Tag Archives: Aaron Rodgers

Why the Packers Aren’t Active in Free Agency

There will not be any Reggie White type signings for the Pack in the foreseeable future.

The Packers just completed one of its best regular seasons in franchise history. But, a 15-1 record guaranteed nothing, as the team fell in the first playoff game in miserable fashion. It’s clear the Packers are just a few difference-makers on defense from claiming its 5th Super Bowl title. So, TT should be active in getting those difference-makers in free agency, right? Wrong. Although it would be nice, the Packers simply cannot be active in free agency.

We all know TT has done a helluva job building this team through the draft. Undoubtedly, TT is one of the best in the league in mining the middle- to late-rounds for talented players that can contribute and develop into key members for the squad: JMike (3rd Rd.), James Jones (3rd), Sitton (4th), T.J. Lang (4th), Newhouse (5th), Starks (6th), Bishop (6th), Crosby (6th), and D.J. Smith (6th). The list only grows longer when you consider the undrafted free agents he has hit on. But, as with all things in life, this success comes with a cost.

Of the players identified above, most have received a healthy new contract to keep them around for the foreseeable future. And, that is the reason why the Packers simply cannot participate in free agency. To keep the core that won Super Bowl XLV together, TT must have enough money to pay them. And coming down the pipeline are not simply core players needing new deals. Instead, TT has the daunting task of figuring out cap-friendly deals to keep Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, and Aaron Rodgers.

First up is Greg Jennings. The star receiver is in his last year of a 4-year extension he signed in 2009. Jennings will hit free agency at the ripe age of 29 and is one of the best WR’s in the business. If you’ve been paying attention at all to the free agency frenzy this past week, you know that WR’s have been getting absurd contracts. Consider, Josh Morgan – all 9 career TD’s in 4 seasons – is getting $12M over two years, $7.3M of which is fully guaranteed. Or, Pierre Garcon – he whose single-season career bests are 6 TDs and 947 yards – signed a 5-year, $42.5M contract, $20.5M guaranteed. (Sidenote – do you think other franchises have asterisks next to Redskins-signed players when agents use said contracts for favorable comparisons in negotiations? I’ve gotta think anytime an agent cites to a Dan Snyder contract, TT and Russ Ball smirk and say try again.) Needless to say, Jennings is in line for a substantial deal; one that is going to require TT and Russ Ball to get as creative as ever to not cripple the Pack’s salary cap for the future.

Next, we have the Claymaker. Matthews is still only 25, but has already established himself as one of the best defensive players in the game. He was second for Defensive MVP in 2010 and is the best defensive player that has donned the Green-and-Gold since Reggie White. If you thought last season’s defensive efforts were meager, just imagine if the offense didn’t have to devote two players to Clay every snap. It’s not a pretty thought. Matthews’ rookie contract expires in 2014. He’s in line for a massive contract extension. Super Mario Williams just got a 6-year, $100M contract, and this, off a season he finished with a knee injury. Last season, Da Bears (still suck) signed a 30-year-old Julius Peppers to a 6-year, $84M deal, with $42M guaranteed. When Matthews hits free agency, he will only be 27 and hardly have had a poor season (assuming he’s healthy (knock on wood!!!)). This contract might be particularly difficult. I would not be shocked if the Pack slap the franchise tag on Clay to give them extra time to figure out a deal.

Free agency is a no-go when you need to resign this Orca in the next year or two.

Finally, and probably the reason why Claymaker’s contract may be on the back-burner for a while, Rodgers is in line for a new contract. Savvy as always, TT signed Rodgers to a healthy extension back in 2008 when Rodgers had yet to even complete his first season starting. Obviously, the contract extension was a shrewd move. And, Rodgers still has 3 years before he reaches free agency. But, to say Rodgers has outperformed his contract would be the understatement of the year – remember, if the Pack had franchised Flynn, the franchise number for Flynn would have been more than Rodgers’ 2012 salary. TT will look to sign Rodgers to a deal to keep him in Green-and-Gold for the rest of his career (or at least until his good years are past and the Vikes will overpay out of desperation). Drew Brees’ contract (whenever he signs it) will set a new benchmark for elite QBs. Right now, Mr. Bundchen is playing on a 5-year, $78.5M deal, of which $48.5M is guaranteed. Whenever Rodgers reaches a new deal, I imagine it will reach 9-figures.

