Hi everybody, weather app says it's minus-13 right now here in GB, ouch. Let's dive right in. I won't disagree that Thompson's drafting fell off, it definitely did. He just didn't hit big on enough picks in his last five drafts and had a couple that came up nearly empty. The roster has a lot of holes but I don't think it's as bad as many/some seem to think. More than anything it just lacks a couple difference makers -- not minimizing it, that's a lot, but it's probably not much different than the Saints were when they went 7-9 for three straight years. Yeah, a couple good signings in free agency and a couple good players in the draft and they're back in the hunt, provided they can get Rodgers back to playing at a high level. Now, having that kind of offseason is easier said than done, but it can be done. It also depends on how long a transition it is for the new coaching staff to get its system implemented. McCarthy went 8-8 his first year then had the best record in the NFC his second season.
As I've said before on these chats I'd have probably just cut Graham and moved on, he's just not the explosive athlete he was in the past, and I'd be concerned with throwing good money after bad. He's due $9M in salary and bonuses this year, I'd just have a lot of trouble paying him that. Maybe they have or will work out a pay cut -- maybe pay him his $5M roster bonus but reduce his salary and add some incentives. But I don't know whether he'd agree to that, and the report about his return made no mention of that. They must agree with you, and I have to think LaFleur had a big say in this too, he must think he can get more out of Graham than McCarthy did last year. Can he do that? Your guess is as good as mine.
I guess one thing I'd say there is, his best blocking tight end (Lewis) couldn't run anymore, at all, wasn't much of receiving threat at all. Graham is not a good blocker, and Kendricks is only OK as both a blocker and receiver. So they didn't have much for two-way threats (block and receive), which is the advantage of two tight ends. If they're trying to get their best guys on the field, I don't know that that was the way to do it. I still wonder why Tonyan didn't play more, though late in the season Tonyan did say he had some trouble with all the checks he had to know a the line of scrimmage.
Only rough guesses. I'd think Gutekunst is in the $3M range, Hendrickson maybe in the $1M range, the others midj-to-upper six figures. Just guessing there, based on what previous people in those jobs were believed to be making.
I'd say the possibilities are wide open with their second first-rounder and second- and third-rounders. Tight end and offensive line are major needs, as is safety. I'd think they'll draft at least two outside rushers, so maybe the second one will be fairly high also. I'm not ruling out QB, though I'm sure it's unlikely, it doesn't sound like this is a strong QB class. I'm thinking TE and tackle for two of the first four picks, plus edge rusher of course, and who knows for the other? But we're all guessing, you never know what will happen or what they have in mind based on the strengths and weaknesses of the draft, and what they do in free agency.
From observing the organization for 30 years, I just don't see them bringing in Hunt, they wouldn't want the scrutiny/disruption that would bring to the locker room and organization.
I wrote about that this week and in fact mentioned Boyle. I think he's an interesting prospect, I thought he was their most promising backup in camp last year. He stands tall in the pocket and gets the ball out, has a good NFL arm, and is a good athlete (4.75 40). I think he has a real chance to be a No. 2. Now, maybe the more he plays, he'll throw INTs like he did in college. But there's something to work with there, and he warrants a good look. Doesn't mean he'll be a good No. 2, but at this point he has a chance. I just don't see it with Kizer. He can throw and run, but I don't think he plays fast enough -- QBs have to have lightning reflexes and read defenses fast, and so few can do that well enough to play well in the NFL. He went 0-15 as a rookie starter, I just can't believe he couldn't find a way to win at least one game. I didn't see anything last year in camp or when he played when Rodgers was out to think he's going to make a big jump. I could be wrong of course, but I'm just not seeing it with him. I definitely think they need draft a QB or sign one (there aren't many worth signing in free agency) to give themselves options.
Collins would be a really interesting option if he's available, but you have to think the Giants will either sign him to an extension or tag him. I'd be really surprised if they just let him walk.
I didn't get a chance to hear the interview yet, but that's interesting. I'm surprised McCarthy allowed things like that to go unpunished. Now, maybe he fined them, but yeah, those are the kinds of things that can erode a team's discipline. I don't know who those players are.
I'm wondering about the strength and conditioning staff too. That falls under the head coach's purview (the medical staff is the GM's call) and there hasn't been any news about anyone being fired or retained. I don't know what's going on there. I'd guess he's interviewed Mark Lovat and the others on staff but he must not have made a decision yet. As for how many assistants he'll have, we won't know that until he's finished. He's been fairly deliberate in this process.
I'd have to see a more precise breakdown. Rodgers himself probably accounts for most of that difference.
