Saturday, March 29, 2014

Updating Green Bay Packers' Salary-Cap Situation

By Michelle Noyer-Granacki

The Green Bay Packers entered free agency on March 8 with $34.7 million in cap space, per figures from Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As of March 26, they have allocated $20.8 million against the 2014 salary cap to eight players, detailed in the table below, according to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Those deals include $24.175 million in guarantees—80 percent of which was to Sam Shields and Julius Peppers, per Rob Demovsky of

That leaves the Packers approximately $14 million under the cap nearly three weeks into free agency.

Dougherty estimates that Green Bay will spend between $4 and $6 million to sign its incoming rookies. Assuming only $4 million of those signings will count against the 2014 cap, what might Green Bay do with its remaining $10 million in salary-cap space?

First of all, don't assume the Packers need to spend $5 million of that $10 million to hit the team minimum cash spend of 89 percent. That rule has been somewhat misunderstood; the Packers must spend an average of 89 percent of the salary cap over the four-year period between 2013 and 2016, not each season.

Still, it's likely that Ted Thompson takes advantage of the plentiful cap space to re-sign key in-house free agents and/or restructure players entering contract years.

Mike McCarthy said at the annual NFL meetings Tuesday that he was "hoping financially it works out" for the Packers to re-sign quarterback Matt Flynn, per Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin.

Green Bay was compelled to bring Flynn back last season after injuries to Aaron Rodgers and veteran backup Seneca Wallace, and Flynn helped the Packers hang on to the playoffs by a thread until Rodgers returned in Week 17. After all the deserved criticism the Packers took for not addressing the backup quarterback situation last offseason, McCarthy is setting his sights on it this year.

"I thought Matt was a good addition to our football team," McCarthy said, per Wilde, while noting that "the guy who really struggled, or had the biggest challenge, was Scott [Tolzien]."

Tolzien was thrust into the Packers' system after playing in San Diego and San Francisco, and while he'll continue to sit behind Rodgers and develop, McCarthy seems to understand that the Packers need someone with more veteran experience should Rodgers miss time in 2014.

But before they think about re-signing Flynn (who shouldn't be pricey, given his brief stint as a journeyman last season), the Packers should prioritize restructuring the contracts of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb—both of whom are entering contract years in 2014.

Even if potential new deals for Cobb and Nelson were backloaded in anticipation of the league salary cap rising by another $10 million in 2015 and in each season beyond, those two restructurings alone could eat up almost $10 million in cap room this offseason.

Expect the Packers to convert some portion of Nelson's $3.050 million 2014 base salary into a signing bonus and prorate it over the life of a new deal—a deal which will probably be lucrative for Nelson.

After agreeing to an extension worth $13.35 million over three years in 2011, with an average of $4.8 million a year, Nelson finished the 2013 season ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 2 wide receiver in the league due to his high catch percentage, low penalty rate and high number of touchdowns per reception (subscription required). He's earned his payday, and it's time the Packers gave it to him, with the bulk of the cap hit built into the last few years.

Though no Green Bay receiver is a true "X", "Z" or slot, Cobb's payday may not be as great due to recent precedent for receivers who play primarily out of the slot, most notably Victor Cruz. Last July, Cruz agreed to a five-year, $43 million extension with the Giants—well below what outside receivers (like Mike Wallace) got in that same offseason.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers offer Cobb a four- or five-year extension worth less than $40 million overall.

If there's room in the budget, the Packers are also reportedly interested in re-signing fullback John Kuhn; as Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last Tuesday, the two sides are still in talks.

Kuhn's value blocking for Rodgers and Eddie Lacy was never more apparent than toward the end of the last season; it's not hyperbolic to say that he saved Green Bay's season against Chicago in Week 17.

As for unrestricted free agents Johnny Jolly and Jermichael Finley, neither has been cleared to play after sustaining respective season-ending neck injuries last season, so the Packers won't make a move to re-sign either unless team doctor Pat McKenzie clears them for contact.

