Here we are, a normal offseason is upon us for the first time in a couple years. As we all know by now, with the possible exception of a couple injured players, the Packers are set on offense, but need a pass rush on defense. The Packers start the off season about $7 million under the cap. In general, the Packer GM, NFL Executive of the year - Ted Thompson, doesn’t employ the use of franchise or transition tags. I don’t see that changing this year. In this report I’ll detail the status of each position.
The quarterback position will undergo some changes this year. 2011 season MVP QB Aaron Rodgers is under contract. However, QB Matt Flynn is an unrestricted free agent this year. His 2010 game vs. New England and his season ending 2011 game vs. Detroit will get him a chance to start with a quarterback starved team. A tag & trade scenario has been part of the speculation with him, but without another team willing to participate it won’t happen. The advantage to a team doing that is they don’t have to compete with other teams for Flynn. QB Graham Harrell now moves into the second string quarterback role. The Packers have already signed QB Nick Hill who was draft eligible in 2008. He was a very good college & Arena League quarterback. At running back, the Packers could cut RB Ryan Grant. His value vs. his performance no longer matches. That would mean RB James Starks, RB Alex Green, and RB Brandon Saine would be on the roster. FB John Kuhn is signed and not going anywhere. At tight end the Packers have insulated themselves from the possibility of losing unrestricted free agent TE Jermichael Finley. Finley’s statistics would look like upper tier tight end stuff until you see the 11 regular season dropped passes, some of which stopped drives and cost touchdowns. The Packers still have TE Andrew Quarless and TE Tom Crabtree and last year drafted TE Ryan Taylor and TE DJ Williams who will finally get an offseason to develop. Besides, they won a super bowl without Finley the year before. Green Bay is set at wide receiver. WR Greg Jennings, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Randall Cobb, and WR James Jones will all be back. However, WR Donald Driver may not be – a possible cap casualty. The Packers would like to promote a couple guys from the practice squad. One is WR Tori Gurley who at 6-4 is a big target that has been doing very well in practice and would mitigate the possible loss of Finley. The other is WR Diondre Borel who also did very well in preseason games. On the offensive line, OT Bryan Bulaga, OG Josh Sitton, OG TJ Lang, OT Derek Sherrod, OT Marshall Newhouse, OG Ray Dominguez, and OC Evan Dietrich-Smith will be back. Newhouse needs to improve a lot. It will be interesting to see if Bulaga gets a shot at left tackle. Sherrod broke his lower leg in two places. There is a chance he won’t be ready when next season begins. I could see a free agent here. OT Chad Clifton is having issues staying healthy and at 36 may be done in Green Bay. OC Scott Wells is an unrestricted free agent and should be a priority to re-sign.
The defensive line returnees are DE Ryan Picket, NT BJ Raji, DE CJ Wilson, DE Jarius Wynn, DE Howard Green, and DE Mike Neal. They have enough guys, no free agents, but none that make a difference. Maybe if Neal can stay healthy he would. Thompson bet everything on Neal replacing Jenkins – but it didn’t happen. Wynn makes an occasional play. Raji got double teamed a lot. Expect a high draft pick or a very good free agent here. The linebackers returning are OLB Clay Matthews, ILB AJ Hawk, ILB Desmond Bishop, OLB Brandon Jones, OLB Frank Zombo, ILB Rob Francois, ILB DJ Smith, OLB Jamari Lattimore, and OLB Vic So’oto. So’oto failed to show what he flashed during preseason games. OLB Eric Walden had off the field issues last year and may not be back. Walden also lost his effectiveness at right outside linebacker. Expect a high draft pick here as well. At cornerback, CB Tramon Williams, CB Sam Shields, CB Charles Woodson, and CB Devon House should all be back. CB Jarret Bush and CB Patrick Lee are unrestricted free agents. Lee is fairly useless and can walk. Bush is a great special team player, but a very average position player. If he stays depends on his pay expectations. At safety, S Morgan Burnett, S Charlie Peprah, and S MD Jennings will be back. S Nick Collins broke his neck in the second game of the season and if he does come back, will he be as effective. Safety could be addressed in either free agency or the draft.
PK Mason Crosby, P Tim Masthay and LS Brett Goode will all be back. Last year, the Packers did not bring in any competition for them. I don’t anticipate any this year either.