Category Archives: 2011 Offseason

13

February

Packers: Donald Driver Situation Puts Pressure on Ted Thompson

Donald Driver

Packers WR Donald Driver is willing to take a pay cut to stay in Green Bay.

Speaking a day after his team had lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver wasn’t having any of the speculation that he may be retiring after 13 NFL seasons.

And without actually saying it, Driver made it seem clear that continuing his career in another city had become a viable option.

“If the Packers don’t want me, I’ve got to go somewhere else and play,” Driver said. “I don’t have a choice. I’m not ready to hang the cleats up.”

That sound-byte from Driver probably caught Packers GM Ted Thompson a little off guard. A fair number of observers had envisioned 2011 being the 37-year-old’s final season.

The plot added another twist last Friday.

At a breakfast banquet in Milwaukee, Driver said that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Packers in 2012, a statement that seemed to contradict his earlier feelings on wanting to play elsewhere if the Packers weren’t willing to keep him.

Driver is scheduled to make $2.6 million in base salary in 2012, plus a $2.2 million roster bonus due in March and another $200,000 workout bonus. Altogether, Driver’s cap number stands at $5 million. One of the main driving points for the potential release of Driver has been his cap number, and there’s likely no scenario in which he plays for the Packers next season at that price. Restructuring that $5 million number would seemingly make it easier to keep him on the roster.
However, Thompson is now in a tough spot. Every coin has two sides, and that premise applies here.

On one side, Driver is a respected team leader who worked his way up from the poverty-striken streets of Houston to the sandy beaches of four NFL Pro Bowls. Losing him would be an unquestioned blow to the Packers’ well-established locker room and the state of Wisconsin, where Driver has committed countless hours to improving the Green Bay community and state as a whole. Driver also proved there is still something left in the tank, catching six touchdowns during the regular season and being arguably the Packers’ most productive receiver in the playoff loss to the Giants.

10

February

Nick Collins: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers Safety Nick Collins

Nick Collins

1) Introduction: Over the last two and half decades, the number 36 has been kind to the safety position in Green Bay. LeRoy Butler was an All-Pro wearing the number during the Packers’ run in the 1990′s, and Nick Collins has now established himself as one of the NFL’s top game-breakers at the position with the same two digits. In six seasons leading into 2011, Collins amassed 22 interceptions, six defensive touchdowns and three Pro Bowl appearances.

2) Profile:

Nick Collins

Position: S
Height: 5-11
Weight: 207 lbs.
AGE: 28

Career Stats:

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: High. Collins was a Pro Bowler in each of the last three seasons (2008-10) and was expected to continue an All-Pro level of play at the backend of the Packers defense. There was nothing to suggest a drop off in production for a 28-year-old in his football prime.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: There wasn’t many on either end. On Collins’ 132nd snap of the season in Carolina, an attempted tackle on a leaping Jonathan Stewart resulted in a neck injury that would require a season-ending cervical fusion. It is a similar procedure to the one that knocked Peyton Manning out for the entire 2011 season. During the two games Collins did play, however, the Packers gave up over 400 yards passing to both Drew Brees and Cam Newton.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: The injury cut Collins’ season short after just two weeks, and it was painfully obvious from that point on how much the Packers secondary missed his presence. Collins was a leader who the cornerbacks trusted to cover up mistakes and gambles. While Collins’ two games weren’t pretty in pass defense, there’s no way the Packers wouldn’t have been better off with their Pro Bowl safety playing 16 games. Despite successful surgery, Collins’ future in the NFL is now in jeopardy. We’ll know sometime in March if he can ever play again.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Collins was put on IR before Week 3.

 

Season Report Card:

(Inc) Level of expectations met during the season
(Inc) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: Incomplete

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

6

February

Green Bay Packers Offseason: Another Veteran Purge Could Be Coming

Packers WR Donald Driver

Packers WR Donald Driver might be a cut Ted Thompson makes this offseason. (Photo: Getty images)

It didn’t take long into Ted Thompson’s reign as Green Bay Packers GM for the unwavering 52-year-old to firmly establish that football moves under his direction would be made without the cling of emotion, void of any sentimental feelings that could effect a given decision one way or the other.

