23

February

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived (Bonus Edition)

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

So yesterday I accidentally scheduled my Surviving Sunday post to run on Saturday. It was a brain freeze similar to what happens when Mike McCarthy calls for the fullback dive on 3rd-and-short.

Hopefully you enjoyed your Saturday edition of Surviving Sunday. Now that it actually is Sunday, here is a bonus Sunday edition of Surviving Sunday.

Packers news, notes and links

  • Reports surfaced on Saturday that Packers free agent cornerback Sam Shields is seeking a deal similar to the 4 years, $22.4 million contract signed by the Bears’ Tim Jennings. If that’s truly the case, then the Packers need to get this deal done ASAP. I’m guessing the overall guarantee on Shields’ deal would be bigger than Jennings’, but even if that’s true, that’s a perfectly fair deal for both sides and still leaves the Packers salary cap room to make other moves this offseason.
  • Might new Giants offensive coordinator and former Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo try to sign James Starks and Evan Dietrich-Smith away from the Packers? It’d be nice to keep Starks around, but with Eddie Lacy on the roster and DuJuan Harris and Jonthan Franklin returning from injury, Starks is more of a luxury than a necessity. Then again, Starks ran at turbo speed last season. Given his injury history, a part-time role is probably best for him and he sure excelled filling in for Lacy. I don’t like playing musical chairs at center, but is Dietrich-Smith worthy overpaying if another team dumps a big offer on him? I don’t think so. I’m willing to see what J.C. Tretter can do at the position.
  • According to a study from Rick Gosselin at the Dallas Morning News, the Packers have lost a league-high 153 games by injuries to preferred starters over the last two seasons. So what are Mike McCarthy and the Packers going to do about it? Who knows. In this interview with Jason Wilde, McCarthy vowed to figure out what’s going on and make changes. He said the same things last offseason. The most logical change at this point might be to just hire the training and medical staff from Stanford University.
  • If you’re still holding out hope that the Packers will sign Jarius Byrd to fix their issues at safety, this Tweet might squash that hope.

Non-Packers links and other nonsense

14

February

Big-name free agent targets for the “big-spending” Packers

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Feb. 12 that the Packers, armed with $30 million in cap space, are prepared to spend on outside free agents this offseason to remake the defense in Dom Capers’ image.

Capers has been in Green Bay for five seasons, so the wording is a bit confusing. Surely, the Packers haven’t given Capers a team of bobsledders and asked him to mold them into an attacking 3-4 defense. But regardless, Rapoport’s report ignited a spark of hope among Packers fans that the team would make a rare dip into free agency.

With all due respect to Matthew Mulligan and Duke Preston, the Packers haven’t made any “splash” moves in free agency since 2006 — when they signed both cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

The Packers’ offseason spending spree got off to a roaring start with Thursday’s addition of fourth-year undrafted free agent tight end Raymond Webber. That was sarcasm. But it’s rather comical that a portion of the fan base almost seems upset that Webber’s name isn’t Jimmy Graham.

Of course, the Packers’ $30 million in cap space won’t be $30 million for long, as they’ll be forced to spend about $5 million on this year’s rookie class. And with Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and others (perhaps Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb) likely to receive contract extensions, that number will continue to shrink.

But should the Packers let B.J. Raji walk — which seems more likely than not, given Raji’s production, or lack thereof, the past two seasons and his reported rejection of a contract extension that would have paid him $8 million per year — then they’ll have some financial flexibility to perhaps spend on veterans. Take into account Jermichael Finley’s cloudy future coming off major neck surgery, and the Packers could, really, become players in free agency.

As far as positions of need, the Packers could use help at every level of the defense. The opposite can be said about the offense, with the exception of tight end, at which they could still bring back Finley or opt for a cheaper option in Andrew Quarless.

Here are a few bigger-name free agents the Packers could — probably won’t — but could target once free agency hits.

25

January

Sam Shields 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Sam Shields

Packers CB Sam Shields

1) Introduction: Coming into the season, Shields was a restricted free agent and signed a one-year tender worth just north of $2 million. Shields opened the season as an every-down player and ended the season the same way — until he suffered a knee injury two snaps into the Packers’ playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Now, Shields is set to become and unrestricted free agent. He’s in line for a big pay day.

