Packers’ 6 Biggest Positions of Need for 2016 Offseason

Packers Tight End Richard Rodgers

Below is a list of the top 6 positions of need for the Green Bay Packers coming into the 2016 offseason. This list is fluid and represents the team’s needs right now. This list will vary based upon resignings, retirements, or off-the-field issues. These needs can be filled in the draft or in free agency, but should be treated at some point this off-season in order for the team to show improvement going into the 2016 season.

1. Inside Linebacker

Clay Matthews has played very well at inside linebacker, but with Mike McCarthy stating unequivocally in his post-season press conference that he’d like to see CMIII back at outside linebacker, the Packers are mighty weak on the inside. Thumper Sam Barrington will be back after missing 2015 on IR, but he was merely the best of a bad bunch in 2014. Nate Palmer lost his starting spot to Jake Ryan, a young linebacker who has shown some promise, but is far from a sure-thing starter, especially if he’s not standing next to CMIII. On a much-improved defense, this is the major hole on the roster. The Packers need to place no. 1 priority at this position. If they can sign an impact free agent or spend a high draft pick on an instant contributor, the defense could stand to improve even more than it already has.

2. Tight End

The scarcity of talent at tight end is alarming. Richard Rodgers has great hands, but does not look like a no. 1 tight end in the NFL. His blocking is merely mediocre, and he has almost no ability to pick up any yards after the catch. While he has never been a vertical threat tight end, he’s not a bruiser either, going down on first contact almost exclusively. He can definitely continue to contribute, especially in the red zone where has has been fairly successful, but the team needs a tight end who can make big plays.

After Rodgers, the Packers have perhaps nothing to be excited about. Andrew Quarless can fulfill a role, but is far from a major talent. Justin Perillo made a few nice catches this season, but couldn’t do much more than that even though the team was desperate for production from the position. Mitchell Henry is an intriguing practice squad player, but the team is in real need of bringing in some top-tier talent. It remains unseen as to exactly what the free agent market will look like this offseason, but with an average at best tight end class coming up through this year’s draft, if Thompson were to look at free agency anywhere, this should be a top position for consideration.

3. Wide Receiver

Some might be surprised to see this position on the list at all, not to mention at the no. 3 spot, but it’s the unknown factor of what the Packers have that makes this position in need of some reinforcement. Presumably, Pro Bowler Jordy Nelson will be back in 2016 and James Jones will be looking for work elsewhere. That leaves Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Montgomery, Janis, and Abbrederis at wide receiver. The Packers know what they have in Nelson and Cobb. Nelson is a clear-cut no. 1 receiver. Cobb is a nice complement to Nelson, but did not show himself capable of carrying the team in Nelson’s absence. Adams took steps backward during his second year, while Janis and Abbrederis remain mostly unknown commodities. Montgomery looked good in his limited playing time, but he spent a majority of his rookie season injured and unable to play. He has to be considered far from proven, as well.

It seems clear that the Packers will need to bring in at least one player who can legitimately push Adams, Janis, and Abbrederis for a roster spot. Ted Thompson will undoubtedly have a number of undrafted rookies in camp, but using a mid to early-round draft pick on a player with high talent would also seem judicious. The receiving game was in shambles for long portions of the 2015 season. Green Bay cannot just assume that the return of Nelson will fix those problems, nor can they rest on the laurels of the output of a younger, healthier Nelson. Maybe Adams, Montgomery, Janis, and Abbrederis show themselves to be the future of wide receiver in Green Bay, but let’s hope that Ted Thompson brings in some guys that make them prove it.

As much as I hate proclaiming doom and gloom, the team needs to be at least considering the fact that Nelson will not be able to contribute as he used to. While I do not expect it, it is at least possible that, turning 31 this offseason and coming off of a torn-ACL, Nelson won’t be quite as good as he has been. If that’s the case, it isn’t hard to imagine that the specter of 2015 could quickly return. It is important that the team does not put all of the pressure on Nelson to fix every offensive woe. I don’t think any of us want to watch Rodgers spend another year in his prime looking around the field for wide receivers that can’t get open. Based upon the play of the wide receivers this year, one could at least imagine even classic Jordy getting double-covered while the rest of the receivers play like it’s 2015 again.

