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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

At this point in the NFL offseason, what would you say is your biggest concern about the 2014 Packers?

For me, it’s the safety position. When Morgan Burnett is the best safety on the roster, there are issues. Yes, the draft is right around the corner, but you never know if a) the Packers will be in a position to draft a safety who can start right away or b) if whatever safety they draft will be any good.

But forget about your biggest concern for the time being. What do you see as potential concerns that few people are talking about?

Because those are probably the concerns that will come to fruition in 2014. With all the roster turnover and other unknowns from year-to-year in today’s NFL, it’s impossible to predict in March what an NFL team might be scrambling to try and fix in November.

At this time last year, we were all worried about the Packers not being big enough to stand toe-to-toe with physical teams like the 49ers or Seahawks. Then halfway through the season, we were worried about the Packers being too big to compete with teams like the 49ers and Seahawks.

I remember back before the 2010 season being worried about an undrafted rookie named Sam Shields serving as the Packers nickel cornerback. An undrafted rookie playing a key role on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s insane!

Then Shields goes out and has a good season and picks off two passes in the NFC Championship to send the Packers to the Super Bowl.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Burnett is playing well once November comes around, a young safety is holding his own next to Burnett, and the Packers problems at safety are problems no more.

Teams can make grand plans to plug holes in March, and fans can do the same on blogs and social media, but once the season starts, all bets are off. A few key injuries or important players underperforming ruins the most thought-out plans.

My under-the-radar concern for the Packers is offensive tackle.

David Bakhtiari had a good rookie season, but what if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2014? Or what if the injury bug strikes him down in his second year like it did to Casey Hayward in his second season?

Bryan Bulaga is coming off a nasty knee injury and hasn’t been able to stay healthy his entire career. Derek Sherrod has only been healthy for a handful of games. Don Barclay battles hard, but he’s far from a sure-thing at tackle. Plus, Barclay could be in the mix to take over at center.

It’s perfectly fine to worry about the Packers safety position. Ditto for center and tight end. But keep in mind, it’s only March. There’s a good chance we’ll have other worries come November.

Packers news, notes and links

  • It sounds like the Packers might want to use Micah Hyde at multiple positions. There’s also been talk of using Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and/or Mike Neal in multiple spots. If part of the Packers problems on defense is an over-complicated scheme, is asking guys to learn multiple spots really such a good idea?
  • Mike McCarthy thinks he’s only at halftime of his Packers coaching career. I hope he’s right. If he’s around for another nine years, it means the Packers are winning. Like with any coach, we like to pick at McCarthy for playcalling and clock management decisions. Often, that criticism is deserved. But McCarthy is a helluva coach. The Packers rarely have to deal with team drama and keep winning despite being wiped out by injuries more often than McCarthy and any of us would like. Give me the even-keeled, focused and no-nonesne McCarthy over someone who is emotional, whiny and confrontational like Jim Harbaugh.
  • What was your favorite C.J. Wilson moment?
  • Several mock drafts have the Packers taking TE Eric Ebron, LB C.J. Mosley or S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the NFL draft. All three are talented players, but all three also have possible red flags. Brian Carriveau at CheeseheadTV has more details.
  • Be sure to check out this week’s “From the Benches” podcast at PackersTalk.com.
  • The Packers brought in free agent G/C Mike McGlynn for a visit this week. Fortunately, McGlynn has been signed by the Redskins.
  • I’m sure you’ve all seen this already, but it’s worth watching again: Aaron Rodgers celebrates with the Wisconsin Badgers after their Sweet 16 victory.

Non-Packers links and other nonsense

  • The new version of Action PC Football is out. If you’re looking for an addicting replay text sim, this game fits the bill.
  • I’ve enjoyed Nate Silver’s new Fivethirtyeight.com website, but it’s very similar to what Wonkblog was at the Washington Post. Also, why is Silver so damn petty and sensitive?
  • 49ers CB Chris Culliver has been charged with felony possession of brass knuckles. They’ve been using brass knuckles in professional wrestling for as long as I can remember and nobody has ever gotten charged with a felony. Sheesh.
  • Book recommendation: “Up, Up and Away” Jonah Keri’s history of the Montreal Expos.

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Mike Tanier is one of my favorite, and one of the most underrated, NFL writers on the web. Earlier this week he had a brilliant idea that I am now going to rip off, expand, and give a Packers’ slant.

