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14

March

Evan Dietrich-Smith Signs With The Buccaneers

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Tom Silverstein has been a busy guy, first reporting on the resigning of defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji and now reporting that center Evan Dietrich-Smith has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

 

With that, the Packers now have a big question to answer this offseason, much like they did when they let Scott Wells sign with the St. Louis Rams.   JC Tretter becomes perhaps the de facto starter, which is a little scary considering he was a left tackle in college and broke his foot during rookie orientation last year, essentially giving him a redshirt rookie season.  Other options might include Don Barclay, who practiced at center during training camp last year with somewhat disastrous results or TJ Lang, who is rumored to be the emergency center (or at least Josh Sitton jokes that he is). Luckily, the Packers have some other options on the offensive line, with both Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod likely being in the mix at tackle, either Don Barclay and/or David Bakhtiari could slide into the interior.

In terms of the draft, the Packers have never thought very highly of centers (Wells was a 6th round draft choice while EDS was a undrafted free agent), so it’s unlikely that they would draft a center high, rather they like to draft tackles who likely wouldn’t make it in the NFL and convert them to interior linemen.

The top free agent center is Alex Mack, who was designated the transition franchise tag for the Browns, likely meaning that the Packers will not try to pry Mack away from the Browns.  Again going back to Thompson’s history drafting and retaining centers, it appears as if the Packers front office views centers as largely fungible, meaning the Packers backup likely will be another low round draft pick or an undrafted free agent.  Another option might be to run the “Jeff Saturday” play, where the Packers sign a veteran center while they hope JC Tretter or Don Barclay gain enough experience at center to play next there next season.

14

March

BJ Raji Signs 1-year, $4 million contract with Packers

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

The Packers and Ted Thompson continue to resign their own guys (much to the dismay of Frank Schaub apparently), Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji has resigned with the team for a 1-year, $4 million contract; specifics of the deal have not been made public but this post will be updated to reflect incoming news.

 

Raji has largely been criticized for his lackluster play since teasing fans with his potential in early in his career and being dissatisfied playing in a 3-4 scheme where defensive linemen rarely get the accolades or attention of the 4-3 brethren.  The icing on the cake for fan scorn was walking away a multi-year deal that was supposed to pay him roughly $8 million yearly, naturally this is all just hearsay and the structure of the deal (i.e. the guaranteed portion) might have been poor but nevertheless, an abysmal season after betting on himself drew the ire of fans and media alike.

Free agency apparently was ice cold for Raji as no reports have surfaced of him visiting any other team and Raji has not been linked or to be of interest to any other team (there were some rumors linking Raji to Oakland and Kansas city, with obvious connections in the front offices).  Last reported news from Raji prior to his signing was that he was “mulling” over a 1-year contract offer from the Packers.  From the looks of things, Raji was forced to take a 1-year “prove it” contract with the Packers as no other suitors came calling.  Without knowing guaranteed money and incentive clauses attached to the deal, this looks like a pretty good signing for the Packers, who get an experienced defensive linemen who will be playing hard for his pay day (although why this didn’t help last season is a mystery) and when at his best can be a disruptive force in the middle.

The Packers have been reported to be looking at Raji only as a nose tackle (where he has had the most success), which likely means Ryan Pickett is now less likely to be resigned (although the Packers might still resign Pickett if the price is right), with Josh Boyd most likely as the backup nose tackle.

7

March

Play The Draft With Us – NFL Draft Contest

Is the boredom of no football on Sundays and endless conjecture about free agents, pro days, and draft picks getting on your nerves? Is the empty hole that is filled with fantasy football normally slowly eating away at your soul? Well my friend, this isn’t gonna help any of that, but the All Green Bay Packers staff would like to invite you to play Play The Draft instead!

