Category Archives: 2011 Postseason

11

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

I was watching the Minnesota Gophers play the Michigan Wolverines in the Big 10 tournament on Friday night and somehow the end of the game made me think about the NFL.

It was one of those down-to-the-wire college basketball games that makes the sport so exciting, or at least should make the sport so exciting. Unfortunately, whenever the intensity got ratcheted up to 10 and you were getting to the edge of your seat, a timeout would be called. Or the refs would need five minutes to review a play. Then another timeout. Then another review. And so on, and so on…

The end of what should have been a memorable game was ruined by meddling coaches and refs who relied too heavily on the crutch of instant replay.

So what does this have to do with the NFL? I guarantee you if a similar problem existed in the NFL, it would do something to correct it. The NFL isn’t afraid to innovate, even if it means upsetting some people in the process.

If I was in charge of college basketball, I would ban timeouts in the final two minutes. Actually, I would still allow timeouts, but only to stop the clock. Once a timeout is called, the clock would stop, the team that called the timeout would get the ball out of bounds, and play would resume. There would be no long break as the players wandered over to the bench, listened to their coach draw up another play, then wandered back onto the court.

This would be a fairly major change to college basketball, one that would causes coaches and longtime fans resistant to change to start whining. Loudly.

They would claim the new rule alters the way the game is played. I would say, damn right it does. It makes the game better.

They would claim coaches need those timeouts to set up crunch-time plays. I would say that is what practice is for and admonish the coaches for not properly teaching their players how to function in high-pressure situations without someone holding their hand.

They would say the new rule is only to placate casual fans. I would say all fans will appreciate a more exciting game, except maybe for you and your fuddy-duddy friends.

24

February

Adam Czech’s Green Bay Packers Offseason Blueprint

1) Release LT Chad Clifton, WR Donald Driver and S Charlie Peprah.
Saying goodbye to Clifton and Driver won’t be easy, but it’s time. The Packers save over $10.5 million by releasing the two veterans, money that can be used to resign Scott Wells. Ted Thompson has a good track record when it comes to drafting WRs and I’m confident he can fill Driver’s role quickley. If Clifton was healthy for even two-thirds of last season, I’d say keep him. But with Bryan Bulaga ready to take over at left tackle and Marshall Newhouse (or someone else not yet on the roster) capable of taking over at right tackle, it’s time to move on. One more thing on Driver: I wouldn’t bother asking him to take a pay cut. It’s time to move on and give Randall Cobb a chance to fill Driver’s role. As a diehard Packers fan, I hate myself for writing that, but it’s the correct move.  
 
2.) Let free agents RB Ryan Grant, DL Howard Green, QB Matt Flynn, LB Erik Walden and CB Pat Lee sign elsewhere.
It’d be nice to keep Grant around, but only if he takes a one-year deal at a bargain price. I think someone will offer him more than that and he’ll walk. Flynn earned a chance to start, and I hope a team, preferably a team in the NFC, overpays for his services. I think Flynn has a chance to be a decent QB, but I want an NFC team to overpay him and mess up their salary cap for a few years. Green, Walden and Lee are all replacement level players whose roles can be filled by just about anybody else.
 
Of course, with Finley now signed, the franchise tag is open for Flynn. Continue reading for more of my thoughts on that issue.
 
3) Re-sign C Scott Wells (3 years, $19 million), Re-sign CB Jarrett Bush (2 years, $3 million) and franchise TE Jermichael Finley (approximately 1 year, $5.5 million).
If I had to guess, I’d guess that the only reason Wells didn’t sign an extension during the season is because Thompson totally low-balled him, going below the typical “Packers-friendly deal.”  Thompson probably thinks there won’t be much interest in giving a huge contract to a 31-year-old center once he hits the open market, thus shifting the leverage in the Packers’ favor. I don’t think Thompson is completely off-base in that assumption, but I don’t think he’s totally right, either. Three years and $19 million sounds fair for both sides. The yearly salary is comparable to other top centers in the NFL and the three-year deal doesn’t tie the Packers to a player who is already on the wrong side of 30.
 
(On the flip side, perhaps Wells refused to sign an extension because he knows the Packers don’t have a replacement center on the current roster and he’s using that as major leverage. Or he’s got a major chip on his shoulder because of how the Packers have treated him during his career. Or he just wants a boatload of money. Probably some combination of everything.)
 
Signing Bush for two years would have sounded asinine a few years ago, but he’s earned a little security. Bush has been a major boost to the Packers special teams and his play in the secondary, while not stellar, has improved. I don’t see any reason why Bush can’t fill Charlie Peprah’s role as the emergency safety.
 
About Finley: I originally wrote this blueprint on Feb. 7, and the Packers signed Finley to a 2-year deal on Feb. 22. Finley’s signing opens the franchise tag for Flynn or Wells, which forced me to amend my blueprint.
 
