Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Packers chat with Pete Dougherty

Submit your questions for Pete's chat at noon CDT Thursday.

    With the addition of the free agents and the loss of several Packers to free agency, on balance are the Packer better or worst than they were two weeks ago?
    Hi everybody, let's dive right in. Well, if they aren't better they just wasted a ton of money. On paper you have to say better, at least a little better. Amos should be an upgrade at safety, that was a weak position last year. The two Smiths should be an upgrade at outside linebacker, though how big an upgrade remains to be seen. You have to think both of them will get more snaps than Fackrell, who was a starter for a lot of last year. Matthews and Cobb are on the downsides of their careers, probably getting very near the end. Hard not to think the Packers didn't improve themselves. Now, I thought they upgraded last year by essentially replacing Nelson with Graham, but it turns out that was probably a wash.
    Many rumours about Packer's Cap number what is the correct number?
    It's always  hard to get the exact number. Spotrac and Overthecap do a great job providing the contracts and keeping track, but there are a lot of arcane rules for the cap that add and subtract a little money here and there that aren't reported or known publicly. Our Tom Silverstein has been checking with sources who are telling him the Packers have about $8 million in cap room after accounting for this year's draft class But they usually take about $7 million into the season for in-season moves and contract extensions, so if $8 million is right they don't have a lot to work with and probably don't want to do any contract restructures to create more room by adding money to future caps, because they already rank like No. 28 in the league in cap room next year.
    Do you think packers will take a TE at 12? I mean this is such a deep class on the defense side of the ball.
    You have to think Hockenson and maybe Fant are at least possibilities. It's really wide open. With the free agent signings, they really can take the best guy on the board and not have to worry about skewing toward filling a need.
    For better or worst Ted Thompson always made sure that the Packers were never in trouble with cap money. Now we hear the Packers may be in terrible with little cap money and the potential for a lot of dead money. I know a big percentage of the cap money is due to Roger’s contract, but how limited are the Packers in what they can do in the coming years?
    They're fairly limited next year because the cap numbers for the four free agents they signed this year double in 2020. It gets tougher to project after that because they can cut guys, etc., in '21. There are two other wild cards regarding future caps. One is that the CBA runs out after the 2020 season, so some things regarding the cap could change, at least a little. Most of the league's major TV contracts expire after '22, and if the next contracts, which will include lucrative streaming rights as well, go up like past deals have, then the cap will shoot up too. That's a few years down the road though.
    Hey Pete, hoping if I submit this question on Wednesday evening if I can get one answered this week. (Lol, just joking with you). Anyway, are there any players who stick out to you heading into the draft? Devin White sticks out to me, especially because he plays ILB, which Packers need opposite Martinez. Might need to trade up for him though. Also, Ed Oliver makes a lot of sense if he’s there at 12 because Daniels is a FA and Packers will be cash strapped with Kenny Clark needing a new deal. Anyone else in the first round catch your eye, either at 12 or 30?
    There really aren't, there are a lot of players who appear to be possibilities at 12. The more mock drafts I see, the less likely it appears White makes it to 12. Mocks are often wrong, but it's starting to look like he's going to go in the top eight. Maybe that will change over the next five weeks. Oliver is interesting, sounds like he's pretty talented. I'd have to think he's a real possibility too. But so are any of the several outside rushers who might be on the board then.
    Hi Pete, Thanks for the chat! If 4 FA players meet our expectation or above, what are other critical pieces to get SB or playoffs? Can these gaps be filled in draft? Do we need other FAs? Thanks!
    The biggest need is a difference maker at any position, especially on defense. Anybody who tilts the field a little bit in the Packers' direction. If the Packers have a draft like the Saints did a couple years ago, then yeah, they'll be in business. Those kinds of drafts are fairly rare but definitely possible, and the Packers have two first-round picks, which helps their chances at least a little.
    These days everybody and their brother has a mock draft with draft options for the Packers randing all over the map. In your experience, have you noticed that one or two stand out in accuracy for predicting who the Packers will draft?
    No. I'd say overall that mock drafters have been very inaccurate predicting the Packers' pick, though in their defense the Packers generally have been picking later in the first round, and the further back you go in the round the harder it is to get the right player to the right team. But no. I'd hazard a guess that nobody in the media has much of a clue who they're going to take. Everybody's guessing.