With $14 million left to spend, and approximately $10 million of that available for outside signings, re-signings or extensions, expect the Packers to make a few more moves before the conclusion of free agency.

All salary information courtesy of, unless otherwise specified.

Michelle Noyer-Granacki is a featured columnist at Bleacher and shares some content with us here ~ Please check out all the great Packer writing here

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Getting Defensive About Cornerbacks Part 2

By CHarris

Picking off From Part 1 with stats ,

Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans
Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins
Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos
Aquib Talib, New England Patriots
Tramon Williams, Green Bay Packers

I know the statistics can be a little confusing, but +WPA and +EPA simply show how much of an impact a player’s actions on each play had on the outcome of the game. Higher number = better player. 

Shields seems…pretty mediocre. Maybe King was right. He’s a good tackler and interceptor, but he doesn’t add much value to the game on his own. Was this because he wasn’t thrown at much or because, like usual, he was caught peeking in the backfield? The cornerback position is a difficult one to measure and many times people just use interceptions to measure how good one is, but by these stats, it doesn’t seem Shields is worth that much more than his contemporaries, but before we cast final judgment, we need to evaluate 2 things:

First, it’s doubtful Shields will make it to the end of this contract at this price point. I would be shocked if Thompson and Russ Ball don’t try to restructure that contract at some point with an extension. Secondly, Shields, at least for this season, isn’t even a number one CB. While Shields seems mediocre, Tramon Williams is at the top of many of these categories and he’s the Packers’ number one CB. 

When considering all these factors, Shields might be a little overpaid. While Williams and Shields certainly combine to form one of the best corner tandems in the NFL, it seems absurd to pay the second best corner on your team $39 dollars over 4 years. The Packers smartly structured the contract so that it’s back-loaded for cap purposes – giving them the ability to see how Shields progresses and if they need to cut ties with him in some way.

No matter how you feel, this is a deal the Packers needed to get done and fans should be grateful they did.

Getting Defensive About Cornerbacks Part 1

By  CHarris

The Packers re-signed Sam Shields. Packers fans rejoiced. Peter King called Shields pedestrian. Packers fans didn’t know how to feel.

By calling Shields pedestrian, King insinuated he was overpaid. He listed a number of other cornerbacks whom he felt were better including Alterraun Verner, Brent Grimes, Vontae Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Aquib Talib. Packers fans know Shield’s limitations, but who’s right, Peter King or Ted Thompson?

There are a lot of things to consider including who’s ACTUALLY the better cornerback and what are the contract numbers. Let’s look at the numbers for corner backs signed so far:

Player, Team
Contract Length
Total Contract Number
First Year Base
First Year Signing Bonus
First Year Other Bonuses
First Year Cap Hit
Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers
4 Years
$39 Million
$1.5 Million
$3.125 Million
$5.563 Million
Alterraun Verner, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4 Years
$25.75 Million
$5 Million
$3.25 Million
$8.25 Million
Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins
4 Years
$32.025 Million
$2.475 Million
$1.5 Million
$4 Million

When it comes to the overall contract value, Sam Shields is certainly getting paid like the best cornerback in this group. His contract, valued at $39 Million over 4 years, is more than each of the free agent (not cut) corners signed after him (so far) and, weirdly enough, didn't even seem to inflate the contracts for those that came after him. So is Ted Thompson valuing Shields too much or is the money actually warranted? Let’s look at the stats. I looked at Advanced and compare all the free agent corners to see how Shields stacked up against his competition in 2013. I've included the definition to some of the stats below. End Part 1

Player, Team
Solo Tackles
QB Hits
Passes Defensed
Fumbles Forced
Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers
Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shields and Neal Re-Sign

Free agency is once again upon us, and while many people I'm sure are complaining about the lack of action taken by the Green Bay Packers, I for one, am fairly used to it by now.  The Packers rarely if ever, make a splash in the first few days of free agency, and while we were listed as one of the top ten teams with cap space, no Packers fan who has followed Ted for many years were expecting too much at the start of free agency.  But we have resigned a few of our own players, and there are a few more I would like to see return. So let's focus first on the the resigned players, then we will get to some more to pursue.

