21

March

What To Make Of Julius Peppers’ Contract

The poster boy of why total contract value is overrated.

For all you Packers fans that were hoping for a big name free agent splash, Ted Thompson would like to introduce you to one Julius Peppers, a guy you might have seen around on the Bears and the Panthers before.  Some of you (including a fair proportion of our dear commentors) will never be happy because Peppers has never played in a 3-4 scheme, no one really knows exactly what his role will be outside of rushing the passer, has a long injury history and he’s 34 with a motor that’s starting to get cold (you do know that experienced and old usually go hand in hand right?).  Well if you want to know what the Packers are going to do with Peppers, this isn’t the article for you. What this article will be looking into is not how Peppers will fit on the field, but how Peppers fits in the Packers salary cap.

As I’ve mentioned before in my previous article, the media and fans often fixate on the total value of the contract, which is probably the least important piece of information.  One only has to remember how Donovan McNabb’s 5-year $88 million contract with the Redskins turned out to be more $3.75 million which he actually earned.  Ironically, this is also probably the best example to use for Pepper’s contract with the Packers.

Julius Pepper signs 3-year, $30 million contract with the Packers (courtesy of Over The Cap)

2014: $1 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus

2015: $8.5 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

2016: $7 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

20

December

Packers Periscope: Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Past: I’ve mentioned notable games of the past in this series (the Ice Bowl, Aaron Rodgers dismantling of the Falcons in the 2010 divisional game), but perhaps the most important game in the last decade for the Packers was their win in Super Bowl XLV in 2010 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not only did it cement quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ position as one of the NFL’s elite players but it also justified Ted Thompson’s 6 year “draft and develop” philosophy which brought the Packers back from a salary cap nightmare.  Fans will remember Clay Matthew’s “It is time” moment of stripping the ball away from Rashard Mendenhall which preserved a Packers 4 point lead in the 4th quarter, but perhaps the biggest defensive play came from defensive tackle Howard Green, who knocked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s pass into the arms of safety Nick Collins, who returned the ball for a touchdown and at least historically sealed away the fate of the Steelers right then (no team has gotten a interception returned for a touchdown and lost the Super Bowl).

Moving back further, the Steelers and Packers last regular season game occurred in 2009 which quickly became a shootout; Rodgers threw for an impressive 383 yards but Roethlisberger proved even more dangerous, finishing the game with an astonishing 503 yards.  It also marked the rise of Jermichael Finley, who moved from a up and coming player to a serious receiving threat, which would continue until his injury in 2010.

The Present: The Steelers have been effectively eliminated from the playoffs; the Cincinnati Bengals have run away with the AFC North and are almost definitely going to win the division this year.  Baltimore trails behind Cincinnati, but also has a shot at a wild card berth.  Pittsburgh unfortunately only is predicted to get in as a wildcard team .8% of the time according to Football Outsiders, effectively making this game more of a statement game more than anything else.  Furthermore, the Steelers have always been a very deliberate and conservative organization and the coaching staff has not been rumored to be on the hot seat, this game probably does not have much meaning to the Steelers, aside for maybe extracting some revenge against the Packers for their Super Bowl loss.

13

December

Packers Periscope: Week 15 at Dallas Cowboys

The Past: In reality, the Packers and Cowboys aren’t all that different; both are storied franchises whose heydays came after hiring relatively unknown New York Giants coordinators.  Both had a renaissance of sorts in the 80s and 90s; Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin for the Cowboys and Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre, Reggie White and Desmond Howard for the Packers both lead their respective teams back into relevance.  Both have been successful franchises in the last couple years; obviously Green Bay boasts a Super Bowl over the last couple of years that the Cowboys have no answer for but to call the franchise “unsuccessful” would be glossing over a decent team who are still the highest grossing franchise in the league.

While the Packers and Cowboys have only played each other 24 times in NFL history; perhaps the most historic game of all time occurred in New Years eve, 1967 where the temperature dropped -15F and an unassuming quarterback from Alabama drafted in the 17th round quarterback sneaked his way into the hearts of Packers nation and became a legend.

