Saturday, March 30, 2013

Packers Quiet Offseason About To Get Loud

By: Matt Bove

So far in free agency, the Green Bay Packers have not signed any significant unrestricted free agent. Did you really expect anything else? Apparently people have, because the outrage on Twitter about Ted Thompson not signing everybody has been loud. The common theme is that NFC rivals like the Bears, Vikings, Seahawks and 49ers are getting better, while the Packers sit on their hands. However, the Packers seemed primed to lock up two players that those teams or any team would rather have then the free agents that they signed.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwauke Journal-Sentinel, the Packers will indeed sign Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to long-term contracts in the very near future. While Thompson does not like to sign big money free agents anyways, this is the main reason why the Packers have not signed any significant unrestricted free agent.

Rodgers' new contract is expected to be around $24 million per year, which would surpass Joe Flacoo's six-year, $120.6 million deal and make Rodgers the highest paid NFL player ever. Meanwhile, I would expect Matthews' deal to be around $13 million per year. Obviously, the cap implications will not be known until the deals are signed, but the Packers needed to keep every million they could under the cap for these deals.

The reality is that all these teams that went on free agent shopping sprees would much rather pay Rodgers and Matthews what the Packers will be paying them. They are worth passing over the Steven Jackson's, Ahmad Bradshaw's and Michael Huff's of the world. Those are replaceable players and Rodgers and Matthews are irreplaceable.

In the NFL, players like Rodgers and Matthews never see free agency. If a player is a free agent there is usually a reason for it, as teams just do not let the elite players go. You have to draft elite players if you want to have them. Free agency laden teams of the past like the Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Jets, and the Raiders have not won anything and now the Dolphins will see the same fate. Do Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe equal Rodgers and Matthews? Not even close.

Another complaint with this is that the Packers already had Rodgers and Matthews, so they are not getting better by locking them up. They are not adding new players, so how have they been improving? Well, signing Rodgers and Matthews long-term gives the Packers the best chance they have to win future Super Bowls. You need elite players like them to have a chance. Yes, they will be taking up a significant portion of the cap, but so will all the elite quarterbacks sooner or later. Thompson will have to continue to draft talented players around them, so they can get talented players on the cheap.

Fans often forget the develop part of draft and develop. Not only will the Packers add a new draft class, but young players like Casey Heyward, Nick Perry, Dezman Moses, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Davon House, DuJuan Harris, Randall Cobb, and Marshall Newhouse should continue to improve. That is how the Packers get better. A veteran laden team will not have many players making year to year improvements.

Now, I am not saying that you should not sign any free agents. I would have loved to sign Michael Huff, and I think Ozzie Newsome got a bargain in him for only $2M a year. In my opinion, Newsome is the best GM in the NFL because he builds through the draft, but knows when to dip into free agency. Also, he realized that his franchise quarterback Joe Flacco was more valuable than replaceable players he let go like Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Anquan Boldin, Cary Williams, and Dannell Ellerbe.

We have gone through the same exercise this offseason that we do every offseason. Other teams sign free agents, while the Packers are patient, and then in the season the Packers are championship contenders, while  some of those teams do not even make playoffs.

Now, I do understand the concern about how good Seattle and San Francisco are. They have the luxury of having their quarterbacks on rookie deals, so they can spend money elsewhere at the moment. They are extremely talented, but championships are not won in March. They may be ahead of the Packers now, but a lot can happen between now and January. We learn this every year.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Biggest Free-Agency Busts in Green Bay Packers History

By Bob Fox

The modern version of free agency started in 1993, when the Green Bay Packers hauled in the biggest fish in the ocean for the NFL. That would be the free-agent signing of defensive end Reggie White.

Before 1993, the NFL had something called Plan B free agency for four years, starting in 1989. Plan B allowed all NFL teams to preserve limited rights of no more than 37 players on each roster.

Before that, the only way a player could become a free agent was by playing out his option. That meant playing to the end of your contract with a given team. Former Packer greats Ron Kramer and Jim Taylor did just that. The Packers received a first-round draft pick in both cases when Kramer (Detroit Lions) and Taylor (New Orleans Saints) left Green Bay.