1.  Sam Shields, CB (5'11", 184 lbs)

He started 14 games, had 61 tackles, 16 pass deflections, and 4 INT, all career highs for him last season.  He agreed to a 4 year $39M deal with $12.5M as the signing bonus.  Even with his low cap number for the first season, he is the 5th highest Packer against the cap for the coming season (behind Rodgers, Matthews, Tramon Williams, and Sitton).  Obviously the Packers have viewed this position as quality before, paying Williams his big money contract, and Williams is finally hitting the 5th and final year of the contract.  So I feel that not only did we get Shields for the right amount of time, but compared to the CB market, he is coming to us for a much better price.  Here's what some of the other top CB's have signed for since Tuesday.

  • Aqib Talib: 6 year, $57M, $26M guaranteed (Broncos)
  • Vontae Davis: 4 year, $39M, $20M guaranteed (Colts)
  • Alterraun Verner: 4 year, $25.5M, $14M guaranteed (Bucs)
  • Darelle Revis: 1 year, $12M (Patriots)
Only Verner is making less per year, but as many people in NFL circles are aware, the thing that can kill you with these contracts is the guaranteed money.  Granted, I would say that Talib and Revis are both upgrades over Shields, I think that Shields holds his own with the other two that are on the list.  Not only did the Packers sign someone just days shy of free agency, but they gave him comparatively less than most of the free agents, and Davis also returned to his team.  We have a player that already knows our system, plays well in our system, and had one of his best years, and is just now entering the prime of his career.  Interesting note about Shields, like Richard Sherman, he played WR at college before switching to DB.  He only had 1 year of DB experience at Miami when we signed him as an UDFA and started as our nickelback his rookie year.

2.  Michael Neal, OLB (6'3" 285 lbs)

The details of this deal are yet to be released at the time of this writing.  But Neal himself tweeted that it is a 2 year deal.  I think that it will be a good deal for we need more OLB to rush the passer, and Neal improved over the course of the season.  I'm assuming that it is probably similar to other Packer deals where it is for a developing player at a new position, and Neal took a major risk switching from DE to OLB last season and has been rewarded.  He started 10 games, 47 tackles, 5 sacks, 37 QB hurries, 1 INT, are all career highs.  I think that he still made mistakes at times, but is improving and I look forward to continued improvement this coming season.

One player that the Packers lost in free agency so far is MD Jennings.  He would be a player that didn't live up to his billing as he gained more playing time, and I'm not too sad to see him go to the Bears, because I think that Rodgers can torch him there too.  Sadly, he will always be remembered from the "Fail Mary" and that's a play that I want to forget about as soon as possible.

One player the Packers are reportedly bringing in for a visit is Owen Daniels (6'3" 249 lbs) from the Texans.  He was hurt last year, but he had been consistently productive in his career, and if he did well with Schaub I have to imagine he would be great with Rodgers throwing him the ball.  Plus, he went to the University of Wisconsin, which will make the Badger faithful proud.  He definitely would be a receiving TE and a red zone threat.  Sign him already please.

The main Packer I want to resign is EDS.  He did an excellent job at Center and I don't want to focus on another one in this draft.  I don't think JC Tretter has had enough time to develop at this position and I want some consistency between the OL between seasons.  Bulaga, Sitton, EDS, Lang, and Bhaktiari is a strong OL and why would we want to mess with a good thing.