The Cowboys would probably like to forget the last time they played the Packers, a 45-7 demolition at Lambeau Field that would ultimately lead to the firing of then head coach Wade Phillips, which was punctualized by several coaching mistakes which ultimately lead to a bad call on a fumble returned for a special teams touchdown being unchallenged because the Cowboys had already wasted all their timeouts.  After that, the entire team simply gave up and let the Packers had their way with the Cowboys; Clay Matthews recorded sack/interception returned for a touchdown while James Jones logged 123 yards and a touchdown on 8 receptions.

The Present: Both the Packers and Cowboys are at a crossroads of sorts for their playoff hopes.  Frankly neither should really be in the discussion; the Packers are a completely different team without starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Cowboys have been wildly inconsistent, almost beating the Peyton Manning lead Denver Broncos but getting blown out by the Bears last week with a backup quarterback that’s just been benched for Jay Cutler.  Still the Packers are 6-6-1 and have a shot to get into the playoffs (especially if the Lions continue to play poorly) while the Cowboys are 7-6 and again are one game out from 1st place in the NFC East.  However in a league of parity, both teams with essentially .500 records are still in the playoff hunts with a reasonable chance of actually getting in says platitudes about how a team’s fortunes can change in a matter of moments.

27

November

Packers Periscope: Thanksgiving Edition vs. Lions

The Past: Last time these two teams met was punctuated by All Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, namely because he was absent from the game; the Lions did a fantastic job covering, deflecting and obfuscating Johnson’s knee injury up to the point that it was pretty evident that the Packers defense thew out their defensive plan right before kick off because many defensive players looked little confused as to what their new roles would be.

But the Lions offense was also left scrambling with quarterback Matthew Stafford doing his best impersonation of Aaron Rodgers, spreading out the ball to 8 different receivers for 262 yards and 1 touchdown, going 25 out of 40 but lacked the big play potential, something that’s almost unheard of since the Stafford-Johnson connection came into being.  Also without Johnson spreading out the defense, Reggie Bush found little room to run, only getting 44 yards on 13 attempts.

The Packers on the other hand were consistent but not flashy; Rodgers passed for 274 yards and one beautiful 83 yard bomb to James Jones while Eddie Lacy just missed out on his first 100 yard game of his career with 99 yards on 23 attempts.  On defense, the Packers managed to record 5 sacks, including 2 from Nick Perry, however Clay Matthews’ 1 sack also resulted in a Bennett fracture to his hand, which he still has to wear a cast for.

Overall, this game wasn’t the typical aerial bombing that has typically characterized Packers-Lions games recently, the Packers hadn’t really found their new balanced identity while the Lions were naturally adjusting to life without Calvin Johnson and it was the much maligned Mason Crosby whostole show, going 5 for 5 with a long completion of 52 yards.  In a game where only two touchdowns were scored by both teams, Crosby’s field goals were the difference.

The Present: The Lions are still perhaps the most inconsistent team in the NFL; they have the talent to easily win the NFC North but can’t get out of their own way when it comes to success.  Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have taken over the Lions as the most mismanaged franchise in the NFL (owner siphoning funds for his “other” football team, the MRSA debacle, the mismanagement of Josh Freeman, “going for it” on knee downs etc.) the Lions gave up the opportunity to essentially win the NFC North crown and instead turned the ball over 5 times, including 4 interceptions by Matthew Stafford.  Guess who gave up the other turnover?  None other than former Packers return man Jeremy Ross who luckily didn’t cost his team any points when he fumbled the ball out of bounds.

9

August

Maybe Greg Jennings is jealous of Randall Cobb

If Greg Jennings is so happy in Minnesota, why does he keep talking about Green Bay?

If Greg Jennings is so happy in Minnesota, why does he keep talking about Green Bay?

Enough is enough.

Former Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings simply cannot stop talking about his former team. And despite his assertion that the grass is greener in Minnesota, his repetitive jabs at the Packers suggest otherwise.

The breakup between Jennings and the Packers wasn’t a “he dumped her,” or “she dumped him” situation. It was a mutual divorce that made sense for both sides.

Even without Jennings, the Packers still have one of the top receiving trios in the league in Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Extending Jennings likely would have resulted in the departure of someone else. Morgan Burnett was signed to an extension last month, and Jones, B.J. Raji and Jermichael Finley are scheduled to hit free agency next summer.

Jennings, on the other hand, wasn’t ready to give up his “go-to receiver” label. In Green Bay, he’d have to share targets with three talented receivers and an athletic tight end. In Minnesota, Jennings is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver and figures to be towards the top of the league in targets.