    Have the Packers strapped themselves for 2020 Free Agency to the point of not being able to resign their own players like Daniels, Martinez and Crosby, and is it a ‘done deal’ that Graham be let go next year? What do you estimate next years cap to be?
    The cap has been going up $10M to $12M a year for the last several years, so the estimate is it will from $188M to $200M next year. Spotrac has them $38M under $200M, but that doesn't include the draft class and 51-man cap roster; Overthecap has them $29M under but assuming 51 players on the roster (they have only 30-some guys under contract for '20). So let's estimate they have about $30M in room. That's enough to re-sign the guys they want and do a little bit in free agency, but not like what they did in free agency this year, they can't keep back-loading salary caps like that. Yeah, I have to think there's not much chance Graham is back in 2020, which will save $8M on the cap.
    Will the Packers retire Clay Matthew's number? How about Charles Woodson?
    No on both counts. The Packers don't retire many numbers, and the ones they have retired (Hutson, Canadeo, Starr, Nitschke, White and Favre) are all in the Hall of Fame. Matthews won't be a Hall of Famer. Woodson will but he played so much of his career with the Raiders and as great as he was with the Packers didn't transform the franchise like White did -- White also played a big chunk of his career elsewhere. I'm guessing Woodson will get his number in the ring of honor on the Lambeau facade -- all Packers in the PFHOF are on there, and he played with them long enough and well enough to warrant it.
    Given the size of the receivers on the roster, any chance Adam's moves to the slot?
    I'm sure he'll play there some so that it's harder for defenses to know where he's going to line up on any given play. But he's really good on the outside, he's excellent at using his body to create space and separation along the sideline, and at going up and getting balls. So he's still going to get the majority of his snaps on the outside.
    Hi Pete,, couple of things. Why do you think they let Breeland go FA?
    Tom said on a podcast that Oren Burkes played Safety in college. Any chance he can move to Safety or move Jackson?
    What's the possibility of bringing back Jared Cook TE? He is still out there.
    I saw this morning that it looks like Cook is going to sign with New Orleans. Assuming Tom's sources are right about the Packers being approximately $8M under the cap, they don't have a lot of money to work, which is probably why they didn't re-sign Breeland. They're going to want to carry most of that $8M into the season if possible. I think I saw where Breeland signed for a little more than $2M plus incentives. I was thinking they might sign him to play safety. They clearly value Tramon Williams more at $5M than what they could have gotten Breeland at. Basically, they made their choice to use that money on the four free agents, rather than signing a lot of guys at lower prices. As for Burks, I doubt he's good enough in coverage to play safety in the NFL even if he lost weight. I could see them moving Jackson, that might end up being his best position, but there are no indications yet they're going to do that, and with Breeland not coming back Jackson might have to stay at corner this year regardless.
    Hi Pete. love these chats Now that we seem to be set on free agents and don't have very much cash to toss around any further help will be coming from the draft. In your opinion what positions would be addressed with the first 4 selections? Thanks
    Free agency really opened up things for the draft. But if I had to guess, I'd guess the first four picks will be at four of these five positions, in no particular order: OLB, T-G, TE, S, RB.
    Hi Pete,

    Do you think Gutekunst resigning Graham and Lewis indicates they know they are thin at TE, or that they are unwilling to admit that they might have made a mistake signing those 2 players last year? I have liked most of what Gutekunst has done so far, but I would not have brought either player back which concerns me a little as to why they did.
    I agree with you on both counts. For the record they didn't re-sign Graham but brought him back for the second year of his contract, but your point holds, I thought they'd cut him. With Graham, my guess is they looked at what's available in free agency and decided that they were better off paying him than gaining I think it would have been about $5M in cap room. I think they're taking a big risk throwing good money after bad and could have used that money at any position, but that was probably their thinking, that they wouldn't be able to do any better at TE with the money they'd save cutting him. Lewis was a really good blocker most of his career but he'll turn 35 in May and fell off as a blocker by the end of last season, so I question that signing also. It was fairly low risk, they paid him only a $500K signing bonus, but I have to think there's a decent chance he'll get cut at the end of camp.
    One of the best parts of the NFL is the salary cap. Yet, it is that same salary cap that hurts the game when it comes to 'home grown' stars like Cobb and Mathews. Its a shame how the money comes into play even as a fan. I personally soured on Cobb just because of the money he was making vs his impact. How silly is that for a fan? Should I care about such things? Cobb provided amazing memories and games and plays but less so recently. I should want that guy to always be a Packer but the money thing comes into play. And its the same feelings with Mathews - even more so. What is a fan to do, Pete?
