Friday, February 27, 2015

Mock Draft: Packers Select Oklahoma NT Jordan Phillips

The problem I had when I was looking at the inside linebackers available in the draft is that any of them would be a reach for the late first round. If anything, GM Ted Thompson waits for players to fall into his lap (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Bryan Bulaga) in the first round. He might instead look for the best value available.
It's also not a coincidence that Phillips is currently ranked No. 30 overall by CBS Sports and the Packers's first selection is at 30. His name is currently linked to the Packers only because Todd McShay sees a fit, but it makes some sense too. Inside linebacker is important, but B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion are both free agents (with the extra baggage of Raji coming off a lost season, and Guion's recent run-in with the law) and there's little depth at nose tackle.

There aren't a lot of guys with Phillips's size (6-5, 329 lbs.) and athleticism. He's worth the pick, but the Packers can find guys like him in free agency (such as Guion last season) or later in the draft. There are other high round alternatives too. Iowa's Carl Davis is a very good player, and the last defensive lineman the Packers drafted from Iowa (Mike Daniels) was a terrific selection. Phillips does fill a need but there's other ways they could improve the position too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Packers release LB A.J. Hawk

The Packers have released veteran LB A.J. Hawk,'s Rob Demovsky reports.

Hawk, the team's first-round pick in the 2006 draft, had been with Green Bay for a good nine seasons, making the Pro Bowl once in 2010.

He also won a Super Bowl with the Packers that year, the highlight of a career the record books will too remember. Throughout his tenure in Green and Gold, Hawk collected 1,118 tackles -- the most in Packers history.

Hopefully he'll find a new job soon. It was kinda fun watching him flip off the camera all those years ago.

It Looks Like It's Going To Be Hard For The Packers To Re-Sign Either Cobb or Bulaga

I wrote last month about how it seems unlikely that the Green Bay Packers will be able to re-sign RT Bryan Bulaga (they're already committing a lot of salary cap room to Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, and Bulaga is arguably the best tackle available on either the left or right side), and they might be in a similar situation with WR Randall Cobb.
Outside of Cobb and Bulaga, the only other free agent who deserves a significant, new contract is CB Tramon Williams, who's not in the same situation as those two because he's over 30 (he'll turn 32 before the start of next season) and he's looking for his second post-rookie contract (always a danger zone for NFL free agents). The Packers and other teams will be wary of Williams in ways they won't be for Cobb or Bulaga.

While Bulaga is probably a fit for any team that needs a tackle, a lot of teams are (and should be) concerned about how much success should go to the receiver and how much should go to the quarterback. A perfect example is WR Eric Decker, who was the No. 1 free agent wide receiver last year. The Jets did give him a five-year, $36.25 million contract with $15 million in guarantees, but he didn't even come close to turning Geno Smith into Peyton Manning. A Decker type deal for Cobb might be seen as fair, but his agent might be looking for a Percy Harvin deal (six-years, $67 million with $25.5 million guaranteed). WR Jordy Nelson recently re-signed for five-years, $43 million and was paid an additional $13.5 million in 2014. I doubt the Packers want to pay Cobb more than Nelson, however, the market might be changing because the salary cap is going to jump up soon.

In the case of either Bulaga or Cobb, it's likely that they both command new contracts with a cap figure of over $10 million each in 2016 or 2017. The Packers only have three such players in 2015 (Rodgers, Matthews, Peppers) and by 2017 that number will rise to four (Rodgers, Matthews, Shields, Nelson). The salary cap could be as high as $160 million in 2017 but that would make the roster quite top heavy if nearly 50% of it goes to six guys (Rodgers will $20 million by himself in 2017). There aren't a lot of other players likely to join that group (Casey Hayward and Eddie Lacy probably won't be paid that much in a couple years) but these six players alone can put a major strain on the cap.