But throughout this mutual breakup, a cloud of jealousy is hovering over Jennings’ head.

After all, his ex (Green Bay) has continually replenished their receiving corps under the watchful eye of Ted Thompson, grooming potential replacements for players on the decline. After taking Jennings in 2006, the Packers drafted James Jones in 2007, Jordy Nelson in 2008 and Randall Cobb in 2011.

And now, it seems like Jennings is having trouble seeing his ex with a younger, prettier (and less costly) girl.

In October 2012, quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a bold statement about Cobb, telling Packers beat writer Jason Wilde on their weekly in-season radio show “Tuesdays with Aaron” that Cobb “is probably going to go down as one of the best picks in Ted Thompson’s career, if not the best.”

Thompson’s draft résumé boasts Rodgers, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews, among others. But still, Cobb, after appearing in just 21 games in the NFL, was already in the conversation, according to the 2011 league MVP.

Later in the season, in Week 17, Jennings’ sister Valyncia trashed Rodgers on Twitter during the Packers-Vikings game in Minnesota. On top of urging her brother to “go to South Beach and get paid” after the 2012 season, Valyncia suggested that Rodgers favors Cobb over the other receivers.

15

July

Packers News: Morgan Burnett signs contract extension

Packers safety Morgan Burnett

Packers safety Morgan Burnett

The Green Bay Packers have reached an agreement with safety Morgan Burnett on a four-year contract extension worth $24.75 million, according to Ian Rapoport via Twitter.

Burnett’s deal includes $8.25 million guaranteed.

Following the 2012-13 season, the Packers entered the offseason in hopes of signing several players to contract extensions. The team locked up Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers earlier this offseason, leaving Burnett, B.J. Raji and Jermichael Finley as the next players in line for new deals.

Burnett, 24, is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He missed the majority of his rookie year after suffering a torn ACL in Week 4, but he’s started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons.

The Packers will hope Burnett takes a step forward in his fourth year, which is when former safety Nick Collins was named to his first of three Pro Bowls.

Last year was Burnett’s best individual season as a professional. He set new career highs with 123 tackles and two sacks. Burnett’s two interceptions came against the Minnesota Vikings against quarterback Christian Ponder.

It was a matter of when, not if the Packers would strike a deal with Burnett. But with the deal done before training camp, the Packers can now shift their attention to someone else on the roster with an expiring contract.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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1

June

B.J. Raji: Next in line, when will he sign?

Packers DL B.J. Raji

Packers DL B.J. Raji

Despite being predictably quiet throughout free agency, the Packers have successfully locked up perhaps their two most valuable players.

The team locked up quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews to long-term contract extensions. Matthews signed a five-year deal that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in football, while Rodgers became the highest-paid player in league history.

The next guy in line for a new deal may be defensive lineman B.J. Raji.

The Packers spent the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on Raji–a player they hoped would anchor the defensive line as they transitioned to the 3-4 alignment.

One Pro Bowl, a Super Bowl and four years later, Raji is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Since becoming a weekly starter in 2010, he has started all but two regular-season games for the Packers. Statistically, Raji’s best season was in 2010 when he racked up 6.5 sacks and scored the deciding touchdown in the NFC Championship Game in Chicago. Following Raji’s breakout year in 2010,  he was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2011 despite an inconsistent season.

Pro Football Focus gave Raji a +15.1 season grade in 2010, -20.8 in 2011 and a +6.5 last season. And now, Raji has high expectations for himself as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

“I want to get back to the Pro Bowl,” said Raji, according to JSOnline.com. “I think that I have that ability. And I want to help other guys get to the Pro Bowl who haven’t been there. I want to obviously help us get back to being a top-five defense. And I just want to dominate the game, from Week 1 to whenever we’re done playing and just have an impact in every football game.”

Raji’s agent, David Dunn, also represents Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. Both Rodgers and Matthews signed contract extensions earlier this offseason.

“I’m not really going to talk contracts,” Raji said, per the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “Obviously, the Packers are a great organization and I’m sure they’ll do right by me. I’ll leave it at that.”

In 2012, Raji’s play improved dramatically after the team’s Week 10 bye.

Pro Football Focus: B.J. Raji in 2012

Pro Football Focus: B.J. Raji in 2012