15

August

Matthew Mulligan is Blocking his way onto the Packers’ Roster

Matthew Mulligan has shown his blocking ability so far in Packers training camp.

Matthew Mulligan might not charm fans on Twitter, have arms covered in tattoos or take a fake field goal flip all the way to the end zone against the Packers biggest rival. But so far, it looks like the Packers lone veteran free agent signing is filling in nicely for departed fan favorite Tom Crabtree at tight end.

Bob McGinn wrote in Wednesday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Mulligan has been “solid as a rock” and is close to locking up a roster spot. The journeyman was signed mainly as a blocker, but with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, as long as you have two hands and can take three steps forward without falling over, you might end up eventually becoming part of the passing game.

Crabtree was a durable and scrappy tight end who understood his role and always lined up where he was supposed to. Players like that have value — A.J. Hawk has become a rich man by being that type of player for the Packers on defense. Crabtree and Hawk are also the types of players where you set a value on how much you’re willing to pay them and you don’t exceed that value under any circumstances.

This offseason, the Packers determined Hawk wasn’t worth what he was making, so they told him to take a pay cut or else. Hawks said yes and remains a Packer.

Crabree was a free agent and felt he was worth more than what the Packers were offering (which was something around the league minimum). The Buccaneers agreed with Crabtree, offered him closer to what he thought he deserved, and Crabtree is now trying to build the same rapport with all the blue-hair retirees in Florida that he had with the cheeseheads in Wisconsin.

What does all of this have to do with Mulligan? Even though Crabtree had value, the Packers felt they could find a better player at a more team-friendly price. It’s still early, but it looks like they might have found that player in Mulligan (making $820,000 on a one-year deal).

Pro Football Focus gave Mulligan a 4.9 run blocking rating last season and a 6.5 in 2011. Crabtree was a -7.7 as a run blocker last season and a -8.4 in 2011. Obviously, Pro Football Focus metrics aren’t gospel, but that’s quite the difference. If you believe the reports from training camp, Mulligan is backing up those metrics by passing the eye test as well.

17

June

Packers News: Packers Officially Release LB Desmond Bishop

Desmond Bishop is now a former member of the Green Bay Packers

The first signs of trouble emerged last week and now the Green Bay Packers have made it official.

The Packers today announced that they have released LB Desmond Bishop roughly a week after speculation began about his future with the team.   Bishop missed all of the 2012 season with a torn hamstring and many have speculated that this is the reason behind his release.  Bishop for his part, however, has insisted that he was healthy.

With Bishop’s departure, this leaves linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones as the likely starters at inside linebacker in Green Bay’s base 3-4 defense.  A healthy Bishop was anticipated to help a Packers defense that struggled at times last year and was thought to be the best inside linebacker on the team.

Bishop was a sixth round draft pick of the Packers in the 2007 NFL Draft.  He enjoyed several successful preseason games before finally getting his chance as a full-time starter when Nick Barnett went down with injury during the 2010 season.  Bishop’s play exceeded all expectations that year and became a fan favorite over the next several seasons.

He finishes his Packers career with 310 tackles  (224 solo), nine sacks, seven forced fumbles, an interception and 13 passes deflected.

Green Bay meanwhile frees up approximately $3.46 million in cap room as a result of releasing Bishop.  Bishop is not subject to waivers since he has been in the league for more than four years and immediately becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Will the Minnesota Vikings come calling? Don’t be surprised if they do. Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette already tweeted that according to sources the Vikings very well could be Bishop’s first visit as a free agent.

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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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21

February

Will the Packers Remain Uncomfortably Married to A.J. Hawk?

AJ Hawk

Cut him or keep him? The Packers might just stay uncomfortably married to AJ Hawk.

The topic of A.J. Hawk gets debated to death by Packers fans every offseason.

Some fans view Hawk as an overpaid bust who has no business on the field. Others view him as a serviceable player even though he hasn’t lived up to his status as a high draft pick. A few delusional fans even think some other team would trade a first or second day draft choice for Hawk.