Well those are my thoughts for the evening, and I'll be looking to post more as FA continues.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Packers Defensive Review

Written by: Kyle Engman (@engman22, twitter)
As the Packers passed the deadline for using their franchise tag on Monday, Sam Shield and B.J. Raji remained unsigned.  Drew Rosenhaus, Shield’s agent, reported that his client will test the waters of free agency.  The water may be warm for Shields who is one of the top free agent prospects for this year at cornerback.  B.J. Raji may also be testing the free agency waters after the Packers offered him a one year contract for $4 million which he hasn’t signed yet.
So what does this all mean for titletown?  Well, in short, the Packers may have more work to do on putting together a defense for the 2014 season.  Shields was the most consistent cornerback for the Packers defense last year and to let him walk would be a huge blow for the Green Bay’s already deteriorating defense.  Raji though is a different story.  It appeared Green Bay and struck gold (and green) when drafting Raji but since his 2010 season he’s declined significantly in production.  The last time Raji recorded a sack was two seasons ago in 2011.  He only accumulated 17 tackles in 2013 and played in just 10 games.  It’s safe to say Raji has lost a step.  The annual $8 million contract that Green Bay offered Raji earlier this season is way too high for his level of production.  Which doesn’t exactly matter, because Raji turned down the Packer’s absurd offer anyways in search for more money.  Raji and Shields will both be eligible to negotiate with teams on the March 8th and officially sign with them on the March 11th.
Shields and Raji will leave holes in the Packers defense.  Holes that were big enough with them still on the team.  Looking at the defense, you can clearly see what positions need attention.  Datone Jones, Casey Hayward, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Jerel Worthy are all returning from injuries in 2013 and are expected to start. It’s amazing how the Packers are exceptional at putting together a team using undrafted free agents and late round draft picks but cannot draft a healthy early round player at all.
With Jerel Worthy and Datone Jones both returning from injuries, the two are poised to start opposite of each other at the defensive end positions.  Head Coach, Mike McCarthy spoke very highly of Jones while addressing the media at the NFL combine, quoted “I think he’s one of those players who makes a huge jump.”  A huge jump is exactly what Jones needs after a dismal rookie season.  After a sprained ankle put a hamper on Jones early in the season, he participated in only eight games throughout the season and racked up three and a half sacks.
While there is much concern and inconsistency to deal with on the defensive line, the linebackers position is in much need of an upgrade as well.  Clay Matthews is the clear cut leader of the Packers defense and linebackers core.  Matthews had a down year last season where he struggled with injuries and being singled out by offensive lines.  Nick Perry is also returning from injuries and is set to start opposite of Matthews.  A.J. Hawk had to pick up the slack where Desmond Bishop left and couldn’t keep up the pace even with fellow inside linebacker Brad Jones.  Hawk is an adequate middle linebacker but not anything that can compliment Clay Matthews.  The Packers will need to draft a linebacker who can take over for Brad Jones and/or A.J. Hawk.
The Packers are in desperate need for an overhaul at the defensive backs position.  Morgan Burnett was signed before the 2013 season to a 4 year, $24.75 million, so the Packers view him as a long term solution to one of their safety positions, M.D. Jennings however, does not.  Jennings has been a subpar safety to the least and hasn’t been a viable replacement for Nick Collins/Charles Woodson.  Casey Hayward had a great rookie season but only played in two games his sophomore season due to injuries.  Veteran cornerback, Tramon Williams, had the most tackles of his career last season (83), but many view him as slowing down.  Williams definitely isn’t in the prime of his career anymore but isn’t slowing down like everyone says he is.  Green Bay should be prioritizing a replacement for Williams this offseason though since Sam Shields, the man who should have taken over, is most likely leaving in free agency.
Here’s the current depth chart for the Packers defense (minus potential free agents).
Left Defensive End - Datone Jones
*Nose Tackle - Josh Boyd
Right Defensive End - Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels
Left Outside Linebacker - Nick Perry, Chase Thomas
*Left Inside Linebacker - A.J. Hawk, Sam Barrington, Victor Aiyewa
*Middle Linebacker - Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore
Right Outside Linebacker - Clay Matthews, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer
*Left Cornerback - Tramon Williams, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Antonio Dennard
Strong Safety - Morgan Burnett, Chris Banjo
*Free Safety - M.D. Jennings, Sean Richardson
*Right Cornerback - Casey Hayward, Jarrett Bush, Jumal Rolle, James Nixon
The positions above that are italic with asterisks are the positions Green Bay needs to focus attention on the most.  The reason I didn’t highlight their defensive end positions is that I don’t think Ted Thompson is set on bailing on Jerel Worthy and Datone Jones just yet.  The two ends have had a stretch of bad luck in their first few seasons but both are still young (Jones, 23, and Worthy, 24) and have time to prove themselves yet.
With their first round pick, the Packers should select free safety, Calvin Pryor.  The junior out of Louisville has built up quite a reputation for being a big hitter, much like former Packer, Nick Collins.  In three years with the Cardinals, Pryor accrued nine forced fumbles and seven interceptions.  Pryor’s greatest asset, his aggressiveness, is also his achilles heel.  He plays with such intensity sometimes that he overshoots running lanes and misses easy tackles while trying to gauge a big hit on a runner.  Another plus though for Pryor is that he has experience playing in both the strong safety and free safety positions.  Teams should have no doubts about his versatility for playing different positions on the field.
While titletown focuses it’s first pick on a defensive back, their second pick should be for Wisconsin linebacker, Chris Borland.  Borland is a great pick in the second round.  While at Wisconsin, Borland played under four different linebackers coaches and switched positions three times in five years.  For the amount of change, Borland showed a lot of versatility and played exceptionally well for the circumstances.  Borland was able to put together 100 tackle seasons three years in a row.  He also recorded 50 tackles for a loss and 14 forced fumbles.  Borland has a great sense for run defense, wrapping up runners and making sure he drags them to the ground.  There are some worries about his pass coverage and his arm length.  There has also been doubt about his ability to stay healthy, Borland has had issues with his shoulder in the past, undergoing multiple surgeries throughout his collegiate career.
Now that the Packers have drafted a linebacker and safety, it’s time to find a future defensive tackle.  With the third round selection in the draft, the Packers should select defensive tackle, Daniel McCullers. The Volunteer nose tackle does not have explosive speed for the pass rush but rather overpowers offensive lineman with his strength and mass instead.  McCullers is a slower prospect but can plug holes and running lanes in a pinch. Standing at 6’ 8” and weighing a staggering 351 pounds, McCullers is the biggest nose tackle prospect in the entire draft.  Many think that because of his size, he might not succeed in the NFL but for how big McCullers is he sure does handle his weight with no problem.  In fact, when he first arrived at Tennessee he weighed more than when he arrived at the combine back in February. At one point, he was thought to challenge Louis Nix as the top nose tackle in the draft and possibly a first round talent but fell into the third round in draft projections.
For cornerback, I think the Packers will actually look towards free agency for one.  The highest rated cornerbacks that the Packers would possibly pick up would be Vontae Davis or Cassius Vaughn (both played for Indianapolis last season).  As much as I’d like to see Alteraun Verner in a green uniform next year, I find it hard to believe Ted Thompson will spend the kind of money for talent like that.  Thompson does have $35 million to spend in free agency though.  Tarell Brown is also in the mix for the Packers.  Brown was a starter for the 49ers the past three seasons and has played with them since being drafted by them in 2007.  Brown is a solid starter who doesn’t have injury issues like many of the Packers defensive backs.  Brown also won’t cost the Packers nearly the amount Verner would (Ted Thompson slowly smiles a little).
After the draft and free agency, this is how I think the Packers defense will work.  It will be a young group, with a lot to prove, but the amount of potential is astronomical.  The main focus for this defense next year though will be to force turnovers.  If they can’t do that, it may be time for Dom Capers to start rethinking his defense.
Updated Starters for 2014.
Left Defensive End - Datone Jones
Nose Tackle - Daniel McCuller (R)
Right Defensive End - Jerel Worthy
Left Outside Linebacker - Nick Perry
Left Inside Linebacker - Chris Borland (R)
Middle Linebacker - A.J. Hawk
Right Outside Linebacker - Clay Matthews
Left Cornerback - Tramon Williams, Micah Hyde
Strong Safety - Morgan Burnett
Free Safety - Calvin Pryor (R)
Right Cornerback - Casey Hayward, Tarrell Brown (SF13)