I understand that the @JSComments section of Packers fans are the vocal minority. I get that Packers fans, as a whole, are a pretty smart group. In fact, I’ve found that they are about as passionate and as well-informed a group of football fans as you’ll find in the NFL.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some prevailing lines of thought about this team going into the offseason that aren’t very accurate. Whether it’s emotional overreaction or “mob mentality”, there are some theories about what’s going to go on at 1265 Lombardi between now and late July that just aren’t going to happen.
It’s not just Packers fans and internet commenters either. There are national media and draftniks that are misplacing Green Bay’s priorities heading into the offseason as well. Let’s take a look at five off season Packers myths.
1. The Packers aren’t going to prioritize wide receiver in the draft.
Yes, the Packers receivers struggled this season. Davante Adams had a very serious regression from his promising rookie season. Adams dropped six targets, and also only converted 53.% of his targets into receptions. It wasn’t a great look. Luckily for Adams, his two best performances were in the season finale against Minnesota and the first playoff game against Washington.
He’s not going to get cut. Adams is absolutely not going to be released going into to the 2016 season. He’s still a second round pick who won the Packers a huge regular season game against the Patriots and a playoff game against Dallas as rookie. He’s still 23 years old and he only has a $1 million cap hit. Sure, he might continue to lose snaps to Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis or Ty Montgomery, but there is absolutely no reason to release him.
Green Bay is also not taking a wide receiver in the first two rounds. I’ve already seen too many mock drafts with Josh Doctson or Corey Coleman to the Packers in the first round. While I have no issue with those players, it would be an incredible misuse of resources. The Packers have six receivers under contract that are going to be a part of next years team and a seventh that the QB would like to re-sign.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis are all going to be part of the program. Montgomery, Abbrederis and Janis are all key contributors on special teams, making them doubly important. Adding a first or second round pick to that mix would make absolutely no sense.
The Packers were #1 in offensive DVOA in 2014 and second in passing offense DVOA with Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers and Randall Cobb as their top 4 receiving options. In 2016 they’ll have Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers and Randall Cobb as their top 4 receiving options. It’s fine. Not only is it fine, but the Packers can add a “move” tight end and have already added Montgomery, Abbrederis and Janis to the fold.
2. James Jones is not coming back.
As much respect as I have for Aaron Rodgers, and appreciate some of the personnel decisions that he has pushed for, he’s not going to get his way on this one. The Packers aren’t going to keep 7 receivers next season, and Jones can’t contribute on special teams. The Packers don’t need a veteran at the #3 receiver spot when they can continue to try develop Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams into stars.
Jones proved against Arizona that he could be taken away by a good corner, and that he wans’t vitally important to the offense. I understand that he won’t see the opposing team’s #1 corner with Jordy Nelson in the fold, but Davante Adams whipped opposing #3 corners as a rookie.
The “nice” thing about Jones is that it seems that no one else wants him either. He’s more than likely going to be a “street” free agent. If something bad happens to one of the Packers wide receivers during the season, it’s likely that Jones will be able to be added mid-season.
3. Mike McCarthy is not going anywhere. Dom Capers is not going anywhere.
After the Vikings loss, there was a lot of talk that McCarthy’s message was getting stale. Mike McCarthy has built this Packers program on principles that never change. His message never changes. His “nobody’s underdog” mentality never changes.
Yeah, I understand that the Packers didn’t have a great year. I understand that McCarthy’s offense, for once, was more the problem than the solution. They also almost beat the Cardinals on the road in the playoffs. They outplayed Arizona. They were prepared, because McCarthy prepared them.
The fact is McCarthy is a Super Bowl winning coach that just had another double-digit win season, despite being the most injured team in the NFL. His offense has been exceptional. If you put the 2014 offense together with the 2015 defense, you get a Super Bowl favorite, not a Super Bowl contender.
That’s what the Packers are hoping for in 2016, because Capers and his defense are going to be back. Despite missing Sam Barrington for the year and missing Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields for big stretches of the season, Capers had a top 10 defense in DVOA. The Packers defense was fantastic in the playoffs as well. Their performance against the #1 offense in the NFL, Arizona, was particularly impressive.
Capers is going to be back, and he’s going to be armed with the most talented defensive backfield he’s ever had. Nick Collins and Charles Woodson are the best players he’s ever coached, but the Packers are now rock solid at both safety positions and are five deep with talented corners.
4. The team is not far off, they don’t need an “overhaul”.
Like I said before, this team is close. They were just as good as the Cardinals by the end of the season, despite having to play a true road game and despite playing without their top four receivers, one of those receivers being one of the best 6 receivers in football.
The ultimate team, from the perspective of a Packers fan, is the 2014 offense teamed with the 2015 defense and special teams. There’s no reason that we as Packers fans can’t get that. Offense isn’t a problem. All 2014 starters on offense are under contract for 2016. So are Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, JC Tretter, Justin Perillo and John Crockett. That’s before any weapons are added via the draft or free agency (lol?).
The defense is a different story. The strength of the defense, as I mentioned before, will return. That’s the defensive backfield. Micah Hyde, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quentin Rollins and Ladarius Gunter are all useful players. That’s without re-signing either Casey Hayward or Sean Richardson.
The front seven is the part of the roster in question. McCarthy has made it clear he wants Clay Matthews to move back outside. I’m hoping that means he wants to add a “chase” linebacker to his front seven and not that he’s fine with Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan at inside linebacker. Green Bay will return long-term pieces Mike Daniels, Datone Jones and Mike Pennel. Chrstian Ringo might be ready to step up from the practice squad. The Packers have decisions to make on Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, BJ Raji and Letroy Guion. Raising the level of the front seven could move the Packers defense from “good” to elite.
This is possible because:
5. Ted Thompson’s methods are fine. He got unlucky this year.
Thompson has, yet again, put the Packers in a fantastic position heading in to the offseason. If he releases Julius Peppers (and I think he will), the Packers will have between $37 and $42 million in cap space to do whatever they want with it (that includes saving $5 million to sign draft picks). They can certainly use that space to re-sign Guion, Raji, Perry, or even Peppers at a reduced rate. They could also use it to add an interior pass rusher, edge defender or off the ball linebacker. They could bank it and use it to extend Bakthiari, Lacy, Tretter, Hyde or even Datone Jones.
Also, because of Thompson’s attitude towards free agency, the Packers are likely to receive two additional fourth round draft choices on account of losing Tramon Wililams and Davon House and replacing them immediately with better players in Quentin Rollins and Damarious Randall.
It’s likely that Thompson is going to head into this offseason with $40+ Million in cap space, a ready-made top flight offense and 6 picks in the first 130 of the 2016 NFL draft, and three more picks after that. Green Bay will again be among the title favorites.