Yes, of course it's a fair question. IMHO he's off to a decent start. The Graham signing didn't work out, so you can ding him on that, it was a big-money move, but I get why he did it, and they didn't hurt future caps by signing him (they can cut him this offseason and gain cap room, though it sounds like they're retaining him). The Wilkerson signing was a low-risk, high-upside signing. It didn't work out, even before he got hurt he was playing only OK (Lowry was better). But it was definitely worth the shot if you ask me. His first draft looks decent. Now, if Davenport becomes a stud pass rusher for the Saints, and obviously Gutekunst could have picked him instead of trading back, then things could different. But Alexander is a promising player at a key position, and I thought two of the three receivers drafted look real promising too. Open questions on Jackson and Burks. The punter is really talented but will have to be much better next season. This is a big offseason, Gutekunst has a lot more to work with this year -- more cap room (probably in the $40M range) and two first-round draft picks (10 overall).
That could end up being one of the really interesting questions about the Packers' draft. One thing we don't know at all right now is where Murray is likely to go -- sounds like late first-round right now, but with the value teams put on QBs, and how evaluations might change in the next couple months (I'm guessing teams looked only so hard at him because he'd signed a baseball contract), maybe he ends up being a top-15 pick. If he's there when the Packers pick at 30, I'd think they'd have to really seriously think about taking him. At No. 12, hard to know if he'd be worth considering at this point. The one thing with Murray is they could get him on the field for gimmick plays even as the No. 2. This could end up becoming a really interesting question as the draft gets closer.
It cuts both ways, no question. From people I've talked to over at Lambeau, there's definitely a new vibe in the year, a lot of energy that young guys bring (and especially a young head coach) and a hunger. The hunger is important. Now, I'd say there needs to be balance. McVay this week was talking about how lucky he is to have Wade Phillips as DC with all his experience and laid-back personality, which is the opposite of McVay's personality. Pettine's 52 and is more extroverted than LaFleur, so there's some balance there. The offensive staff as a whole is really young. Again, as a whole probably a good thing, they'll be hungry in their new roles and moving up the ladder. The position I'd be most concerned with is OL, Stenavich is fairly inexperienced as an NFL coach (two seasons as an OL assistant in San Francisco). He played several years in the league (on practice squads only), but for making game-day adjustments, nothing beats having experienced as a coach for several years or more. I do agree, though, that the young staff will be hungry.
I'd think there's a good chance they'll bring back all those guys, none of them will be expensive. After all of Breeland's injuries last year, I could see him doing a one-year prove-it contract, for instance. Agree that Brown flashed some talent.
Probably a lot of truth to what you say about the Packers' prospects for next year, a lot will depend on what the new staff brings to the table, and if LaFleur and his assistants can find ways to get more out of the guys already here, Rodgers very much included. But talent matters too. Even one exceptional player can change a team significantly. It's just that players of that caliber are fairly hard to find. But that's why there's so much interest in the draft, trying to figure out who might be one of those guys, or at least might be a really good player. Belichick really is the exception. He's just clearly the best coach in the game. He gives New England an edge in the same way Lombardi gave the '60s Packers an edge. Hard to quantify that. But Brady provides the bigger edge, IMHO. Long way around to your point, yeah, the Packers' prospects for 2019 ride to a large degree on what LaFleur can do get the most out of the roster.
I'm still not sure what happened with Rizzi. I've heard and read that he wanted a lot of money to come to Green Bay. I also heard he preferred to stay in Florida, and that's why he didn't accept offers besides the Packers also. But now it looks like the Dolphins aren't retaining him. So I don't know what's going on with him.
That's a really big-picture question, and I don't have an easy answer. But I will say that I don't think it would necessarily spell the end of the Packers even though they're in the NFL's (by far) smallest city. They have a huge fan base. They own the state of Wisconsin but have die-hard fans across the country, many of whom would pay to watch their games (if there were no revenue sharing, teams could keep all their own TV money). So I think they'd have a chance to survive. Now, the problem would be whether they could survive a dry spell. If they had anything like the '70s and '80s, that could be the end of them. The Titletown District should help them in that way, too, with the extra income. I'd think it would be a lot easier for them to survive with revenue sharing but no cap than vice versa.
Their success in the next few seasons very much hinges on Rodgers. How much of his struggles last season were because of his knee? How much because a poisoned working environment because he didn't like the offense? That McCarthy possibly wasn't as driven as he was earlier in his coaching career? How much because of the physical and mental toll of Rodgers' injuries (two collarbones and a concussion besides the knee)? I'm assuming this year will answer most of those questions.
I boycott the Pro Bowl and probably haven't watched a second of it for at least 15 years, maybe more. It's a total joke and a shame and a stupid endeavor. To put many of the league's best players at risk of catastrophic injury for a game that means absolutely nothing is mind-boggling to me. At least with preseason games it's a team working together to get ready for real games. The Pro Bowl offers nothing worthwhile. It's all for TV, and one of these years a star player is going to get badly hurt. And because of those risks, it sounds like the players really aren't playing football anyway, that nobody is tackling anybody. So why do it? The TV money just can't be worth it. And I still don't get why anyone watches it.
I'll bet he gets a job next year if he wants back in. Sounds like the Jets was the only job he even went for. I think he had an interview scheduled with Cleveland too, wanted to change the interview date and they just scrapped it. Sounds to me like a guy that wasn't looking that hard for a job. We'll find out next year.
