Immediately following the Super Bowl, I outlined what I perceived to be the Green Bay Packers’ needs moving into the 2014 season here. Now that it seems clear the team will not re-sign or sign another player that projects as an “impact” player, it’s time to see where these positions stand heading into May’s draft. I’ll report the additions to the team at that position since the Feb. 7 article and then some solutions to the problem if there still is one. If they select a player that’s not a part of the “solutions”, in this writer’s eyes the problem was not adequately addressed:
1. Safety- I’m not exactly able to start this week’s column off with a bang. Despite a what appeared to be a bumper crop of useful players in the free agency pool at the position the Packers did nothing. In fact, they did less than nothing. Green Bay allowed one of their starters M.D. Jennings to walk and join the Chicago Bears. this doesn’t really bother me, but the fact that the team has not added anyone to replace him does. The Packers are either going to entrust the position opposite Morgan Burnett with 2nd year pro Micah Hyde or put all of their eggs in the basket of a rookie.
Possible Solutions: HaHa Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, Jimmie Ward, Deone Buchanon, Terrence Brooks, Craig Loston, Kenny Ladler
2. Inside Linebacker- Again, nothing was done. The difference between nothing being done at safety and nothing being done here is my belief that the better option was always to take an inside linebacker in the top 100 picks of this draft. The free agent class was not a particularly good one. Jamari Lattimore was tendered, and his ability to play the run intrigues me. Jamari Lattimore’s never going to be the playmaker that this defense needs. Brad Jones and AJ Hawk as a tandem are not even serviceable. Something has to be done.
Additions: Jamari Lattimore (RFA tendered)
Possible Solutions: CJ Mosley, Ryan Shazier, Chris Borland, Yawin Smallwood, Shayne Skov
3. Defensive Line- this position, in my opinion, has basically been taken care of for this season. BJ Raji was re-signed and upon his re-signing was moved back to nose tackle. “Just a guy” CJ Wilson was allowed to leave and he was replaced by “just a guy” Letroy Guion, the Vikings former starting nose guard. Where the line solidified itself was with the addition of a new position and a future Hall of Famer to play it. The “elephant” position in the team’s new, more multiple attack will be played by former Panthers and Bears superstar Julius Peppers. The Packers agreed to a 3 year deal with the 34 year old and plan to implement him in multiple ways. The new position also brings high draft picks Mike Neal and Nick Perry into the defensive line group. I think the team will be comfortable going into the season with an interior group of Raji, Guion, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy and Josh Boyd. Given the immense potential of Daniels, Jones and Worthy this makes me comfortable as well.
Additions: BJ Raji (re-signed), Julius Peppers, Letroy Guion
Solutions: none needed
4. Tight End– this position will ultimately come down to what happens with Jermichael Finley. As I’ve said both on twitter and on From the Benches, I believe that if Jermichael Finley is cleared to play medically he will play for the Packers. If he is not cleared, he will be forced to retire. The Packers re-signed TE Andrew Quarless and he will be the primary tight end along with intriguing receiving prospect Brandon Bostick should Finley be forced from the game. Despite these options being adequate, I would definitely be interested in a tight end with one of the Packers’ 4 top 100 selections.
Additions: Andrew Quarless (re-signed)
Solutions: Eric Ebron, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro, CJ Fiederowicz, Troy Niklas
5. Outside Linebacker– There are no additions to speak of at the OLB position either, unless you consider Julius Peppers an outside linebacker, which I do not. The new “elephant” position is a position that will allow for the converted defensive ends on the team (all of the OLBs not named Clay Matthews) a chance to play with their hand in the ground again while still having a lot of the same responsibilities. For quite some time now I’ve been a proponent of a second true outside linebacker on the roster. Ted Thompson and this defensive staff seem to disagree. That player wasn’t added in free agency and doesn’t figure to be added in any way but the draft. There are players, both true linebackers and possible conversions that would fit the team’s talent and scheme.
Solutions: Anthony Barr, Dee Ford, Kyle Van Noy, Jeremiah Attaochu, Demarcus Lawrence (elephant)