In the modern era of free agency, however, the Packers have definitely hit gold—twice. Once with White, and then again with defensive back Charles Woodson, who the Packers signed in 2006. Both players ended up as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and both helped the Packers win a Super Bowl, too.

But the Packers have also had their share of busts in free agency.

Here are some of the more high-profile free-agent missteps in Packers history.

Joe Johnson

The biggest free-agent bust in Green Bay history has to be defensive end Joe Johnson, who formerly played with the New Orleans Saints.

The Packers and Mike Sherman gambled on the aging veteran in 2002 to help improve the pass rush of the Packers.

Certainly, the resume of Johnson was solid. He had 50.5 sacks for the Saints in eight seasons. Johnson was also named as an All-Pro once, plus was named to four Pro Bowl teams.

But that all changed in Green Bay. Johnson was often injured in the two years he played for the Packers and had only two sacks in just 11 games.

Besides hurting the Packers with his lack of production, Johnson also took a big bite out of the Green Bay salary cap, as he got a $6 million signing bonus as part of his $36 million contract.

Adrian Klemm
Ted Thompson's first year (2005) as general manager in Green Bay was certainly not the high point of his front-office career. The Packers finished 4-12, quarterback Brett Favre had his worst year ever up to that point of his career and head coach Mike Sherman ended up getting fired.

The issues with the team started in free agency, as Thompson allowed the two prolific starting guards (Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle) to leave. Both players were very steady in Green Bay, but the cost to keep them was too rich for Thompson's liking.

Thompson used free agency to help lessen the losses of Rivera and Wahle. He signed Adrian Klemm (New England Patriots) and Matt O'Dwyer (Tampa Bay Bucs) to help fill the void. However, O'Dwyer didn't even make the team, while Klemm was mediocre at best at left guard.

The 2005 season was the first and last season Klemm played with the Packers, as he ineffective and inconsistent.

From 2002-2004, the Packers had one of the very best rushing attacks in the NFL. In 2005, the Packers finished 30th in the NFL in rushing. Favre also threw a career-high 29 interceptions in the passing game.

Thompson knew that the Packers needed to shore up the offensive line after that dismal year, and he drafted three offensive linemen in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Mark Roman
Safety Mark Roman (Cincinnati Bengals) was another free agent Mike Sherman signed in his very last year as general manager in 2004.

Like the Joe Johnson signing, this relationship only lasted two years.

Roman did not exactly put himself in a good light in 2004. He had no interceptions and didn't force a fumble. He also looked lost in coverage and missed way too many tackles.

The Packers finished 25th in the NFL in pass defense in 2004.

That all led to the embarrassing 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2004 NFC Wild Card Game at Lambeau Field. The Green Bay secondary was shredded by quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who threw four touchdown passes that day, including two to Randy Moss.

Roman played with the Packers again in 2005, and although he did play better, it was his last season in Green Bay.

Pat Terrell
When one remembers safety Pat Terrell's time with the Packers, it's hard not to recall his last play on the field.

It was the 1998 NFC Wild Card Game in San Francisco, with only 25 seconds left on the clock. The Packers had stormed back to take a 27-23 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game. But now the game came down to one last play.

Quarterback Steve Young of the 49ers threw a strike to Terrell Owens on a deep post pattern, culminating in a game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass.

Owens caught the pass just in front of Terrell, who closed too late to break up the pass, as the Packers lost 30-27.

Terrell was signed by general manager Ron Wolf form the Carolina Panthers to help provide some leadership at safety, as Eugene Robinson had left the Packers to join the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.

All-Pro safety LeRoy Butler was still around, but the Packers wanted more experience, as second-year safety Darren Sharper was still learning the ropes.

Terrell started only three games in that year for the Packers at free safety, as the Packers had to move Sharper to cornerback for three games due to an injury to Craig Newsome.

The infamous pass from Young to Owens was the last play of Terrell's short Green Bay career.

