OK, let's get right to it. I agree completely and have been proceeding on the assumption -- no inside info, just an assumption -- that that's exactly what they're going to do. Sign a veteran or two, maybe even a guy who's older than you might expect (29 or 30?) and draft one high so the rookie doesn't necessarily have to start right away, even if that's preferred.
I saw the comments -- I'm not at the combine, Tom Silverstein, Jim Owczarski and Olivia Reiner are handling that, whereas Ryan Wood and I are attending the owners meetings in late March -- but just am not ready to put too much into them. I don't know if Burks is a lost cause at ILB (he's a pretty good special teams player) but it's a bad sign that in each of his first two years he was given a shot at playing time and played his way off the field. Now, maybe something will click with another offseason in the program, but if I'm the Packers I'm not counting on it or thinking it's likely.
I get what Gutekunst is saying when he says it's such a year to year league, you don't know what the strengths of the top one or two contenders will be next year, maybe the 49ers slip a notch for whatever reason. But it's true that the Packers' run D overall was consistently an issue -- it got better the final third of the season but that might have been a function of opponent too, then it blew up against the 49ers in the NFC title game. So they have to do something about it, because there are going to be at least a couple teams that run the ball really well. Besides the personnel upgrades you suggest, it sure looks to me like Pettine has to get sounder in his run scheme, to emphasize gap coverage more thoroughly and have his guys be a little more concerned with that a little less with being disruptive.
That has to be a possibility at receiver, whether it's slot or not. Gutekunst likes big receivers, they have a bigger catch radius, which is a big help, but explosiveness and speed are such a big part of the game. I asked him that question when we met with him for a round table interview before the combine, does he need to err on the side of speed/explosiveness over size? I don't recall the exact wording of his answer but came away from it thinking he thought so, though he'd prefer to have at least pretty decent size to go with the explosiveness.
Just speculating here because we don't know everything that went into his decisions on each pick with who else was available. Maybe in the case of Josh Jackson at CB it's to put a little more emphasis on pure speed? Jackson ran a 4.56, which isn't horrible but is not good for that position. I personally wouldn't ever draft a long-snapper, either, though Bill Belichick has done it. With J'Mon Moore, a scout from another team told me Moore had big drop issues as a junior than was better as a senior, so maybe the Packers talked themselves into thinking drops wouldn't be a problem with him in the NFL. Turned out they were.
Haven't heard anything concrete. Gutekunst brought him up as a guy he's looking forward to seeing in camp, which suggests he's coming along fine. He tore his ACL, that's at least a nine-month recovery, probably more, so without knowing the details, the best guess is he'll miss the offseason practices and be ready for camp.
There's no hard and fast rule, but I think draft history shows you're better off trading back and accumulating more picks than up and having fewer picks. Again, there are times to do either, but the problem with trading up is if you miss on the pick, you've in effect missed on multiple picks (the pick you made plus the pick you gave up to move up, and sometimes it takes two extra picks to move up). Now, if you have a really good feeling on a player, then you do it. But most picks are to some degree a miss, the more picks you have the better the odds of finding a good player. You can find good players all over the draft if you do it right and have some luck.
Rodgers is the representative and Crosby the alternate. In years when teams negotiate the CBA the union likes to have high-profile players as representives.
Not like I'm the first to point this out, but there are some similarities with Favre's career to this point. Favre had a terrible '05, an OK '06 in McCarthy's first season and a really good '07. Rodgers can't carry the team like he could a few years ago but he still looks to me like a very good player who would be able to take advantage of it if they improve the weapons around him. Maybe he'll decline faster than I think, we'll see. But that's why QB has to be on the table for Gutekunst in the first round of this year's draft. They have to be ready to replace him at any time now, and if he ends up playing great, so much the better.
I guess it would have to be a possibility, though I'd be a little reluctant if I were them. I still don't know the draft well enough to know what tackles might be worth taking at No. 30, the mock drafts I've looked at haven't had any taken late in the round, but that could change by late April. I'm still thinking, at least for now, that the best R1 possibilities for the Packers are WR, ILB, DL and maybe QB. But you can't rule OL, especially if Bulaga leaves. The Packers, though, have done a good job draft OL in later rounds over the years. Bakhtiari, Lang, Sitton were all D4s, Linsley D5, Jenkins looks really promising as a D2.
From what I saw, Lazard didn't say they weren't ready, the story about him just said that he was really upset about the performance and was assuming they'd go to the SB and that he was "salty" about the loss and it is fueling his fire. But Za'Darius Smith said they weren't as ready to play as they needed to be. I still don't know what to make of it. It just seems hard to believe that someone wouldn't be ready for a conference championship game, especially when you're the underdog. I don't know if Smith is talking only about himself or if he saw something in some teammates, or what. The performance, especially on defense but to some degree on offense too was abysmal.
Grant is a free agent, so he very well might not be back. Considering he never was even active on game day last season, I wouldn't think he'd be back. Most of the guys you mention are probably long-shots to be significant contributors. St. Brown will be a guy to keep an eye on, he was was ahead of Valdes-Scantling by the end of their rookie seasons but then had the season-ending injury late in camp. Valdes-Scantling ended up being one of the biggest disappointments on the roster, I really thought he'd make a nice jump, and in camp he looked like he was headed in that direction, had a couple good moments during the season, but by the end of the year was hardly playing. Is he a viable top-three receiver candidate next year? I guess you can't rule it out but the way things went last season aren't promising. Obviously a huge offseason for him.
Don't know. I have to think he's probably interviewing candidates at the combine this week, wouldn't be surprised if they made an announcement late this week or early next week.
I would think they could Ervin on the cheap, he's been cut a couple times already so his demand probably won't be great and he does have some explosiveness in the return game, the Packers' special teams picked up after they signed him. Not sure how viable an RB he is, though, he basically played as a jet-sweep guy in the few snaps he got on offense last season. Yeah, I very much think they need another RB, one who could get regular snaps and bring a little more explosiveness than J Williams if Jones gets hurt. History says you definitely can find effective backs in the fourth round or later -- Jones was a fifth-rounder, for instance -- so I'd guess they'd take one later rather than earlier in the draft. LaFleur at the combine yesterday basically said they always need more backs for his offense with the emphasis they put on running the ball. We just don't know if D Williams will be a reliable enough player to contribute much, he barely got on the field last year even when J Williams was out.
Sure, they do things to mislead teams. I've read where the Chiefs tried to make it seem like they weren't interested in Mahomes a couple years ago -- I can't remember what it was, either they brought in all the top QBs for interviews even though Mahomes was the one they were targeting, or they didn't bring him, can't remember which it was. When the Packers drafted Hawk at No. 5 overall, he said he had no idea they were interested, they had only minimal contact with him before the draft. Yes, there is a lot of subterfuge in draft season.
That's a big question, and though I know all the basics that have been reported, I haven't consulted any sources on it. So this is just kind of off the top of my head. It strikes me as maybe an OK deal for the players, the guys at the lower end of the scale are getting a decent raise, and I read something yesterday that the players could get as much as 49 percent of the pie (not 48.5) if the league makes certain revenue benchmarks (the story didn't specify the benchmarks but suggested they were realistic). I know 0.5 percent might not seem like a lot, but when we're talking about that kind of money, it is a lot. The improvement in pension and benefits are important too, they help everybody, not just the guys who get paid well. They are giving up a lot in playing that 17th game, so they need to get absolutely as much as they can in return. I read something by former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz who said the players should push more for extra years of health care (I think right now it's five years after they retire) over less practice time/pads work in camp. Kind of my gut feeling is it's a decent deal for the vast majority of players -- most guys only play a few years in the league at best -- it's not a bad deal. It had a few more jobs (two to the roster, I think two to practice squad) and raises the minimums a decent amount. I'd need to talk with a couple agents I really trust before saying whether it's a good deal for the players. Off the cuff I'm inclined to think it might be about as good as they're going to do, maybe the one thing I'd worry about is the point Andrew Brandt brought up about not having an opt-out -- 10 years is a long time, and a lot could change in the meantime. But the big upside is, if the 17 games helps grow the game internationally over the next decade -- right now international media rights bring in minimal revenue -- then the players will get a big cut of that money too.
You never know what his plan is, and how much a new CBA might affect it (I think the cap will go up if the CBA is approved). The wild card might be TE Austin Hooper, he'll probably be expensive but I'll be curious to see if Gutekunst makes a run at him, I'd think he'd be a Day 1 or 2 signing. I'm still guessing he'll go more for multiple, cheaper signings, but I thought that's what he'd do last year too, and instead he swung bigger than I'd have guessed. I'm thinking he'll sign an ILB or two, a tackle if Bulaga leaves, a receiver too, maybe a TE. To do all that he probably can't pay too much to any one guy. But you never know what plans they might be cooking up.
Forgot run-stopping DL too.
I don't at this point but am going to ask around about those guys and weigh in on what some scouts think about them in the coming weeks. Sure sounds like Burrow, Tua and Herbert will be top 10 guys, so we're talking the guys after them.
If they think a QB they can get at 30 (or in that vicinity) can be a winning QB in the league, then I don't see how they could pass him up. Yes, they have acute needs to help them win now, but among other things, they could draft a guy at 30 to fill a need and he might end up being an average player. QBs are just too important, and finding a good one sets a franchise up for a decade of winning football. If you don't have one, it doesn't matter how good the rest of your roster is. With Rodgers at the age he is, QB has to be on the table in R1 in my opinion. If that's the way it goes, then they'll just have to find another way to fill the holes. And who knows? Maybe they'll need the QB sooner than they think. If not, that means things will have gone well, but that position is everything in this league, and now's the time to start looking hard.
Look, it's true that Rodgers' body language is an issue sometimes, and I don't doubt that on game day he's at times tough to play with. But I've read a lot about Brady being very exacting with his receivers, too. I remember reading that when Rich Gannon was winning the MVP with Oakland way back when, he was an SOB to his receivers. I think a lot of these top veteran QBs expect a lot from their receivers -- in part, I wonder if they forget what it's like to be young and not know the offense as well as they do now. But they're used to winning and want things done right, too. I strongly suspect Seattle didn't ask Metcalf to do things he wasn't ready to do, which helped him make an impact. Probably limited just how much he'd do as a rookie, but got the most out of him under the circumstances. Long and short of it is, Rodgers can't carry the team like he used to and needs more talent around him than he's had the last couple years.
If we're saying that the players available are equally good at their positions, then if I'm the Packers I'd take the ILB or WR, probably ILB.
A couple thoughts here. First, and I've talked about this with other reporters, they could be a better team and have a worse record for the reasons you say. More short-term injuries could cost them a couple games, a tougher schedule with more games against good QBs could lead to another loss or two. A close game or two might not go their way. The basic analytics say that odds are they won't have as good a record next year, that teams with really good records but low scoring differential (and winners of lots of close games) like the Packers last season are likely to revert back to the mean the next year. But there are reasons to think they can be better. A second year in LaFleur's offense, adding some talent at skill positions on offense, maybe hitting on a draft pick who helps a lot immediately. A lot depends on whether Rodgers is like Favre and has a big second season under a new coach.
Agreed that Gutekunst needs to add a run stopper on the DL and upgrade the talent at ILB. But Pettine has to shoulder plenty of the responsibility too. Early last season an OL coach for another team told me that the weakness of the Ryan-Pettine defense is it's not as diligent about teaching and emphasizing gap integrity as other defenses, and that unless it has superior personnel it can be run on because it's more concerned with disrupting than being sound against the run. It sure looked to be true last season. He's just going to have to emphasize teaching run D better next year.
I think it can work with almost anybody, a big slot receiver can be kind of like a tight end and use body positioning and big catch radius to be effective. That said, it's ideal for a smaller, quicker guy because from the slot there's more field to work with in both directions (left and right), so quickness in and out of breaks is a real edge in there. That's why many offenses emphasize quickness over size in the slot.
Answered it earlier but thought I'd add something. The problem the Vikings face is they're starting to get old on defense, Harrison Smith is over 30 now I think, Linval Joselph I think might get cut, Xavier Rhodes declined fast, Everson Griffin is in his early 30s. They need a big draft or that defense is going to decline even more. The Bears are hamstrung by their QB, I just don't think Trubisky is going to be good enough. Maybe he'll all of a sudden blossom, but I doubt it. But yeah, to actually get better the Packers need a good offseason adding players, and they need Rodgers to have a better Year 2 under LaFleur.
I don't know but I have to think they're strongly considering it. It looks like a pretty good way to keep the kickoff in the game.
Sure does't look like it. Sounds like he's going to be a top-five pick, and they don't have the firepower to get up there.
I don't know a lot about him other than he was a pretty decent player with the Rams early in his career. But yeah, he's exactly the kind of veteran stopgap kind of guy I was talking about earlier, a guy who because of age shouldn't be that expensive and could be a starter while a high draft pick learns the ropes.
The '18 draft looked decent at this time last year and looks bad now, though Alexander is a good player who could get even better. But some big misses in '18 at this point (Jackson, Burks, the WRs depending on St. Brown after his injury and whether Valdes-Scantling is a lost cause). I'd say in free agency he's done pretty well. I mean, Z Smith was a home run and P Smith a very good signing and Amos OK. Even Turner, who had his problems, was an upgrade from Taylor, though he's overpaid. But free agency can be almost as hit or miss as the draft, so you have to give Gutekunst a really good grade for last offseason just based on the Smiths alone. Seeing how things changed with the '18 draft class in the last year, probably too early to say too much about last year's draft.
This will have to be the last question, we went long today. Just a heads up, next week we'll be chatting on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, just a one-week change, we'll be back to Wednesday after that. As for your question, I haven't heard of any talk about that but can't say I've ever asked anyone, so I don't have a great answer for you. The league wants to stretch out the draft season as long as it can because it drives interest in the NFL. I don't know how flip-flopping it with free agency would affect things -- as much as free agency generates huge news for a few days, the draft is an industry all in itself. Then you'd have even more tampering issues, etc. I also don't know what role the union plays in this, if it has a say in having free agency first. I'm thinking the league is locked into having the draft second at this point because the draft has become such a big publicity driving and money making machine, the won't want to disrupt that regardless of what GMs and coaches might prefer for building teams. And with that, we'll call it another chat. Thanks for coming by everyone, always enjoy hearing your thoughts and questions. And thanks especially to our subscribers, you make our work possible. If you don't subscribe remember you can get the Packers News app for $4.99 a month, that's a great deal for all our Packers coverage every day, year round. Thanks again everyone, and until next week, take care!