Tanier tried to come up with the worst mock draft ever. He did a pretty good job, too. Most of his selections made little sense and would probably cause fanbases to unleash a stream of Twitter rage should their teams actually draft any of the players Tanier suggested.

For the Packers, Tanier selected LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Why? Because the Packers need a backup quarterback and what better place to find one that in the first round of the NFL draft!

Tanier’s worst mock draft ever only lasted one round and covered all 32 NFL teams. I’m going to take a shot at creating the worst mock draft ever for all seven rounds, but only pick for the Packers.

Will I strike gold and recreate the awfulness of the Justin Harrell first-round selection in 2007? Do I have the knowledge and foresight to find someone as terrible as Jerron McMillian in the middle rounds? My goal is to have draft pundits lauding me for finding the next great awful player in the second round like Ted Thompson did with Brian Brohm in 2008.

Here we go:

1st round
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Because when you have Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Jonathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris and glaring holes on defense, you should definitely draft another running back in the first round. Perhaps if the Packers stock their roster with running backs, Aaron Rodgers will become expendable and Thompson can trade him to Seattle for the Seahawks entire defense. Oh, and any time you can draft a running back in the first round who “lacks exceptional skills” and is compared to Marion Barber III by NFL.com, you have to do it.

2nd round
David Yankey, G, Stanford
Who cares if Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are doing fine at both guard positions? The Packers need more guards! And drafting Yankey might entice the Packers to move Lang to center, because whenever the Packers start unnecessarily shuffling offensive linemen around, it always works out well.

3rd round
Kirby Van Der Kamp, P, Iowa State
The Jaguars have drafted a punter in rounds 3, 4 or 5 three times since 2001. Since Jacksonville has had so much success on the field over this time period, it’s about time that someone copied its strategy of drafting punters. Besides, Aaron Rodgers is way too chummy with current Packers punter Tim Masthay. It’s obvious that Rodgers purposely doesn’t convert on third down sometimes just to ensure that Masthay has a chance to punt and feel useful. By kicking Masthay off the team and replacing him with a new hot-shot punter who Rodgers hates, the Packers will also be indirectly upgrading their offense.

4th round
Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
We’re already in the fourth round and we haven’t even picked anyone would might able to take the Packers defense from bad to terrible. Since the Packers already have a bunch of capable cornerbacks on the roster, let’s draft another one. And let’s make sure he’s from a powerhouse school known for churning out NFL cornerbacks like Liberty. Finally, let’s make sure he’s got a cool Wisconsin-sounding name like “Walt.”

5th round
Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
John Kuhn hasn’t been re-signed yet, so the Packers need to fill a gaping hole at the all-important position of fullback. “Millard” doesn’t make for an easy fan chant like “Kuuuuuuuhn,” but he’ll have to do.

6th round
Alden Darby, S, Arizona St.
The Packers safeties were completely useless last season, so it only makes sense to wait until the sixth round to draft a safety in the worst Packers mock draft ever. And if you want to make the selection really bad, make sure the safety you draft is 5-11, 195 pounds. Yup, Darby has all the tools necessary to follow in the footsteps of M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian and Charlie Peprah.

7th round
Alex Fenske, QB, St. Thomas
St. Thomas has turned into a Division III football powerhouse in Minnesota, taking over the top spot from St. John’s once legendary coach John Gagliardi retired. Fenske played in seven games as a sophomore last season, completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing nine touchdowns. Mike McCarthy and the Packers coaching staff love to take a project quarterback and turn him into a starter. Fenske would be the ultimate project. If McCarthy can take a zit-faced kid from a DIII school in Minnesota and make him a starter in the NFL, that would be almost as impressive as winning the Super Bowl. I don’t even think Fenske is eligible for the NFL draft since he was only a sophomore last season, but the Packers should draft him any way. Roger Goodell won’t notice this minor rules infraction since he will probably be too busy designing the a futuristic space-age obstacle course that will replace the traditional kicking of the extra point in the NFL.

