OK, let's get right to it. I didn't watch the TE workouts but from what I've read about the class it's a little light at the top. Although, you never know where you might find one, Kittle was a fifth-round pick. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reported last week they're considering going after Hooper, and that makes a lot of sense. I'm sure he'll be fairly expensive, but he's a pretty good player and would give them a solid receiving weapon, and he's only 25, so the risk in signing him to big money is less than it would be with a guy who's, say, 28. That would still leave open the door to drafting a WR in the first round, though with the depth of the WR class this year there might be a guy they really like that they can get in the R2 or R3. I think at ILB this actually is a decent class, at least there's a lot of speed -- 10 of them ran under 4.6. Not sure if Logan will be there when they pick at the end of R3, Just really hard to tell right now who might be there in R1. I wouldn't think Queen or Murray would be there at 30, but you never know.
Bulaga is such a tough call, as I was just talking about with a colleague. Good player and maybe his health holds up like it did this year for a couple more years, or maybe he really starts breaking down after all those injuries throughout his career. My best guess is that he's going to cost more than they're willing to pay, so they'll draft one in the first three or four rounds and sign a stopgap guy for the short-term. That's just a guess though. I don't think Veldheer is an option. He played well filling in for Bulaga a couple times last year, but I was talking about him with an OL coach in the league early in the offseason, and that coach, who had worked him out a couple years ago, said he didn't think Veldheer's body would hold up if he had to play several weeks in a row, let alone a full season. They could move Jenkins or Turner out there, but I don't think I would if I were them unless it was an absolute necessity.
This piggybacks on the last question. The Packers' medical staff has all the medical data on Bulaga and has long experience dealing with players, and teams do have their own actuarial tables for different kinds of injuries and how long guys are likely to last. For instance, years and years ago I remember a scout telling me that his team's injury data said that after a player has ACL surgery he's probably going to develop arthritis in the knee within five years. That very well might have changed over the last 20 or 25 years as surgery and rehab techniques have improved, but you get the idea. Then the scouting staff has its experience dealing with injured guys and the factors that go into decline. So they can make educated guesses. But in the end that's all it is, educated guesses. As for Bulaga, sure they could be waiting to see what his market is. Usually with players of his caliber, once they hit the open market they're gone. But maybe his age and injury history will depress his market more than I'm guessing it will. He's definitely a good candidate for a shorter-term deal, but really, even if he signs a four- or five-year contract, it really will be a two-year deal with team options thereafter. It will come down more to guaranteed money than anything.
Yeah, I was wondering the same thing myself. That 40 time (4.58) was just a little bit of a red flag -- not that it means he won't be a really good player, he obviously still can be at that speed, but the Packers really need speed and explosiveness at WR more than anything, so I wondered if that could turn them off him a little. The injury makes you wonder how much it affected his 40. But yeah, the risk for taking him is higher than it was because they won't get the chance to see him run again. With so many good prospects at receiver this year, that could really work against him.
On the WR part of that question, theoretically that makes sense. But it depends on how each team sees these guys. Many teams might consider all of them as relatively comparable and not care whether they wait until R2 or R3. But a given team also might have an especially strong feeling about one or two of these guys and think they're a lot better than the rest. So it just depends on the team's ratings. I don't know how good an ILB they can get in free agency. I mean, I think they can get an OK one, but Littleton for instance is going to cost a lot, and I'm not sure he'll be worth that price. They can get a guy as a stopgap starter, no doubt on that, but to get a real answer for the position I'm thinking they'll have to draft one, and probably with a high pick (first two or three rounds). Tackle definitely will be in play R1 through R3 also.
I really think Hooper is a good guy to target, this offense could really use a TE who's fairly complete, and I think he blocks OK and is also a solid receiver. From a couple scouts I talked to last week, they thought Kwiatkowski would be a good target for an ILB at a palatable price, though maybe his market is going to be more robust than anticipated, which would drive up the price. Ogletree, Trevathan, guys like that could be fallback possibilities at ILB. They have plenty of needs on both sides of the ball but more on offense. WR, T, TE, and I also consider RB a need even if it's not as pressing as the others. And of course there's always QB.
Yeah, I don't get it either. The way one scout put it to me was, that's just what an experienced, decent ILB costs on his second contract. He compared it to baseball, where if you want a starting-caliber SS you have to pay $18M (or whatever the cost is, he just kind of made up that number) even if he's just an average starting SS. I guess it's supply and demand. But I don't know why anyone would pay Martinez $9M or $10M. Maybe a team would think that in a different scheme with bigger guys in front of him he'll be better. I don't know.
It would be a daring move, but I'm inclined to think Gutekunst won't think Beckham is worth the trouble. He's a very talented guy, no getting around that. He's also really, really high maintenance, and I'm guessing Gutekunst doesn't want to bring that into a harmonious locker room at the trade and contract cost that it would take. He's due $14M this year, and the Packers aren't swimming in cap space. So I have a little trouble seeing the Packers making that move. Then there's the possibility that with a new team he'd want a new contract. I don't know if an R2 would get it done. I'd think not, but I'm not sure what the new regime in Cleveland thinks about him.
