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Old 15.02.2011, 03:29 PM
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Default 2011 roster decisions

Much as I am still basking in warm fuzzy Superbowl afterglow… I thought it would be fun to think about the roster for next season and put down my thoughts about the decisions facing the Packers as they shape the roster that will attempt to retain the Lombardi trophy.

Clearly there are unknowns at this point. With the CBA up in the air, there’s a good chance roster sizes could change. The salary cap is coming back but we don’t know on what terms. And we don’t have access to players who are injured, how they are rehabbing etc. But these are my thoughts at this time based on what I know. Thought it might make a good discussion. I’ll start with offence today and do defence when I get the chance.

Offence

Free Agents

G Daryn Colledge
G Jason Spitz
FB Korey Hall
FB John Kuhn
HB Brandon Jackson
TE Spencer Havner
WR James Jones

Colledgewill leave in free agency
I think everyone can see this coming. At the end of the day, this boils down to the fact that Colledge wants to get paid, and Green Bay would be foolish to invest money in their 5th best O Lineman. In some respects Colledge is unfairly maligned. He’s resilient, he’s experienced, his availability has been excellent, he is fairly solid. Rank and file, you know what you’re getting with him. Someone will need a guard and there’s a good chance he gets the contract he’s looking for. I just don’t see it being in Green Bay. With Nick McDonald and T.J. Lang waiting in the wings, the Packers figure to be OK at the position and there are better areas to invest money than in an average guard.

Spitzwill leave in free agency
We should have traded Spitz to the Eagles at the start of this season. They offered, apparently we didn’t do it as we were playing them week 1. As it was we kept him on the roster, he barely played and when he did come into the game for Colledge against the Vikings he was so awful he got benched for Lang. I don’t see the sense in resigning him unless it’s as a bargain basement backup. With the shortage of good linemen around the league my guess is a player with his experience gets a better offer elsewhere.

Hall = will leave in free agency/may resign in GB
The big thing working against Hall is that he’s always been injury prone. With 2 of them FAs this year, we aren’t carrying the 3 FBs on the roster next year IMO. Hall is the most likely to leave – more than anything he’s just missed too many games.

Kuhnwill resign in Green Bay
Based purely on the tangibles, you probably wouldn’t do it. But Kuhn is so popular, and you’ve got to think the heart which we all love in his play rubs off on his teammates. He’s versatile, he’s tough and he consistently plays above himself. We’ll resign him to a respectable deal.

Jackson - may leave, may resign in Green Bay
Probably the most borderline decision on offence. The Packers figure to draft a RB this year. Ryan Grant is probably leaving after 2011. James Starks has promise but cannot be relied upon. So that would take up 3 RB roster spots. I think Jackson warrants a 4th. He’s a great pro, he’s smart, he’s tough, a great 3rd down back and if we need him to play he will never disgrace himself. He’s an average player in a lot of respects, but there’s potentially a long term role for a player who picks up the blitz so well and can catch out of the backfield. Grant is not long term, if the price is right… Jackson is. Unless someone offers him silly money, I hope we keep him.

Havnerwill leave in free agency
I can’t see what role Havner might have in Green Bay next year. Finley, Quarless and Crabtree figure to be back. Beyond that I think they’ll probably go younger. He’s not that good and he doesn’t have a whole lot of upside at this point. Maybe at a cheap price you get him into camp and see how it shakes out? But my guess is he might get a better shot somewhere.

Joneswill resign in Green Bay
A little unfairly maligned IMO. Supposedly reliable Jordy Nelson dropped as many passes as Jones in 2010. Still has an awful lot of talent. There may be competition to bring him back, someone may well want to pay him like a starter. But with Driver nearing the end and Nelson a FA after 2011, that receiving depth chart thins out awfully quickly. We just won the SB because our passing game outplayed the best pass D in the league. This is why you let Colledge walk...pay the man his money.