Long story longer, if you weren’t keeping track (and I’m not sure I even did), keeping those three players alone will likely cost the Packers upwards of $200M+. And that doesn’t even account for B.J. Raji, Sam Shields (assuming he doesn’t regress like last season), Bryan Bulaga, JMike (again), and Mike Neal (kidding) to name a few others that will also likely need to be resigned.

TT’s drafting prowess is the reason the Packers are set to become the team of the decade. To do so, though, TT must forego free agency in order to ensure he can resign the best players. So, those hoping the Packers will make a run at Kamerion Wimbley, consider: do you want Wimbley or the cap room to ensure the core of our team is together? I think it’s a no-brainer when you look at the big picture.

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An Exercise in Futility

TT is averse to free agency, but this could be the year he breaks that trend.

Let’s be honest, talking free agency strategy with Ted Thompson running our squad has been mostly an exercise in futility. The way TT pinches pennies, you’d think he was Mitt Romney’s financial advisor. But, the few times he has dipped his toes in the free agency waters, he’s hit it big by plucking Woodson and Pickett. The Packers have few needs, and free agency might be a good route for TT to fill a need or two.

For starters, the Packers have approximately $6.9 million in cap space presently, which includes an added bonus of $1.6M thanks to Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder. That’s not a lot to wheel and deal, and I expect TT to create more cap space in the coming days. The two obvious candidates are DD and Clifton. Both players have been great players and representative for the Packers throughout their careers. But, it’s a cut-throat business and the Pack have younger and better players that need to see the playing field in their place – Cobb/Gurley and Newhouse. TT has always been one to cut a player one season too soon than too late (see Cullen Jenkins), and I expect this will be no different. Frankly, I’d love to see TT cut Mr. T-Rex arms (Hawk). I have no clue what the cap repercussions may be in doing so (if you can find this information out, please comment and I will update accordingly), but he’s a dud and replaceable. Regardless, if the Packers handle DD and Clifton, they would be sitting with approximately $12M – more than enough ammunition for TT to get to work in free agency.

Even though our defense is in desperate need of some upgrades, the biggest priority in free agency needs to be retaining or replacing Scott Wells. Numerous reports indicate Wells harbors vitriol towards the Packers because they attempted to replace him in years past and refuse to pay him top-5 money for his position. Wells may be in for a rude awakening, though, once he gets to free agency. After all, the same reasons the Packers have continually tried replacing him – short, stocky, and not a road grader – still exist. In fact, his value is probably the greatest with the Packers than any other team because of his familiarity with the system and it being a pass-oriented attack. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up resigning with the Packers once he sees his market is not nearly as big as he anticipates. This situation reminds me James Jones from last year in that respect.

In the event Wells signs elsewhere, there are a number of available centers in free agency. Chris Myers from Houston is regarded as the best available center. He comes from a zone-blocking scheme and led their top-ranked rushing attack. He’s also over-30, though. An interesting prospect is Samson Satele from Oakland. He’s younger at 27 and anchored the 2nd and 7th ranked rushing offenses the past two seasons. Otherwise, the Pack will have to look to the draft to replace Wells. A pair of Sconnie’s are regarded as two of the best available centers in the draft – Peter Konz (1st round grade) and Kevin Zeitler (guard, but might be better suited for C).

After Wells, then it’s a matter of finding the right fit for the right price on defense. Obviously, the Packers could use upgrades or depth at every position on defense. And, to beat you to the punch, Mario Williams is out of the question. He’s going to demand the biggest contract in NFL history for a defensive player, and the Packers have too many players to resign in future years – Matthews, Rodgers, Jennings, and Raji to name a few. So who, exactly, could the Packers target? Well, who the hell knows, but here’s a few names to keep in mind as the free agency madness gets into full-swing:

Mark Anderson – OLB for the Pats. He resurrected his career with the Pats this past season, recording 10 sacks. At 29, he’s still relatively young and would be an instant upgrade opposite Matthews. He won’t demand top-dollar, either, and would be the savvy, under-the-radar type move that may appeal to TT.

Kamerion Wimbley – OLB for Oakland. He’s under contract with Oakland, but his contract will require the Raiders to cut him soon. He’s 28 and is very athletic and talented at 6′-4″ and 255 lbs. He had 7 sacks this past season, and 9 the year before. In six full seasons, he has 42.5 sacks. Needless to say, he’d be a great compliment to Matthews. Unfortunately, his price tag will probably be too steep for TT.

Adam Carriker – DE for the Skins. He’s a former high draft pick that hasn’t panned out. But, he’s still only 28, and at 6′-6″ and 315 lbs., he could play at NT or DE in the 3-4. Starting in 15 games last season at the nose tackle position for the Skins’ 3-4 defense, he notched 5.5 sacks. Like Anderson, he’s not going to garner much immediate attention and should come on the cheap.

Tracy Porter – CB for the ‘Aints. Tracy Porter happens to be one of my favorite non-Packers player because of this play. Don’t forget, Porter is the player that iced the Super Bowl win with the late pick-six on Manning. He clearly does not shy from the big-moment and, at 26, he’s a player with a lot of potential still in him. Porter’s problem, though, has been staying healthy, having never survived a full season. And because of this, he might come cheaper than a young cornerback with his potential might otherwise.

Reggie Nelson – S for the Bungals. Nelson was another former high-draft pick that never made it with his original squad. He’s a safety the Packers may want to target for insurance in case Mr. Pick-Six cannot return. Nelson had a solid season last year with 85 tackles, 4 picks, and 2 sacks and fumbles apiece.

Do you sense a theme in the players listed above? It was intentional. Outside of Wimbley, they are players under-the-radar and not splashy. That’s how TT operates, and if he decides to dabble in the free agency pool, expect him to target these types of players – good fits at the right price. But, considering his last foray into free agency was the huge signing of Duke Preston, well, I’m tempering my expectations.

2012 is The New YOTTO

2012 is The New YOTTO

Somewhere in Chico, CA, Aaron Rodgers is smiling. Jermichael Finley signed a two-year, $14M contract tonight – good for the fourth-most average per year money by a TE. The deal is a compromise between the two sides on two fronts: (1) it essentially splits the difference between the franchise numbers for TE and WR (remember, Team JMike was prepared to argue his franchise number should be a WR based on where he lines up – for the record, JMike lined up as a WR a little less than half the snaps last season (which means he may have had a winning argument because he also lined up in the backfield on occasion too)); and (2) the Packers get to wait a few more seasons to determine if JMike is an essential player to keep around under a long-term deal, and the flip-side, of course, is JMike hits free agency again at age 26 and will look to cash in.

Packers fans out there should be very excited about this new deal. Undoubtedly, JMike is the enigma of the Packers. He’s brash, outspoken, and the only showy-type receiver on the squad. Hell, he has his own personal motto for his TD celebration – YOTTO (Year Of The Take-Over). But, he’s also the Packers most physically gifted receiver, a matchup nightmare, and has all the potential in the world. But therein lies the problem. He has all this talent and potential, but hasn’t exactly put it together in a season yet.

The closest we have come to seeing his utter dominance was in this Tecmo Bowl shootout in 2009

The closest we came to seeing his potential dominance was at the end of his second year, in particular the Arizona Cardinals videogame-like playoff game. Remember this (go to 2:49 mark to see exactly what I’m talking about. I mean, he posterized Bryant McFadden like Vinsanity did to ‘Zo Mourning back in the day!) JMike carried it over to the start of the 2010 season where he had 300+ yards in 4 starts, including a huge performance at Chicago on MNF – 9 catches for 115 yards. JMike was Rodgers’ favorite target and really leading the offense. Then, pop goes the ACL.

