7

April

Checking in on Packers Free Agents Ryan Grant, Erik Walden and Howard Green

Ryan Grant

Will Packers RB Ryan Grant return in 2012?

As the offseason drags on and the unrestricted free agent pool thins out, we should probably check in on a few Packers free agents that remain unsigned.

Ryan Grant

Whether the Packers bring Grant back depends on the health of Alex Green, the team’s confidence in James Starks’s ability to stay on the field and the upcoming draft. I’d say two of those three things would have to break in Grant’s favor in order for the Packers to bring him back. I originally thought Grant was a goner for sure, now I’m not so sure. Ask me after the draft.

 

Erik Walden

There’s not much left out there for 3-4 outside linebackers on the unrestricted free agent market. Walden’s status likely depends on how many outside linebackers the Packers stockpile in the draft. If Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy feel that Walden can compete with whatever rookies they bring in, they’ll probably re-sign him. Like Grant, I originally thought Walden wouldn’t return, now I’m starting to change my mind a little bit, but I reserve the right to change my mind again after the draft.

 

Howard Green

The signing of Anthony Hargrove and Daniel Muir doesn’t help Green’s chances of returning. Big Howard didn’t do much in his limited role last season and I’d be surprised if he’s back. I originally thought Green would be gone, and I still feel that way.

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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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27

February

Thomas Hobbes’ Green Bay Packers Offseason Blueprint

Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson
  1. Release LT Chad Clifton: The writing is on the wall.  Even Chad Clifton knew that it was unlikely that he would ever finish his 3 year and had most of the money guaranteed up front (which was helped by the cap-less season before the lockout).  Clifton has had issues staying healthy in the twilight of his career and this year was no different with Clifton being out for the majority of the season.  Added to that a $5.5 million salary in 2012, ascending player in Bryan Bulaga, 1st round draft choice Derek Sherrod and up and at least a serviceable backup in Marshall Newhouse and the Packers have set themselves well for life after Clifton.
  2. Renegotiate Charles Woodson and Donald Driver contracts:
    1. Charles Woodson: Woodson has undeniably lost a step and his high-risk high-reward style of play backfired a couple times last season.  Woodson currently leads the Packers roster with a salary of $11.5 million, some of which was a bonus for a NFL defensive player of the year award in 2009.  But what Woodson is still capable of is shutting down the new breed of tight end, like Jermichael Finley.  For instance, Woodson is still quick enough and physical enough to handle a Jimmy Graham, and I’m not sure who else on the defense could.  Unfortunately Woodson will turn 36 next season and at some point he’s going to have to realize that aging veterans start getting marginalized.  Hopefully Woodson doesn’t let his fiery attitude get in the way of business.
    2. Donald Driver: At 37, Driver has exceeded even the greatest expectations by still being in the NFL at all.  However, his production dropped drastically with the emergence of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson and has Randall Cobb and James Jones breathing down his neck for more playing time.  What Driver has to his benefit is experience, he’s well versed in the offense and isn’t likely to miss an assignment or a read.  What hurts him is that he’s not player he used to be and he wouldn’t survive playing on special teams.  In my opinion Driver should be retained since consistency at wide receiver (even as the 5th wide receiver) outweighs any benefits a player has on special teams.  Furthermore, I’m not convinced that any free agent/undrafted rookie would be better than Driver.  Are Cobb and Jones better than Driver?  Probably.  Are Tori Gurely or Diondre Biorel better?  I doubt it.
27

February

2012 Packers Position Group Analysis: Defensive Line

Packers Defensive Line

Packers Defensive Line

Packers Defensive Line: This is the first in a series of examinations I’m going to do on each Packers position group as it currently exists. Kind of a State of the Union address – where we are, where we want to go and what we need to do to get there.

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects;

BJ Raji (1st round)
Ryan Pickett (1st round)
Mike Neal (2nd round)
C.J. Wilson (7th round)
Jarius Wynn (6th round)
Howard Green (6th round)
Lawrence Guy (7th round, injured reserve)
Johnny Jones (undrafted, 77th ranked DT by nfldraftscout.com, cut by Miami in preseason)

Notice a pattern here? This is classic Ted Thompson building depth with late round picks, but thanks to Neal missing so much time, the emergency fill-ins ended up playing a lot more that you would want. For the year, both Jarius Wynn and CJ Wilson were both within a hundred snaps of Ryan Pickett. Frankly, that’s way too much. Pickett’s value against the run can not be argued against – one just has to look at the two games Pickett missed – the Packers gave up 344 rushing yards in those two games.

But at age 31, Pickett is just not a full-time player anymore. He’s certainly no BJ Raji, who played 80% of the defensive snaps last season. While Raji and his coaches say it’s not a problem, that he didn’t wear down, one has to wonder. Raji’s production was down in every category this year, and some observers outside of the Packers organization have hinted that he wasn’t playing hard every play.