Among Thompson’s first moves as GM in 2005 were the releasing of guard Mike Wahle and safety Darren Sharper and declining to re-sign guard Marco Rivera, three players that were stalwarts for Packers teams that had won consecutive NFC North titles from 2002-04. Despite their undisputed contributions, each was shown the door both because of age and Thompson’s need to manage the Packers’ out of control salary cap.

Wahle was 28 years old and had played in 103 straight games when Thompson released him, but the move saved over $11 million in cap space. Axing Sharper, a 29-year-old All-Pro safety, saved another $4.3 million. Rivera went on to sign a five-year, $20 million contract with the Cowboys after Thompson let him walk at the age of 32.

All three of the moves were spurred by the Packers’ cap situation as he entered the job. No matter how unpopular, each needed to be made to get Thompson back into his salary cap comfort zone.

And while a drastic makeover like 2005 hasn’t been seen since, similar decisions to the ones Thompson made in that offseason have. In the end, making those tough decisions are a big reason why the Packers’ salary cap has never again reached 2005 levels.

Over subsequent years, Thompson released veterans Na’il Diggs (80 career starts, saved $2.9 million) and Bubba Franks (Three-time Pro Bowler, saved over $4 million), traded away an unretired Brett Favre, and let Ahman Green (the Packers franchise leader in rushing yards) and Aaron Kampman (owner of 54 career sacks in Green Bay) walk in free agency.

In 2010, Thompson released cornerback Al Harris, who started seven straight seasons for the Packers but was 36 years old and struggling to come back from a catastrophic knee injury in ’09.

Starting to sound like a broken record?  There was still more roster reshaping to do even after Thompson’s 2010-11 Packers reached the top of the NFL mountain.

28

January

Alex Green: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Alex Green

Alex Green

1) Introduction: After limping through the 2010 season at running back, the Packers decided to use their third round pick last April on Hawaii’s Alex Green. A one-cut-and-go type runner with receiving skills, Green was seen as an ideal player to pick up on third downs where departed free agent Brandon Jackson left off.

 

2) Profile:

Alexander Denell Green

Position: RB
Height: 6-0
Weight: 225 lbs.
AGE: 23

Career Stats

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: The expectation when Green was drafted was that of a third down back who could block in pass protection and make a defender or two miss in the open field. Some optimistic observers even thought that Green could steal carries from Ryan Grant and/or make the veteran back expendable.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The somewhat-lofty expectations for Green were never realized in Year 1. He was a healthy scratch in three of the first seven games, then blew out his knee on a kick return in Minnesota. Green did have one third down catch and conversion in Atlanta that eventually led to points. In seven games, Green had just three carries for 11 yards and one catch for six.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Green played just seven offensive snaps. Six came with the Packers up big against Denver and one other came on his third down catch in Atlanta. You can only contribute so much on that few opportunities. Now, he needs to get his knee healthy so he can participate in camp and earn a role in 2012.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: N/A. Green was put on IR after tearing up his knee against the Vikings in Week 7.

 

Season Report Card:

(F) Level of expectations met during the season
(F) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: Incomplete

——————

Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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27

January

Andrew Quarless: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluations and Report Card

Andrew Quarless

Andrew Quarless

1) Introduction: When the Packers drafted Quarless in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, few thought his impact on the following season would be as profound as it ending up being. At the moment when Jermichael Finley tore up his knee in Week 5 at Washington, Quarless had exactly 12 career professional snaps. From that point on, Quarless played over 500 for a Packers team that ended up winning the Super Bowl.

2) Profile:

Andrew Christopher Quarless

Position: TE
Height: 6-4
Weight: 252 lbs.
AGE: 23

Career Stats

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: Some saw a mini-Finley in Quarless when he came out of Penn State, but there were never the flashes of elite athleticism from Quarless in 2010 like Finley showed during his rookie season. After an injury in camp and the drafting of both D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, a number of people thought that Quarless might not make the final roster. He made the 53, but expectations for the second-year tight end were low.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Instead of becoming a player he wasn’t, Quarless dedicated himself to becoming the Packers No. 1 blocking tight end. Mission accomplished. Quarless played 204 snaps in 13 games and all but 47 came in a blocking role. The improvements in Quarless’ game were noticeable in both run blocking and pass protection. He was at his best against New Orleans, Minnesota (away) and Tampa Bay. A horrific knee injury covering a punt in New York ended his 2011 season and could put his short-term NFL career in serious jeopardy.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Quarless caught just three passes for 36 yards, but his impact was felt as a blocker. According to Pro Football Focus, Quarless was the only Packers tight end who had a positive rating in both run and pass blocking. And believe it or not, but some of the Packers’ best runs in 2011 where to the right side behind Quarless, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: N/A. Quarless was put on IR after injuring his knee against the Giants in Week 13.