For those of you that don’t know, every year we host a fantasy football league where we pit the writers, including our dear leader Jersey Al, with readers of the website.  We’re hoping to do something similar during the offseason with Play The Draft and myself, Jersey Al, Adam and Cory will take part. (It’s FREE to play)

Essentially the game works somewhat like stock trading (which might become real soon) but instead of stocks of companies you trade stocks of rookies looking to be drafted.  Everyone who plays will be given a same amount of money and then allowed to buy stocks of players they think will be drafted well and after the draft, each player will be “sold” at a value based on their draft selection.  For instance, last year I bought EJ Manuel stock at a middle second round value and when Manuel was drafted in the middle of the first, I made a huge profit.  You can also buy and sell players at any time, so again for instance I bought Geno Smith stock early on and sold off his stock for a profit before his reputation went down the tanks.  The value of a player’s stock will rise and fall based on real world news; so if a player has a great pro day his stock will rise or if he gets arrested, his value will fall (though he might become good value if it doesn’t effect his draft status).

Anyways, Play The Draft is a rather new game with last year being its first season, so at the end of the year we’d like to get some feedback from all the participants about whether or not the game was worth playing and whether we should set up a league next year.

There are 10 open spots for you readers. If you’d like to play with us, please comment below and be sure to enter your email address in the appropriate field.

4

March

Ted Thompson Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson

1) Introduction:  I think the biggest mistake that fans make when criticizing front office personnel like general managers is using the same rubric and time frame as they use for for players.  Take Ted Thompson for instance, whose first pick for the Packers was a quarterback deemed too short with a weak arm when the Packers already had the best quarterback in franchise history.  Naturally, we’re having arguments now on whether Aaron Rodgers is better than Brett Favre (personally, I still think its Starr, but Farve and Rodgers should be legitimately in the conversation).

Thompson was also roundly criticized for picking a cornerback to play safety from a college no one had ever heard of or drafting another wide receiver even when the Packers had fantastic depth but Nick Collins, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have all been fantastic players who have made Thompson look like a very smart man. Overall, Thompson should not be graded per game or even per season, but over a span of 5 years or more.

2) Profile:

Ted Thompson

  • Age: 61
  • Born: 1/17/1953 in Atlanta, Texas (There’s an Atlanta in Texas?)
  • Height: 6’1″ (man, he was a short linebacker)
  • Weight: 220
  • College: Southern Methodist
  • Rookie Year: 1975
  • NFL Experience: 10 years as a player, 22 years as a scout and front office executive

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  High.  In the last 5 years the Packers have won the Super Bowl, been in the playoffs every year and managed a 15-1 season.  Added to that the Packers have always had one of the youngest and deepest rosters in football and always have had a very healthy salary cap situation.  Thompson also has reportedly great rapport with head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff and Packer’s “system” of draft and develop has benefited all parties more often than not.  The Packers were expected to win the NFC North again and make it to the playoffs.

25

February

The Packers should choose a different flavor of tight end

At the moment there are 3 “flavors” of tight ends; everyone’s favorite at the moment is chocolate and that would be the “oversized wide receiver” tight ends like Jimmy Graham or Jordan Cameron, who are players who can take the top off of a defensive secondary while posing a size match up for cornerbacks and safeties while causing speed problems for linebackers.  These types of players are what the NFL craves right now and with the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl with bigger more physical corners, the most logical response would be for NFL offenses to counter with big and fast tight ends who can beat bigger corners at their own game.  Strawberry would be the “move” tight end, much like Aaron Hernandez or Jordan Reed, who while aren’t the biggest or fastest have the most utility of the group, being able to operate decently as a inline tight end, out in the slot or even as a fullback in some situations (the Packers in particular love this kind of tight end).  Finally, there is vanilla, the old and boring standby of inline or “complete” tight end such as Jason Witten or Todd Heap who were capable inline blockers but could also operate as a safety value for a quarterback in the short passing game.  Each flavor has its own advantages and disadvantages and that’s fluctuated over time as offenses and defenses have evolved in the NFL.

