The 2016-17 season is officially over, which means it’s time to start looking at how to plan for 2017-18. Despite stumbling out of the gate, the Packers turned things around and went all the way to the NFC Championship, where they were on the wrong end of what seemed to be an unstoppable Atlanta Falcons offense. There’s plenty of room for the Packers to improve next season, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to rule the NFC North once again. The team could very well reach the next Super Bowl if they play their cards right and make a few necessary adjustments. Here are a few things the Packers need to do to become championship contenders.
We already mentioned that, if it wasn’t glaringly apparent after the NFC Championship game, the Packers will need to retool their defense in the offseason. One major area of the defense needs some work is the cornerbacks. We’ve previously discussed how Green Bay will likely spend a draft pick on a corner and will probably look to bring in a veteran corner to help further bolster the position. But while the defense definitely needs some work, that shouldn’t overshadow issues that need to be addressed with the offense.
Rodgers has long proven that he’s one of those quarterbacks who can make the players around him better. This was on display with Jared Cook’s postseason performance and is why it’s likely that the Packers will re-sign him in the offseason. Jordy Nelson is still one of the most competitive wideouts in the league and with another rookie slot receiver or two, the passing game will be just fine.
The bigger offensive problem is the running game. Eddie Lacy is hitting the free agent market in March and if the Packers let him go, it could free the team up to bring some extra talent to the ground attack. In 2015, Lacy was enjoying good odds in the most touchdowns market after two seasons with more than ten. However, his production plummeted to five TDs in 2015 and a mere four during 2016. Of course, much of that can be chalked up to injury, but it’s tough to imagine keeping him around for one more year. Between the injury problems and issues with his fitness, Lacy hasn’t done much to improve his stock for free agency. Green Bay could likely sign him to an affordable one-year deal, but it’s just as likely that they cut their losses and look for help elsewhere.
The team did an admirable job of converting Ty Montgomery from wide receiver to running back after injuries to Lacy and James Starks, and to no one’s surprise, Starks released today to free up some extra cap space. It’s unlikely that GM Ted Thompson will look to free agency, but the 2017 draft presents a deep crop of runners and there are some solid options that could be perfectly serviceable backups to Montgomery. As Montgomery enters his third season, he’s getting more comfortable within the Packers system and a talented rookie RB could work well behind him.
Green Bay obviously doesn’t need to change that much to make it to another Super Bowl. Keep a close eye on what happens during the draft and free agency, though, because with a few key changes they could easily be competing for a Lombardi Trophy next February.