Can they get Bulaga to agree to a back loaded contract so that his cap number doesn't rise substantially until 2017 (when Sitton and Lang are off the books)? Can they afford two wide receivers with $10 million plus cap charges (Cobb in addition to Nelson)? Maybe they're trying to win now and they'll deal with a potential salary cap mess in the future, which is a legitimate strategy, but that's now how GM Ted Thompson has operated over the past few years. Based on the fact that they haven't re-signed either of these players yet, and the stress their new contracts would put on their salary cap over the next three years, I'm not sure about their chances of re-signing either player.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

NFL Combine: Packers Inside Linebackers

I'm sure the Green Bay Packers are evaluating every position at the NFL combine, but the main talk coming out of Indianapolis is about their need for a new inside linebacker (or two).

They started fixing their 53-man roster by releasing LB Brad Jones, a move that's been obvious all season. He was terrible as a starter in Week 1 at Seattle and lost his starting job the next week. He was a liability every time he played defense throughout the season. And he was exposed as a liability on special teams during the NFC championship game. There's no way to justify his production, especially along side his $3.75 million cap number.
Mississippi State LB Benardrick McKinney has also drawn their attention. UCLA's ILB Eric Kendricks is arguably the top ranked inside linebacker. After those three players, there might not be another inside linebacker drafted until the 4th round. It's not an apples to apples comparison either; McKinney and Perryman are two different types of players. Maybe converting a college outside linebacker to play inside is an option.

What are their combine results? Can they drop back in coverage? What do they look like on film? Not one of them has stood out so far.

Another problem is that none of them have a true 1st round grade. All of them look like 2nd round prospects. Maybe another player slips and another team wants to trade up into the 1st round, like QB Teddy Bridgewater did last year. But there's no guarantee it will happen again and GM Ted Thompson hasn't been known for reaching on players in the 1st round. It's usually the opposite; players like Bryan Bulaga and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were projected to be gone by the time the Packers were on the clock.

I really want them to draft an inside linebacker, and Eric Kendricks is my preference at the moment. But they also might need to draft for value and it might not make sense for them to draft a linebacker in the 1st round.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Packers release WR Kevin Dorsey

In the wake of yesterday's cutting of TE Brandon Bostick, the Packers have apparently made another move.

The Packers have released second-year WR Kevin Dorsey, reports The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Dorsey, a seventh-round pick out of Maryland in the 2013 draft, struggled to stay healthy during much of his tenure with Green Bay, missing most of the 2013 offseason program with a hamstring injury before later going on injured reserve with a toe issue. 

The youngster was available for most of 2014, however, and played in three games. He caught one pass for four yards, and committed two special teams tackles prior to breaking his foot November 8. 

Looking At The Packers 2015 Salary Cap

The 2015 salary cap number isn't known yet, though it could be $141.8 million. The Packers aren't tight against it ($126 million) but they don't have a lot of room to work with. Here's the breakdown via Over The Cap.

The bottom 38 players with a cap number under $1 million count for $21,591,192. There are some very important players in this group playing on their rookie contracts (Eddie Lacy, Mike Daniels) but there are also a lot of players who are the type that come and go every season. This number will go up by a few million after the 2015 draft picks sign, but then it'll come down as players are released to start the season.

The next 7 players account for $18,643,750. These include their recent 1st round picks (Perry, Jones, Clinton-Dix) and a couple of lower priced free agents (Quarless, Starks). There shouldn't be any changes among this group, though it also includes Crosby and Masthay, and Masthay was awful last season. It depends on whether they bring in some real competition in training camp.

The next 4 players account for $18,643,750. While WR Jordy Nelson is in this group, it also includes two players who should be released (A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones) and another player who is being paid $4.25 million for no good reason (Mike Neal). Releasing those three linebackers would save them approximately $10 million, but it would also create nearly $4 million in dead money. While that's not much for some NFL teams, GM Ted Thompson never has that much dead money on his cap, so releasing them would be a change from his usual routine.

The top seven: $69,943,750. These seven players aren't going anywhere. Why even talk about releasing Peppers? He was very good last season, though he can't play every down. His release would save $7 million but create $5 million in dead money. In those terms, he's a bargain as a one-year, $7 million free agent.