Packers news, notes and links

  • A lot of news about Packers’ contracts this week: B.J. Raji’s deal only is worth $500,000 in guaranteed money and James Starks’ deal is worth $3.165 million. Which player do you think will have the better season in 2014? Starks looked like he was fired out of a cannon every time he touched the ball last season. Raji started off ok, then fizzled. I’m going to go with Raji, only because you never when Starks might get injured again.
  • Oh, and Letroy Guion’s contract is for less than $1 million in guarantees.
  • The Packers are still about $14 million under the salary cap. That should be plenty to re-sign Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb to an extension before the season starts. Which one would you sign first? I’d lock down Nelson. He’s too good of an all-around receiver to let hit the open market. I’d make damn sure I left enough wriggle room in next year’s cap to re-up with Cobb when the time came, also.
  • Brian Carriveau at CheeseheadTV writes about playing Clay Matthews more at inside linebacker after the addition of Julius Peppers. If the Packers want to be more multiple, it’s worth a shot. Given his injury history, I don’t care for Matthews getting beat up over and over again on inside blitzes, but mixing it up every now and then will be fine.
  • Speaking of Brian Carriveau, we talked to him on the ALLGBP.com No Huddle Radio podcast this week about the upcoming CheeseheadTV Draft Guide. Be sure to also listen to this week’s ‘Ol Bag of Donuts podcast. Those guys always deliver.
  • The film “Last Day at Lambeau,” which chronicles Brett Favre’s final days with the Packers, is finally available online.

Non-Packers links and other nonsense

  • All that oil money up in North Dakota buys some good basketball players. (I kid, I kid ūüôā
  • Bros are the worst.
  • My all-time favorite meat market (Thielen Meats in Pierz, Minn.) was damaged by a fire. Thielen’s has the best bacon you will ever eat. I mean the best.¬†Hopefully they’re back up and running again soon.
  • This is an interesting read about the long-term unemployed. If Jersey Al ever fires me for insubordination, hopefully I’m able to find a new job within six months.

Why Haven’t the Packers Signed S Chris Clemons?

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

The Packers need a safety. Chris Clemons is a decent safety still on the NFL free agent market. So why haven’t the Packers signed Clemons?

Clemons isn’t a star, but he’d be an immediate upgrade over what the Packers already have. He hasn’t missed a start in two seasons and has 187 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defended over that stretch.

He won’t light up receivers over the middle like Earl Thomas, but Clemons has range and can cover. That’s what the Packers need.

If you’e into advanced metrics, Pro Football Focus ranked Clemons as the 19th best safety in the NFL in 2013 and the ninth best safety in pass coverage, one spot behind big-money free agent Jarius Byrd.

Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings were ranked as the 63rd and 67th best safeties, respectively. In pass coverage, Burnett came in 58th and Jennings 74th.

So what gives? Clemons seems like the type of player Packers general manager Ted Thompson would bring in. He’s still young, he won’t cost too much, and he’s a solid player.

Perhaps Thompson just doesn’t want to pay a safety again after committing so much money to Burnett. Maybe Clemons has injury concerns we don’t know about. There’s always the possibility of Micah Hyde moving to safety. Or maybe Thompson just wants to do what he always does: bring in someone through the draft.

I’ll be interested to see if Clemons to the Packers gains any steam as free agency advances. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: DB Brock Vereen

 

Brock Vereen

Minnesota Gophers DB Brock Vereen

Packers prospect profile:  DB Brock Vereen

Player Information:

Brock Vereen, DB Minnesota, 6-0, 199 pounds  Hometown: Valencia, CA

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.47

Vertical jump: 34″

225 lb. bench: 25 reps

Broad jump: 117″

News and Notes:

Three-year starter. … Never missed a game his final three seasons. … First-team All Big-Ten coaches selection senior season. ¬†… Switched from safety to cornerback throughout his career. … Broke up 22 passes and had 4 interceptions in final three seasons. …¬†Father played football at UNLV and was drafted by Tampa Bay. … Brother is a running back for the Patriots.

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • NFL.com:¬†A very smart, pedigreed, rangy free safety with the athletic ability and cover skill desired on the back end. Lack of size and tackling strength could leave much to be desired when defending the run. Top-notch intangibles — toughness, instincts, competitiveness and leadership ability — should allow him to quickly emerge as a defensive leader and enhance his draft status.
  • 1500ESPN.com ¬†In his first two seasons with the Gophers, he played primarily at cornerback. Heading into the 2012 season, he was shifted over to safety to address an issue of depth. Injuries last year forced the Gophers to make a midseason change, slotting him back out at corner.In turn, his ability to move between positions has helped his draft stock. He has talked with teams about playing at safety, nickel or corner, though he said he feels his best games have been at safety and in the nickel.

