The Case for Packers Optimism

It’s that part of the year again. The Packers suffered a horrific gut punch playoff loss, and no one has enough information about draft prospects yet to obsessively run mock draft simulations 17 or 18 times a day. I mentioned in a review of the loss from Sunday that I feel more optimistic about the future than most Packers fans seem to on Twitter. That’s what I want to explore today: Packers optimism and why each of the end of the world tweeters isn’t quite right.

The Much Talked About Players Leaving Are Replaceable

After Aaron Rodgers, the most popular story going around the Packersphere right now is the lack of cap space the team has. The team reportedly needs to shed somewhere between $40mm-$55mm (the number changes for every futures contract they sign) of salary prior to the league year starting just to get under the cap.   

That means Za’Darius Smith, Mason Crosby, Billy Turner, Randall Cobb, Dean Lowry and Marcedes Lewis will likely be released. MVS, De’Vondre Campbell, Bobby Tonyan, Rasul Douglas, and Whitney Mercilus likely won’t be re-signed. Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari, and maybe Aaron Jones will have their contracts restructured to spread large cap hits over years in the future. Jaire Alexander, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos could be offered contract extensions to reduce their cap numbers.

That’s a lot of guys. But when you break it down there are ready replacements. Rashan Gary broke out this year as a Z replacement. Elgton Jenkins or Yosh Njiman can take over at right tackle. Mason Crosby seems like he is on the downside of his career. Cobb, Lowry, and Lewis are all great locker room guys, but on the field, they are replacement level when you consider every part of the game. Plus, there are plenty of tight ends, slot receivers, and defensive tackles in the draft.

The free agents are a little more problematic. Campbell, Douglas, and Tonyan were all starters. MVS is a crucial part of the offense. Mercilus gave the team much needed edge depth. But even these players can be replaced. Joe Barry has coached up linebackers everywhere he’s been – remember when Packers fans want to sign Cory Littleton after his time with Barry? Douglas hurts, but Stokes is ready to be the firm number 2 corner and who knows, maybe Douglas would even come back on a low money prove it (again) deal. Tonyan is probably the most replaceable with the level of tight end talent in the draft, and if he is tendered losing him would mean the team was compensated with a draft pick.

Rodgers and Davante

Of course, two obvious players were missing from that section. Everything depends on whether Rodgers and Davante are coming back. Rodgers will likely win his second straight MVP soon and Davante is the best living wide receiver. I firmly think they’ll both be back.

Rodgers implied that he will be back unless the team chooses to rebuild in his press conference and interviews. There obviously could be more to it than that but if it really is just don’t rebuild, that’s a cinch. The Packers were the most all-in team in the league last year when you consider the amount of money they kicked down the road. I doubt administration is going to change tactics all of a sudden.

As far as Davante Adams goes, the team just doesn’t let players of his caliber leave. Mark Murphy has talked about how you only offer third contracts to future hall of famers and Davante is well on his way. The current conflict, that Adams wants to get paid based on the fake contract the Cardinals signed with Deandre Hopkins, will likely get solved. Either because Adams will be convinced that the true number one WR salary isn’t quite that high or because the team will just pony up the money to keep him. Especially if it directly means keeping Aaron Rodgers as well.

It won’t be a disaster if they leave

All of that said, if Rodgers demands a trade and Adams follows him, the team won’t suddenly fall off a cliff into Detroit Lions territory. There are all-pro level players on both lines, in the secondary, and at running back. Two guys leaving isn’t going to turn all of those players into bums.

If they leave, there will be at the very least a third-round compensatory pick for Davante. If Rodgers is traded and he doesn’t retire there will be a lot more. Guess who one of the bets drafting GMs over the last few years is?

Additionally, we don’t really know how good Jordan Love is. We know he has an exceptional arm. He played extremely well when he wasn’t coached by the corpse of Gary Anderson in college. The coaching staff believes he has improved. And, as mentioned above, he will have a great supporting cast. He won’t likely fail completely year 1 and even if he does, the team will have plenty of draft capital to trade up for one of the god tier level QBs coming out in the draft after next season.

Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.

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