Should they stay or should they go? – roster calls to make
2011 compensation in brackets

Donald Lee ($2.2m)
Mark Tauscher ($4.1m)
Donald Driver ($4.1m)

Leego
He’s a great pro in many ways, gym rat and all around good guy to have in the locker room. But he’s way down the pecking order as a receiver and he’s never been the stoutest blocker. He isn’t a bell cow on special teams either. Thanks for being a Packer but we can’t afford to pay $2.2m for a 4th string TE. Time to get younger.

Tauscherassuming he doesn't retire...if he’ll play for backup money, stay
Clifton is coming back, Bulaga is entrenched at RT. $4.1m is just not happening. However if Tauscher wants to continue his career in GB and is amenable to returning as a backup, I’d definitely offer him $1.5m if the rehab of his injury is checking out. You can’t rely on Clifton staying healthy for 16+ games. Marshall Newhouse is a long way from a sure thing. TJ Lang might be starting at LG. This gives you an experienced player to turn to. It’s a good insurance policy. Of course, he might choose to retire. We’ll have to see what he wants to do – if he wants, he can force his way onto the open market.

Driverstay
If he weren’t 42 yards short of a franchise record for receiving yards, if you were making this decision from a cold business perspective… I think it’s highly likely Driver would be on the outs. But he is an absolutely exemplary pro. If anyone is capable of something of a bounce back season at this kind of age, it’s Driver. Moreover, if I’m Thompson, I’m going to draft another receiver this year. Who better to have him look up to as a rookie? If we need the cash elsewhere, I would not be above discussing a renegotiation with Driver – the team redid his contract in back to back years earlier in his career to pay him fairly. IMO he is not getting $4.1m anywhere else this season. But most likely he plays what is likely to be his last year as a Packer for the full amount.
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Old 16.02.2011, 08:19 AM
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Jeez, you are so unsentimental. These are family! Jackson's going nowhere, his blitz pickup has been absolutely monumental this season - MVP level. Donald Lee has been a go to stalwart on third or long downs and even with Finley back should remain so. Mark Tauscher is a god and $1.5m would be like slapping him across the face. He'll stay plenty productive at twice that price. Sadly, I can see DD leaving though; earning a well deserved final check but seeing out time and lost in the mix at somewhere like Jacksonville.
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Old 16.02.2011, 01:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menominee View Post
Jeez, you are so unsentimental. These are family! Jackson's going nowhere, his blitz pickup has been absolutely monumental this season - MVP level. Donald Lee has been a go to stalwart on third or long downs and even with Finley back should remain so. Mark Tauscher is a god and $1.5m would be like slapping him across the face. He'll stay plenty productive at twice that price. Sadly, I can see DD leaving though; earning a well deserved final check but seeing out time and lost in the mix at somewhere like Jacksonville.
The NFL is one of the most mercenary, unsentimental businesses on both sides.

The Packers cut Al Harris, William Henderson, Bubba Franks, Darren Sharper and Mike Wahle and traded Brett Favre. There is precious little loyalty anymore. It’s a brutal business. The players understand that and they are often equally mercenary. You can’t blame them, it’s just the way it is.

The business reality of it is that the Packers were #3 or 4 in the NFL in spending on player wages this season. They have a lot of important free agents in the next 2 years and you cannot keep a group of players together forever. You have to make choices. Resigning Cullen Jenkins, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson etc has to be the priority. The fact that we’ve assembled a good young roster… this is a consequence of success.

Donald Lee is not an imposing blocker, is now 3rd choice at best as a receiving TE and isn’t great on special teams. You can’t justify paying someone in that role more than $2m. If he’s on vet minimum… maybe. But really we need to use that money elsewhere. We can sign a young developmental player in that role for ~$200,000 – and that player might become the next Donald Lee. Cap space and cash are both finite resources.

Same with Tauscher. He’s not going to start. He is all but done physically and barely gets by being a wily, canny player. He doesn’t move people in the running game anymore. He’s coming off a tough injury. Yes, he is a good insurance policy and that does have value. But if he’s wanting or expecting $4.1m, sorry Mark, thanks for being a Packer but you’ll have to look for that on the open market. And I doubt he’d get half of it. If you have to choose between resigning Cullen Jenkins or bringing Tauscher back, it’s not a hard decision.