    I don't know Max, you have to take the money into account because it plays a big role in building a team. They can't pay everybody and have to make tough decisions based on salaries and production. It's hard to separate those things in your mind, you can't un-ring the bell, right? You probably just have to live with it. Or once the Packers make their roster decisions and start playing games, then don't worry about the money any particular guy is making until the next offseason.
    Pete, I don't understand why you keep propagating the myth that you have to be built like Cobb or Cole Beasley to play the slot. Jerry Rice, Hines Ward, Larry Fitzgerald, all played the slot, all our 6" or taller and 200lbs or more. Even your own words dispute your own theory that slot receivers should typically be quick but undersized. In yesterdays column you stated your case for the Packers to not bring back Jordy Nelson to man the slot position because he'd "be zero threat on the jet sweep, which is an important misdirection play in the Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVay offense that rookie coach Matt LaFleur runs." This statement alone contradicts your undersized slot receiver theory. I'd surmise that size at the slot is all the more important in this offense because they are expected to be willing and adequate blockers in this offense which is most likely the reason that Rodgers has advocated for Allison to potentially fulfill the role.
    I don't think I said a slot has to be small and quick, but if you look around the league they definitely tend to be smaller, quicker guys. There's a reason for that. They line up closer to the middle of the field, so they have a two-way go -- there's enough room to cut left or right, and smaller, quicker guys are tougher to cover. When Rodgers was asked about slot receivers after Cobb got hurt last year, he even said you'd prefer a quicker guy in there but that, for instance, Allison could do it. And he was asked that during the season, well before LaFleur was coach, so I don't think he was taking the outside zone run into account. Of course slot receivers don't have to be small and quick, and there's something to be said for having a bigger target over the middle with a larger catch radius. But there are more slot receivers like T. Hill and Edelman and Cobb and Beasley then there are like Fitzgerald or Landry. Maybe, as you suggest, that's changing, or will change, in the coming years. As for the jet sweep, are you saying small and quick guys aren't good at running the jet sweep? I'd say that's something they excel at because they're quick.
    Hi Pete, I thought Breeland was a solid number 3 at CB and capable of 2 if King has more injury problems. I think Breeland was a better option than Williams. Does losing him create a hole at CB and does that make CB another priority in the draft? Overall, how do you rank the priority's for the Packers going into the draft? TE, OL, etc.???
    Breeland kind of struggled in the slot, whereas Williams can play there. Williams just turned 36 earlier this month, man, that's incredibly old for a cornerback. But he's still probably better in the slot than Breeland, or at least was last season. You never know when it will hit Williams and he just won't be able to do it anymore. Among other things this suggests they still think Jackson has a real chance at CB. It also says they don't have a lot of money left to work with. I wouldn't say CB is a draft priority, at least not to the degree of several other positions (OL, OLB, S, RB, TE), but if we know anything about today's NFL, it's that you need lots of CBs. You play nickel and dime most of the game, so that's three or four CBs on the field at once, and then you have to be able to function when injuries hit. So you need a lot of competent CBs. Long way of saying, if there's a CB on the board who's their highest-rated guy, they should take him.
    Wouldn`t the injury concern be far less this year for Perry if he would have been used as a situational rusher? Based on Tom`s piece, I think 4 million $ would be a bargain for a good backup rusher who also could line up inside on late downs. Imagine the flexibility it would give Mike Pettine..
    I have to disagree. It didn't seem to matter how much Perry played, he always seemed to get hurt. The risk of bringing him back and then paying him not to play (because of injury), or to play diminished (because of an injury) was just too great. Too great a risk of throwing good money after bad in my mind. I'd have brought back Matthews before Perry.
    Hi Pete,
    I am a Packer fan. I have no choice but to hang around to see how things turn out. Mark Murphy I will never forgive for letting Dorsey go to Cleveland. Not only did Dorsey fleece Gute in the now infamous trade (Dorsey proven, Gute a work in progress C- for year 1), the brain talent drain to Cleveland might be too difficult to overcome. Why hasn't Arod restructured his contract to free up cap space? Cleveland will be much more fun to watch in 2019 IMHO.