If I were in charge of the Packers, I’d release Hawk. If released after *June 1, it would save $5.45 million against the salary cap — money that could be used to extend Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji — and cut ties with a player who hasn’t forced a turnover since 2010 and didn’t break up a single pass in 2012.

Hawk has always been a ho-hum player. I believe the Packers committed to him because they weren’t sure about their other options. The Packers were the 35-year-old woman who married a guy that wasn’t quite perfect, but time was running out and the other options were iffy. Settling on Hawk was better than being left alone and vulnerable (with a house full of cats).

Here’s the big question regarding Hawk’s future in Green Bay: Are there finally some other options for the Packers this offseason?

Desmond Bishop is a high-energy playmaker. D.J. Smith is capable. Brad Jones proved his worth after Bishop and Smith got hurt. Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are young players who could emerge if given a chance. Do those players give the Packers enough confidence to divorce Hawk? What if Thompson drafts a physically gifted middle linebacker early in the draft?

On paper, you would think so. But can Ted Thompson really be swept off his feet by two guys coming off major knee injuries, a career backup (who is also a free agent), two kids who have never played a meaningful snap, or a draft pick?

Perhaps the names are a bit sexier this time around, but when you look beneath the surface, the Packers might decide to stay uncomfortably married to Hawk. He had 157 tackles last season, and he at least tries to play physical, even if he isn’t talented enough to make much of an impact.

28

August

Marques Eversoll: My Initial Packers 53-man Roster Prediction

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson has some tough decisions to make by Friday.

With the final cuts just around the corner, here are my initial predictions for how things may play out. There are a couple surprises, but overall, I think much of the roster is pretty much decided other than maybe two or three spots.

Although I assumed the Packers would keep six wide receivers all offseason, I simply no longer think that’s the case. Both Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel have been injured for part of training camp, and neither has made the same splash they made last summer at this time. I think they’ll both be let go, and the Packers will look to a different young wide receiver to stash on the practice squad.

Other than that, there aren’t too many surprises. So here goes…

Quarterback (2): Rodgers, Harrell

Although I don’t believe Graham Harrell is a No. 2 quarterback in the NFL right now, I think it’s more likely than not that the Packers will keep the position as is–with Harrell as Rodgers’s top backup. If a late-round pick could pry Colt McCoy away from the Cleveland Browns, Thompson would likely consider making that move. And despite Vince Young being an convenient punch-line for football fans, who would you rather have if you had to win a game without Rodgers: Young or Harrell? I’d take Young, and it’s not even remotely close. It’s highly unlikely that Thompson would bring in Young as a free agent, but then again, Ted hasn’t been typical “Ted” this offseason.

Running Back (5): Benson, Green, Saine, Starks, Kuhn

My oh my, how things have changed for James Starks. After choosing not to bring back veteran Ryan Grant, it appeared the Packers were set to put all their chips in on Starks. But fast forward to August, and Starks is the most likely of the four running backs to be cut. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Packers cut Starks, but I’m not confident enough to make it one of my predictions. I see Cedric Benson as the clear-cut feature back in Green Bay, I’m a believer in Alex Green, and I like Brandon Saine’s versatility. So if there’s one back the Pack will cut, it’s Starks. Kuhn will be the only full back on the roster.

Wide Receiver (5): G. Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, J. Jones, Driver

8

March

No Worries about Packers Running Backs

Brandon Saine

Packers RB Brandon Saine

Packers running back Ryan Grant is set to hit the open market and, in my opinion, likely won’t return to Green Bay. Once Grant signs elsewhere, get ready for a segment of Packers fans to start clamoring for Ted Thompson to sign or draft Grant’s replacement.

If a RB high on Thompson’s draft board is out there, he very well could draft him, but don’t expect Thompson to reach for a RB based on a perceived need. And if you’re holding your breath that Thompson will sign a name free agent RB or trade for one, exhale now. If a RB comes to the Packers from a different team, it’ll be a guy that nobody has heard of, like Grant was.