4. Punter

If this list were ranked by sheer weakness at the position, punter would be no. 1. Tim Mathsay has consistently played poorly for the past two seasons, giving the defense the unfortunate task of defending on a short field with their backs against the wall. Couple this with poor offensive play in 2015 and its inability to give the defense much-needed breathers, and it’s a wonder that Dom Capers’ unit looked as good as they did. It shouldn’t be difficult to find someone who can play at a higher level than Mathsay, but if the Packers are serious about replacing him (and they should be), they need to bring in more than one street free agent or undrafted rookie. It would be really nice to see a 3 punter battle in training camp.

5. Offensive Tackle

Bryan Bulaga is a good right tackle. The problem is that he has not played a full season since 2011. While it would be nice to have more consistency at right tackle, the Packers are unlikely to find someone in the draft or free agency who can immediately displace Bulaga. But given the disaster that has been Don Barclay, the Packers need to immediately work on finding a legitimate back-up at right tackle, someone who can give Green Bay Bulaga-insurance now, and perhaps the ability to ascend to the starting spot eventually.

The Packers have consistency at left tackle with David Bakhtiari, but the depth behind him is another question mark. J.C. Tretter filled in for an injured Bakhtiari very admirably, but Tretter has a real shot at winning the starting center job from Corey Linsley this offseason. The team needs to fill out the roster accordingly.

6. Outside Linebacker

It is entirely possible that within the next few months this could be a position of strength rather than a position of need. However, at the moment, the team is faced with the possible retirement of Julius Peppers and the possible departure of Nick Perry and Mike Neal as unrestricted free agents. This is perhaps part of the reason why McCarthy would like to see Matthews back at the outside. Jayrone Elliott has won the right to see more playing time, as well, but if even 2 of the 3 possible departures at the position come into fruition, outside linebacker could quickly drop from a position of strength to a position of weakness.

 

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Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.

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15 thoughts on “Packers’ 6 Biggest Positions of Need for 2016 Offseason

  1. Who are you expecting/asking the Pack to cut at receiver? Agree that Jones is gone. But you completely forgot Ty Montgomery. (Which is somewhat embarrassing) So without Jones were sitting at 6 receivers already, Jordy and Randall on long term deals, not ready to move on from Davante, Jeff too much speed and special teams ability, and Ty/Jared both showing promise. So…again…who are you cutting?

    The key to fixing the passing game as you appropriately pointed out is finding a tight end to stretch the field. That, more depth at tackle, and Eddie losing weight…what would we need to do at receiver? Already going to be a stretch to keep 6.

    1. I fixed the article to reflect Ty Montgomery, as well, but the point remains. Jordy Nelson cannot be expected to relieve all of the WR problems, especially as he begins to age and is coming off of a serious injury.

      I am not comfortable with the team simply expecting that decent production in a very limited sample size will suffice when things get tough. We all saw what happened with Davante Adams this year. Janis, Abbrederis, and Montgomery are all less proven than Adams was coming into this season.

      If this were a team with a knock-out defense or a run-first, two-tight end set mentality, then I think our corps of wide receivers are more than enough. But we’re talking about an offense lead by Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy, an offense which thrives on the vertical passing game. There is a heckuva lot of question marks in that area on the current roster.

      If you take out one game (the divisional round game against the Cardinals), how good would you really feel about Abbrederis and Janis?

      1. If you look at the realm of Rodgers, the consistent issue with playoff losses has always been the defense.

        Even this year, when they had probably their best defense of Rodger’s career, they once again gave up huge losses on blown assignments and poor technique.

        A big issue is that in the playoff games, Matthews is gassed by half time, as he is trying to cover a multitude of shortcomings around him, especially at ILB/MLB. They need to prioritize that for once in Rodger’s career. Ever since their Super Bowl, they have ignored it, and it has been the weak spot.