When looking at the Packers under the Mike McCarthy/Ted Thompson regime, the flavors that appeal most have definitely been chocolate (Jermichael Finley, Brandon Bostick) and strawberry (Tom Crabtree, Spencer Havner, Ryan Taylor, DJ Williams) with almost no emphasis being placed on blocking.  And it’s easy to see why, with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at the helm, plays could be extended, wide receivers got the majority of the attention on offense and running backs, outside of a couple years of Ahman Green in his prime, took a back seat to the offensive passing game.  Add to that the aerial explosion that occurred starting around that time and it’s easy to see why the Packers, along with pretty much every other NFL team, starting looking at tight ends more as receivers than blockers.  However, we might just start to see Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson pick a different favorite flavor this coming draft.

17

February

Jermichael Finley Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley

1) Introduction:  Jermichael Finley has transformed from unknown rookie prospect who chewed out his own quarterback to the prototype for the new receiving tight end to the guy with limitless potential and limited realization.  But through out that all, Finley has always been an enigma; was Finley really as good as 2009 or as bad as 2012?  Was Finley a good guy who just loved football or a guy who threw his all-world quarterback under the bus twice?  Another page of the mystery that is Finley was added this year after he suffered a potentially career ending injury and has claimed he won’t take a discounted price on a “prove you’re healthy” deal.  Will Jermichael Finley with the Packers in 2014?  Will Jermichael Finley be in the NFL in 2014?

2) Profile:

Jermichael Decorean Finley

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 3/26/1987 in Lufkin, TX
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 240
  • College: Texas
  • Rookie Year: 2008
  • NFL Experience: 6

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  High.  Finley played rather poorly during the first half of the 2012 season but had a quietly good second half, and many expected Finley to build on that success to the 2013 season.  Add to that 2013 being Finley’s contract year with the Packers and it should be expected that Finley would be on his best behavior and on a mission to maximize his future earnings, whether that be with the Packers or some other team.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Finley’s highlight definitely happened during the beginning of the season, where he scored a touchdown in the first two games of the season against the 49ers and the Redskins, also amassing 11 receptions and 121 yards.  While Finley still never became the offensive focus like he was in late 2009, Finley still was a matchup problem and provided another wrinkle to the Packers offense with a injury-riddled wide receiver core.  Finley’s lowlight is naturally his potentially career ending concussion/spinal cord injury against the Cleveland Browns that was simply a matter of bad luck as neither the hit nor the impact to the ground was really that devastating, just the combination that unfortunately has likely significantly shortened his career.

16

February

Brandon Bostick Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction:  Brandon Bostick was another player that fans and the media alike filled with boundless optimism.  After years of “will he or won’t he” performance swings from Jermichael Finley, fans were looking for another big target to stretch the middle for Aaron Rodgers and focused on Brandon Bostick, a converted wide receiver who had spent all of 2012 on the Packers practice squad.  Could Bostick become one of the new breed of “big receiver” tight end or would this be another failed conversion project for Ted Thompson.

2) Profile:

Brandon Bostick

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 5/3/1989 in Florence, SC
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 245
  • College: Newberry
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Moderate.  Bostick spent all of 2012 on the Packers practice squad and was not activated, presumably because he was making the conversion from college wide receiver to NFL tight end.  However, with the impending contract dispute that would be Jermichael Finley, fans and Packers front office executives alike must have been wishing for signs of progress from Bostick in order to lower the asking price of Finley due to a serviceable replacement and at very worst a decent plan B option should Finley depart in free agency.  Add to that the uncertainty of Andrew Quarless’ play due to his recovery from a season ending knee injury and Bostick had golden opportunity to turn some heads this year.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Bostick’s highlight was obviously his game against Philadelphia, where he recorded 4 receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown.  These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Scott Tolzein was under center for that game.  It should also be mentioned that Bostick was one of the better special teams players for the Packers this year with 5 tackles and 2 assisted tackles, good for 5th on the team.  His lowlight outside of not being used very often (he saw the least amount of snaps for tight ends outside Jake Stoneburner, who was an late injury replacement) was being sent to injured reserved after breaking his foot in week 14.