Certainly fatigue will do that to you. Looking at the game-by-game rankings over at ProFootballFocus.com are certainly telling. Raji’s only “Plus” performances were early in the season while the last six games were all on the minus side, especially against the run. In my mind, there is no doubt Raji wore down and did not show much of the explosion he’s capable of. Instead, he was playing way too upright (another sign of fatigue), which makes the offensive lineman’s job that much easier.

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.

2

February

Ryan Pickett: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Ryan Pickett

Ryan Pickett

1) Introduction: Ryan Pickett was another Packers defensive linemen who was a non-factor as a pass rusher this season. To be fair, however, Pickett isn’t on the team to run around and chase after quarterbacks.

2) Profile:

Ryan Lamont Pickett

Position: DE
Height: 6-2
Weight: 340 lbs.
AGE: 32

Career Stats:

3) Expectations coming into the season: Run stuffer. When Pickett wasn’t on the field, the Packers run defense suffered noticably. When healthy, Pickett usually did what he was supposed to do: Plug holes, absorb double teams and make plays as a run stopper.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Pickett’s highlights usually aren’t a thing of beauty unless you consider two large men failing miserably to block another large man a thing of beauty. I also enjoy Pickett’s celebration whenever he makes a play in the backfield. Big guys celebrating are always cool. Pickett’s health problems were his main lowlight. The defense went from bad to worse when he wasn’t playing.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Pickett is one of the better 3-4 defensive lineman in the NFL at taking on and absorbing double teams that allow linebackers to roam free and make plays. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss, his career-best with the Packers.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Having Pickett healthy allowed the Packers to leave Howard Green inactive and get more of a pass rush. Unfortunately, that idea worked in theory only as the Packers rarely pressured Eli Manning. Pickett does deserve plenty of credit for limiting the Giants ground game, though.

Season Report Card:

(B) Level of expectations met during the season
(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(B) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: B

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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

January

Howard Green: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Howard Green

Howard Green

1) Introduction: One of the many memorable plays from Super Bowl XLV was Howard Green’s bull rush that forced a Ben Roethlisberger interception and resulted in a pick-six for Nick Collins. Green filled the space-eater role for the Packers in 2010, but never returned to form in 2011. Don’t expect him to return in 2012.

2) Profile:

Howard Green Jr.

Position: NT
Height: 6-2
Weight: 340 lbs.
AGE: 33

Career Stats

3) Expectations coming into the season: Immovable object. Nobody has ever mistaken Green for a quick and nimble pass rusher. The Packers claimed him off waivers from the Jets midway through last season to occupy space and stuff the run. They wanted him to do the same this season, but like most of his teammates on the D-line, Green didn’t make many plays and was just sort of there.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Move along folks, no highlights to see here. Green played in all 16 regular season games and managed just 11 tackles. Lowlights include a terrible game against the Bears on Christmas and never adequately filling in when Ryan Pickett was hurt.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Even though there were no memorable plays like the Super Bowl bull rush, other teams can’t ignore a guy who weighs 340 pounds. Green might have been blown off the ball more often than a 340-pound guy should have been, but teams at least had to work a little bit to move him around.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Green was a healthy scratch in the playoffs.

Season Report Card:

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

Overall Grade: D-

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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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19

January

Green Bay Packers Free Agency: Rating the Packers 2012 FAs

C Scott Wells is one of eight free agents for the Packers in 2012.

It’s far from a Moneyball style stats movement, but the guys over at Pro Football Focus have slowly but surely put together one of the premier stat-organizing sites available for the NFL and its legion of fans. It’s not a fool-proof system, and I occasionally disagree with a rating or two from a given game. But PFF grades every player on every play for all 32 teams, so there’s no shortage of work these guys put into their grades and ratings.

With the 2011 season over in Green Bay, I used PFF’s ratings/grades to analyze the Packers’ eight free agents this offseason. If you’re not familiar with the ratings at PFF, don’t fret—a higher score indicates a better rating, and a negative score obviously isn’t what you’re looking for.

Also, for another look at the Packers’ free agents in 2012, check out this article from AllGBP’s own Adam Czech.

CB Jarrett Bush (-4.0, 321 snaps)

There was a time early in the season that Bush was rated as the Packers’ best cornerback. As the season wore on, however, teams exploited Bush in the passing game more and more. In the Packers’ final regular season game against Detroit, Bush played a season-high 83 snaps and allowed 105 receiving yards on 10 targets. Overall on the season, Bush allowed 19 completions on 38 attempts for 302 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (72.5 passer rating). Bush also finished with seven tackles on special teams, which was good for third on the team.

TE Jermichael Finley (-4.4, 832 snaps)

A couple of factors hurt Finley’s rating in 2011. As you’d expect, one knock was drops. PFF had Finley for 14 on the season, which led tight ends by a wide margin and was fifth overall in the NFL. The other was run blocking, where Finley had just two positive games and finished at -8.3 (46th among tight ends). During a year in which so many tight ends put up shocking numbers across the board, Finley was a big disappointment to PFF’s eyes. He completed the season ranked as the 37th best tight end.

QB Matt Flynn (4.6, 119 snaps)