31

July

Green Bay Packers Free Agent Tracker

Green Bay Packers 2011 free agency tracker:

 

FB John Kuhn: RE-SIGNED WITH PACKERS

The Packers re-signed fullback John Kuhn on a three-year contract worth $7.5 million. The deal puts Kuhn amongst the highest paid NFL fullbacks.

While you may raise your eyebrows a bit at that, I think it actually makes sense. Kuhn contributed in multiple ways beyond blocking last season, including shouldering some of the running back responsibilities, catching passes, short yardage back and special teams contributor. Kuhn is also a popular player among fans and in the locker room.

Kuhn wanted back in Green Bay all along, but he played it smart and let the market set the price for him. With Houston making a strong push for Kuhn to replace the departed Vonta Leach, the Packers most likely paid Kuhn more than they would have liked. That’s not to say he’s not worth it. Kuhn is a valuable asset for the Packers to have in their hip pocket, but this does affect one of the tight ends being looked at as a possible H back.

He won’t be running the ball as much as last season, but I’d expect Kuhn to help cover for the loss of Brandon Jackson on third downs.

WR James Jones: RE-SIGNED WITH PACKERS

The Packers agreed to terms with Jones on a three-year deal worth $9.6 million.

It sounds as if Aaron Rodgers and Donald Driver went to bat for Jones, and when teams in receiver market went elsewhere, Jones decided to come back with the Packers.

We heard Rodgers say that Jones should be the Packers No. 1 priority, but I still have doubts that he swayed Thompson in any way. The more likely reason for Jones’ return to Green Bay was the fact that receiver-needy teams such as Minnesota and New York signed other players, with the Vikings acquiring Michael Jenkins and the Jets Plaxico Burress.

Now, the Packers return all their pass-catchers from 2010. With this many toys at their disposal, expectations will be sky-high for this offense.

DE Cullen Jenkins: SIGNED WITH EAGLES 

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed Cullen Jenkins to a five-year, $25 million deal.

28

July

Brandon Jackson Signs With Cleveland Browns, Spitz Goes to Jaguars

Brandon Jackson signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns Thursday night.

The Green Bay Packers backfield became a little less crowded when news broke Thursday night  that Brandon Jackson signed with the Cleveland Browns. The deal was reportedly for two years and $4.5 million.

Jackson was good in pass protection and figured to see plenty of action on third downs if he remained with the Packers. Two years and $4.5 million is a reasonable deal and I’m surprised the Packers didn’t make more of an effort to keep him.

Perhaps Jackson didn’t want to battle Ryan Grant, James Starks and Alex Green for playing time and felt he would have a bigger role in Cleveland. I can’t see him overtaking Peyton Hillis anytime soon, but Cleveland’s backfield is a little less crowded than Green Bay’s.

Either way, with G Daryn Colledge gone and now Jackson, the Packers pass protection has taken a bit of a hit. Neither Colledge or Jackson is irreplaceable, but both were better players than most people gave them credit for.

Jason Spitz will not be one of the players filling the pass protection void left by Colledge or Jackson. Spitz reportedly signed a multi-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

To summarize: Colledge, Spitz, Jackson and Korey Hall have signed elsewhere. Mason Crosby resigned with the Packers. Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga and Justin Harrell were cut. Cullen Jenkins and James Jones appear to be on their way out, but nothing is official yet. The status of Atari Bigby, John Kuhn, Anthony Smith and Matt Wilhelm is unknown.

Did I miss anyone?

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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

July

The Packers New Evolutionary Chart: From John Kuhn to D.J. Williams

One of the little quirks that set the Packers apart from any other team in the league at the moment is the Packers’ extensive use of fullbacks.  Where else but Green Bay can a fullback have the fans screaming his name every time he gets on the field?  Last year, the Packers turned some confused heads by keeping three fullbacks on the roster when some teams only keep one, that’s something straight from the Vince Lombardi and Jim Taylor era.

