With the Super Bowl officially in the rear-view mirror, it’s finally time to start focusing on the offseason. I’ve talked about what Ted Thompson could do with the Packers this offseason, so I wanted to cover what I think he should do. All of these circumstances would involve an ideal situation this offseason:
CB Stephon Gilmore – Bills
AJ Bouye is likely to get the franchise tag from the Texans. I’m not sure the Bills are willing to pay Gilmore the kind of money the franchise tag would require after his drop off last season. I think the Packers could sign Gilmore to a 3 year deal for about the same amount they would have paid Sam Shields.
ILB Mychal Kendricks – Eagles
Kendricks is still very young, and possesses the one thing the Packers lack on defense (speed). He’s making too much money for the Eagles to want to keep him after his effort was questioned last season, so he could be a guy who is cut or who could be available for a low round draft choice. If he can get his head straight, he’s the answer to covering TEs and RBs, as well as a dangerous weapon blitzing up the middle.
TE Julius Thomas – Jaguars
Julius Thomas is basically the same player as Jared Cook, but he had the benefit of playing a few years with Peyton Manning. The Jags are likely going to cut Thomas as soon as possible, and I can’t find a way for OJ Howard from Alabama to fall to Green Bay in the draft. The Packers offense is dangerous, but with one more playmaker at TE they could become deadly. New England has shown what having two great Tight Ends can do to a defense. The Packers could run two TE packages with Cook and Thomas. Aaron Rodgers could use pre snap reads and run it down their throats, or abuse their DBs with routes to his huge athletic TEs.
1st Round – CB Adoree Jackson – USC
Jackson is probably an early 2nd round guy, but possesses elite speed and great ball skills. He played some WR in college, and was one of the most explosive returners in all of college football. Surprisingly, he’s also a willing tackler in the run game.
The reason he won’t be a top 10 pick is he gets caught looking in the backfield because of his poor eye discipline so he gives up some big plays. Those are things that can be coached, and a very typical of guys in college who have the athleticism that they don’t have to rely on great fundamentals. I would compare Jackson to Marcus Peters of the Chiefs. He might give up some big plays, but he’s going to make as many as he allows. His floor is an elite returner, but his ceiling is a Pro Bowl CB with elite ball skills (watch him abuse Notre Dame):
2nd Round – CB Jourdan Lewis – Michigan
Lewis provides a different type of CB than Jackson. He’s a small corner, but also has great athleticism. He’s a super competitive who plays the game very intellectually. His ball skills were on showcase with his one-handed, game clinching interception against Wisconsin.
- CB Sam Shields
- RB James Starks
- DB Micah Hyde
- G TJ Lang
- OLB Clay Matthews
I think Shields and Starks are easy decisions to cut. The money the Packers would spend on TJ Lang would be better utilized on defense. Yes, it’s difficult to let a Pro Bowler walk, but JC Tretter could be resigned for much less, and I think play very well. They have the depth behind the starters with Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy.
Hyde is a good player, but if it came down to Hyde at $8 million/season vs. Stephon Gilmore at $10 million/season, I’d rather have a true Cornerback.
Clay Matthews likely won’t be cut. I have a huge problem with him returning at his current salary. Yes, CM3 is a playmaker, but he’s not on the field enough and when he is he isn’t making a consistent impact. Last season he often was content to speed rush up field and would lose contain. To me, he shouldn’t be back unless he takes a major pay cut.
- TE Jared Cook
- OLB Nick Perry
- G JC Tretter
- CB Sam Shields
- OLB Julius Peppers
- RB Eddie Lacy
Cook, Perry, and Tretter need to be priorities. Perry was the only pass rusher who was consistent (even with one hand) outside of Mike Daniels.
If Shields can get medically cleared and wants to come back at a pay cut that would be great for the team. If Peppers wants to have a chance at winning the Super Bowl he could be back a reduced price. I think Eddie Lacy ends up resigning on a one year, prove it contract.
These moves would leave the Packers with Stephon Gilmore, Adoree Jackson, Jourdan Lewis, Quinten Rollins, Damarious Randall, and LaDarius Gunter at Cornerback (and maybe Sam Shields). That leaves Rollins, Randall, and Gunter fighting for two spots (or three if they all play well). There’s no perfect way to fix the entire team, as this plan leaves the Packers light in pass rushers, but they will have to hope to develop their younger players (Dean Lowry, Kyler Fackrell), and draft some impact players in the middle rounds.
It’s going to take a near ideal offseason to get the Packers to the Super Bowl next season, which will require Ted Thompson to be more aggressive than he’s ever been as a General Manager.Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig