OK, let's get right to it. I'm still thinking they might sign another DL, an inexpensive run stopper. A guy like Snacks Harrison for instance. They might be waiting for the prices to drop a little more. Or maybe they want to see what they do in the draft first. They very well might take a DL early in the draft, maybe even in the first round, so then they probably wouldn't need to sign a veteran run stopper.
The priorities you list are exactly the needs I'd list. I'd probably put RB on that list too, they don't want to get caught where if Jones gets hurt the offense takes a big step back, and if they decide that re-signing him next year is too risky (the high injury rate of RBs and high fail rate of RBs on second contracts) then they' have a ready-made replacement for him already on hand. And CB is always a need in this league. With Tramon Williams still unsigned, they don't have a clear-cut No. 3.
Hope everyone out there is staying safe as well. I just read yesterday that the league plans on having the schedule out by May 9. Usually it comes out about a week before the draft but sounds like this year it will be a little after the draft. I think they want to see where draft picks end up to help with scheduling prime-time games, and if they wait a couple weeks longer than usual to determine the schedule they might have a better feel for whether the season is going to start on time. I read yesterday where they might try to avoid playing division games in the first month so in case they have to shorten the season then all the division games still will be played.
Yeah, I think everybody saw how well their offense played in those games and commented on it when it fell off after Adams' return, but I"m not sure if there's any pat answer. I know I certainly wondered the same thing. One factor probably was the schedule, among those games were Detroit (No. 26 in points allowed) and Oakland (No. 24), and they played Kansas City when the Chiefs were without Mahomes and their best defensive player (Chris Jones). I still wonder if part of it was Rodgers playing more by the book and not forcing the ball to one guy, more of just taking what the defense gave him. Jones had a couple big games in there too (Cowboys, Chiefs). LaFleur was asked about it a few times -- I know I asked him at least once -- but he just never really answered it, just talked around it.
I have to say I don't know much about Begelton other than he had a really big season for Calgary last year (102 catches, 14.2-yard average, 10 TDs). He has decent size (6-2, 205), and a story I just found said that on his workout day for five NFL teams he ran 4.53 and jumped 39 1/2 inches. I would think he'd have a legitimate shot at making the team, depending of course on what they do in the draft. Whether he'd make much if any impact, though, I just don't know. Will be a guy to keep an eye on in camp.
Could be another of those wait until after the draft to see if you might need him thing. If they draft an ILB high, I'd think they wouldn't. And I'm not sure they'd be interested anyway -- not saying no, just saying I'm not sure. If they signed him it would be primarily to play ILB, but he turns 34 in May, so if I were them I'd be concerned about whether he's still explosive and fast enough to play well in there. He's a very, very talented guy, so maybe he still is athletic enough, but 34 is very old for that position, and he's had hamstring issues much of his career, that's probably taken a little something from him too. I realize he had eight sacks last year, which suggests he's still athletic enough. But while I don't claim to be expert on how he played, I do know I watched part maybe a quarter of a Rams game (can't remember when or opponent) and he got a sack, but it came when three guys -- I'm not exaggerating, it was three guys -- blocked Aaron Donald and nobody touched Matthews. So I do wonder if he had other sacks in that vein. The big thing is whether Gutekunst is convinced Matthews can stay healthy and is still dynamic enough to play well at ILB, and while he might be, I'm not sure it's a given.
I have to say, of all the moves and reported interest in guys involving the Packers this offseason, that one surprised me the most. It goes against the grain of almost everything Gutekunst has done, bringing in an old guy for a fair amount of money (I think Sanders ended up getting $8M a year, that's a lot for a 33-year-old receiver. I'd have thought the age would have scared Gutekunst off, the big decline could hit at any time. They must have thought that he has a fair amount left and could assimilate to the offense and to Rodgers quickly as a long-time vet, but I can't say I'd have gone after him at that price if I were the Packers. As far as the cap, yeah, from what I see Gutekunst and Russ Ball have managed the cap fine. I don't think they're hamstrung, put it that way. I am surprised Taylor hasn't been released, only because he's the most expendable expensive contract they have. But again, they might be waiting to see what happens in the draft before making that call. They don't owe Taylor any offseason roster bonuses. Taylor has played tackle so he could be a versatile backup or maybe even compete for a starting job. But I'm a little surprised they haven't released him in a money-saving move.
