5

March

Five Options for Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley

With the NFL rumor mill ablaze during the combine, multiple sources have reported/claimed/inferred/guessed/made up/straight up fabricated news that Greg Jennings was a candidate for the franchise tag (Jennings did not receive the tag after all that) and that the Packers were getting sick of Jermichael Finley’s off the field antics and on the field inconsistency are were looking to part ways with the tight end, whether that be from trade or ultimately by cutting him.
Both situations seemed a little odd to me from a logical perspective, so what I’ve done if come up with 5 options that the Packers could choose this offseason deal with Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley.  While Jennings and Finley are almost polar opposites in terms of their play style, I think they are intertwined when it comes to the economics of the NFL as well as the well-being of the Packers according to general manager Ted Thompson
  • Option 1: Packers do nothing; Greg Jennings enters free agency and Jermichael Finley plays out his contract: This is probably the most realistic situation given Jennings’ recent comments and the historical inactivity of general manager Ted Thompson when it comes to free agent signings.  Jennings believes he’s worth $12-14 million and I’m certain the Packers disagree with that; while Jennings isn’t likely to get a contract average even close to that, he will probably get some higher offers than what the Packers are willing to offer.  On the other hand, it appears as if the Packers are still mixed on their feelings about Jermichael Finley; his up and down performance coupled with his off the field antics (such as throwing his quarterback under the bus), have apparently left some in the Packers’ front office sour.  Unfortunately, Finley also possess the capability to single-handedly break a defense and the Packers will likely give the mercurial tight end one more year to prove he’s worth the money.  Probability: Very likely

  • Option 2: Packers resign Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley plays out his contract: In essence this boils down to what sort of market Greg Jennings finds himself in once free agency starts; if it’s a very soft market, Jennings may find that playing with a star quarterback and a stable organization worth more than the slight increase in salary that another team offers.  The Packers lowball Jennings at around $5-6 million per year and he begrudgingly accepts. While it’s unlikely with a player of Jennings’ caliber, James Jones ran into the same problem when he entered free agency only to find no real interest in his services.  In this situation, Jennings’ resigning doesn’t put significant pressure on the salary cap nor the Packers’ capacity to re-sign/sign other players and the Packers let Finley play out his contract to see if he’s worth resigning next year. Probability: Likely
17

October

Packing the Stats: The Rise and Fall of Jermichael Finley

Packing the StatsFor Green Bay Packers fans, there has been no more controversial player during the past few years than tight end Jermichael Finley. His boisterous personality and recent penchant for dropped passes have clashed significantly with the perception of his physical talents and work ethic. And while we like to believe that on-field performance trumps off-field attitude, there’s no bigger catalyst for the disgruntled fan than when both start to head south.

I’m not going to look at the off-field issues, because we could talk about that for hours. What I want to focus on, instead, is the performance trajectory of Finley since he was taken in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. (Actually, we’ll omit his rookie season, since Finley only saw 12 targets the whole year.) Please note that all stats have been acquired from ProFootballFocus.com.

Let’s start with some basic statistics from the past four years:

Year GP TA Rec. % Ct Yds Yds / Rec. YAC YAC / Rec. LG TD FD
2009 14 78 61 78.2 845 13.9 377 6.2 62 5 29
2010 5 25 21 84 301 14.3 106 5 34 1 12
2011 17 99 59 59.6 804 13.6 251 4.3 41 8 44
2012 6 36 24 66.7 210 8.8 74 3.1 31 1 12

What we first have to account for is the games played by Finley each season. 2011 was the only year where he played in every game, and as we all know, his time on the field in 2010 was cut short due to a knee injury (torn meniscus) in Week 5. That said, looking at straight-up totals won’t tell us much; instead, we need to focus more on percentages and averages that give us a better indication of per-play production.

My first impression of Finley’s basic production is that 2010 could have been his best year had it not been cut short. His catch percentage and yards per receptions were both his highest in four seasons, and his yards after catch per reception were the second highest. It’s a smaller sample size, so we have to take some things with a grain of salt, but there’s enough to indicate peak performance.