Jackson is the one for me… I really don’t know which way it’ll go. It should be a down year for the players in free agency because there are so many free agents. And I’m sure no-one is going to be making a run at Jackson to be a starter for them. He’s not starter material. The question is, by the time free agency comes around (i.e. after the draft) there’s a good chance we’ve drafted a back relatively high and Jackson will see himself as 4th on the depth chart, just there as a 3rd down back. He might get a better offer for more money to be a #2 somewhere else. He’d be a great fit for Chicago in that role, for example, replacing Chester Taylor.
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Old 17.02.2011, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by transmetropolitan View Post

Spitzwill leave in free agency
We should have traded Spitz to the Eagles at the start of this season. They offered, apparently we didn’t do it as we were playing them week 1.
I remember reading that explanation at the time, and thinking it couldn't be right. But ... I guess it goes to show that TT does have some strange foibles, even though he's been a great GM.
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Old 17.02.2011, 03:20 PM
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I'd prefer to keep Colledge as Lang's been working out at tackle and McDonald hasn't been with us a for very long. However as you say Colledge wants a bigger contract, Thompson will have to weigh up his reliablity and knowledge of the offence against the two backups potential.

My only problem with Spitz is, do we have a future centre? Scott Wells does a great job with protection that helps Rodgers out pre-snap. Do we have anyone good enough to back him up? Dietrich-Smith has had praise, McDonald is also listed as a G/C.

With Starks and Grant we have two fine RBs, but Jackson is such a great blocker/receiver it would be difficult to let him walk. However I can't see any other option as being the third string back is not what Jackson wants.

Jones will be back, the guy makes mistakes but then perhaps a new WR coach can help get rid of the drops.

I think you're right with Donald Lee, he would need to be a S.T's ace to be worth sticking around.

Tauscher is a tricky one, but they let him walk before and I think they'll do it again. He's struggled with injury and I can't see him sitting on the bench. We do need another good tackle though, so unless the Draft is fruitful things get a little thin depth-wise.

Driver's starting to struggle with injuries but I think he's still got a good part to play in the offence. Definatley keep him on.
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Old 17.02.2011, 06:54 PM
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I'd comment guys but i'm really all Packer'd out atm.

Think i'll probably input come Draft time,but untill then i'll probably just read other peoples musings.
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Old 18.02.2011, 08:54 AM
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The other problem with resigning Colledge is that sooner rather than later we’re going to be doing a new deal for Josh Sitton. If you pay Colledge the going rate, which is at bare minimum likely to be about $6m per year… where does that leave your negotiation with Sitton? It also leaves you with the possibility of no long term LT and a lot of money already tied up in your line.

Regarding Spitz, at the end of the day the only playing time he had this year he was absolutely awful and got benched coming off the bench. Dietrich-Smith and McDonald are both C prospects with bright enough futures by all reports to think that they can be counted on as backups. Plus we always add offensive linemen in the draft/FA.
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Old 22.02.2011, 09:58 AM
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Defence/Special Teams

Free Agents

DE Cullen Jenkins
S Charlie Peprah
S Atari Bigby
ILB A.J. Hawk – not strictly a FA but treated as such here due to completely untenable 2011 salary
K Mason Crosby