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • Vereen is No. 21 in the video
  • As a Gophers fan (don’t laugh), I’ve watched Vereen his whole career
  • Vereen’s range would be a welcome addition to the Packers lumbering and slow-to-react safety corp
  • However, even if Vereen is able to range over to a ball hanging in the air, is he big and strong enough to battle bigger NFL receivers once the ball comes down?
  • Not a great tackler, but he lays it all on the line when trying to make tackles
  • Has the quickness and burst to get sneaky sacks on slot blitzes
  • Smart player. Won’t lose contain in key moments of the game (*Cough. Jarrett Bush on Colin Kapernick. *Cough.)

If drafted by the Packers:

Let’s say Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is gone before the Packers pick and they pass on Calvin Pryor. Could Micah Hyde move to safety, leaving an opening in the secondary for a versatile nickel defensive back who can play multiple positions and contribute on special teams? If so, Vereen could fit that bill and become the 2014 version of what Hyde brought to the Packers last season. Like Hyde, I don’t think Vereen will blanket receivers and shut them down. He also won’t level people with Ronnie Lott-style hits. But he’s got the movement and the acumen to be a contributor. He also seems like a Ted Thompson mid-to-late-round type of pick: versatile, intelligent, hard working and under-the-radar.

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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt 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‚Ķ.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.

Thompson:¬†I haven’t been on my super secret Twitter account for a few days.

Scout:¬†Couldn’t handle all the profanity directed your way about free agency?

Thompson:¬†Nah. Didn’t want to see any “True Detective” spoilers. Do you really think Rust is the Yellow King?

Scout: Sir, right now a lot of people think you’re¬†Matthew McConaughey in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” not¬†Matthew McConaughey in “True Detective.” Silly and annoying instead of brilliant and fascinating.

Thompson: Will they feel the same way after we win another division title this season?

Scout: If we flop in the playoffs again, yes.

Thompson: People need to keep their pants on. Free agency lasts longer than one day.

Scout: But people are getting restless.

Thompson: Good. That means that they care. They’re passionate. They’re fans. So what if they’re a little misguided? We’re not setting foreign policy or passing human rights legislation. Playing armchair GM and getting riled up about your favorite team is part of what makes our game fun for people.

Scout: So, what did you think of the Alexandra Daddario nude scene in “True Detective?”

Thompson:¬†I watched it like 19 times! Wait…I mean…what are you talking about? I must’ve been watching film on that fullback from Middle Tennessee St. that I want to draft on a different television when this nude scene you speak of occurred…¬†¬†¬†

(Editor’s Note: this post was written before the night before the Julius Peppers news broke.)

Packers news, notes and links

  • B.J. Raji is back on a 1-year, $4 million deal. If you’re mad that Raji’s back, stop it. One-year deals are harmless. Find somewhere else to direct your anger.
  • Losing center Evan Dietrich-Smith isn’t a bad area to direct whatever rage you feel about Raji. Dietrich-Smith isn’t an all-pro, but he’s a good player. And he signed a reasonable contract. Perhaps Dietrich-Smith decided he just wanted to play elsewhere, but 4 years, $14 million was a perfectly reasonable offer for Dietrich-Smith. Does Thompson turn the center job over to J.C. Tretter or find a veteran in free agency?
  • The Packers also¬†re-signed DL/OLB Mike Neal and TE Andrew Quarless this week. I seem to be in the minority, but Neal doesn’t do much for me. It’s a 2 year, $8 million deal, so I have no problem bringing him back on those team-friendly terms, but I don’t think he’s the answer, or a major part of the answer, to fixing the Packers pass rush. Yes, Neal played well toward the end of last season and he was also learning a new position. But he still popped up regularly on the injury report (even though he played through those various injuries) and wasn’t consistent enough, in my opinion. Quarless, another low-risk deal, merits another look at tight end.
  • The Pro Football Draft preview publication presented by CheeseheadTV is on sale now. I highly recommend picking up a copy and having it by your side while you watch the NFL draft in May.
  • The Green Bay Press Gazette asks: “Why isn’t Ted Thompson more like Ron Wolf?” Well, if you only look at results, the two GMs are very similar. From ALLGBP.com’s Kris Burke:¬†Ted Thompson vs Ron Wolf after nine years:¬†Ron Wolf: 92-52 record. …¬†Ted Thompson: 86-57-1. …¬†Both have one ring. …¬†Ron Wolf: 9-5 in playoffs. …¬†Ted Thompson: 6-5 in playoffs. …¬†Ron Wolf: Three division titles. …¬†Ted Thompson: Four division titles. …¬†Ron Wolf had one non-losing season, Thompson had three (though 2005 was not necessarily his fault).
  • I feel like I’ve been very defensive about Thompson on this site recently. It gets old hearing the constant clamoring every year whenever (insert name of free agent) signs elsewhere. But Thompson isn’t above criticism. If he doesn’t in bring a few guys from the outside to bolster the defense, I’ll take my shots at Thompson and they will be deserved.
  • Here’s another kinda criticism of Thompson: I’m getting sick of hearing from Packers beat reporters that the “Packers had genuine interest in (insert name of free agent who just signed elsewhere).” It feels like the Packers are just feeding info about possible free agents to the beat guys to make it seem like they genuinely tried to sign (insert name of free agent who just signed elsewhere) when, in reality, they didn’t try all that hard. If you are genuinely interested in a free agent, and you think he can help the team, then get his butt into Green Bay and sign him. Enough with the “Ah shucks, we just missed him” nonsense.
  • Late addition,,, Yes, the Packers signed someone