Bob Fox is a featured columnist at and shares content here at

Friday, March 8, 2013

NFL Draft Running Back Rankings

By: Matt Bove
The 2013 NFL Draft running back class is one of the weakest positions in the draft this season. The only running back I have a first round grade on is Alabama's Eddie Lacy and even he isn't guaranteed to be selected in round one. It seems as the thought that as the NFL has evolved into the passing league that it has become, that all the best athletes are playing wide receiver and cornerback.  This was evident at the NFL Combine, as only Knile Davis and Onterio McCalebb ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash and neither are big time prospects. The Packers do have a need at running back, so they will certainly be scouting this position hard.

1. Eddie Lacy- Alabama
Height: 5'11.5''
Weight: 223 lbs

I normally would not be an advocate of the Packers selecting a running back in round one with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but I would certainly be on board if the Packers selected Lacy with the 26th overall pick in the draft. Lacy would bring the physicality that the Packers have been lacking at running back for awhile now. Lacy is a great between the tackles runner and would solve a lot of Green Bay's 3rd-and-short woes. Lacy is certainly not one of the more elusive running backs you will ever see, but he is a bull running through tackles and has enough elusiveness to get by with that. His one trademark elusive move is his spin move, which he made tacklers in college look foolish on. Lacy will always fall forward and has great balance. He put on an absolute show on the biggest stage in the National Championship game and averaged a stellar 6.8 yards per carry for Alabama last season. Also, what I like about him is that he has only 355 career carries in college, while a lot of the other running backs in this draft were way overworked in college.

2. Giovanni Bernard- North Carolina

Height: 5'8
Weight: 199 lbs

Bernard ran for 1,228 yards and 6.7 YPC at North Carolina last season. With his size, the obvious question is how effective Bernard can be in between the tackles. With that size comes durability issues, as Bernard missed two games for North Carolina last season. Bernard was great out of the backfield for the Tar Heels, as he caught 92 passes in the last two seasons for them. He lacks the breakaway speed you would like for a running back of his size, but he combines good vision with great elusiveness. The video shows that Bernard is good at setting up his runs and finds his holes to run through with great patience. Just a very natural and smooth runner.

3. Jonathan Franklin- UCLA

Height: 5'10
Weight: 201 lbs

Franklin set a single season UCLA record last season by running for 1,734 yards. Franklin's foot speed and amazing acceleration immediately jumps out on video. Franklin is lethal on the edge turning up the sideline and away from defenders. He will have huge big play potential at the next level .Franklin's cutting ability is excellent and he does not lose much speed while cutting. His cutting is the key to his tackle breaking because he won't be running many people over at his size. Also, Franklin gets to the line and through the holes very quickly. His biggest issues are fumbles, pass protection and his lack of bulk.

4. Andre Ellington- Clemson

Height: 5'10
Weight: 197 lbs
Similar to Franklin, Ellington has excellent acceleration on the edge. He only ran a 4.61 at the NFL Combine, but he plays much faster than that. For his size, Ellington is adept at working between the tackles and squeezing through holes. Also for his size, Ellington will not back down and he will be very physical. He had a few great runs where he kept his balance after contact. Given how hard Ellington runs and his size, durability is a question. Also, he needs to improve his patience in allowing blocks to develop.

5. Christine Michael- Texas A&M

Height: 5'10
Weight: 220 lbs

Michael has great upside but attitude and off the field issues will hurt his draft stock. He overslept and missed some of his team meetings at the NFL Combine. Also, he was in the doghouse his senior season at Texas A&M. On the field, Michael is very quick to the hole and possess excellent vision. Also, he has a great combination of elusiveness and power. He was able to break arm tackles with great balance and he flashed a nice spin move and stiff arm. Michael comes with some risk, but he could end up being a steal.

6. Mike Gillisee- Florida
Height: 5'11
Weight: 208
Gillislee is a sleeper for me, as most draftniks do not have rated this high, but he really stands out watching him. Gillisee carried Florida's offense last season with little talent surrounding him. He showed great vision, some ability to make people miss in the open field and great breakaway speed. He has a quick burst through the hole and can make a lot out of only a small hole. Along with his elusiveness, Gillilsee welcomes contact and does not back down. He does not finish off his runs great at the end and sometimes looks for the home run too much.