    IMHO, they don't want to get into a yearly thing where they're pushing even more Rodgers' cap money into the future. That's how you end up in cap jail. They only did the deal last August, if they started restructuring to create more cap room this early in the deal then they're doing something very wrong in their cap management. They signed four expensive free agents, that's a lot, a big spending spree. I thought they'd go more for quantity, not sign anybody the first couple days, maybe do one expensive guy and several mid to lower level guys, and not push quite so much money into future caps. But there's no arguing that they made a big splash and spent a lot in free agency this year. The future definitely looks good for the Cleveland Browns, that is the truth. Most importantly, it looks like they've got a QB, and one who's fun to watch, too.
    If the price were right, maybe the veteran minimum with some weekly roster bonus should the Packers consider Lang or Sitton for spot starters or backups? Would either fit the new blocking scheme? Do you think either would consider a reunion? Thanks Pete
    I don't think so. Both were really good players at one point. But age and injuries take their toll. Lang had concussion issues last year plus has had back problems in his two seasons with Detroit. The risk of him getting hurt and ending up on IR are probably a little too great. Basically the same thing with Sitton, and they traded him because he'd become a problem in the locker room after not getting a contract extension. True, they have a new coaching staff. But I'm thinking the front office is done with him. I mean, never say never, you don't know what's going to happen, especially once camp hits and guys get hurt. But the Packers will probably want to just go younger and cheaper at backup OL.
    Pete, I agree with you that the Packers, especially knowing the new coach's emphasis on running the ball, need a RB to essentially be their #1 back, with Aaron Jones as #1A/a complement and Jamal Williams #3. So why didn't they go harder after a Free Agent like Tevin Coleman (tailor-made for the scheme) or another back, rather than drafting a rookie in the early rounds and depending on him as your lead back?
    I wondered that too, and the answer is they spent all their money on the four guys they signed. They considered that the higher priority. I thought going into free agency they wouldn't spend as much as they did on either of the Smiths, that they'd maybe sign a rusher in the $10M to $12M range, maybe in the second week of free agency, and a bunch of cheaper guys, maybe even Coleman. They put the free agency priority elsewhere, and I'm guessing they decided they can find the kind of back you and I are thinking of in the draft. If they don't, then they'll have left themselves potentially very short-handed at RB with a coach who seems to really want to run the ball. I just don't see how Aaron Jones makes it through a season if he has to carry the ball 15 times a game, week in and week out.
    Those that ignore history are destined to repeat it. I don't think signing your own FA is any safer than signing someone else's. When a player has a huge jump in a contract year that is well above what they've produced previously that should be considered a red flag when considering a LARGE investment. I think Cobb and Perry are examples of this since they signed their extensions. Perry sucked for 4 years, then had a big year on a prove it contract and the Packers bought in based on that one year. They didn't look at the whole picture and paid the price. Cobb had 3 nice years and one huge year, the Packers bought in based on that huge year and got returns in line with the first three. My question is with the 4 FA this year, how much of the price is based on last year vs the whole picture? Did Gute buy in and ignore any red flags? Thanks
    That's a really interesting point about the risks of re-signing your own guys. There's truth there. Now, it's also true that most players in the league are worth more to their current teams because they know the system, and the team knows their strengths and weaknesses. Doesn't apply across the board, some guys are better suited for another team's system or for whatever reason have a falling out but then succeed elsewhere. But yeah, the Cobb and Perry contracts ended up being bad ones for the team. As for whether Gutekunst ignored any red flags on these guys, well, Z Smith had his best season (8 1/2 sacks) in a contract year. That's a red flag. Gutekunst overpaid on all four, probably in the range of $2M to $3M a year each, to sign them in the first two days of free agency. He did mitigate the risk some because all four are young enough that if they fail, it won't be because they declined due to age.
    Hi Pete! I know this is a bit after the fact, but a couple weeks back there was an article (Mr. Silverstein I think) comparing Perry to the edger rusher free agent class. Although he has been injured quite a bit, his numbers were comparable, if not even better, than many other free agents. Because his contract was also much less than what others would most likely sign for, I thought they might pick up his option and have a good chance of trading him for maybe a 6 or 7. Was this realistic? Also, any chance they resign him at a drastic cut to add to the rotation? He does have a lot of potential and limited reps may keep him healthy and productive.
    I don't think they could have traded him, they would have had to pay and then his roster bonus. The two Smiths are a little younger than Perry and have much better injury histories. I have to think somebody else will pay him more than the Packers are willing considering their cap.