Non-Packers links and other nonsense

Channeling Fire Joe Morgan about Packers GM Ted Thompson and NFL Free Agency

I decided to go all Fire Joe Morgan on this piece written by Frank Schwab at Yahoo Sports about Packers GM Ted Thompson and NFL free agency. Enjoy.

In 2006, Packers general manager Ted Thompson signed cornerback Charles Woodson in free agency, and it was one of the best moves he ever made.

Ok. A good start to this post. I agree with that statement.

You’d think that experience would give Ted Thompson the warm and fuzzies about free agency and he’d spend his time chasing the next Woodson. Instead, Thompson might be off on vacation this week. Wherever he has been, he hasn’t been signing any players.

Starting to go off the rails a bit now. Thompson didn’t “chase” Woodson. He signed him well after free agency opened. I think part of the reason Thompson doesn’t dive into the opening frenzy of free agency is because it is a “chase.” Chasing to fill this roster hole or plug that weak area. Chasing a big-name veteran who fans are familiar with. Chasing the notion that you have to “DO SOMETHING!!!!” to get better like the other teams around you. Those types of chases are from guaranteed to pay off. Oh, and the “Ted Thompson goes on vacation” thing became an eye-rolling cliche three years ago.

Green Bay didn’t sign one player, outside of retaining his (sic) own free agents, in the first three days of free agency.

Gasp!

It’s not like they don’t have needs. A stud left tackle would have been great, allowing David Bakhtiari to move inside to guard. Any of the top centers would have worked. A pass rusher would be swell. They could have spent on a big-time safety, and it’s not like Antoine Bethea, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner or guys like that got a ridiculous amount of money.

Sign a stud left tackle and move a promising, young and inexpensive left tackle to guard when you already have one pro bowl guard and another guard coming off his best season (and Bryan Bulaga coming back from injury)? Was there a “stud left tackle” on the free-agent market this year? I didn’t see one. Stud left tackles, like stud QBs, typically don’t make it to free agency. If the Packers re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, that’ll meet the “any of the top centers” criteria. Yes, a pass rusher would be swell. Let’s see what the remaining days of free agency bring (yes, free agency lasts more than a couple days). Finally, none of the safeties Schwab lists are “big time.”

Instead, despite their status as contenders and the fact that everyone in their division and most teams around the league improved this week, Green Bay did nothing.

It’s a “fact” that everyone in the Packers division improved this week? Were some NFL games played that I wasn’t aware of? When did Roger Goodell start making teams play football in March? I know technology has advanced at a rapid pace with the internet and cell phones and drones and all of that stuff, but can we really tell these days which NFL teams are better and which are not in the middle of March? I seem to remember everyone raving about how the Lions “improved” last March after a free-agent signing spree. How’d that work out for them?

The Packers were lauded for being so home grown last season…

They were? Schwab obviously doesn’t interact much with Packers fans online.¬†Thompson and the Packers being praised for a draft-and-develop philosophy instead of signing free agents is more of a national media narrative than an actual reality.

But going on free-agency signing binges is just as short-sighted as ignoring free agency altogether, as Thompson has apparently decided to do.

So Scwab has a mole in the Packers front office telling him, without a shadow of a doubt, that Thompson “ignores free agency altogether?” This is another lazy meme, usually pushed by national media types. Looking at the price tag, risk and potential return on investment, as well as future cap ramifications when it comes time to re-sign your own guys, Thompson says “thanks, but no thanks” to high-priced veterans early in free agency. It doesn’t mean he ignores free agency altogether.