7. Montee Ball- Wisconsin

Height: 5'11
Weight: 215 lbs

Lots of Packers fans are familiar with Ball because of his stellar career at Wisconsin. Ball won't be as successful at the next level, but he should still be solid. He has great size and bulk and uses that strength to fight off tacklers. Ball sets up his blocks well, as he is is very solid in between the tackles. He lacks explosive lateral moves, which will be the reason why he will not be a special NFL running back. Another problem is that he had is that Ball stayed for his senior year at Wisconsin and they rode him hard. He may have too much tread on his tires already to have a very long career.

8. Joseph Randle- Oklahoma St.

Height: 6"1
Weight: 200 lbs

Randle was very productive at Oklahoma St., but I am not as high on him as a lot of people. A lot of his success was due to the spread offense of Oklahoma St. and he had some huge holes to run through. Also, Randle can run too high at times, is stiff and is not a very natural runner. He is very good at finishing carries with power and falling forward. Randle does have solid speed to turn the corner with, but he loses to many one on one battles. He is very productive as a pass catcher due to the offense he played in.

9. Marcus Lattimore- South Carolina

Height: 6"1
Weight: 218

At this point, I would rather take the risk on Lattimore rather than guys like Stepfan Taylor and Le'Veon Bell, who I don't see a lot of upside for. I wouldn't risk taking Lattimore before the fourth round, but anywhere after he is not a bad risk to take. Lattimore had a gruesome knee injury last season and tore several ligaments. However, it is being reported that he is making a good recovery. When healthy, Lattimore is built like a truck and is a true beast running the football. His physical running style has to due with the injuries Lattimore has had, as he often times is the one delivering blows on defenders. He does must of his damage between the tackles and does not turn the corner much. Lattimore has a nice combo of unexpected foot quickness, cuts and acceleration.

10. Cierre Wood- Notre Dame

Height: 5'11
Weight: 213

Wood is another sleeper for me. I watched every Notre Dame game last season, which has something to do with it, but I really like this kid's potential even though I thought he should have stayed in school another year. Wood shared carries with Theo Riddick at Notre Dame, but I think Wood has more talent and will be better suited for the NFL. He averaged a stellar 6.7 YPC for the Irish in 2012. Wood is a very natural runner and is laterally very elusive with quick feet. He used those quick feet to make sharp steps and side step oncoming tacklers. Also, Wood is very patient in waiting for holes to develop. He is one of my favorite values in this draft.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Packers Draft Possibilities: Draft a Kicker?

One of the major bad surprises of the 2012 season was the inconsistent kicking accuracy of Mason Crosby.  Last year his kicking percentage was 63.6%.  That is 10% lower than any of his previous years on the Green Bay Packers.  He certainly was not his high quality self that we had been seeing before this past season.  Kickers come and go, it certainly isn't worth paying the top kickers from the past season in free agency, because they are usually just as inconsistent.  Now, let's take a look at some of the facts.  The Packers drafted Crosby in the 2007 NFL Draft, 6th round, 193rd overall.  He was the third kicker taken off of the board.  If the Packers want to follow a similar matter, then what are we going to do in this year's draft?

Right now I think that the Packers top kicker prospect is a young man from Oklahoma State, Quinn Sharp.  One thing Sharp can consistently do is have a kickoff be a touchback, which is something that should sound familiar to Packer fans as Mason Crosby does this all the time.  In his 4 year career, he had 220 touchbacks in 384 kickoffs.  70% touchbacks for his Senior season.  This is something that I think we have definite value in because we have Percy Harvin and Devin Hester still currently in our division, and they are both excellent kick returners.  Last year he hit 88% of his field goals (22/25).  I think if we could get him in the 6th or 7th round that would be excellent.  Plus because he is a kicker and punter he would be able to challenge Masthay as well as Crosby.  There would be a lot of value to push our special teams starters with a late round pick.  Plus there is this video of Sharp kicking a 62 yard practice field goal at Oklahoma State.  Clearly some of the editors in Detroit seem to think that it would be an excellent idea for them to bring him in also.  There are some other kickers that Green Bay could look at, that are kickoff specialists and field goal kickers, but I think that they could end up getting signed as an undrafted free agent.