Offseason Outlook: The Green Bay Packers

Published: Feb 18, 2014 23:58pm EST
By epolnoff, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Feb 18, 2014 @ 11:58pm EST

 

For many Packers fans, the offseason began in the middle of week 9, when the face of the franchise hit the turf and left the game with a broken collarbone. It looked like the Lions were on their way to a division championship for the first time since topping the NFC Central in 1993, and the Green Bay football season was finished. Lucky for fans of the Green and Gold, the Lions are still the Lions and entry to the 2013 NFL Playoffs came down to a week 17 matchup against none other than the Chicago Bears. The return of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, however, wasn’t enough to get the Pack past the 49ers the following week, losing the Wild Card matchup, 23-20.

Finishing out the season with a record of 8-7-1 and a Wild Card loss, the Packers start off their calendar year with some serious questions to answer for themselves. Coaching shakeups marked the beginnings of the off-season in Green Bay, with Kevin Greene stepping down from his 5-year stint as the Packers Outside Linebackers coach in order to spend time with his family.

Winston Moss becomes Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers, Scott McCurley moves from Defensive Quality Control Coach to Assistant Linebackers Coach, and Alex Van Pelt moves from Running Backs to Quarterbacks. The team also added Jason Simmons (Defensive/Special Teams Assistant), John Rushing (Defensive Quality Control Coach), Sam Gash (Running Backs Coach), Ron Zook (Assistant Special Teams Coach),  Luke Getsy (Offensive Quality Control Coach) and Chris Gizzi (Strength and Conditioning Assistant).


2014 Free Agents: Green Bay Packers

Name

Position

Age

Rating

Snaps Played

Evan Dietrich-Smith

C

28

12.1

1073

John Kuhn

FB

31

9.6

324

James Starks

HB

28

5.6

224

James Jones

WR

30

2.9

863

Sam Shields

CB

26

0.4

900

Kahlil Bell

HB

27

0

0

Jamari Lattimore

LB

25

-0.1

272

C.J. Wilson

DI

27

-0.9

108

Seneca Wallace

QB

34

-1.6

58

Robert Francois

LB

29

-2

13

Ryan Pickett

DI

34

-2.4

499

Johnny Jolly

DI

31

-2.8

294

Jermichael Finley

TE

27

-2.8

259

Andrew Quarless

TE

25

-5.1

704

M.D. Jennings

S

26

-6.5

809

Marshall Newhouse

OT

25

-9.7

250

Matt Flynn

QB

29

-11

401

Mike Neal

ED

27

-11.9

746

B.J. Raji

DI

28

-13.6

618


The above list of 19 names comprises the Packers 2014 Free Agents. Along with a lot of dead weight, the Pack should look to get rid of some hefty salaries this off-season. Jermichael Finley tops the list with an $8.75m cap hit in 2013. He’s also likely the biggest question mark due to a freak neck injury that ended his 2013 season, not unlike the injury that took out Nick Collins in 2011.

Keepers:

Evan Dietrich-Smith – C

Bring him back? Hell, can we clone him? When EDS went down in week 12, T.J. Lang did his best to fill the gap, but it just wasn’t the same. With the Jeff Saturday experiment going down in utter flames, the Packers needed someone to step up at Center and EDS is the hero they deserved.

John Kuhn – FB

Often referred to as a second Quarterback in the huddle, he reads defenses better than most under Center. And, although his goal line dives won’t be necessary with Eddie Lacy coming into his own, with the O-Line underperforming, his ability to pick up blitzes is the reason the Packers need to bring him back.

James Starks – RB

Until Jonathan Franklin proves that he can beak out for big gains in change-of-pace duty, Starks is a necessary piece to keep in the puzzle. The backfield is going to be overcrowded this upcoming season, but I have a feeling DuJuan Harris will be the first one out the door come March.

James Jones – WR

The man can’t be stopped. He’s not getting the touchdown looks he saw in 2012 (14TD’s), but he’s accumulated more yards in less receptions (59 rec, 817 yards). In a receiving core built with finesse players, Jones is a hardnosed, possession player who fights for balls. Jarrett Boykin is a great player and he’s only going to get better, but he doesn’t replace Jones.

Andrew Quarless – TE

Q stepped up big when Finley went down this season. If the price is right, there’s no reason not to bring him back. He knows the system and he’s proven himself more than capable.