2) Profile: Sam Shields

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 12/8/1987 in Sarasota, FL
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 184
  • College: Miami FL
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Shields was viewed as the team’s top cover man entering the 2013-14 season, and he did not disappoint. Questions surrounded Tramon Williams as he entered his age-30 season, so the Packers were banking on Shields to be their top corner with young guys Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde and Davon House providing depth at the position. With Hayward battling a hamstring issue throughout the preseason, Williams saw some time in slot, which allowed Shields to remain on the perimeter, often handling the opponent’s No. 1 receiver.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Shields seemed to be at his best against the best in 2013. His top three grades according to Pro Football Focus, came against the Cincinnati Bengals (A.J. Green), Cleveland Browns (Josh Gordon) and Dallas Cowboys (Dez Bryant). He had a momentum-shifting interception against the Bengals and game-clinching picks against the Cowboys and Chicago Bears to help the Packers win the NFC North. Prior to Gordon’s record-breaking four-game stretch in which he racked up 36 catches, 774 yards and five touchdowns, Shields helped limit the breakout star to what-would-be season lows in catches (two) and yards (21) in a 31-13 blowout win for the Packers in late October. To start the season, Shields got off to a rocky start, as PFF held him responsible for 264 receiving yards in the Packers’ first two games. On the bright side, those 264 yards accounted for 39.8 percent of his season total (664).

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: With all due respect to Mike Daniels, Shields was the team’s Defensive MVP this season despite missing two games. He was the Packers’ most consistent every-down player, and their average-at-best defense would have been far worse (and were for two games) without Shields on the field. There’s no questioning Shields’ impact on the Packers’ defense.

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.

19

January

Packers, Capers really missed Casey Hayward in 2013

Casey Hayward wasn't the Packers' only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Casey Hayward wasn’t the Packers’ only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

As a rookie in 2012, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was one of three finalists for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best cornerback–the second-round pick trailed only established veterans Antoine Winfield, Richard Sherman and Charles Tillman.

After Hayward intercepted a team-best six passes and holding opposing passers to an abysmal 31.1 passer rating, the Packers had high hopes for Hayward, as they cut ties with their veteran leader and turnover-creator Charles Woodson following the 2012 season.

But Hayward’s encore was disrupted by a recurring hamstring issue, limiting him to appearing in just three games. He played 88 snaps.

With Woodson playing in Oakland and Hayward on the sideline, the Packers were left searching for a solution in the slot early last season. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams had fine seasons, but both are better suited for the perimeter. Micah Hyde didn’t play like a rookie, as he took over as the primary punt returner while proving to be a reliable run defender and a versatile cover man.

All things considered, the Packers’ cornerbacks fared well, but they were seriously lacking in one area.

For as long as Dom Capers has served as defensive coordinator in Green Bay, the Packers defense has relied heavily on takeaways. Woodson intercepted 19 passes and forced 11 fumbles during Capers’ tenure, which began in 2009. When Capers served as defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-1994, he had another Woodson (Rod), who intercepted 16 passes in three seasons with Capers.

But for the first time since taking over in Green Bay, Capers was without his X-Factor in 2013. He didn’t have a play-maker. He certainly didn’t have a Woodson.

For a defense that had grown accustomed to bending but not breaking, losing its turnover-creating wild card would be like throwing Capers in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a raft. Hayward’s 88 snaps were a makeshift life vest, but Capers and the defense remained stranded and searching for answers.

It would be foolish to assume Hayward’s career will unfold like Woodson’s, but you don’t let go of your high-school sweetheart without a winner on deck. The Packers had a plan for Life After Woodson, but that plan (Hayward) fell by the wayside thanks to the injury bug.

10

January

Can the Packers Afford Sam Shields?

Packers CB Sam Shields

Shields is one of Green Bay’s top free agents heading into 2014

This will come across as pouting and before we get into Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields in free agency, I have to say that I really wish I were still writing about a Packers team who was preparing for their next playoff game.  Such is life.

So what about Shields?  Well, last year Shields was a restricted free agent and the Packers placed a second round tender on him, meaning that if Shields negotiated a deal with another team and Green Bay chose not to match it, the receiving team would have owed the Packers a second round draft choice.

At the time that the Packers were gathering for training camp and there was talk that he might hold out if he was not given a long-term deal.  Shields’ agent is Drew Rosenhaus, who is no stranger to a holdout, an interview or an attempt to pan for the camera.  Shields eventually signed his tender with the Packers and played out his one-year, $2.023 million deal this season.

A likely motivator for Shields to get signed and into camp was that there was expected to be competition at the cornerback position.  Shields missed significant time in 2012 due to an ankle injury suffered early in the season but returned late in the year to help the Packers earn another division title.

Shields also had an interception for a touchdown early in the divisional round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Still, looming over Shields’ shoulder were cornerbacks Casey Hayward, Davon House and rookie Micah Hyde.

Shields kept his starting spot and had a stellar 2013 season, tallying 61 tackles, 17 passes defensed and had four interceptions in just 14 games.

Two of Shields’ interceptions will not soon be forgotten.  The first was a game-saver late in the win against the Dallas Cowboys on a play that, had Shields not made, likely would have gone for a touchdown and prevented the Packers from winning that game.  The second was the last play of Green Bay’s week 17 win over the Chicago Bears to seal the division title.  Shields intercepted a Jay Cutler Hail Mary pass that somehow failed to make it to the end zone.

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?