I don't think he's a No. 2 or No. 3, but he could probably be a No. 4 or No. 5. He'd have some size for playing the slot, but then so would, for instance, Allison. Those guys could be fairly big targets over the middle. But teams prefer smaller, really quick guys for the slot, because they're so hard to cover when they have the room to break in or out.
I wonder about the Cook thing too. Going into the offseason I thought, no way -- they should have offered a little more and re-signed him two years ago, but now he's 31 (32 in April), so it would be just like signing M. Bennett and Graham, guys that were just a little too old. But then I talked with a scout whose opinion I trust, and he said Cook still looked really athletic last season and that he can still play, and that he'll probably get a really good contract. So I don't know. I guess I'd still be wary because of the age. But I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. Depends on the money.
I was very much surprised, because even in camp he didn't do anything to catch the eye. One of the most surprising things is that he improved so much against the run as the season went on. He was always a liability there but by later in the season was pretty good against the run. I still think most of his sacks were of the clean-up variety -- I don't remember him very often just beating his guy and getting to the QB in short order. So I'd still be looking at him as a rotational-backup guy if I'm the Packers, and finding a couple outside rushers is still very much a huge need for this team. But give him credit, he did get 10 1/2 sacks and has improved a lot.
From what LaFleur has said publicly in various interviews, it sounds like he's going to emphasize getting the ball out if that's what it takes to keep his QB from getting hit a lot, so that could help the line. I'd think the type of lineman they'll be looking for is similar because McCarthy ran a zone-based scheme, though he got away from that more and more as the years went on. Zone schemes generally prefer smaller, quicker linemen. Bakhtiari and Linsley should fit fine with that kind of scheme, both are average sized at best for their positions, and both are mobile and athletic.
Lots of Graham questions, I answered one to start the chat but will address it once more. Without knowing for sure, I have to assume LaFleur had a lot of say in this. He must think he can get more out of Graham than McCarthy did. And when he and Gutekunst looked at free agency, maybe they didn't like what they saw, and considered this the best of their options. I too would have just cut ties and moved on, saved some cap money. I do wonder if they've worked out (or have talked about) a pay cut. We'll see on that.
I saw Beasley might be free. I'd think he'd warrant a hard look, but after getting 15 1/2 sacks in 2016, he had only five in each of the last two seasons even though he missed only two games total. So you'd have to figure out what happened there. Dupree has never put up big numbers (11 1/2 sacks the last two seasons combined) for a team that runs a 3-4. They'd be guys worth considering as long as the price isn't very high.
Pretty much the same thing. I wonder what will happen with Bulaga at RT. He's a good player but that back injury from last season would worry me if I were the Packers, I just wonder if he can make it through a season, or how much his play could suffer if his back acts up and he plays through it. They definitely need a new starter at RG, maybe at LT though maybe Taylor bounces back too, he had ankle surgery last offseason and missed all the offseason work. Right tackle they at minimum need a fallback. They can fill the slot WR with someone on the roster but will want to add a small, quick guy to share some of that playing time, assuming they move on from Cobb. They definitely need one starter at safety, and at least one at OLB, maybe two. Lots of possibilities for change this offseason.
Not sure on that. You'd think the smart thing for the coaching staff would be staying flexible, and if techniques he'd been using were really effective then allow him to stick with them unless there's a really good reason not to. Something to keep an eye on.
Yeah, I thought he looked promising in camp and the preseason games, but then in the real games he played his way off the field. That's obviously not good, but I will say, sometimes it takes a year for guys. I remember Brian Williams -- he was a linebacker back in the early-mid-90s, a third-round pick -- didn't do anything as a rookie in 1995 and got off to a slow start in camp as a rookie in '96, to where you wondered if he might get cut. But by the end of camp he was playing well, and he ended up being a good player on that Super Bowl team. Burks has a lot of what you're looking for from an ILB in today's game. He's got some height and length so he's not easy to throw over, and he's fast for the position for covering TEs and RBs. But the question is, is he stout enough to hold up inside against the run? He's basically an oversized safety. Let's see what a year in the offseason program and a season's experience in Pettine's D does for him.
OK, we're going to have to end it here, other duties to attend to. BTW, just in the time we've chatted it's warmed up three degrees -- now it's only minus-10. Anyway, to your question, yeah, I'd definitely think CB is in play in those rounds or in free agency. King's injury history is a big reason. Also, maybe they'll want to move Jackson to safety. And something I've only truly appreciated the last couple years, you simply have to have several solid CBs to play in this league today, because on most plays you have at least three CBs on the field, sometimes four. You have to be able to cover -- QBs are getting the ball out fast -- and you have to do it through 16 games plus playoffs, which means you're going to lose guys to injuries. You just can't have enough competent CBs for the way the game is played today. And with that, we'll call it another chat. Very much appreciate everybody coming by and sharing our thoughts, comments and questions. As always, too many questions to get to them all, so try again next week. And keep checking back to PackersNews.com for all the news, plenty still going on with new coaching hires, and then the combine and free agency are just around the corner. Take care everybody and stay warm.