13

October

Packers Receivers Making Aaron Rodgers Look Bad

Finley Drops a PassEveryone needs to head over to ProFootballFocus.com right now and check out one of their latest articles, “Signature Stats Snapshot: Accuracy Percentage.” Once you’re there, scroll down to find the table listing the Top 10 most accurate passers so far this season. Check the number two spot, and gasp in amazement as your read the name of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

For those of you too lazy to check out the article, PFF determines a quarterback’s accuracy percentage using the following formula:

PFF Acc. % = (Completions + Drops) / (Attempts – Throw Aways – Spikes – Batted Passes – Hit As Thrown)

Basically, they add the drops as completed passes, then remove attempts for throw aways, spikes, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback is hit while throwing. What this essentially does is tell us how many of the passes are “catchable.” Here is Aaron Rodgers’ stat line:

# Name Team Drop backs Att. Comp Drops TA BP SP HAT Acc. %
2 Aaron Rodgers GB 223 189 130 17 4 1 1 1 80.8

We’ve all been critical lately of Aaron Rodgers and his performance in comparison to last year, and his accuracy has been part of that criticism. For some reason, we don’t remember him making the kind of throws we are used to him making. The missed pass along the sideline to Jordy Nelson this past weekend was one such example.

However, I think this data helps to support the claim that he hasn’t really regressed in this area. To make matters even clearer, check out Rodgers’ stats from 2011:

# Name Team Drop backs Att. Comp Drops TA BP SP HAT Acc. %
1  Aaron Rodgers GB 581 502 343 40 17 5 2 3 80.6

The biggest problem I think we are currently seeing with the passing game is the number of drops by receivers. And, quite frankly, I think it’s adding to the overall idea that Rodgers isn’t playing as well as in the past.

To take this even further, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning are currently tied for third with regard to how many of their passes have been dropped (17). The only quarterbacks ahead of them in this category are Brandon Weeden (22) and Drew Brees (20).

13

February

Packers: Donald Driver Situation Puts Pressure on Ted Thompson

Donald Driver

Packers WR Donald Driver is willing to take a pay cut to stay in Green Bay.

Speaking a day after his team had lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver wasn’t having any of the speculation that he may be retiring after 13 NFL seasons.

And without actually saying it, Driver made it seem clear that continuing his career in another city had become a viable option.

“If the Packers don’t want me, I’ve got to go somewhere else and play,” Driver said. “I don’t have a choice. I’m not ready to hang the cleats up.”

That sound-byte from Driver probably caught Packers GM Ted Thompson a little off guard. A fair number of observers had envisioned 2011 being the 37-year-old’s final season.

The plot added another twist last Friday.

At a breakfast banquet in Milwaukee, Driver said that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Packers in 2012, a statement that seemed to contradict his earlier feelings on wanting to play elsewhere if the Packers weren’t willing to keep him.

Driver is scheduled to make $2.6 million in base salary in 2012, plus a $2.2 million roster bonus due in March and another $200,000 workout bonus. Altogether, Driver’s cap number stands at $5 million. One of the main driving points for the potential release of Driver has been his cap number, and there’s likely no scenario in which he plays for the Packers next season at that price. Restructuring that $5 million number would seemingly make it easier to keep him on the roster.
However, Thompson is now in a tough spot. Every coin has two sides, and that premise applies here.

On one side, Driver is a respected team leader who worked his way up from the poverty-striken streets of Houston to the sandy beaches of four NFL Pro Bowls. Losing him would be an unquestioned blow to the Packers’ well-established locker room and the state of Wisconsin, where Driver has committed countless hours to improving the Green Bay community and state as a whole. Driver also proved there is still something left in the tank, catching six touchdowns during the regular season and being arguably the Packers’ most productive receiver in the playoff loss to the Giants.

15

December

Packers WR Tori Gurley Turns Down Minnesota Vikings, Receives Raise

Gurley turned down the Vikings to stay with the Packers.

Green Bay Packers receiver Tori Gurley has turned down an active roster spot on the Minnesota Vikings to stay in Green Bay at a higher salary, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette.

AllGreenBayPackers.com reported on Monday about the possibility of Gurley being promoted to the Packers’ active roster after a source confirmed that Gurley and the Packers were in negotiations for a salary bump.