They lost on a last-second field goal to San Francisco in the playoffs, and it stands to reason that a key free agent might have made one play that turned that game around.

It also stands to reason that a misstep or two in free agency would’ve thrown the Packers into salary cap hell and they would’ve went 4-12.

Thompson places a premium on drafting players and retaining the best ones to long-term deals. But when you completely ignore signing any outside free agents, you’re cutting off an avenue of player acquisition.

Here we go with the whole “ignore” thing again. Yes, ignoring free agency is stupid. I agree with Schwab there. But I doubt Thompson “ignores” signing outside players. I ignore my wife when she asks me to do the dishes while I’m watching Monday Night Raw. Thompson doesn’t ignore free agency. If Thompson were me, and my wife asked Thompson to do the dishes during Monday Night Raw, Thompson would 1) weigh the positives and negatives of missing the next match, 2) factor in how missing some of Monday Night Raw might impact future viewings of this fine television program, 3) consider the wrath my wife would reign on him should he refuse her request, and 4) say “no” and keep watching Monday Night Raw. That’s not ignoring, that’s giving serious consideration, examining all possible angles, and deciding to pass.

Thompson takes the extreme opposite approach to free agency. That’s a mistake, too.

Yes, it is. But nothing Schwab laid out in this piece made a case for why Thompson should do more in free agency. The problem isn’t the Packers lack of offseason free agent signings. The problem is the Packers constantly dealing with a steady stream of players ending up on IR or in street clothes with nagging injuries. Schwab’s contention that Thompson “ignores” free agency might get a little more merit if he doesn’t sign a few defensive players this offseason. But it’s far too early in the process to already start kicking and screaming about Thompson “ignoring” free agency.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: DL Ra’Shede Hageman

Minnesota Gophers defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman

Minnesota Gophers defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman

Packers prospect profile: DL Ra’Shede Hageman

Player Information:

Ra’Shede Hageman, ¬†DL ¬†Minnesota, 6-6, 310 pounds,¬† Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 5.02

Vertical jump: 35.5″

225 lb. bench: 32 reps

Broad jump: 114″

News and Notes:

Converted from tight end to defensive line during his redshirt freshman seasons. … Was two-time all-state tight end in high school … First team all Big Ten and third team All-American his senior season. … Received the Bronko Nagurski award, given to the team’s most valuable player, his senior season. … Had 13 tackles for loss senior season. … Foster child, mother was a drug addict, father died before Ra’Shede met him. … More about Hageman’s difficult childhood.

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • Mike Mayock: ¬†The Hageman kid is really interesting and especially given his background and where he’s coming from and what he’s had to go through in life, and I think the hard part is putting the tape on in one game, you see a kid that can go as a Top 15 pick and then you put the next tape on, and then he disappears for three quarters and that’s a fifth or sixth round pick and you have to rectify the whole thing if he blows up the Combine; who are we getting. That’s the important thing is trying to understand the kid, because the talent is certainly there.
  • NFL.com:¬†Terrific movement, flexibility and range. Loose ankles. Can work the edges. Able to redirect and chase athletically. Fierce tackler. Rare leaping ability for his size (workout all-star). Disrupts passing lanes. Has a “wow” factor at his best. Has immense upside. Team captain.

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • Size and length look very intimidating
  • Big-hitter
  • Good lateral movement and ability to make a tackle downfield
  • Slow to react at times
  • Extremely difficult to handle if he gains leverage

If drafted by the Packers:

Since I live in Minnesota and punish myself by watching the Gophers, I’ve followed Hageman’s entire career. Most of the scouting reports are accurate: He’s got a ton of ability, but tends to disappear for stretches. Some say his disappearing acts raise questions about his effort. Whenever I’ve observed Hageman go into hibernation, he appeared to be really tired. Hands on the hips, breathing heavy, slow of the ball — the usual signs. I wonder if conditioning was an issue for him in college and if an NFL conditioning program would fix that.

I really want to see Hageman rushing off the edge in a 4-3 scheme. I think that’s where he fits best in the NFL. His height and natural physical skills remind you of Julius Peppers.¬†That’s not to say Hageman wouldn’t fit in a 3-4 scheme like the Packers. If it all comes together for a talented player Hageman, he’ll find a way to produce in any system.