I don't know if they could do it like that and still put out a schedule by May 9. There are all sorts of logistics about stadium availability, team travel plans (hotels, etc.), that they have to account for, so to then go to a schedule with no bye weeks would take a whole new schedule. But I'm sure there will be contingencies for shortening the schedule as is if the season starts late. Maybe all the postponements and cancellations for other events would allow the league to do a whole new schedule, I can't say I know the answer to that, but my guess is that would be really tough to do. So much uncertainty and so many moving parts at this point.
Over the last month I've warmed a little to the idea of taking a running back in R1. I still question whether it would be the best value for a team that has as many needs as the Packers, but there's a decent logic to it, including the need for quality depth at that position in LaFleur's offense and the possibility they won't want to pay Jones a second contract even though he was their best playmaker last year. The thing about WR in the first round cuts both ways because of the strong class -- maybe there's a WR available at 30 who they think is a cut above the rest, or maybe the depth is so good they think they can wait until the second round to pick one and go do something else with their first pick. I do wonder if maybe they'll just trade back to the early second round and pick a WR there while gaining an extra pick. But I'm really staying open to almost any position in the first round.
Early last season an offensive line coach for another team told me that a weakness in the Rex Ryan/Pettine scheme is that it's not gap conscious against the run, so it can be run on. The defense is more concerned with being disruptive on the DL and getting to the QB, and it just doesn't emphasize gap assignments like other defenses (the coach cited Pete Carroll as being maybe the best at teaching gap responsibilities). So Martinez's comments yesterday in effect confirmed. Playing that way has advantages for stopping the passing game but as we saw can be a big problem if a team runs the ball well. Agreed they have to change that approach or we'll see the same thing against teams such as the 49ers this season.
If I understand you right, you're basically asking whether, all things being equal, would it help the offense more to get a TE or WR. It's an interesting question, because there are good arguments on both sides. In fact, you maybe could argue it doesn't matter, a difference maker at either would provide similar impact. A wide receiver of that caliber would add a more explosive element to the offense, and they sure could use it. I'd probably want to solicit the opinion of some scouts and coaches about this, but just going off the cuff I'd actually lean toward TE. If you look at the teams with the better tight ends in the league, those guys can make a difference, especially if they can block, because the outside zone is such an important part of LaFleur's offense. SF certainly makes great use of Kittle, and that's the same offense LaFleur runs. I realize this isn't a real strong answer, and to a large degree as I said early it probably doesn't matter, getting a good player at either position would make a bid difference. But I'm actually inclined to say that if they a pick came up in R2 and they had a WR and TE rated the same, I'd be inclined to take the TE. Now, with how strong this WR class is, I don't know if it's likely they'd have the top available WR and TE when they picked rated the same -- I'd guess the WR would be ranked higher -- but it's an interesting question. Maybe I'm all wet here, but I think TE has become an undervalued position in this league.
Don't know if you saw this week, but he said in a podcast interview that he definitely wants to play until 40, which is four more seasons, and strongly hinted that he thinks he can play good football beyond that. Now, thinking it is one thing and doing it another, age is brutal on athletes (and the rest of us, right?). But even with that possibility, that's why the Packers have to be on the lookout for a successor. You just don't want to be without a QB. I have to say, once Rodgers is finished I don't think the Packers automatically become Siberia (or the Russian front for any Hogan's Heroes fans out there). They have a lot going for them, including an incredible history and a lot of financial resources -- basically all their profits in one way or another go back into football (in salaries, facility upgrades and their rainy-day fund). But teams can go into long QB droughts -- look at Chicago -- and the outlook here could be a lot different if they go through another QB stretch like they had between Starr and Favre.
I very much agree with you. I haven't gotten the sense at all that there's much if any public backlash from going ahead with the draft as long as it's done remotely -- didn't get that feeling from conducting free agency either; I know some owners were concerned it would be a bad look for guys to be signing big contracts while people were getting laid off, but I don't think it turned out that way, many people were glad just to have the distraction of following the NFL news while being stuck at home. So yeah, I'd say GMs probably are the only ones that want the draft delayed. I get it, they're not getting their usual amount of info in the way they're accustomed to getting it. But there's still so much luck involved in drafting players -- people working the draft don't like to admit it because they put so much work into and want to think that and their judgment make a difference -- I'm not sure it will matter much. Studies by economists strongly suggest that there's not that much difference in the drafting acumen among GMs -- everybody is working with similar info. The rules will be the same for everybody, so I'm very on board with the decision to go through with the draft on schedule.