Assuming Queen and Murray are gone, I'm thinking Brooks from Texas Tech is a possibility, sounds like he's a likely second-rounder. So, for instance, maybe they'd trade back from late R1 to early R2 and take him (or maybe by draft time he'll look like a viable R1). I also want to learn more about Willie Gay Jr., he tested unbelievably well (4.46) and sounds like he plays pretty well, but was suspended for like eight games for academic transgressions and then got in a fight with his QB before the bowl game this year. He also got tossed from the Miss St.-Ole Miss game along with three other guys a couple years after an altercation. So you'd have to feel good about him not being a guy who's not so volatile he's going to get penalties and suspensions.
It should be a little tougher, but moreso because they're not playing the NFC East this year -- that was the worst division in the league last season. But like Bud Grant (and I'm sure others before him) said, it's not who you play, it's when you play them. Maybe a good team or two on their schedule will be missing several key guys when they play next season, or maybe one or two of the teams that had bad records last season will make the big turnaround and be good this year.
I didn't see that, and yeah, if he's available at 30 that would be really, really interesting. I just don't think there's much chance of him being on the board at 30. Was talking with a scout today who though the top four QBs (including Love) would be off the board by 15 at the latest. I wouldn't call it a no-brainer for taking him at 30 but only because I don't know what Gutekunst thinks of him. Love seems to be a little polarizing, some scouts really like him, others think he's too flawed. If Gutekunst thinks there's a lot there to develop, then yeah, you'd think he'd jump all over it at 30 or maybe even consider trading up if Love got into the 20s.
I'm no scout, and projecting guys from college to the NFL is a real art, so I don't really have an opinion worth hearing. I haven't asked any scouts about him yet, mainly because as much as I think the Packers need to draft an RB, taking one in the first round seems like a luxury they can't afford unless they think the guy is a future star, like maybe a Hall of Famer, and everyone else is missing the boat on him by not taking him earlier in the round. Short of that, I'm putting off RB a little bit and drafting a WR, ILB, T, or maybe a DL if a player of Kenny Clark's caliber is available, or QB if you really like one and he's on the board.
I'm just not convinced Schobert is that much better than Martinez or that he's worth $9M or $10M. A couple scouts last week told me Schobert is better against the pass, Martinez is the better against the run. Schobert had more big plays (picks, passes defended, etc.). But for that kind of money, I'm pretty skeptical on him. I'd go for Hooper over him if I'm going to spend a lot. Beckham, like I said earlier, is really talented but also very high maintenance. With the quality of receiver prospects available in this draft, just not sure I'd want to invest the trade capital and cash it would take to get him. I need to ask around about him a little more, but it's not like it's a no-brainer to bring him in. And is he even really available, or does the new regime in Cleveland want tp keep him?
There's no guarantee for success either way. But on the other side of the argument is Jimmy Johnson -- he built the great Cowboys teams of the early '90s by trading back and getting extra picks, and his saying was something to the effect of, "I might not be better at evaluating than you are, but give me more picks and I have a better chance at finding good players." Overall, I think history shows you're better off trading back and getting extra picks than spending more picks in trades up -- an economics professor at the U of Chicago did a study on this 10 years ago or so. But there are no hard and fast rules. The problem with trading up is, if you spend one or two extra picks to move up and the player is average or worse, you've wasted not just one pick but two or three. Sherman did a lot of trades up in one or two of his drafts, and at the time I was kind of impressed that he went after guys he targeted, but it turned out badly -- lots of wasted picks spent on only a few players who all busted. But then, Thompson got Matthews with a trade up, and that was a fantastic move. I think the overall takeaway is, there's a time for both, but overall you're better off trading back more often than trading up.
There seems to be some of that, the pendulum is swinging back a tad, but in the end because of the rules changes mostly keep favoring the passing game, you have to think this will remain a pass-oriented league. San Fran showed what a good run game can do, and Tennessee too. I thought it was interesting when I talked to Brian Billick about this during the playoffs, he said if he came back as a coach he might try to get the biggest OL he could and some good RBs and run it at defenses just for the reason you describe -- defenses in the front seven (especially LB) are getting smaller so they can better cover guys in space. There's something to be said for that, and for the Shanahan aprproach that LaFleur to some degree also uses. I'm guessing we'll see more of that next season. But even if the run gets a little more emphasis in the next couple years, it's still always going to be a league where the teams with the best QBs have a huge advantage.
I don't know how strong their interest is. After they way Gutekunst went after both Smiths last year, it wouldn't be a shock to see him pursue an expensive guy like Littleton presumably will be. I'm not convinced Littleton will be worth $12M, though to be fair I thought both Smiths were overpaid when they signed, and it turned out they weren't. Still, even at the time it was easy to see why Gutekunst signed the Smiths for as much as he did, he had to upgrade the talent on his roster. I'm just not convinced Littleton is that big an upgrade for the expected price. That's just my take. I'd be much more inclined to go cheaper in free agency and also draft high at ILB.