 

Season Report Card:

(C) Level of expectations met during the season
(C-) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: C-

26

January

James Starks: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

James Starks

James Starks

1) Introduction: Many dubbed Starks the savior of the Packers’ backfield after injuries hit that unit hard to begin 2010. Amidst unreasonable expectations, Starks eventually came off the PUP list and rushed for a respectable 73 yards in his NFL debut against the 49ers. The Packers then relied on Starks during the postseason to give them the balance they had been missing all season, and the rookie from Buffalo responded with a postseason-high 315 rushing yards, including 123 yards in the Wild Card round against the Eagles.

2) Profile:

James Darcell Starks

Position: RB

Height: 6-2
Weight: 218 lbs.
Age: 25

Career Stats

3) Expectations coming into the season: Despite Starks’ postseason numbers and the explosiveness he showed in the 2011 preseason, the Packers were dead-set on committing to a two-back system with both Starks and a fully-healed Ryan Grant. Without the initial possibility of full-time carries, like he saw during the 2010-11 playoffs, expectations for Starks were tempered. Still, most foresaw Starks taking hold of the position at some time during the season.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Through the first 11 weeks, Starks was clearly the best back on the Packers roster. He sought out contact and ran violently, but also showed an elusiveness once he got to the second level. Only a hiccup against Chicago in Week 3 could be seen as a low-light early on. But things went downhill in a hurry after Starks suffered an ankle injury against the Buccaneers in Week 11. From there, the injuries piled up and the numbers vanished. Starks’ best games, production-wise, came against Carolina (85 yards, including 40-yard run) and Minnesota (75 yards). Following the Bucs game, Starks rushed for just 80 yards over the final seven games (including playoffs).

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Starks was an improved player in 2011, both as an open-field runner and in his assignments as a receiver and pass blocker. The Packers rewarded him for that improvement with a majority of the carries over the first 11 weeks. Considering his injury-plauged finish, Starks still led the team in rushing with 621 yards in 15 games (including playoffs). He was a shell of himself when he came back from his injury, and Starks needs to show that he can stay healthy for a full season before anyone can consider him a huge factor moving forward.

22

January

Jermichael Finley – 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley

1) Introduction: After displaying flashes of the skill set that would make 99 percent of tight ends in NFL history envious, Jermichael Finley was on the verge of superstardom in September 2010. Five games in, his season was over after tearing his meniscus in Washington. Fully healthy following the Packers Super Bowl run, many could only salivate at the thought of re-inserting Finley into the Aaron Rodgers-led offense in 2011.

2) Profile:

Jermichael Finley

Position: TE

Height: 6-5
Weight: 247 lbs.
AGE: 24

Career Stats

3) Expectations coming into the season: Concerns about Finley’s ability to stay healthy were always present, but most expected him to have a Pro Bowl season if he was on the field for 16 games. Another year of growth and maturity, combined with the hunger of not contributing to the Super Bowl run and playing with a top-five quarterback in Rodgers, all put sky-high expectations on Finley’s shoulders.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Finley started quiet but erupted in Week 3 with a three-touchdown performance in Chicago. Two dropped passes in Atlanta were a precursor to a string of drops towards the end of the season, including a three-game stretch from Tampa Bay to New York that saw him drop six catchable passes. Finley then sandwiched a goose egg against the Raiders with 80-yard outputs against the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs. After catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Matt Flynn in Week 17, Finley dropped two passes and stutter-stepped his route on a key third down in the Packers’ playoff loss. Overall, Finley dropped 14 passes in 2011—most among NFL tight ends.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Finley’s production (59 catches, 804 yards and 8 TDs) certainly didn’t reach the expectations placed on him before the season. For a player with as unique a skill set as he possesses, those numbers should have been higher. But Finley’s impact goes beyond statistical analysis, and he was a big reason why the Packers’ group of receivers routinely saw favorable matchups. Opposing defenses made it a weekly chore to ensure Finley wasn’t the one who beat them in the passing game. Packers coach Mike McCarthy couldn’t have made it more clear in his final press conference how important it was to have Finley back in the offense in 2012.