        As far as the receivers, this year was an anomaly because even the players who were “healthy” were hurt. I doubt Adams was 100% even at the end of the year. I doubt he was 80%.

        I felt great about Janis and Abbrederis. Rodgers and McCarthy like Abbrederis. They just don’t like Janis for some reason. And when you look at how off Rodger’s timing and touch was with Janis on the last game, you see why they were fools for refusing to use him all year and develop that timing and trust. If they had even a semblance of that, Janis catches at least 2 deep balls, likely for TD’s in that game. Instead, Rodgers severely underthrew him the first few times, then overcompensated and overthrew him, then underthrew again. Wide open “stretching the field” routes, and the best arm in the game couldn’t connect, because of his and McCarthy’s stubborness.

  2. Who are you expecting/asking the Pack to cut at receiver? Agree that Jones is gone. But you completely forgot Ty Montgomery. (Which is somewhat embarrassing) So without Jones were sitting at 6 receivers already, Jordy and Randall on long term deals, not ready to move on from Davante, Jeff too much speed and special teams ability, and Ty/Jared both showing promise. So…again…who are you cutting?

    The key to fixing the passing game as you appropriately pointed out is finding a tight end to stretch the field. That, more depth at tackle, and Eddie losing weight…what would we need to do at receiver? Already going to be a stretch to keep 6.

  3. #3 – WR – You seem to have forgotten about Ty Montgomery.

    Janis and Abbrederis showed they can contribute. Janis should be given the opportunity to line up opposite Nelson and really challenge the secondary. You don’t need more than 6 proven WRs. Look to solidify other positions.

    1. Agree, Janis should be given the opportunity to line up opposite Nelson but based on him getting his only opportunity from scrimmage when he was their ONLY AVAILABLE OPTION, I wouldn’t expect that to be how they will operate. There had to be something personal for the team to start Adams game after game and see him fail miserably every time when Janis’s skills were obvious even to the casual fan.

      1. I chalk it up to the stubborness of McCarthy and Rodgers.

        I think with another off season and hopefully that ever elusive “confidence” being gained, the timing and chemistry will grow with Rodgers/Janis, and he will get more PT. Probably not as a starter, but I’d expect to see him get a dozen or so snaps a game.

        If not, McCarthy needs to go.

  4. Signing Ladarius Green will solve our problem at tight end. He’s 6’6″ 245 and runs a 4.5 40, plus he has a 31 inch vertical, he’s exactly what we need at tight end and should come fairly cheap. We could also use another star DE/pass rusher to put opposite Mike Daniels and Clay, and if our cap allows it Thompson should make a strong push to sign Mario Williams after the Bills cut him to fill this need. Plus if Peppers does decide to come back having Williams means we can put him almost exclusively at outside linebacker. I mean could you imagine Williams, Matthews, Daniels AND Peppers rushing the passer?! That would be nasty. All other needs (ILB, OL, punter) can be addressed in the draft. Just my 2 cents.

    1. Due to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any instant playmaker types at tight end in this year’s draft class, and the fact that the Packers need someone like that right now, maybe, just maybe, Ted would be interested in signing a free agent here. If he was to sign anyone of note this offseason, it seems most likely that it’d be at the TE position.

      1. Thanks for your feedback guys, so do can you see Ted signing Mario Williams? Or can you think of a few other free agent pass rushers we could sign?

        1. It’s so early that’s it hard to tell who will be available come free agency. There are a number of good fits for a pass-rusher or tight end that are slated to be available. Demario Davis could be a fit at ILB.

          1. Ehh I would rather us draft Reggie Ragland in the first round, there’s a good chance he’ll be available, pairing him with Sam Barrington and the ascending Jake Ryan would give us a great tandem at ILB and allow Clay to move back outside. We’ll have about $25 million in cap space so we can pursue/sign a few good free agents and get a few of our own players back.

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