The Packers use the fullback position as something of a jack-of-all-trades player; for instance, John Kuhn alone played the role of blocking fullback, wing-T fullback, short yardage back, halfback, blitz pickup 3rd down back, personal protector on punts, kickoff jammer and to add to that he was a threat on the red zone as a receiver.

Unfortunately, in the Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers era, this plan backfired a little. In essence, the 3rd fullback stole a roster slot from the halfbacks, and when starter Ryan Grant went on IR after the season opener, the Packers were left scrambling for depth behind Brandon Jackson. The Packers managed to hide the issue with a late surge from James Starks and consistent short yardage from fullback turned folk hero John Kuhn. But the problem still remained, the Packers running game was never the same.

But lessoned learned, and probably in a way that many might not have considered; in the 2011 NFL draft, the Packers selected tight end DJ Williams from Arkansas in the 5th round and Ryan Taylor from UNC in the 7th round.

DJ Williams is an interesting prospect because other than the fact that he lacks the prototypical height and size of an elite tight end, he has the skills to be very successful in the NFL and save for his height probably would have been drafted considerably higher.  The winner of the Mackey Award and Disney Spirit Award in 2010 left the collegiate ranks as the leader in catches and receiving yards for tight ends and translates best in the NFL as a “move” tight end or H-back in a west coast offense.

Ryan Taylor, while not as accomplished a receiver as Williams is also a H-back; he set a single-season record at UNC for a tight end with 36 receptions and is also known for his special teams prowess as a former linebacker and special teams captain while at UNC.

23

June

Looming Questions for the Packers in a Post-Lockout NFL World

With NFL owners set to meet Tuesday in Chicago, a very important week in the sport’s labor situation is about to unfold. Optimism is starting to take hold in this lockout, and while I’d hesitate to say an agreement is imminent, things are finally starting to look like football will be played next season without interruption.

If an agreement is reached—and most of the NFL big-wigs, including Peter King and Adam Schefter, think sometime in July is the best bet—then the Packers and the rest of the NFL will have training camp as scheduled and the 2011 season will be played in its entirety. That also means that we will finally have some answers on the variety of questions about the team that we’ve all pondered over this lockout-striken offseason.

Let’s dive into the biggest questions surrounding the Packers in a post-lockout NFL world, starting with some obvious ones but ending with the most important question of all. And considering I already touched on James Jones in a previous post, I won’t touch that question again in this one.

 

Might the Packers Keep Five Tight Ends on the Roster?

The Packers are no strangers to having uncommon numbers at certain positions, as they’ve recently carried three fullbacks when most NFL teams only have one or two. Could next season see the Packers repeat this trend, but at the tight end position?

They certainly have the talent on board to pull it off.

Jermichael Finley’s spot is secure, and Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree return from 2010. But the Packers added two more tight ends in April’s draft, selecting D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively. Williams should be a lock, and Taylor appears on paper like the kind of versatile special teams player the Packers favor.

If the Packers don’t decide to keep all five, training camp should feature some kind of roster battle. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that group forced the Packers to keep all five players.

 

Where Will Nick Barnett be Playing in September?

There’s been plenty of discussion over Barnett’s future, but the lockout has robbed us of any clear answer on which way it could play out. I’m not positive that once the lockout ends there’ll be a quick resolution of the situation either. It’s a tough call for the Packers, and one that’s loaded with factors.

24

March

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Running Backs

In this second installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the running back positions (HB and FB) currently stand. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#25 Ryan Grant
28 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#44 James Starks
25 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2013

#23 Dmitri Nance
23 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2012

#45 Quinn Johnson
24 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#32 Brandon Jackson
25 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (tender offered)

#30 John Kuhn
28 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (tender offered)

#35 Korey Hall
27 yrs. old / 4 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (no tender offered)

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

Having both Ryan Grant and James “Neo” Starks in the backfield next season is an exciting situation for the Packers. Though Mike McCarthy will always run a pass heavy offense, this “one-two punch” could be just what the doctor ordered at running back.

Grant is a dependable workhorse who carried the load for the Packers before his injury, amassing 1,200 rushing yards in both 2008 and 2009. In his first year with Green Bay, he was just 44 yards shy of hitting the 1,000 mark.

