16

March

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

The following is a transcript of a hidden camera conversation from Packers GM Ted Thompson’s office on the opening day of NFL free agency.

(Knock on the door. The Packers front office team enters Thompson’s office. Thompson is watching “True Detective” on his office television)

Thompson: Why did nobody tell me about this “True Detective” show before? This is amazing. I didn’t know Woody from Cheers was such a good actor. And how about Matthew McConaughey?! The guy can actually act when he keeps his shirt on. Yellow King?! I want to change our nickname from the Packers to the Yellow Kings!

Scout: Um, sir….we didn’t tell you about the show because you only allow us to watch film of college players nobody else has ever heard of. And free agency is now officially open.

Thompson: Shhhh! This episode is more intense than the last few minutes of Super Bowl XLV.

Scout: But sir, we’ve already lost Lamarr Houston and Arthur Jones. They’re off the market.

Thompson: Really? They signed like 7 seconds after free agency officially opened? That’s some quick negotiating. Because no NFL team would ever cheat and use the three-day window to talk to agents to actually work out a contract, right?

Scout: Ummm…..

Thompson: How much did they go for?

Scout: Houston for $35 million to the Bears and Jones $30 million to the Colts.

Thompson: BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! That’s hilarious. No, seriously. How much did they sign for?

Scout: Sir, I was being serious.

Thompson: Dammit, you do this every year. You tell me who signed right after free agency opens and you make up some wild and silly number. Just tell me the real number.

Scout: But sir, that is the real number. I wasn’t kidding. Every year we have this same conversation 5 minutes after free agency opens.

Thompson: How about that other guy people want us to sign…what’s his name. Something to do with birds…

Scout: Jarius Byrd, sir. He signed with New Orleans for $54 million.

Thompson: I see. I can’t wait to see the headlines after the Super Bowl: “Jarius Byrd leads Saints to Super Bowl win.” Or maybe “Lamarr Houston makes people forget about the ’86 Bears.”

Scout: Sir, don’t you think we maybe should’ve gotten in on some of these signings? People are getting mad on Twitter.

15

March

Cory Corner: Ted Thompson’s loyalty will pay dividends

Instead of bringing outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Instead of bringing in outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Ted Thompson is proving that devotion and dedication mean more than stats.

The Packers general manager has stuck to his draft and develop philosophy. He has signed four free agents in Sam Shields, Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless and even B.J. Raji to come back and play their home games at Lambeau Field.

I’ve seen and heard numerous people bash Thompson for not bringing in free agents from other teams in order to help the Packers win their fifth Super Bowl title.

Frankly, the fact that Thompson likes to embrace loyalty and reward his guys shouldn’t be overlooked.

Remember, when you bring in outside guys, there is a bit of a transition period as the newbies get acquainted with how things are run. They must get acclimated to the playbook, varying types of schemes for different types of situations and know what and how is expected.

Obviously, former players already know that. They’ve already got strong bonds with teammates, which doesn’t hurt the all-important team chemistry, but most importantly, they already know their roles.

Neal is coming back after a season in which he was tied for third on the team in sacks. It would be ridiculous to even assume that he would demand a Clay Matthews role as the focal point of the defense. But if the Packers had brought in a guy like DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen or Julius Peppers who’s to say that wouldn’t have happened?

Same thing on the offensive side. Quarless all-of-a-sudden isn’t going to demand Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb targets because he knows his role in the delicate Packers ecosystem.

There were, heck there still are, decent guys available. Brian Orakpo is still hanging around, but since he was franchised by the Redskins nobody wants to part with two first round draft picks for a guy that is now arguing with Washington about whether he should be franchised as a linebacker or a defensive end. (It should be noted that the franchise designation as a linebacker is $11.455 million as opposed to $13.116 million for a defensive end).

12

March

NFL Free Agency: Green Bay Packers Re-Sign DE/OLB Mike Neal

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Mike Neal, NFL Free Agency, Packers Free Agents, Packers free agencyAccording to his Twitter feed, defensive end/linebacker Mike Neal has signed a new two-year contract with the Green Bay Packers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Neal had his most productive season in 2013, but that was mainly due to the fact he was finally able to remain healthy for a full season.  Neal had 47 combined tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception in a season where he was moved from the defensive line to a linebacker position.