    Pete I agree with you 100%, it was time to move on from Mathews and Cobb. If the price had been right I still think they could have contributed, but. Do the teams consider not just roster spots but also the development of the next man up? I'm thinking especially with Cobb, the snaps he'd be taking would be snaps that would otherwise be going to younger developing guys. Is this a factor when making decisions to move on?
    Definitely is something they consider and a really good point. When you keep those declining veterans, you have to think about who they might be keeping off the field. A knowledgeable friend of mine still thinks that the Packers hurt themselves in '11 by playing aging Donald Driver ahead of the rookie Randall Cobb, and that it caught up with them late in the year and in that playoff loss to the Giants (I know Driver had a good game statistically against the Giants, but there were times when they covered him with a linebacker, so they clearly didn't see him a threat). So yeah, Allison looked good last year before getting hurt, and Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown showed promise as rookies. The Packers need to get those guys on the field, they could improve a lot during the season, whereas Cobb, for instance, won't.
    Sources: In your recent NFC North balance shift piece you quoted two of them (anonymous). I am curious how/where you meet these insiders, how you arrange for them to be a source (do you just tell them you’d like to call on them in the future and see if they’ll agree?), what percentage say yes to your ask, about how many NFL sources are in your black book, and whether you ever pay them for their interview time. (I trust/hope I’m not asking for any trade secrets.)
    They're just guys I've gotten to know over the years, mostly by working on the position-by-position draft series I used to do. I cold called dozens and dozens of coaches and scouts in the league, and some called back, and we talked and got to know each other over the years and developed a level of trust. I never pay them. I can't imagine any reporter in the NFL paying a coach or scout -- they make way more money than all reporters but the Peter Kings and Adam Schefters of the world.
    I'm generally not a fan of free agency, as I see it as a fools game. The success rate is probably no higher than the draft, and the cost is much greater. I'm sure we overpaid for these guys. But to the Packers credit, each of the added free agents is fairly young. Happy to see the Pack not chase a bunch of old, big names close to the end of the road. Any thoughts?
    Agreed that free agency can be a big waste of money, and that the Packers overpaid. Also agree that they needed to do something in free agency to upgrade the roster and fill in some holes, even if the upgrades end up being relatively small. They swung bigger than I anticipated but as mentioned earlier mitigated the risk by going after guys who were relatively young and seem to be good teammates.
    The rich just got richer. Just saw that the Saints are signing Jared Cook. He was a monster last year, how big of an impact do you seeing his addition having on the Saints this year?
    Cook turns 32 in April, so I'd be concerned about his age. But a few weeks ago a scout told me that Cook still looked fast and athletic last year, and that he's more athletic than for instance Graham at this point. If he's got another good year in him he could help the Saints a lot. They're a team that's been going for it the last couple years with Brees nearing the end of the line.
    Hey Pete!

    The first year of McCarthy, with Jags as the OC, was what I thought was the best/only year with a zone running scheme. After Jags left, it never really looked the same -- eventually morphing into something... else. Sort of a shame, because it looked like something that might work if it was allowed to mature after a couple of seasons.

    Do you think LaFleur's run game might look similar to what Jags tried to install?
    OK, this has to do it, you probably need to get back to watching the NCAA tourney, and I've got other duties to attend to. I'll be attending the NFL owners meetings early next week but will still be doing a chat next late in the week after my return. Sorry if I didn't get to your question, there were a lot of them, but try again next week if I didn't. As for your question Slacker, I originally answered it thinking you were talking about the Jaguars and Hackett, but it's been pointed out you meant Jeff Jagodzinski, who was McCarthy's first OC. The new run game will be similar to that in that it emphasizes the zone run, that's for sure. In McCarthy's first few seasons he ran zone runs almost exclusively and, as you say, turned into a mix of zone and other stuff as the years went on. But I don't know if McCarthy in those early years emphasized the outside zone like Shanahan-McVay-LaFleur do. Not saying McCarthy and Jagodzinski didn't, but I don't remember them talking about it that way. It was more just zone runs. Jagodzinski always said they basically had two runs, inside zone and outside zone, and they wanted to gain at least a blade of grass every time they ran. So it will look similar, but if you want to see exactly what it will look like watch the 49ers from last season, or Tennessee. And with that, I'll let you get back to the NCAA tourney. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts and observations. Until we chat again next week, take care.
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