Starks, meanwhile, rose to the occasion during the Packers’ playoff run this past year. He showed good vision and was often able to gain a little extra yardage after contact and in undesirable situations. Starks has the potential to be the “primary” back in the near future.

13

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Korey Hall

1) Introduction: A former linebacker at Boise State, Korey Hall was converted to fullback by the Packers after they selected him in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. Hall started 10 games in his rookie season, and caught eight passes for 49 yards while contributing on special teams. Over the next two seasons however, Hall only started a combined 10 games at fullback and dealt with a number of injuries. Durability has been a concern, and Hall missed 12 games in his first three seasons (2007-’09).

His signature moment might be when he caught his first and only touchdown of his career in Week 1 of the 2008 season against the Minnesota Vikings. Hall’s catch was also the first touchdown pass for Aaron Rodgers as the Packers starting quarterback.  Interestingly enough, Hall has never carried the ball in his 48 career games in Green Bay.

2) Profile:

Korey Dean Hall

Position: LB
Height: 6-1    Weight: 230 lbs.

Born: August 5, 1983 in Mountain Home, ID
College: Boise State (school history)    (Hall college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round (192nd overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Low. Hall is probably the least-known and least-respected member of the Packers fullback trio, and there were few people who were talking about him coming into the season. Many suspected the physical blocking of Quinn Johnson to take hold of the fullback position, and John Kuhn was considered a more versatile offensive player.

However, that didn’t mean that Hall was without value coming into the season.

He’s never contributed much offensively, but Hall is an underrated and important part of the Packers special teams unit. From 2007-2009, Hall led the Packers in special teams tackles. The unit has struggled over those years, but Hall was expected to contribute to the turnaround of the special teams.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: As a player who touched the ball twice the entire season (two catches for 11 yards), very few highlights or lowlights exist for Hall. Even so, his 17 special teams tackles led the team.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Hall began the season as the Packers starting fullback, but his playing time slowly gave way to John Kuhn and  Quinn Johnson. While limited offensively, Hall found other ways to help the Packers during the 2010 season. He was arguably the Packers most important special teams player behind Jarrett Bush, and his 17 tackles on that unit led the team.

11

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Quinn Johnson

1.)Introduction: He may not be a folk hero like fellow fullback John “Kuuuuuuuuhn” Kuhn, but Quinn Johnson is no small guy.  Drafted in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers in 2009 out of LSU, Johnson is a beast of a man and has been a key part of bolstering the Packers’ rushing attack.  While he may not be a touchdown machine near the goal line like Kuhn, Johnson took his blocking role seriously even though he was only active for 11 games this season.

2.) Profile:

Quinn Marcus Johnson

Position: RB
Height: 6-0    Weight: 251 lbs.

Born: September 30, 1986 in New Orleans, LA
College: LSU (school history)    (Johnson college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 5th round (145th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft.

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 0 (14365th overall since 1950)

3.) Expectations entering the 2010 season: For Johnson, there were very few expectations placed on his shoulders.  With the Packers running an offense that does not feature the fullback very often, Johnson and the others played the role of lead blocker for the running back, whether it was Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson or James Starks.

The mission for Johnson in 2010 was simple: make your blocks and help open lanes for the running backs.

4.)Player’s highlights/lowlights: Basically Non -existent.  Johnson only started four games this year and with no rushes and only 3 catches for 26 yards to his credit, it’s hard to find any noticeable ups and downs for a player.

Still, with the Packers lacking a rushing attack for the majority of the 2010 season, some of that can be thrown on Johnson, I suppose.  Holes were not being opened up and all the blockers share some responsibility.  Johnson was definitely part of that group.

On the plus side though, Johnson helped anchor a backfield that allowed James Starks to set a Packers rookie playoff rushing record in the Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles.  That helped serve notice that the Packers were close to achieving offensive balance and put the Falcons on notice for the next week (not that it helped).

5.) Player’s contribution to the team’s overall success: Again, when you are only active 11 games and start four of those,   it’s hard to make a significant on-field impact.    Johnson was inactive for the Super Bowl.