I'm sure they see him as a significant addition -- he'd moved ahead of Valdes-Scantling by the last month of their rookie season. But I'm just as sure they still see a need to upgrade their receiving corps regardless.
That's how I saw it too. They didn't get Sanders but it sounds like they were in that ballpark financially, and as I said earlier his age would have been a huge concern for me. Gutekunst must have seen something to make him think Sanders is an exception and won't drop off the table, and his long experience must have been attractive for immediate assimilation in the offense and with Rodgers. But I'm with you, I found that to be a head scratcher and thought Hooper had Gutekunst written all over him because of his youth and solid durability.
In a word, yeah. Very interested to see how Belichick does without Brady. Belichick is obviously an incredible coach, but still, Brady made so much of what they did possible.
I can't see why they'd trade King. He finally stayed healthy last year, and when he and Alexander are playing they're pretty solid at CB, which is huge for matching up in today's game. Solid corners are too hard to find, and they've spent too much time developing him (and waiting for him to get healthy) to move on now.
That's a lot of it. It's part of why Favre and Jennings went to the Vikings. Some if it might be that those teams know those players a little better than they know players from outside the division, so they feel more comfortable signing them.
The Packers make sense as a potential destination for any WR that becomes available, but the depth at the WR position in the draft has to be kept in mind. He's got some salaries that are probably too rich for the Packers -- $8M this year plus a $4M roster (I'm not sure when the roster bonus is due or if it's already been paid), then $12M next year, $13M the year after that and $14M the year after that. Those are pretty big salaries for a guy who went from 80 catches in '19 to 42 (in 14 games) last year. I'm thinking Gutekunst would consider those salaries too high. What do you think it would take to get him? A third-rounder?
Blocking in-line at a TE still is different than most of the blocking WRs do. It sounds like they at least had on the table moving Lazard to TE way back when they brought him in, but right after the season Gutekunst said Lazard proved he's a WR. Not out of the realm for Funchess either, but I have no idea what kind of blocker he is. With the outside zone scheme they really need WRs who are at least OK blockers against OLBs and even DEs.
I get it with the big WRs too, lots to be said for the big targets, and Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown have some speed, especially the former. But I'm in the camp that it's also good to have some different type WRs, and that you need an explosive, dynamic (if smaller also) guy too. So I'm thinking Gutekunst will emphasize that a little more in the draft this year, though he might have other plans.
Yeah. Have to think it will be toughest on teams with new head coaches, new coordinators (putting in a new system) and new QBs.
I am of the opinion that he was a really average starter, and that they needed to try to get some more dynamic at that position -- even if they failed, they needed to try. Now maybe I'm wrong and the scheme was the bigger problem. I'm still thinking we'd have seen more playmaking out of Martinez even with scheme deficiencies if he were more explosive. I just thought he was another AJ Hawk -- durable, dependable, all that, but an average starter. But maybe I'm wrong, and the bigger problem was the scheme. We will find out this season.
OK, this will have to do it, Hope this provided a little bit of a respite for everyone out there, these are strange and difficult times. As for your question, at this time of year it really doesn't matter -- all the work is done via phone anyway. Have to say I miss going to the office and am already sick of being stuck in my house most of the day. But practically speaking, I can do the same work from home that I'd do from the office. Covering the draft will be much different -- usually we spend those three days at Lambeau with a lot of reporters around and people from the Packers (Gutekunst, LaFleur, scouts, assistant coaches) coming down to the auditorium periodically to talk about picks. All that will have to be done via conference call now. That will be strange. But as for actually gathering info and contacting sources about free agents and for draft prep, that's all done via phone anyway. And with that, we'll call it wrap. Can't thank all of you enough for coming by and sharing your questions, way too many to get to them all. Because of company furloughs announced this week, I won't be doing a chat in one of the next two weeks -- that's still be determined -- but we'll keep you informed. The next time we talk, there will be plenty to discuss, the draft is getting close, always an interesting and exciting time. Until then, take care everybody, stay safe and healthy, keep as active as you can under the rules. Until next time, take care!