However, I wonder if Ted Thompson might be looking for more immediate impact in an early pick. Hageman will likely need some time to develop. But man, it’s awful tempting to fall in love with everything Hageman could bring to a defense. If the Packers want to go more athletic on the defensive line, Hageman definitely fits the criteria.

Surprise! Packers Quiet on First Day of NFL Free Agency

Jarius Byrd

Safety Jarius Byrd signed a monster NFL free agent contract on Tuesday, but not with the Packers.

C’mon, folks. You didn’t REALLY think that the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson were going to make a splash on the first day of NFL free agency, did you?

No way Thompson was going to fork over $56 million ($28 million guaranteed) like the Saints did for safety Jarius Byrd.

Give defensive linemen Lamarr Houston (5 years, $35 million, $15 million guaranteed)¬†and/or Arthur Jones (5 years, $30 million) deals like they got from the Bears and Colts, respectively? Not on Thompson’s watch.

What about safety T.J. Ward? The Packers desperately need a safety and Ward’s deal with the Broncos (4 years, $23 million, $14 million guaranteed) is much more reasonable that Byrd’s. Sure, Ward came at decent market value, but Thompson wasn’t going to pay that much for a box safety.

The list could go on and on. Aquib Talib (6 years, $57 million, $26 million guaranteed), Linval Joseph (5 years, $31 million), Paul Soliai (5 years, $33 million, $14 million guaranteed). The prices were outrageous and the potential return on investment far from guaranteed. Hell, the Jaguars gave Toby Gerhart 3 years and $10.5 million. Toby Gerhart!

You didn’t REALLY think Thompson was going to suddenly start gambling on the high-risk game known as Day 1 of NFL free agency, did you?

If you did, hopefully you learned your lesson (again) for next time. If you’re upset that Thompson didn’t deviate from his norm and dive into Tuesday’s madness, don’t be.

There is still a long way to go in free agency. I do think Thompson is going to step outside of his comfort zone and bring in some free agents, but it sure wasn’t going to happen on day 1.

Once the chaos of the opening of free agency calms down and ¬†the funny money goes away, Thompson’s real work begins. That’s when bargains can be found and holes on the Packers roster plugged with players who sign contracts more in line with their true value.

But isn’t now the time to take a risk and overpay for a major free agent or two? After all, Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger and the Packers have a few obvious holes.

There is never a good time to pay airport restaurant prices for hot dog stand talent like most teams do on the first day of free agency.

Because Thompson refuses to get caught up in that rat race, he’s never had to cut a quality player because of salary cap issues or desperately re-negotiate existing contracts so he can retain his own guys.

Thanks to Thompson’s philosophy, Packers fans will likely never have to wave goodbye to players like Clay Matthews, Josh Sitton, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson or Eddie Lacy because there wasn’t enough cap room to keep them after a recent free-agent spending spree gone wrong.

Despite the consternation over the lack of free agency moves, the Packers are in the playoffs every season and are perennial Super Bowl contenders. They have a ton of talent. The costs of retaining that talent add up in a hurry and you need to manage the cap in order to not back yourself in a corner.

Yes, I realize the comments section to this post will probably light up with all kinds of negativity toward Thompson and another early free-agency that went by without a whisper of anything happening at 1265 Lombardi Ave. That’s fine. Let it all out. Some of you may even have valid points.

But be patient. Just because Thompson didn’t sign that big name you had your eye on, it doesn’t mean he’s already thrown in the towel on free agency.

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

With Sam Shields locked up for the next four years, it’s time to focus on the Packers other free agents.

News of the Packers offering B.J. Raji a short-term contract to return as the team’s nose tackle brought out all kinds of reactions. Many Packers fans want nothing to do with Raji after he fell off the face of the earth midway through last season.

Other Packers fans are willing to stick with Raji if all it takes a relatively cheap, low-risk one-year deal.

I’m in the latter category. There is rarely such a thing as a bad one-year contract. If Raji flops again next season, you’re not tied to him long-term. If he’s horrible in training camp, and a good portion of the contract isn’t guaranteed, the Packers can just cut him.

That might make me sound like a Raji defender, but I am anything but. There were several times in the second half of last season where I wanted Ted Thompson to enter the Packers defensive huddle and cut Raji on the spot. He was that bad.