Sam Shields – CB

With Casey Hayward sitting out all of 2013, Sam Shields was the lone bright spot in a dismal Packers secondary. He totaled 61 tackles, 17 passes defensed and four interceptions. It’s time to cut loose Tramon Williams and give a bump in pay to Mr. Shields here.

Jamari Lattimore – ILB

The kid makes a difference when he’s on the field and no one else seems to be able to get the job done. He’s fast, disruptive and has a nose for the ball. Plus, A.J. Hawk isn’t gettin’ any younger. It’d be a mistake not to bring him back.

Johnny Jolly – DE

This man. I can’t say enough about Johnny Jolly. Coming back from his ordeal with drugs and jail to play as well as he did this past season… I’d love to see big 97 back in Green and Gold. He split time, started 8 games, recorded 21 tackles and a single sack in 13 games. The only reason I’d be hesitant is the neck injury at the end of the season.

Ryan Pickett – DT/DE

Pickett is the ONLY man on the defensive line that consistently takes on a double-team and is still able to collapse the pocket. On the other hand, he’s getting up there in age and chances are, his play begins to go downhill from here. It may behoove Ted to get him out while the iron is hot. Though the depth of the D-Line leaves something to be desired.

Others keepers: Matt Flynn, Mike Neal, Rob Francios, C.J. Wilson, M.D. Jennings.

 

To the curb:

Marshall Newhouse – T

Newhouse is literally the worst player on the Packers offensive line. In 250 snaps, he allowed 3 sacks, 4 QB hits and 13 hurries. To put this in perspective, if he had played a full seasons worth of snaps (approximately 1,000),  he would have allowed 12 sacks, 16 QB hits and 52 QB hurries. Combine that with his 2012 totals (8 sacks, 6 hits, 32 hurries) and it’s time to let the door hit him.

B.J. Raji – NT

After coming off of an okay 2012 season, Raji seems to have hit a brick wall. He recorded exactly zero sacks and only tagged the QB three times this season. He wasn’t doing his job taking on double-teams as a NT, so they shifted him outside, replacing him with Ryan Pickett in the middle. In fact, he hasn’t had a sack since Week 12 of 2011. Being that he has no speed at all, he’s completely useless if he can’t plug up the middle. Time to shut door on The Freezer.

Others to the curb: Seneca Wallace, Kahlil Bell.

 

Up In The Air:

Jermichael Finley – TE

Oh, Jermichael Finley… Some days he shuts his mouth and runs his routes. Other days, he runs his mouth and forgets how to play football altogether. He was off to a fairly pedestrian start to the season and projecting just under 600 yards and 7 TD’s for the season before going down with a neck injury reminiscent of Nick Collins in 2011. The fact of the matter is that, even when healthy, Finley can’t figure out whether or not he wants to play. If his neck heals, and that’s a big if, the Packers will really have to think about what he adds to the team aside from media coverage.

Additional Offseason Cuts: DuJuan Harris, Tramon Williams.

 

With Newhouse and Raji combining for $15.345m last year and Tramon Williams set to make $9.5m on his own, the Packers stand to save nearly $25m in cap space by letting them all go. Luckily, there’s depth on the offensive line and Newhouse won’t be missed. The depth on the other side of the ball does need to be addressed if Raji and Tramon both go. We all know how “active” Ted Thompson is in Free Agency, but there are a few free agents I could see old Teddy going after:

Bernard Pollard – SS

Having a veteran like Pollard in the secondary is something the Packers missed, letting Woodson go last season. Plus, he’s a good locker room guy.  With Casey Hayward coming back, Sam Shields still locking down his side and Davon House and Micah Hyde coming into their own,

Jonathan Babineaux – DT

Another consummate professional and great locker room guy. Signing a veteran like Babineaux could really solidify the defensive line and provide another teacher for young guys like Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Jerel Worthy, C.J. Wilson and Mike Daniels.

 

The fact of the matter is the Packers really aren’t too far off of having another SuperBowl contending year. Before three major offensive weapons went down (Finley, Cobb and Rodgers), they were 5-2 and on their way to a 12-4 season. Had they been in a rhythm when they hit the playoffs, who knows. A few more defensive pieces to shore up the secondary and get some pressure up front and we’ll see that Lombardi back in Green Bay.

The big rumor this offseason has been that Ted Thompson may be looking into free agency a little deeper than usual and that the Packers could pick up as many as 5 free agents to fill holes. Personally, I see Ted sticking to what Ted does best: draft and develop.  In Ted we trust.

With the 21st pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama… Roll Tide.


 

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