent attempting to make a comeback after his neck injury a few years ago, claimed that Packers team Dr. Pat McKenzie was the only doctor he saw that wouldn't medically clear him to play.

“The only doctor that was really unsure was Dr. McKenzie. He wasn’t quite sold on the idea of me playing for the Packers anymore,” Collins said. “That’s not saying that I wasn’t cleared to go nowhere else. I was cleared to go somewhere else. He just wasn’t 100 percent sold on the idea."

Now Collins didn't say exactly how many teams examined him, but still, I'm sensing a little hesitation on McKenzie's behalf here. I mean, if the guy has to admit that you were the only one to not clear him, then you must be acting at least a little differently than everyone else.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Packers Free Agents: Marshall Newhouse

Up front, 2013 was a total disaster for Marshall Newhouse.

Going back to 2011, he initially showed some promise as a pass protector, and in 2012 he was decent in pass blocking as the starting left tackle (while providing nothing as a run blocker). The Packers hadn't given up on him, but they decided to make him compete for a starting job last season against Don Barclay. For whatever reason, he completely fell apart. It started with the first preseason game, when he was beaten badly on a speed rush by Cardinals LB John Abraham. He barely played during the regular season, only 245 official snaps, but when he did it was bad.
While he deserves to be unemployed based on his 2013 season alone, there is some past promise to consider. Also, he's young (25) and never suffered a major injury. If the Packers decide not to re-sign him, some team will give him another chance on a one-year contract.

The Packers will get three lineman back from season ending injuries (Bulaga, Van Roten, Tretter) and will probably spend another year trying to figure out former 1st round pick Derek Sherrod, so depth isn't a big concern on the offensive line. The 2014 draft seems stacked at the top, as many as six tackles could be drafted in the first round, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of depth in the mid-rounds. They might want to hedge their bets and offer him a one-year contract. However, some other team might view him as a guard and give him a chance to start, which he probably won't get with the Packers.

Unless he has no other option and has to accept a one-year minimum contract from the Packers next April, I expect he'll be given another chance by some other team.

Giants Safety Rolle reportedly recruiting Packers Finley

After watching the Super Bowl with him, Giants Safety Antrel Rolle is apparently attempting to lure Packers TE Jermichael Finley to New York, reports. Finley, a 2008 Packers draft pick, will be a free agent this offseason, so the fact that some teams are already trying to attract him isn't surprising. 

Now while a move to the Big Apple by #88 is possible, I don't see it happening. Finley recently was quoted saying that he wants to be in Green Bay for life, so as long as they show interest in him I just can't see him leaving.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Packers 2014 Free Agents: The Class of 19

The Packers have 19 free agents of their own to address this offseason, although many of them will be an easy decision. The three players who are either restricted or exclusive rights free agents (which really means they aren't free agents at all) will certainly be back at a small price, and several unrestricted free agents should be considered questionable to return under any circumstances.
Exclusive rights: S Chris Banjo. He was a pleasant surprise in training camp, but he didn't show much on defense when he was given the chance to replace S Jerron McMillian. He'll probably be re-signed because of his play on special teams but he's not a legitimate option on defense.

Restricted: S M.D. Jennings. If Jennings is the starter in 2014, then I'll feel like the offseason was a failure. He didn't make any big plays last season and he had the lowest grade in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus of any defender who was with the team at the end of last season. However, he's certain to return because no team should offer him a contract and the Packers might as well bring him back to push his replacement. He'll receive the minimum tender and provide some depth, at least during the preseason.

LB Jamari Lattimore. He was their best middle linebacker last season, but that was a low bar for him to clear because of down years by A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. However, Pro Football Focus didn't give him a positive grade in either run defense or pass coverage, so it's not obvious he's the answer to their defensive problems either. He might receive a higher tender offer because he was an undrafted player. If they offered the minimum tender then there would be no draft pick compensation if he signed elsewhere. But contracts are very rarely even offered to restricted free agents, so the chances are low that he'll receive one of any sort from another team.

Unrestricted: TE Jermichael Finley, LB Robert Francois, and DE Johnny Jolly. With all three coming off serious season ending injuries, I'm not expecting these players to receive much interest from any team. Finley's recovering from recent spinal fusion surgery, Francois tore his achilles back in October, and Jolly might need neck surgery. I know Finley was very optimistic in recent radio interviews, but that doesn't mean much. They'll either be let go because of their injury concerns or they'll be re-signed for a low amount.

QB Seneca Wallace. He was only signed because of the disastrous Battle of the Backups last preseason, and he was awful himself when he replaced Aaron Rodgers. He's a good guy but I can't imagine he'll be brought back.