3a) Re-sign Wells (3 years, $19 million), re-sign Bush (2 years, $3 million) and franchise Flynn only if there’s a trade already worked out.
 
Not much changes here. I still think Wells at 3 years and $19 million is good for the Packers. Ditto for Bush. It doesn’t make any sense for the Packers to franchise Flynn unless there’s a trade worked out. I really don’t think franchising Flynn now gives the Packers much additional leverage in trade talks.
 
4) Keep Charles Woodson at CB and leave him alone if he doesn’t want to re-structure his contract.
All this talk about moving to Woodson to safety needs to stop. Woodson’s best position is cornerback and that’s where he needs to stay. Woodson is a high-risk, high-reward type of player. He excels when he has a safety behind him and is able to take a few more chances that a corner probably should. Can you imagine Woodson being the last line of defense at safety? I’m not saying it would be a disaster — Woodson is an all-time great, I’m sure he’d be competent — but I wouldn’t be comfortable with a guy in his mid-30s playing safety for the first time and taking the sort of risks Woodson does.
 
On a separate issue, if Thompson approaches Woodson about re-structuring his contract and Woodson tells him to get lost, Thompson should get lost. Yes, Woodson showed his age a bit last season, but he’s still an important member of the defense. He’s always around the ball and his instincts for playmaking remain strong. Also, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields showed no sign of being able to handle the top two corner positions last season. The Packers need Woodson.
 
5) Sign free agent DE Red Bryant (4 years, $16 million)
This is the part of the blueprint where readers laugh hysterically at the author. Free agency?! The Packers?! It’ll never happen! The readers are probably right, but in case they aren’t, Bryant is a realistic option for the Packers to pursue (sorry folks, guys like Mario Williams and Brandon Carr won’t be wearing green and gold any time soon).
 
Bryant has battled injuries most of his career, but was healthy all of last season and became a force. At 6-4, 323 pounds, Bryant would fit right in at DE in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Plus he’s only 27 years old, making him more than a one-season stopgap. I don’t see Thompson signing an older guy just to plug a hole for one season, which makes signing Bryant sound even more realistic. Bryant isn’t the dynamic pass rusher that the Packers (and just about every other team in the league) could use, but I’ll remind everyone again: Mario Willaims is not walking through the door at Lambeau Field any time soon.
 
Another note on Bryant: Most reports indicate that the Seahawks will do everything they can to keep him. Even if Thompson is interested in Bryant, I don’t think he’d engage in a major bidding war for his services. Bryant is significant part of my offseason blueprint, but he’s probably buried somewhere toward the end of Thompson’s offseason blueprint.
 
I’d also look for Thompson to shop for a bargain basement cornerback or pilfer a corner off another team’s practice squad.
 
6) Follow the best-player-available method in the draft.
Between now and when the draft finally starts in April, you’ll hear analysts and fans screaming about the Packers need to load up on pass rushers and other defensive players in the draft. Let those people scream. Thompson will draft the best player available regardless of position or perceived need. And he’s absolutely right in doing so.
 
Reaching for picks that are lower on your draft board based on need is always a dangerous proposition. The odds of that player coming in and immediately filling that need aren’t always that good. Every team has needs. Every team has areas that need fixing. The Packers are no exception. As long as Thompson continues to draft the best player available on his board, the number of areas where the Packers need fixing will remain low.
 
7) Move Bryan Bulaga to left tackle.
Bulaga has improved just about every game since starting at right tackle halfway through the 2010 season. According to Bob Mcginn of the Milwauke Journal Sentinel, Bulaga allowed only 1 1/2 sacks and had a team-low six bad run blocks. There’s something to be said for continuity on the offensive line, but in this case, I think moving Bulaga to the left side would improve the line’s continuity. The last position you want to take a chance with is left tackle. The line, and the offense as a whole, can’t function like it should if Aaron Rodgers has to constantly worry about his blindside. With Bulaga over there, I don’t think he’d have to worry so much.
 
8) After a stock sale that netted millions, the Packers should not raise ticket prices.
Guess I’m a little late on this one.
 
That wraps up my offseason blueprint. To close, here is how the Packers opening day starting lineup will look if my blueprint is followed:
 
Offense
QB Aaron Rodgers
RB James Starks*
FB John Kuhn
WR Greg Jennings
WR Jordy Nelson
TE Jermichael Finley
LT Bryan Bulaga
LG TJ Lang
C Scott Wells
RG Josh Sitton
RT Marshall Newhouse*
 
Defense
NT Ryan Pickett
DE BJ Raji
DE Red Bryant
OLB Clay Matthews
ILB Desmond Bishop
ILB AJ Hawk
OLB Brad Jones*
CB Charles Woodson
CB Tramon Williams
FS Nick Collins
SS Morgan Burnett
 
Special Teams
K Mason Crosby
P Tim Masthay
KR/PR Randall Cobb
LS Brett Good
 
*Denotes players most vulnerable to losing starting job to a yet-to-be drafted rookie.
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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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23

February

Green Bay Packers: Risk in Franchise Tagging QB Matt Flynn?