A second round pick of the Packers in 2010, Neal showed flashes of being a decent pass rusher during training camp but never was able to remain healthy and only saw action for more than half a season in 2012.  Neal had been rumored to be target by the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals, but ultimately chose to remain a Green Bay Packer.

With Neal’s return, it’s becoming clear no major defensive scheme overhaul is in order for the Packers this offseason. Moving Neal back to his original position on the defensive line however would indicate Green Bay wants to get leaner at the position.   There is also the possibility Neal could be moved all over the front seven as a pass rush specialist, lining up both with his hands on the ground as well as standing up.

This move at the least sets the stage for more competition throughout the unit as training camp approaches.  Neal is still young and has a lot to contribute.  He has natural athletic ability and now that he’s proven he can stay healthy, Neal could be critical towards Green Bay finally establishing a consistent pass rush.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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8

March

Cory’s Corner: B.J. Raji has regrets right now

After turning down $8 million from the Packers earlier this year, B.J. Raji must decide if he wants a one-year $4 million offer.

After turning down $8 million from the Packers earlier this year, B.J. Raji must decide if he wants a one-year $4 million offer.

I am sure that B.J. Raji is probably kicking himself about now.

The Packers’ fifth-year defensive lineman was offered an $8 million contract in the middle of last season but defiantly turned it down.

And now, Green Bay is low-balling their one-time Pro Bowler with a one-year $4 million offer. Ted Thompson knows that a prove-it contract is the perfect situation for a guy that, despite playing out of position, was nearly invisible on the football field.

Thompson has also realized that if Raji has already turned down $8 million, how much more would other teams be willing to risk when the free agency signing period begins on Tuesday at 3 p.m.?

Raji is an interesting study because in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, he needs an anchor up front. He needs someone that will eat a blocker or two and clear a path for the linebackers. You could almost call him a defensive fullback.

But here’s the rub with Raji: the rest of the starting defensive line are also free agents. Ryan Pickett will turn 35 next season and has lost a few steps. His career high for tackles was 48 in 2005 and last year he tallied 19. Mike Neal is interesting because he’s so versatile. He was tied for third on the team with five sacks and he did it as a defensive end and an outside linebacker.

Raji hasn’t done much to impress anyone the last two seasons — 29 tackles and zero sacks. But there are teams that would be willing to dig a little deeper into the wallet just because he’s a large human being and there aren’t a lot of those to go around.

Thompson is doing the right thing with the low-money offer. I was astonished when he offered $8 million this year and I was even more astonished when Raji turned it down.

It’s hard to believe that Raji was taken as the ninth overall pick in 2009. He clearly has motivation issues if you cannot get charged up to play in the NFL — in a contract year. You hate to label a guy as a bust before he has even turned 30, but Raji doesn’t really give anyone a lot to work with. The one Pro Bowl season and the interception return for a touchdown that put the Packers in the Super Bowl are his career highlights. At best, he’s a work-in-progress and at worst he’s a big oops.

29

January

Mike Neal 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Green Bay Packers, Mike Neal, Packers evaluations, Packers report card, Mike Neal report card1) Introduction: Eyebrows were raised during training camp when it was revealed that the Green Bay Packers were giving Mike Neal, formerly a defensive end in their 3-4 defense, a shot to perform at outside linebacker.  After years of showing potential only to be derailed by some sort of an injury, Neal was a man on a mission in training camp and was determined to prove what everyone thought about him (when healthy) was justified.  Moving Neal to outside linebacker seemed like a crazy move but given how badly the Packers needed a pass rush, they were willing to try anything

2) Profile: Mike Neal

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 06/26/1987 in Gary, IN
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 285
  • College: Purdue
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4 years
  • Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Even before the news about moving Neal to outside linebacker, this was shaping up to be a make-or-break year for him.  He missed all but nine games his first two years in the league and was considered by many to be an injury risk.  2012 was much better as Neal saw action in 11 of the 16 games but he still missed time but this time because of a substance abuse suspension.   If he could just stay healthy, he could be the missing piece in the Packers finally establishing a consistent pass rush.  However, as he adjusts to his new role as an OLB, it was unclear how successful the move might be and what growing pains Neal might encounter.  The initial plan was to have Neal split time between linebacker and subpackage lineman.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Neal notched his first career interception in Week 2 against the Redskins and forced a critical fumble in the Packers’ come from behind 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14.  Neal struggled against the Vikings in the 26-26 tie in Week 12 and not stopping Adrian Peterson was a big reason the Packers couldn’t get the win against the lowly Vikings.