QB Matt Flynn. I'm sure most fans would like to see him re-signed, but the Packers don't have to make a big push for him. He's been on the roster of four different NFL teams in the past 12 months and fallen into the journeyman portion of his career. While he's valuable to the Packers, every other NFL team has probably figured out that he's not the answer to their problems. Hopefully he's re-signed in late March, early April, at the veteran's minimum.

DE C.J. Wilson. He didn't have a terrible season, but it's a very bad sign that he couldn't get any playing time (only 108 snaps last season) when the defensive line was a train wreck. He fell on the depth chart behind the equally unimpressive Josh Boyd, so I don't see why the Packers would want him back in 2014. There's plenty of similar players in the undrafted free agent pool, so I'd expect them to add depth through the rookie class instead of re-signing him.

Those six unrestricted free agents are the easy choices. If they return, and it's questionable whether they should even be brought back in the first place, it'll only be for the veteran's minimum or something loaded with playing time incentives. That leaves ten other unrestricted free agents who could or should be brought back and I'll write about them over the next couple weeks.

Packers to raise ticket prices for 2014 season

According to their official team website, the Packers will be raising their ticket prices for the upcoming 2014 season. Now if you go the games often, it's easy to get upset about this, but really, it's not that bad. Each seat's price will only go up about $3, so it won't in any way be a monumental change. 

The article goes on to state that the extra cash will go to renovating the Lambeau Field Atrium, which I don't find all that necessary. I mean, I guess it could always get better, but still, I don't think it's all that bad right now.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Seahawks Are The Champs: The Offseason Begins For The Packers

After watching the Seahawks dominate in the Super Bowl, it might look like the Packers have an impossibly tough opponent to overcome next season. While the Seahawks were for real this season, past success doesn't guarantee it will happen in the future.

The only player of note the Seahawks were without in the Super Bowl was WR Sidney Rice (until CB Richard Sherman was hurt late in the game) and Rice's value is debatable. To repeat in 2014, the Seahawks are going to have to navigate the tricky road of future injuries and re-signing current and future free agents. They'll still be formidable in 2014 but they'll have as much trouble keeping it all together as the Packers will have at making their own team better.

The Seahawks remind me a little of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who's defense obliterated the Giants in the Super Bowl. That offseason, the Ravens made a big free agent QB signing to improve their shaky offense around a dominate defense, and they didn't make it back to the Super Bowl in 2001. They didn't even make the playoffs in 2002.

It's hard to keep a great team together. The Packers looked like a potential dynasty in 2011 after winning Super Bowl 45, but then S Nick Collins suffered a (maybe) career ending injury in Week 2 of the following season, and the defense has never been the same since.

But now onto the offseason, which begins with boring stories about ticket increases before kicking the tires on their upcoming free agents. I'll start writing about free agency later this week.

Former Packers OLB Coach Greene snubbed out of HOF again

Earlier this week, former NFL LB Kevin Greene, who coached the Packers OLBs from 2009-2013, was unfairly snubbed out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the third straight season. Greene is currently third on the all-time sacks list, so this whole thing is obviously pretty ridiculous. 

I'll be honest, I don't know how many years you're on the ballot in the NFL, but stil, I'd imagine that Greene's waited long enough. I mean, he was pretty good when he was in uniform, so why can't he just get what he deserves? This really isn't that hard of a decision, voters.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Reaction: Lacy wins AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award

As you probably already know, Packers RB Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 1178 yards and 11 TDs this season, was named the 2013 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year this weekend. Now I really want to be exited about his accomplishment, but I just can't be. Lacy had no real competition for the award, so it's not surprising that he won it easily.

Still, I guess it is pretty awesome to have any Packers RB would any kinda award. I mean, for the past five years this team's running game has been virtually non-existent, so this was definitely a cool feeling.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Kuhn's Agent unsure if FB will return to Green Bay

In an article recently published on, soon-to-be free agent FB John Kuhn's agent, Kevin Gold, was quoted saying that, while he "assumes" that the Packers are interesting in his client, he is yet he to hear from them. Now, since it is just Super Bowl Sunday, I guess that's not that weird, but still, you'd think they'd at least give him a call if they really wanted him back.

I mean, how high can his asking price possibly be? He's an aging FB, not a young Wide Reciever. Just give him a million bucks and move on already.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Finley expected to be ready for contact in 3-4 weeks

The Doctor of Packers TE Jermichael Finley, who hasn't done anything football-related since sustaining his week 7 neck injury, has said that he is "99.99%" sure that #88 will be cleared for contact in 3-4 weeks. Finley is currently recovering from his November surgery, and is reportedly hoping to return to the Packers next season. 

Now while this news is obviously a step in the right direction, I'm not gonna put too much emphasis on it. I mean, it's great to see him recovering and all, but still, it's just contact. He's stil nowhere near actually being ready to play.