If the Packers released all the linebackers that I would like them to release, then they would have about $25 million available. That sounds good, but every team is going to have salary cap room this offseason. Every free agent is going to be a bit more expensive.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Packers Release TE Brandon Bostick

It's a tough business, and I hope he does well in life, but I wasn't expecting the Green Bay Packers would ever give a fringe player like TE Brandon Bostick another chance. A lot of players have lost their spots on the team for a single bad play/decision during a preseason game, the ill-advised jump by former TE Colt Lyeria during their 2014 Family Night scrimmage is a recent example, and those former players had nothing even close to Bostick's blown blocking assignment during the NFC championship game.
For his part, he appreciated the opportunity in Green Bay and he's staying optimistic about the future. They gave him a chance and it didn't work out, which is something that can be said for dozens of undrafted players every year who are signed/worked out by the Packers. Of course, Bostick's missed opportunity will always be more memorable than almost everyone other undrafted rookie who had their first NFL opportunity with the Packers.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Reaction: Packers to retire Favre's #4

With it being the early offseason, there isn't much to talk about around the NFL. However, there was one piece of Packers news this week: the overdue but still likable announcement that Brett Favre will have his number retired by the team this summer. 

Ever since the months leading up to Favre's 2008 trade to the Jets, it seems few in the Packers' fanbase are still supporters of the former quarterback. The common argument appears to be that his playing for the Vikings is simply unforgivable, no matter how much he previously did for Green Bay. 

But I guarantee you: those 16 seasons from 1992-2007 would've been a lot worse had Favre not been there.

He won a Super Bowl, simple as that. Some teams only dream of contending nowadays.

We should just admit it, this generation of Packers fans is spoiled. While the Bears and Vikings get a new quarterback every few years, the Packers have been blessed with Favre and Rodgers. They've made us view an 8-8 season as a failure and an appearance in the conference title game as okay. Some people's refusal to like Favre right now is an obvious side effect of their unfamiliarity with losing.

I'm a younger fan, so I'm more attached to Rodgers than Favre. But I will say that if Rodgers takes off in six or seven years to become a Viking/Lion, I'd forgive him. He'd still have done a lot for the organization, as is the case with Favre.

Bottom line: I'm happy Favre's getting his number retired. I don't think it'll be as well received as it should be since some still view him as an enemy, but I'm glad to see it finally happening. 

You should be too. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mike McCarthy Announces New Coaches, Tom Clements Will Do Play Calling

I don't think this is a very big deal for the Green Bay Packers. Mike McCarthy, Tom Clements, and Aaron Rodgers have all been working together since 2006, and Rodgers calls many of the plays on the field. It looks like McCarthy is acknowledging that his future is secure in Green Bay, he was recently extended through 2018, and he's comfortable being a back seat driver on offense. As head coach, he still has plenty of responsibilities anyway. Here are the complete list of the coaching changes.
I thought the Packers might hire a new wide receiver coach (after Edgar Bennett was promoted to offensive coordinator) but instead Alex Van Pelt will coach quarterbacks and receivers. I guess if the Packers re-sign both Randall Cobb and Matt Flynn, Van Pelt will have a lot of experience on the roster and should be fine as the position coach for both positions.

The special teams unit was awful last season so promoting Ron Zook from within to special teams coordinator (though he's still somewhat underemployed as a former college head coach) doesn't seem like the best idea. Though the leaders in special teams snaps in 2014 might all be gone next season. The top five special teams leaders by snap count were Sean Richardson (free agent), Jarrett Bush (free agent), Brad Jones (should be released after a terrible 2014 season and after being exposed on the fake field goal during the NFC championship game), Brandon Bostick (should be released; same reasons as Jones except blown onside kick), and Jayrone Elliott (undrafted rookies often struggle to make the team next year). Zook might get a blank slate to work with in 2015 and prove himself.

There were also a couple of assistant position coaches hired/promoted (Jason Simmons, Mike Solari, Jerry Montgomery) to round out the staff.