One talking point from Raji defenders that drives me crazy is the notion that it’s his job to “occupy blockers” so the middle linebackers can make plays. Yes, often in a 3-4 defense, it is the job of the defensive lineman to absorb double teams and sacrifice a little bit of personal glory to free up teammates.

But most people don’t understand what “occupying blockers” really means. It doesn’t mean you stand there and belly bump with other fat guys. It doesn’t mean you simply take up space. It doesn’t mean you never get to make a tackle for a loss or pressure the quarterback.

It definitely doesn’t mean you end up on your backside or blown off the ball like Raji is all too often.

The best way to “occupy blockers” is to kick their ass, to win your match-up, whether it’s against a single offensive lineman or a double team. Knock your man back a step and force the running back to alter his course, even if it’s a minor detour. Anchor yourself in the hole. Split that double team.

A 3-4 defensive lineman who does that often enough will get a tackle behind the line or a sack every now and then. He’ll also be doing a fine job of “occupying blockers.”

Raji hasn’t won many individual matchups since 2010. Yes, it’s might be unfair to expect him to put up big sack numbers or pile up tackles. But his lack of production recently isn’t because he’s been busy “occupying blockers.” He’s just been getting beat.

That said, if the Packers want to give him one more year to figure things out, I’m cool with it.

Packers news, notes and links

  • WTF is Aaron Rodgers doing in this picture?
  • The Packers need to re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith. Sure, J.C. Tretter might be a viable replacement, but is it really wise to hand over the center job to a kid who snapped his ankle during a fumbling drill in mini-camp? Of course, declarations of re-signing any player comes with the caveat of “if the price makes sense.” Here’s hoping the price makes sense to bring back Dietrich-Smith.
  • Jason Wilde continues to hold out hope that Morgan Burnett can turn into a quality safety and live up to the contract extension he signed last offseason. It was around year four that Nick Collins morphed into a pro bowler for the Packers after an up-and-down start. I don’t see Burnett in Collins’ league, but like Wilde, I’m not giving up on Burnett yet.
  • This tweet from Sam Shields got Packers fans hopes up. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed a few hours later. Thankfully, I checked Twitter while I was waiting for my wife to finish feeding the baby Saturday evening, and I saw that the Packers and Shields have agreed to a 4 year, $39 million contract.¬†That’s a lot of money, but a deal that the Packers probably had to make. Here’s hoping Shields makes the leap from an up-and-coming cornerback to elite.
  • Brian Carriveau at the new-look CheeseheadTV makes his case for the Packers to sign free-agent safety Jarius Byrd. Not happening, in my opinion.
  • The Packers Talk Radio Network did another mega podcast this week, and once again, it’s a must-listen. This one features an interview with NFL insider and former Packers vice president Andrew Brandt.
  • John Kuhn is set to hit the free-agent market. Besides the Vikings, who enjoy signing as many ex-Packers as possible, who is going to sign Kuhn? He doesn’t really fit on any other team besides the Packers.
  • Um, Mr. Barnwell? You forgot about David Bakhtiari, who started as a rookie at left tackle for the Packers all of last season. Might want to consider that before opining about the Packers signing tackle Anthony Collins and assuming that Derek Sherrod (Derek Sherrod!) is penciled in as a starter next season.

Non-Packers links and other nonsense

  • Former AWA wrestling jobber Buck “Rock ‘n Roll” Zumhofe tried to flee after being convicted on 12 charges of criminal sexual conduct this week. Zumhofe molested a close female relative over a period of several years. Disgusting.
  • Take a few minutes to read this piece from Matt Bowen about the other side of NFL free agency, the side that isn’t all about multi-year deals and mega contracts.
  • The season finale of HBO’s True Detective airs tonight. However, this person already figured out who the Yellow King is.
  • This is true on many issues: Facts and science often cause people to become even dumber than they already are.

Packers re-sign CB Sam Shields for $39 million

Packers 2012 Cornerbacks Sam Shields and Casey Hayward

Packers CB Sam Shields re-signed with Green Bay for $39 million.

The Green Bay Packers have re-signed up-and-coming cornerback Sam Shields to a 4 year, $39 million deal. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the deal includes a $12.5 million signing bonus.

Shields’ agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed the deal via Twitter.

That’s a lot of dough for a corner who has the talent to be one of the best, but isn’t quite there yet. But this is a deal that the Packers probably had to make.

Now it’s time for Shields to 1) stay healthy for a full 16-game season + playoffs, and 2) take the next step and become an elite cornerback.

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