Don’t be surprised if Thompson rolls with the RBs currently on the roster. If he chooses that route, it shouldn’t worry Packers fans at all.

James Starks had a disappointing and injury-filled 2011, but he showed he had the talent to be a competent every-down back if he can stay on the field. Hopefully a full offseason builds Starks’s endurance and makes him a stronger player. It’d be nice if he learned to be a little more decisive, too.

Brandon Saine’s main job was catching swing/screen passes, building a head of steam, and plowing forward after initial contact. The undrafted rookie seems versatile and able to do a variety of things out of the backfield, sort of like Grant. We know way too little about Saine to declare him anything but a longshot, but with some seasoning in pass protection, I could see him as a third-down back.

Alex Green blew out his knee halfway through the season and likely will start slowly in 2012, maybe even on the physically unable to perform list. Before the injury, Green didn’t get many opportunities. The Packers seemed to envision Green as the type of all-around back they target: Someone that won’t blow you away, but is able to do everything you ask him to do at a mostly competent level. Green will be a wild card in 2012. If healthy, he should improve later in the season.

By now, we all know what we’re getting with John Kuhn. He blocks, he catches, and every now and then, he plows into the end zone. It’ll be interesting to see if the Packers stick TEs Tom Crabtree or D.J.Williams in the backfield as a fullback at all this season.

24

February

Report: Packers Likely to cut Clifton, Re-Structure Driver’s Contract

Packers WR Donald Driver

Donald Driver

Green Bay Packers T Chad Clifton will likely be cut and WR Donald Driver will re-structure his contract . That’s what a source told Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports Friday.

Cole is the only one reporting this at the moment.

Clifton is due $5.25 million in 2013, and a $203,125 roster bonus.

Driver is due $2.6 million and a $2.2 million roster bonus next month.

My take: If true, Ted Thompson obviously ignored my offseason blueprint. But nothing has been confirmed yet, so as of now, Clifton is still on the team and Driver has his old contract.

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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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3

September

Packers Roster Cuts 2011: The Complete List to get to 53-man Roster

The Turk pays the Packers a Visit

Here’s your complete list of Packers roster cuts and trades the team implemented to get them down to the mandated 53-man roster limit:

G Caleb Schlauderaff - Seemed overmatched in the running game, which does not come as a big surprise. Was supposed to be strong pass blocker but did not distinguish himself. Would have been a good practice squad candidate, but the Jets came calling with a trade and Schlauderaff is now a Jet.

CB Brandian Ross - Since flashing early in camp, Ross has been relatively quiet. With Davon House assured a spot, Ross had a slim chance at best.

CB Josh Gordy - This was probably a difficult cut for the Packers – Gordy flashed excellent speed and football instincts, but struggled a bit in man-to-man coverage. With development, could turn into a good backup corner in the NFL. Packers will surely sign him to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

S Brandon Underwood - The move to safety helped Underwood, but in the end, he did not distinguish himself enough from the likes of M.D. Jennings to warrant keeping the often-in-troubleUnderwood around. A fresh start for him on another team is probably best for him, anyway.

WR Tori Gurley - The only cut that really pains me. I have high hopes for Gurley down the road and will be praying like hell that he clears waivers and sits comfortably on the practice squad all year. Tori, if you’re phone rings and it’s not a Wisconsin area code – DON’T ANSWER IT!

WR Chastin West - Seemed like all of Packer Nation was enamored with West early on. I kept asking, why? He’s a decent receiver, steady and consistent, but limited upside. Sorry, but there are plenty of receivers like that looking for an NFL job. That doesn’t mean the Packers wouldn’t keep him on the practice squad – he would be good insurance if someone goes down.

WR Diondre Borel - An excellent athlete, but way too much of a project to keep at this time. If he keeps working at receiver, he could catch on with another team down the road.

WR Kerry Taylor - Had a very good camp, showed some very good punt return skills, but unfortunately for Taylor, he was on a team with 5 excellent receivers and two other UDFAs in camp better than him. I do think that Taylor will be an NFL player. A practice squad candidate if West and Gurley are claimed.