I don't know where the Packers rank in coaching consistency but as I watch the annual NFL coaching carousel go round-and-round, they've got to be one of the most consistent. The firing of special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum counts as the biggest shake up since 2009 (the firing of DC Bob Sanders) but still it's nothing compared to the turnover some teams see on an annual basis. It's big news for the Packers but a small change in context.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Another ILB for the Packers: Denzel Perryman

The situation could change before the draft but I can't think of another position for the Green Bay Packers that is need of more help than inside linebacker.
One of the linebackers mentioned by Rob Demovsky is Miami's ILB Denzel Perryman. His strength is in pass coverage, but there are some concerns about his height (5-11). He may have trouble seeing the field among the tall trees and he could struggle to fight off blocks. It seems like his college production is without question. But the NFL combine is going to make or break him if he's actually shorter, or has short arms.

He reminds me of former Packer ILB D.J. Smith, who appears to be a free agent at the moment and is now over two years removed from ACL surgery. Like Smith, Perryman is undersized but Smith has very long arms. Both players appear to be good in pass coverage. Of all the recent linebackers who are free agents/likely to free agents, Smith might be the most promising if he's back to his pre-injury form, and he wouldn't cost anything to sign.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

McCarthy considering giving up play-calling duties

Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is considering giving up his play-calling duties,'s Rob Demovsky reports. 

McCarthy has thrown around the idea of promoting Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements and letting him decide the team's strategies in 2015, according to Demovsky. 

If that plan comes to fruition, WR coach Edgar Bennett would replace Clements in a corresponding move. Bennett has held his current job since 2011.

Nothing is official yet, but expect more to come of this. It can certainly be argued that McCarthy's questionable choices in the NFC Championship Game had something to do with the Packers' losing that contest, so it wouldn't be that strange if this news is in fact true. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Possible Packer Draft Target: ILB Benardrick McKinney

The draft isn't until late April, but scouting the rookie class should be the Packers's main focus until then. Last year's Julius Peppers signing aside, they aren't likely to do much in free agency (which begins March 7-10), except to try and take care of their own free agents, especially WR Randall Cobb who's ranked No. 8 overall on this particular list of top free agents.
It would be a bit of reach to select McKinney in 1st round (he's got a mid-to-late 2nd round grade at CBS Sports) and I'm a little reluctant for another defensive player in the 1st round for the fourth consecutive year. Though the offense hasn't been starved for talent since they've used three of their last four 2nd round picks (Cobb, Lacy, Adams) on offensive skill positions. The last time they used a 1st round pick on an offensive player, they selected another player from Mississippi State (Derek Sherrod) and that didn't work out so well.

But they really need help at linebacker, especially on the inside so they can keep Clay Matthews outside (where he's needed). I can't think of any reason not to release Brad Jones and/or A.J. Hawk. Jamari Lattimore is an unrestricted free agent (and coming off an injury). Sam Barrington will be in the mix next season, but he's not necessarily a long-term answer (he had a negative grade against the run last season according to Pro Football Focus) and might be better suited as depth.

McKinney has NFL size (6-4, 249 lbs.) and great speed for his size (his 40 time is expected to be in the mid 4.5s) but CBS Sports also says he's weak in coverage responsibilities, which might be death for a linebacker in the modern NFL. However, if GM Ted Thompson actually drafts him, I would assume those concerns are overblown and he thinks otherwise. Though I'm not expecting they'll actually draft him because of these concerns.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

DT Letroy Guion Arrested While In Possession of a Lot of Drugs and Cash

You can cross re-signing DT Letroy Guion off of the Green Bay Packers's offseason to-do list.
I was unimpressed with the idea of re-signing Guion this offseason. He wasn't terrible, though he had a negative grade against the run according to Pro Football Focus, and provided the occasional assist as a pass rusher (career high 3.5 sacks in 2014). But he was cheap (he played last year on a one-year, $1 million contract) and he was their best defensive tackle not named Mike Daniels.