Matt Flynn

Could the Packers tag-and-trade free agent QB Matt Flynn?

Now that the Green Bay Packers have re-signed tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year, $15 million deal Wednesday, the focus has shifted from what could have been a messy franchise-tag dispute on Finley to whether or not the Packers will tag-and-trade free agent quarterback Matt Flynn.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Silverstein thinks the Packers will likely franchise tag Flynn and attempt to trade him away for a high draft pick or two. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King also speculated that Finley’s deal makes it more likely that the Packers would franchise tag Flynn.

Naturally, the increase in compensation from a tag-and-trade with Flynn—which could be a draft pick one to two rounds higher than the compensatory pick the Packers would likely get if he walked in free agency—makes this option very appealing. The Packers would also be receiving a pick or two in the 2012 NFL draft, not a 2013 pick like if Flynn walked.

But there would also seem to be a big risk in going down this path with Flynn.

For one, the Packers would have to clear cap space to fit in the $14.4 million a franchise tag would cost on Flynn. By most estimates, the Packers are currently at around $10-11 million in cap space.

Letting go or completely re-structuring the deals of both Donald Driver and Chad Clifton would get the Packers plenty clear of the $14.4 million mark.

If the Packers did tag Flynn, he would almost certainly sign the offer sheet—putting the Packers on the hook for the $14.4 million and forcing them to find a trade partner. If no team bit on Flynn, the Packers would be stuck with a backup quarterback making considerably more than their NFL MVP starter, Aaron Rodgers. Re-signing center Scott Wells and special teamer Jarrett Bush would also become tricky under the cap.

But here’s the kicker in the whole deal: The Packers won’t even ponder franchise tagging Flynn unless they have a handshake deal in place with another team on both the parameters of a trade and a re-structrured deal for Flynn—the two necessary components for a tag-and-trade scenario to successfully play out.

22

February

Green Bay Packers Re-Sign TE Jermichael Finley with Two-Year Deal

According to several reports, the Green Bay Packers avoided any looming franchise tag battle by re-signing free agent tight end Jermichael Finley Wednesday with a two-year, $15 million deal.

Pro Football Talk first reported the agreement per a league source, and Finley confirmed the report through his Twitter account shortly thereafter.

Many have speculated that the Packers would be forced to use the franchise tag on Finley, who at 24 years old looked ready to command a top tight end salary on the open market if he remained unsigned by March 13. It was also widely assumed that Finley would argue for the receiver franchise tag tender, which is about $4 million more than what a tight end would receive from the tag in 2012.

This deal avoids any mess that a franchise tag battle could have created between the two sides.

With a two-year deal at around $7.5 million a year, the Packers might have gotten the best of both worlds.

While the money splits the franchise tag numbers for tight ends and receivers almost down the middle, a two-year deal allows Finley to show the Packers brass that he is worth a longer-term deal down the road. Finley will be just 26 years old when he re-enters free agency again in 2014.

An agreement between the Packers and Finley seemed far apart as recently as late last month, and some opined that no deal would come about between the two sides, especially after an inconsistent and sometimes frustrating 2011 season.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy made it very clear after the season how big a cog Finley was in the Packers offense.

“He wants to be a great player and thinks he’s going to be a great player. With his talent level, that’s half the battle,” McCarthy said in his final press conference of the season. “I look for him to continuing to develop and establishing himself definitely as one of the (great) tight ends, Pro Bowl tight ends, in this league.”

Finley caught 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011 after missing 11 of the Packers 16 regular season games in 2010 with a knee injury.

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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.

22

February

Packers Stock Report: 2011 End of Season Full Roster Edition

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers stock fell a bit during the playoff loss to the Giants, but it remains high heading into next season.

The Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl and there will be no more meaningful football games for the next six months. That’s six months to reflect on how a team that lost twice to the Redskins during the regular season could go on to knock off the mighty Packers in the playoffs and keep rolling all the way to the Lombardi Trophy.

Depressing.

It’s hard to find a silver lining, but if you’re searching for one, take a few minutes and look over the Packers roster. It’s pretty good. Go ahead and cross off some of the players you think won’t be around next season, and it’s still pretty good. This team is going to contend again next season, and probably for the next couple of seasons after that. At least Packers fans have something to look forward to.

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks at AllGBP.com evaluating and grading every player on the Packers roster. Those report cards are done now, and it’s time to put this season in the rearview mirror.

To get started, I put together a full roster stock report based on each player’s status heading into next season. To categorize each player, I used my own opinion mixed with how I think the Packers view that player.