AllGBP also reported that an unnamed team had put in a claim for Gurley, which certainly helped in the negotiations for Gurley’s raise.  Combined with the fact that the Packers had just lost Greg Jennings for 2-3 weeks, the possibility was there for Gurley to be activated from the practice squad.

While it’s still possible that Gurley could be added to the active roster in the coming days or weeks, Gurley remains on the practice squad at this time.

According to Demovsky, Gurley turned down the offer in part because the Vikings’ season has just three games left but also for the fact that he’s learning the position from the best group of receivers in the NFL. As Demovsky quoted Gurley, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

In other news, the Packers signed fullback Jon Hoese, who was in training camp this season with Green Bay, to the 8-man practice squad. Hoese went undrafted out of the Universtiy of Minnesota. He’ll wear No. 35. To make room, the Packers released guard Jake Vermiglio.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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3

September

Green Bay Packers Roster Cuts: Tori Gurley Released, Packers to Keep Just 5 WRs

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Green Bay Packers have informed rookie receiver Tori Gurley that he has been released. After cutting fellow roster hopeful Chastin West earlier this morning, the Packers will almost certainly keep just five receivers to open the 2011 season.

Many believed that the Packers could keep as many as six receivers, especially after the emergence of both West and Gurley this preseason.

West was praised on several occasions by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and his 134-yard performance against the Cardinals helped put his name on the 53-man radar. While unlikely, he could clear waivers and wind up back on the Packers practice squad for the second straight season.

Gurley (6-4, 230 lbs.) continued to get better through training camp. He blocked a handful of punts on special teams and has the kind of big frame that you can’t teach in a receiver. He might get claimed on waivers, too, but the Packers would love to have him back on the practice squad.

Here are some other recent releases:

NT Jay Ross: Spent time on the Packers practice squad in the past but was never really a challenger for a roster spot in camp. Ross would have needed to beat out Howard Green to make the 53.

DE Lawrence Guy: The Packers want to bring Guy back then put him on IR. He’s a developmental guy along the defensive line who probably needed a year to get his feet underneath him.

FB Jon Hoese: If the Packers decide to cut Quinn Johnson and go with one active fullback, Hoese is a solid candidate to return on the practice squad.

S Anthony Bratton: Thought he had a chance at the beginning of camp to steal a roster spot at safety. His performance just never brought that opportunity to light.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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31

August

Zach Kruse: My Initial Packers 53-man Roster Prediction

The Green Bay Packers made their first round of cuts this week, releasing receiver Brett Swain, tight end Spencer Havner and tackle Theo Sherman on Monday then sending receiver Antonio Robinson, linebacker K.C. Asiodu and guard Adrian Battles packing Tuesday. That trimmed the Packers roster to 80 men before Tuesday’s league-mandated deadline.

Those were the easy cuts.

On Saturday, Packers GM Ted Thompson will have to decide which 53 players he starts the 2011 with and the 27 he doesn’t. It’s one of the most difficult days for his profession. Thompson has to cut some good football players. I, for one, certainly don’t envy the job he has to do over the course of this week.

Here’s my predictions for the Packers 53-man roster, which come before the team’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs. Following that game on Thursday, I’ll make my final choices for who I think should be on the final 53.

OFFENSE (26)

Quarterbacks (3):  Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell

Harrell hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but the Packers understand his worth. You have to like the way he rebounded against the Colts and led them back. Right now, he is too risky to send to the practice squad again. In a year’s time, Harrell could be Rodgers’ backup.

Running Backs (5): Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green, John Kuhn, Quinn Johnson

Grant guaranteed his roster spot by restructuring his contract, but there might have been pressure on him had that not happened. He’s been hesitant in the preseason with limited carries…Starks and Green are clearly the future at the position…Keeping two fullbacks was a tough call, but I don’t see how the Packers go from keeping three in back-to-back seasons to just one this year. Packers coach Mike McCarthy runs as many offensive sub-packages as any play caller in the NFL, and they need Johnson to block when the Packers go big.

Receivers (5): Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb

One of the hardest decisions was keeping just five receivers on this team. Both Chastin West and Tori Gurley have shown enough to make most NFL teams, but not this one. I don’t think the Packers can sacrifice another roster position for a sixth receiver unless they really feel Cobb’s knee isn’t ready to go for a few weeks into the regular season.