Jenkinswill be given the franchise tag. Then traded, or maybe gets a deal
This is the biggest player decision the team has to make this offseason. I think it’s a really tough one. Jenkins is an elite player. A really disruptive, consistent interior pass rusher. He’s in his prime. For most teams, paying the probably $11m per season Jenkins is going to get would be a fairly easy decision. For the Packers, it’s a really difficult one. First, in Raji and Pickett the Packers already have a lot of money tied up in the D line. Howard Green is a stone cold lock to come back because of his cheap 2011 price ($725,000), level of play in 2010 and veteran leadership. Mike Neal is a lock for the roster, CJ Wilson and Jarius Wynn both have shown genuine promise and Johnny Jolly may also be reinstated. How many D linemen can you realistically keep when you play nickel/sub packages 70% of the time? Second, unless he is Harrell-esque with injuries, Mike Neal is going to be really good and needs to play. Third, Jenkins is not a supremely conditioned athlete. He’s had his struggles with availability – he played less than 50% of defensive snaps this year – and there have to be some concerns that he’ll let himself go a little after getting paid. That’s how it worked out with his brother Kris. So IMO there’s definitely some risk in giving him that kind of contract. But on the other hand, he’s the best interior pass rusher the team currently has, and that’s a precious commodity. I’ve read that the Packers may be preparing to let Jenkins walk in FA. No way IMO you can do that. I think the Packers have to use the franchise tag on him. That costs $12.5 or $12.9m for 2011. I think there’s a good chance you can trade him from under the tag. If you can’t, then I’m OK with paying him that for 2011 and trying to work out a deal beyond that. Either way he’s too good of a player to just let him walk, even if you have to make a sacrifice elsewhere.

Peprahwill resign in GB, though some risk he’ll leave in FA
The Packers should definitely try to resign Peprah to a respectable contract. Much as people cite him as ‘clearly the weak link’ in the Packers secondary… he has done a remarkable job within his athletic limitations. Whether he’s back is going to come down to whether anyone else pursues him in FA as a starter. There is a shortage of decent safeties around the league, so that cannot be ruled out. Morgan Burnett figures to be back, we may add another S in the draft. Nonetheless there should be a role for Peprah within that mix because his superior ability against the run has value. Burnett has promise, yes, and is the superior athlete and player in coverage. But he also missed a lot of tackles and that’s a concern with him moving forward.

Bigby - will leave in free agency
It’s the end of the line for Bigby in GB. Availability has never been great with Bigby and there’s a good chance it never will be. He stands to be way down the depth chart and would appear to have better opportunities awaiting him elsewhere. He did a great job coming out of nowhere to dig the team out of the hole they got into with Marquand Manuel. I will remember him fondly in green and gold but it’s time to move on.

Hawkanything could happen, but most likely will be released by the Packers
After Jenkins, the ILB decision is probably the toughest for the team. In fairness it’s a good position to be in. They have 3 players who are full time starting quality ILBs. They are all too good to sit on the bench. None of them can play outside. Bishop has signed a long term deal for not huge money and figures to be one of the starters for the next few seasons. Barnett is due $5.5m for 2011 and Hawk $10m, which is not going to happen. Something has to give. In getting Bishop resigned, the Packers have given themselves leverage with Hawk and/or a fallback plan. So it’s Hawk vs Barnett for the other spot. Hawk is less athletic, has less range and is the inferior blitzer. However he is extremely durable, is immaculately professional and assignment sure, has a calm undemonstrative demeanour in contrast to Barnett’s more emotional style, is unselfish and is also underrated in coverage. Barnett is the better player IMO, but he is also undersized for a 3-4 ILB, has had injuries and has a playing style, throwing his body around, that makes his availability a concern in the future. It’s a really hard decision. My guess is that the Packers would not be able to trade Barnett. With Hawk effectively able to force his way onto the open market, I think Barnett will figure to be the better value option for the team. But this could definitely go either way – if you can trade Barnett and resign Hawk, that makes sense. If you can sign Hawk cheap, that also makes sense. We figure to draft a MLB for depth this year.

Crosbywill resign in Green Bay
Elite leg strength, average accuracy. That’s the book so far on Mason Crosby. Based on his work ethic and the typical career trajectories of kickers, the next contract he signs is likely to be some of the best years of his career. I think we have to resign him. You live through the pains of having a young kicker... you need to reap the rewards by resigning them to another contract. Might not be the cheapest contract either… Green Bay is a difficult place to kick. Crosby is the sort of kicker we need IMO. Lock him down.