Now he's looking at some major legal problems over the next several months (years). Good thing they didn't re-sign him right away. I'm sure the Packers will find out what's going on with him, but there's no way to spin this as a simple misunderstanding. If their 2015 plans included Guion as a key rotational lineman, his 555 snaps played in 2014 was second among Packer defensive lineman, then their going to have to kick the tires on another free agent/rookie draftee over the next couple of months.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Matthews open to playing ILB in 2015

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews certainly seemed to do well when playing inside this season, and the veteran says he's open to trying it again in 2015.

Here's his full quote, courtesy of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein:

"I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the change. At the same time, I'm very good at getting after the quarterback off the edge, so I think there's a fine line. So, we'll see. Week in and week out you never knew if I was going to be there 100% of the snaps or only 10. We'll see what that means moving forward."

Monday, February 02, 2015

Packers third most likely team to win Super Bowl 50, Bovada says

The Packers' 2014 season certainly came to a rough end, but the oddsmakers apparently still think they're pretty good.

Or at least that's opinion the online sports book Bovada seems to have, with the website giving the Packers 8-1 odds to win Super Bowl 50 in a list released Monday. 

That line is the third best in the league, trailing only the two teams who played yesterday. The Seahawks are first at 5-1, and the Patriots are second at 7-1. 

As for the rest of the NFC North, the Lions are a low 33-1, and the Bears and Vikings are an even lower 40-1. 

Definitely not bad news if you're a Packers fan. 

Looking At The Changes To The Packers Coaching Staff

While Mike McCarthy has lost a couple of assistant coaches to other teams in recent years, it's amazing that the recent firing of Shawn Slocum was only the second time he's fired a coordinator during his nine seasons as head coach (DC Bob Sanders after the 2008 season). He's very loyal to his assistants. A couple of other special teams assistants, notably Ron Zook, remain on the staff, but there's no current rumors of who might replace Slocum.
I don't wish unemployment on anyone, but that is a very bad track record. As far back as February 2010, I wrote an article wondering how Slocum had held onto his job. While that was only after his first season as the coordinator, he'd been an assistant special teams coach before his promotion, and the special teams had never excelled with him as their coach.

It is a little shocking how bad a unit has to fall apart before McCarthy will make a move. The special teams were awful in 2014, but I bet Slocum keeps his job if it weren't for all the mistakes during the NFC Championship game. DC Bob Sanders was fired after the 2008 season only after the front seven was so bad down the stretch that they couldn't stop any offense from running against them. If Sanders had run his vanilla defensive scheme with the 2014 Seahawks, he probably would have gotten a head coaching offer instead of a pink slip. Coaches are important but they aren't the ones on the field making the plays. I wouldn't be writing any of this had TE Brandon Bostick just blocked on the onside kick instead of trying to catch the ball. But that terrible special teams track record over the past several years with Slocum is just too much to ignore.

An annual event over the past few seasons occurs when the Packers will lose an assistant offensive coach to another team. For 2015, it will be assistant OL coach Steve Marshall who's expected to become the offensive line coach for the New York Jets. If he's not under contract than McCarthy has little way of stopping him from moving on. The improvement by David Bakhtiari and the out of nowhere development of Corey Linsley I'm sure has helped Marshall's resume. I have no idea how much credit he deserves for Linsley, but finding him in the 5th round is one of the best value picks of the 2014 draft.

While the time to move on from Slocum has finally arrived, neither departure should have a big impact on the 2014 Packers. Special teams are important, but they aren't usually so important as they turned out to be in the NFC Championship game. It's a hidden part of football. Even if they become an average unit in 2015, we might not see a difference in any particular game next season.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Packers QB Rodgers named 2014 NFL MVP

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been named the 2014 NFL MVP.

Rodgers, who threw for 38 touchdowns and just five intereceptions this season, received 31 of 50 possible votes, by far the most of any candidate. Texans DE J.J. Watt was second with 13, while the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo each had two. 

Rodgers had a 112.2 passer rating this year, the second best one in the league. He was also second with an average of 8.43 yards per attempt. 

This is the second time Rodgers has won the honor, having also done so in 2011.