I’ve been getting into a lot of “discussions” about the Packers lately. I know that as a writer you’re supposed to stay away from the comments sections, the Facebook pages, etc. You run into the JSComments types who are just there to argue, or haven’t had a Super Bowl win in five years and are starting to get antsy. The problem is my best friend and co-host moved to Milwaukee and I don’t really get to talk Packers with human beings very often.
So you end up having discussions about a lot of things. Draft prospects, draft priorities, free agents, approaches to free agency, etc.
Why not put it all in one place? Why not answer the question, if I was Ted Thompson, what would I do this offseason? How would I set the Packers up for a run at the title in 2016 while keeping their long-term future in mind? Aaron Rodgers will be able to play until he’s 40, so setting up the Packers for the next decade is important.
So from now on, if you want to know my take on something this offseason, here are a bunch of my takes, consolidated.
Re-sign either BJ Raji or Letroy Guion, probably not both. Hey, look at that! It’s already taken care of. Unsurprisingly enough, the move generated differences of opinion. Guion signed for three years and $11.25 million. Some loved the low price, others hated the long term commitment to a player with such a troubled legal and personal background. Me? I’m fine with it. I’m not super-excited but $3.75 million per, with the salary cap continuing to rise, is such a meager investment.
Re-sign either Nick Perry or Mike Neal, preferably Perry. I, for one, assumed all year that Julius Peppers was not a part of the team’s plans for 2016. Ted Thompson signed Peppers to a very team-friendly deal that allowed the Packers an out after this season. From what I now understand, it’s likely Peppers will be back in Green Bay. Instead of ~$29 million in cap space after the Guion deal, the Packers will have $21 million, and the relief found by Peppers leaving the team will be a full $10.5 in 2017 instead of $8 in 2016. I guess if you’re going to make a run at the Super Bowl, might as well have Peppers on the team.
That means the Packers, who are dead-set on Clay Matthews moving back outside (and they should), will have Matthews, Peppers and the promising Jayrone Elliot under contract at outside linebacker. Andy Mulumba is still a part of the team as well. Green Bay would be wise to bring back Perry, spend a draft choice on an edge defender, and be prepared in 2017 for when Peppers is no longer with the team. I prefer Perry to Neal as a player.
Offer Matt Forte (basically) whatever he wants, as long as it’s a one-year deal. Forte is certainly not someone that you want to bring on your team as a long-term solution to the feature back position. He’s 30, and the Bears did a good job of using him…… a lot. That doesn’t mean he’s not an exceptional fit for what the Packers need.
We, the draft nerds of the Packers blogosphere, have been discussing the Packers’ need for a pass-catching running back. The Packers have in Eddie Lacy (who will hopefully regain the form of his first two seasons) and John Crockett (who will hopefully get more carries) tailbacks that can handle running the ball. There’s no reason he can’t be a rich man’s Shane Vereen.
Sign a tight end, don’t draft one. This is the one that I find to be the least likely, even less likely than the Forte idea. See if Thompson does sign a free agent, it’s often one with a high draft pedigree who has been undervalued. Think Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett or Peppers. Forte really isn’t that big of a stretch.
There are quite a few players that I like in this year’s crop of free agent tight ends. Dwayne Allen, Ladarius Green, Coby Fleener or even Antonio Gates on a one year deal would be nice compliments to Richard Rodgers, and could form a nice group with Rodgers, Backman and Perillo.
The problem with drafting a tight end is one, they take a while to develop. Most tight ends struggle in year one, even guys like Gronk and Graham. Secondly, this class of tight ends took a big hit when a lot of the top juniors chose to stay in school. This offense doesn’t need a tight end to succeed (see 2014), but it’d sure be nice.
Cut Tim Masthay. Use the savings that you get from going from Masthay to a minimum salary player to help re-sign Mason Crosby. Crosyb has earned his keep, Masthay has not.
Find a way to get the first six picks right. In Green Bay, it seems like if you’re drafted in the first four rounds (sometimes even before then), you need to be ready to play. Fortunately, for the Packers, they are likely to get two additional fourth round draft choices in April for allowing Cleveland and Jacksonville to overpay Davon House and Tramon Williams, and replace them with younger, better, cheaper options in Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins. In the first six picks in the first four rounds, I’d like to see the Packers draft two offensive linemen (Sitton, Lang, Bakhtiari and Tretter are UDFA in 17), a pass catching running back, a defensive lineman, a linebacker and either an edge defender if the Packers sign a TE or a tight end if they do not. Something that looks like this:
That’s it. That’s what I’d prioritize this offseason. Those of you who are obsessed with Thompson dipping into free agency after John Elway won a Super Bowl and Bob McGinn wrote Bob McGinn stuff, keep in mind that the Packers have major pieces who need to be re-signed after the 2016 season, and over paying players that are free agents because their previous team didn’t prioritize keeping them is generally not good business.