For example, Donald Driver played well in the playoff loss. If the Packers beat the Giants and hosted the NFC Championship, I’d probably list Driver as rising in that week’s stock report. But since the Packers season is over, and I don’t think Ted Thompson brings Driver back, I put Driver in the falling category.

You get the idea, so without further delay, here we go:

Rising

QB Aaron Rodgers
Finding motivation is never a problem for Rodgers, but the Packers early playoff exit should give the MVP even more incentive to come out fired up in 2012.

LB Desmond Bishop
Watching Bishop motor his way through games was one of the few enjoyable aspects of this season’s defense.

T Bryan Bulaga
Bulaga took a step forward in 2011 and might take a giant step sideways to play left tackle next season.

WR/KR Randall Cobb
Thanks to Cobb, kick and punt returns became fun again.

21

February

Ted Thompson: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson

1) Introduction: Ted Thompson took over as General Manager for the Green Bay Packers in 2005, relegating Mike Sherman to the sole role of Head Coach. Thompson has met with more than his fair share of criticism through his years with the Packers. Cutting big name veterans in order to meet salary cap requirements and being the one to eventually trade away Brett Favre made him a target for a massive number of disgruntled fans. His approach has been vindicated, however, with the Super Bowl XLV Championship under his belt. The team is now built for future success, as key players and depth have been built steadily through the draft and a few select free agent signings. In fact, only 3 current players on the roster were not acquired by Thompson: Donald Driver, Chad Clifton, and Scott Wells.

2) Profile:

Ted Thompson

Position: Executive V.P., General Manager & Director of Football Operations
Years as Packers GM: 7 (2005-2012)
Age: 59

Biography

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: “In Ted We Trust” and the “Ted Thompson Way” have become hot phrases the past year. Ted Thompson proved to Green Bay fans and the NFL as a whole that his process of drafting and grooming players works; thus, he was expected to continue his success in that area. Though any rational fan could never expect him to make the big splash in free agency signings, we did expect him to deal with his upcoming free agents from the team in a cost-effective manner.

4) Highlights/low-lights: In regard to value, the best NFL contract of the year was arguably the one signed by wide receiver Jordy Nelson in October. The 3-year, $13.35 million contract extension included incentives that could take it to $15 million over that span. For some perspective, the franchise tag for this year at the wide receiver position is $9.4 million.

As for Ted Thompson’s biggest blunder, I don’t think many would dispute it being the way he handled Cullen Jenkins. Or rather, the way he handled the defensive line. With Jenkins allowed to walk, there was a rather big void to fill, and many were putting their faith into second-year defensive end Mike Neal. Unfortunately, Neal’s injury problems led to another disappointing season. Whether by retaining Jenkins, drafting a better prospect, or signing a free agent, Thompson failed to adequately plug the hole along the line.

21

February

Packers Preparing to Let Free Agent C Scott Wells Walk?

Scott Wells Packers

Packers free agent C Scott Wells might get the chance to test the open market.

Quarterback Matt Flynn and tight end Jermichael Finley have commanded most of the free agent spotlight this offseason in Green Bay, with it being widely assumed that the Packers would eventually come to a deal with highly valuable free agent center Scott Wells sometime in the process.

Not so fast, says Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

While mostly speculating on the issue, McGinn said his best guess would be that “the Packers will play with a new center next season.”

His reasoning?

A bull-headed approach from the Packers on the value of Wells, who has started 100 regular season games for Green Bay since being drafted in seventh-round of the 2004 draft, combined with an equally hot-headed response from the veteran center, who obviously thinks he deserves top-5 money at the position after a Pro Bowl season in 2011-12.

Simply put, the Packers do not think Wells is worth as much as the he and his representation do. Undersized and 31 years old, the Packers have some leverage in the talks.

But Wells has just as much leverage, as he has put together back-to-back seasons of Pro Bowl-caliber play and then watched several other centers, who are older and less talented, get big deals on the open market.

McGinn recalls that David Bass, 29 at the time of the contract, signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal with the New York Giants last offseason. At a $5.5 million salary, Baas ranks fifth in the NFL among centers. Ranking ahead of Baas and Wells are Carolina’s Ryan Kalil, who makes $8.2 million, New York’s Nick Mangold at $7.7 million, St. Louis’ Jason Brown at $7.5 million and Tampa Bay’s Jeff Faine at $6.3 million.

Wells is certainly looking to chisel his name somewhere in that list of top-paid centers. He likely earned it, too, as Pro Football Focus had Wells as the fourth highest rated center in the NFL last season.

The writing has been on the wall for Wells to get to free agency, and I have been under the opinion for a while now that the Packers wouldn’t get a deal done with Wells until after free agency had started.

General manager Ted Thompson has to get a better feel for what the market is on Wells, and to be fairly honest, Wells might get a little wakeup call when he finally gets a chance to hear offers from around the league.