Is this Packer Dave from Rice Lake? From what I've read, it sounds like there are really good WR prospects through the third round, guys that scouts consider legit starting prospects. They won't all pan out, but there are a lot of guys to like. Don't know about R4, though, that's getting pretty far into it. I have to think they'll draft a WR in the first two or three rounds. Of course, I thought that about OLB in '17 and '18 and they didn't take one. But they really need help at WR, so really, I'm thinking they'll take on in the first two rounds unless something unusual happens in who's available or whatever.
According to SpoTrac they have $18.5M available right now. Assuming they cut Graham, I believe they pick up another $8M. I'm thinking their draft class will eat up another maybe $4M -- remember, only the top 51 count on the cap, so a lot of the rookies wont even count -- so that puts them in the low $20Ms. They'll want to carry over maybe $7M into the season. But when they sign guys in free agency, even if the guy averages, for example, $10M, his cap number this year easily could be half that. I think Z Smith's cap number last year was about $7M even though his average salary is $16.5. So they do have some wiggle room.
That's kind of the approach the Saints have used the last few years, including trading a future first-rounder (in '19) to the Packers to draft the OLB Davenport in the '18 draft, but I'm not sure I'd do that if I were GB. I'd only trade a future high pick for a guy I think is a special.player. I don't think I'd let Rodgers figure into it. Rodgers might weigh a little more in free agency decisions, but I'd be careful with future draft capital if I were the Packers.
First, I personally wouldn't take QB off the list, though it's not looking real likely there will be a QB worth a shot in R1. To your overall point, sure, if there's a guy at one of those other positions that truly stands out, take him. But when you're picking at 30 the odds of that aren't real good. There's usually not that much separating the prospects -- now, there can be a huge variance in how guys turn out, but going into the draft there's usually not that much separating them on teams' draft boards in the late 20s and beyond. So there's a pretty good chance the Packers can take the best player among the ILBs, WRs, T, and DL, and fill a need while also taking a guy who's also rated as high as anybody else left on the board. QB is a little different animal, if you don't have a good one then sustained winning is a awfully tough. But yeah, there aren't many positions I'd absolutely rule out in R1, but there are a few (RB, OLB, S) where I couldn't see them doing it unless they thought the guy was really special, and that's probably pretty rare to have a guy you like that much when you're picking at 30. Not impossible, but relatively rare. Also, I'd say Gary was not really a need pick last year.
I really like Lombardi's column and think they're really interesting, but I have to say I'm not sure I really understand the concept-coverage distinction, and how to tell the difference just watching a game -- I can't claim to do that. As for the SF debacles, they obviously were disastrous defensive performances, and Shanahan badly out-coached Pettine. I thought there was probably a little better than 50-50 shot the NFC championship game would cost him his job. That said, at least in my mind, what it should have come down to was whether LaFleur had someone in mind from his past that he felt really good about bringing in. If not, I get why he didn't make the change. If he just fired him and started an open search with no one in mind you just have no idea what you're going to end up with. And then you're also starting all over on defense, a new scheme but with a defensive roster built the last two years for this scheme. I take it you would have for sure fired Pettine, and there probably are plenty of head coaches who would have also. But I'm not convinced it was a no-brainer to fire him, and at least at this point understand why he didn't. I guess a lot of it comes down to why LaFleur didn't make the change -- he really hasn't talked about it in detail, only said he's not making a big decision like that based on one bad performance. Hopefully he'll reveal more as the offseason goes on. The Packers get another shot at SF next year, so we'll get a chance to see whether he Pettine really can't stop Shanahan's offense. That will be a huge game for him, and maybe you'll be proven right.
The short answer is, no, there's no way to know if the Packers have a winner as a head coach. It was a promising first season but I know I wouldn't say anything stronger than that. Ray Rhodes was NFL coach of the year in his first season as a head coach (in Philly), then the Eagles got worse every year after that, he was fired (after his fourth or fifth season), came to GB, went 8-8 and was fired immediately after the season ended. In other words, he had a really promising first year but turned out he was not a good head coach. We'll have to wait a couple more years on LaFleur.
Went extra extra long, this has to do it, have some phone calls to get to. But thanks to all for sharing your questions and thoughts, always plenty to talk about. Free agency is only a couple weeks away, so things will get lively soon. As for the CBA, everything I read suggests that the rank-and-file players -- that is the 60 percent or so that make at or near the league minimum -- are likely to vote for the CBA because they get a nice raise and improved benefits. Hard to blame them, their careers are so short, really tough to put a work stoppage in 2021 in play on the great unknown of whether they can do better by negotiating again next year. And with that, will put another chat in the books. Thanks all to coming by, and thanks especially to our subscribers, covering this team with the resources we put into it isn't cheap, and you make that possible. Remember if you're not a subscriber you can get the Packers News app, it's only $4.99 a month, that's a great deal. And with that, we'll call it a chat. Thanks again everyone, and remember next week we'll back to the usual Wednesday chat. Until then, take care!