22

January

Packers Free Agents: Top 10 to Re-Sign

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who's number one?

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who’s number one?

A couple weeks ago, our own Adam Czech took a look at the Green Bay Packers players hitting free agency this offseason.  Of the 19 offensive and defensive players, 16 are unrestricted and 3 are restricted. What I’ve done below is made a list of the top ten unrestricted players Ted Thompson should consider re-signing. They are listed in descending order of importance.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the ranking? Is there someone you would add or replace? Comment below!

 

10. Ryan Pickett

This could be the first year where Pickett’s age has been noticeable. The “Big Grease” has never been a flashy player, and he’s a true two-gap guy, but even in that role he saw some decline. Pickett could still be useful as a veteran leader and run-stuffer; there’s just not much more than that. If he returns, it shouldn’t be at a price anywhere near his last contract.

9. Matt Flynn

It seems like Matt Flynn is destined to be the back-up to Aaron Rodgers for the majority of his career. He got his payday in Seattle, never really saw the field as a starter, and eventually ended up back in Green Bay. The Packers have Scott Tolzien as a project this offseason, but wouldn’t they want to avoid the mess of a situation they had this year and sign Flynn as insurance?

8. B.J. Raji

This guy is going to be the biggest free agent storyline for the Packers. His performance doesn’t command a big contract, but his draft position does. It will all depend on the market, and I have a feeling Ted Thompson will let him test it. Still, if the price is right, it would be foolish for the Packers not to bring him back on board.

7. James Jones

Yes, James Jones can be considered “replaceable.” But this is the same guy who caught 14 touchdown passes for the Packers in 2012. In 2013, he was second in most statistical categories only to Jordy Nelson, and the only player who had fewer drops than him was Randall Cobb. (And Cobb was out most of the season.) James Jones didn’t get much from the market the last time he was a free agent, and he probably see less interest now that he’s hitting 30.

7

January

Packers Free Agent Overview: Defense

CB Sam Shields headlines the list of Packers free agents on defense.

With 17 free agents and just under $10 million in salary cap space carrying over into 2014, changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers roster.

Debate about whether it’s time for Packers general manager Ted Thompson to finally dip into free agency will heat up as the offseason rolls along. Just as important for Thompson is deciding which of his own free agents to retain and which to let walk.

Everyone asks if the Packers should resign (insert name of pending free agent). The answer to that question is almost always, “Sure, if the price is right.” Unfortunately for the Packers, the price isn’t always right and not everybody can be retained.

Let’s take a look at pending free agents on offense and dig into a few reasons why they might stay or go. We’ll examine free agents on offense later today.

CB Sam Shields
Getting Shields signed to a long-term deal should be the Packers top offseason priority, but it might not be possible. Shields will likely command around $9 million per season and a shade under $20 million guaranteed. That’s a lot of dough to squeeze under the salary cap and remain flexible enough to address other areas of the team. With Casey Hayward coming back, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shields walks. And if the Packers want to slap the franchise tag on Shields, it will likely cost around $11 million, so that probably won’t happen.

DL B.J. Raji
Raji became the first player to depart his team via free agency smack dab in the middle of the season. Wait, what? You say Raji didn’t leave the Packers in the middle of the season? He was on the active roster the whole time and even on the field while real live games were going on? Hold on a minute, what? Repeat that again, please? You say that not only was Raji still on the team after week seven, but he turned down an $8 million per season contract extension? LMFAO. Quit kidding around. This is a serious football site with serious football analysis. Nobody in their right mind would offer Raji $8 million per season ever again would they? Right?