Should they stay or should they go?
2011 compensation in brackets

Matt Wilhelm ($3m)
Brandon Chillar ($2m base, not entirely sure on rest – Chillar’s contract includes about $5m in other bonuses, not sure when payable)
Brady Poppinga ($2.1m)
Nick Barnett ($5.5m)

Wilhelmgo
This was the first time Thompson claimed a veteran player on a sizeable contract (Wilhelm’s base for 2010 was $2.5m). We needed him last season with all the injuries we had. $3m is not going to happen for 2011 IMO. We need the money elsewhere, we can replace him cheaply, he doesn’t figure to be enough of a factor.

Chillarclose to 50/50, but I’m gonna say stay, if not then my guess is released on final cutdowns
This does depend on whether the Packers owe him a bonus on top of the $2m salary he’s due this year. I believe the Packers would take a ~$5.25m cap hit if they cut him. It might only cost $3.75m in cap space to keep him on the roster, though clearly the $2m in cash for his salary also needs to be considered. If he’s all the way back from injury he has value in sub packages because he’s got some range in coverage – a weakness of both Hawk and Bishop. Might need to play better on special teams to make the team next season. Broke his hand and missed a fair bit of time last year, missed most of 2010 too. Durability definitely a concern, shoulder injury possibly a long term worry for a linebacker.

Poppingago
Poppinga is now 32 and is coming off his second major knee injury. In Walden, Jones, Matthews and Zombo, the Packers have 4 cheap, young OLBs and Poppinga isn’t good enough on special teams or cheap enough to justify keeping over any of them. The Packers will hopefully add another OLB prospect who might become a second pass rush threat. Everything is working against Poppinga coming back.

Barnettmy guess is stay
As I said with Hawk, this is a close, difficult decision. If the team comes to an agreement with Hawk, it’s hard to see Barnett being kept on at $5.5m. He might have some trade value, you never know. Working against the Packers (as with Jenkins) is that there ought to be some good FAs this season because of all the RFAs from last year. If the market is flooded with these players – who are also younger than Barnett – it might be hard for the Packers to move him. And with so many teams playing 3-4 now, Barnett’s size is going to be a concern for those teams. My guess is they keep him over Hawk, but who can tell?
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Old 23.02.2011, 09:30 AM
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Oh… let’s not completely forget Justin Harrell. It’s definitely the end of the road for him in Green Bay. $4.1m base salary next year and the DL is stacked. Hope he can rebuild his career somewhere else.
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Old 24.02.2011, 02:22 AM
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An interesting read transmetropolitan.

As for the offence I think all the potential free agents will leave the team apart from one of Hall or Kuhn, and Kuhn is probably the most valuable with his ability in short yardage situations (Hall cannot seem to stay healthy either). The Packers should look to retain Jones but not if he wants to be paid like a starter, he's far too inconsistent.

I think both Lee and Tauscher will get cut next season. Driver will definitely be around, he's still productive and with an off-season to heal, I anticipate him being in the starting line-up in week one.

On defence I would tag Jenkins, as you suggest, but definitely would be looking to trade him (like we did with Corey Williams). Jenkins is an excellent player, but he's injured far too often, and we faired pretty well without him down the stretch. Moreover, we have Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson and possibly a returning Johnny Jolly waiting in the wings on far smaller salaries than Jenkins would command.

I would lean towards retaining Hawk if the Packers could get him to renegotiate his salary somewhere around the Barnett level. Then I would look to trade Barnett, who is a very good ILB/MLB but looks like the odd man out if we have a full deck.

Peprah was a very adequate fill in, but I think the Packers should be looking to upgrade the position. If he accepts a job as Burnett's understudy at a reasonable salary then I'd bring him back. I'm sick of Bigby and his injuries, he's never been that good barring a run of a few good games what seems like years ago. I think there are a lot of kickers out there like Crosby, so if he doesn't want to re-sign for cheap, I'd look elsewhere.

I'd keep Chillar around, but expect Poppinga and Wilhelm to be cut. They've offered little to the team beyond special teams, and Poppinga does not seem to fit in a 3-4, (I didn't think he was all that good in a 4-3 either though).
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