I actually got my first shot writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com when Al allowed me to post my draft rationale on his site and 3 years later I’m continuing the tradition. As before I’m not going to be assigning draft grades or projections, I agree with the idea that grading picks now is something akin to being graded on a test you haven’t taken. In this article I want to point out some more broad observations I noticed during the draft
Aaron Rodgers dictated the Packers 2013 draft: And Clay Matthews III to some extent as well. Simply put the Packers are now in a mini-rebuilding year, not due to a lack of talent but due to a lack of money. While Rodgers’ $110 million and Matthews’ $66 million contracts were both necessary and in my opinion great deals for the Packers, let’s not kid ourselves and think that the Packers are going to be awash with saved money over the next couple years, Rodgers and Matthews are still two of the highest paid players in the NFL and that will have financial ramifications down the road; maybe not as bad as Joe Flacco and DeMarcus Ware bad, but Ted Thompson probably isn’t going to be able to keep everyone he wants. This is why I think this is the start of a mini-rebuild; teams typically trade down and stockpile draft picks in order to stock the team with young, cheap players who can be the foundation long term and perhaps become stars.
Thompson used this approach when he was hired in 2005 to fix the salary cap mess left by Mike Sherman and he’s doing it again to proactively protect the Packers from the next couple years. The notable players who are set to become free agents in the next two years are Morgan Burnett, Ryan Pickett, BJ Raji, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, CJ Wilson, Mike Neal, Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Tramon Williams and Bryan Bulaga. The next two years are perhaps the toughest because they also are when Rodgers’ and Matthews’ cap hits are the highest. Furthermore veterans who occupy a niche, like John Kuhn and Jarrett Bush are probably on the bubble now. Needless to say, Thompson is going to have to be very judicial when it comes to keeping his own players, therefore this draft (and probably the next one) are looking to build the foundation of the team for the next 5 years, not just “put the cherry on the top” for the team now. Thompson can now do this is that Rodger’s contract gives him a window where he can expect the team to be competitive; Rodgers probably has at least another 5 good years left in his career and now it’s important to have talent around him throughout all 5 years and not just right now.