Since that time, JMike has not returned to his pre-injury self, as far as the stats go. Last season, JMike put up a 55/767/8 stat line, good for 15th, 12th, and 3rd in the league for TE’s. When you add in the number of drops he had, it was clearly just an OK season by a player that had a mountain of expectation on him. But, I truly believe that his value to the team goes far beyond these stats suggest. The 2011 Packers offense was the best in franchise history and single-handedly led the Packers to the best regular season record by putting up Tecmo Bowl numbers. JMike offered a tremendous amount of flexibility and creativity to the offense. At various times during the season, JMike lined up as an in-line TE, slot WR, split-end WR, and in the backfield as a FB or RB. Such creativity permits the Packers offense to dictate the match-ups they get from the defense. Along those lines, it’s naive to think JMike’s presence didn’t permit Jordy to break out like he did. Now, before you send me hate mail about this last comment, know that I am not saying JMike’s presence is the only reason Jordy established himself as a legitimate no. 2 WR. What I am saying, though, is Jordy benefits greatly from JMike drawing so much attention. Part of the reason everyone was so dumbfounded teams didn’t double-team Jordy, even though he was becoming a breakout, fringe Pro-Bowler, is because teams picked their poison in making sure JMike and Jennings didn’t kill them. Any quote you read from opposing scouts, defensive coordinators, or their water boys will uniformly say that JMike is a player they have to account for when lining up against the Packers.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that the new NFL trend on offense is featuring supremely athletic and impossible-to-cover TE’s (think Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, and Rob “Jersey Shore” Gronkowski). The Packers have that in JMike and would be foolish to have let him walk, right before he enters the prime of his career. And, before you claim the Pack can do just fine without him, evidenced by the 2010 Super Bowl without him, remember Quarles may not play next year after his devastating late-season knee injury and D.J. Williams is not the answer, despite him winning the John Mackey Award at Arkansas (pretty sure Ron Dayne and Rashaan Salaam would be happy to remind you that college awards mean nothing at the next level.)

Tonight is a good night in Packers nation. Despite some negative opinions out there about JMike, he is a hard-worker and should bounce-back after a down 2011 season. I, for one, anticipate 2012 being The New YOTTO.

The Julio Jones Conundrum

2011 was a difficult year to be a Vikings fan.  But, like any rube cheering for the local squad, hope springs eternal and the upcoming NFL Draft is just the remedy that is needed to facilitate forgetting last season.  Whether it is the hope of that impact rookie being drafted or the wheeling and dealing that strengthens the draft of the future, the NFL Draft is one part lottery, one part shrewd evaluation, and all parts exciting.

Jones' considerable skills were nearly always on display while dominating SEC defenses.

This year’s NFL Draft poses an especially interesting conundrum for the Vikes’ management group.  Last year, the Cleveland Browns capitalized on the Atlanta Falcons’ desire to get an impact WR, trading their Top 10 pick, which was used to draft Julio Jones, for basically all of Atlanta’s draft.  This was actually one of those rare deals that seemed to work for both squads.  The Falcons got the game changing wideout to complement Pro Bowler Roddy White and the Browns got the mess of draft picks needed to continue rebuilding.

Fast forward to this year’s draft, the Vikes hold the valuable Number 3 pick overall.  Most analysts agree that future Hall-of-Famer Andrew Luck is going first.  From there, it gets really interesting, really quickly.  You see, the Number 2 pick on most boards is behemoth LT, Matt Kalil.  This guy’s pedigree is more pristine than that little footstool that won this year’s Westminster dog show.  His older brother is an All Pro C for the Cam-o-lina Panthers.  He was a consensus All-American at USC, the perennial hotbed for impact NFL rookies.

The St. Louis Rams hold the Number 2 pick and have drafted offensive linemen in two of the last three drafts.  It seems unlikely that the Rams would select another linemen as their fan base is desperate for a talented skill position player. Many think that OSU pass-Hoovering WR Justin Blackmon will go to St. Louis.  That scenario would put the Vikings in a very difficult spot.

Do they draft the “sure-thing” LT that could be the cornerstone of their offensive line and hope to improve the league’s worst secondary via free agency and the later rounds of the draft?  Or, do the Vikes adopt the Browns’ strategy and trade the Number 3 pick to the team that wants to ensure they can secure the talents of multi-tool QB, Robert Griffin III.   RG3 is a hot commodity right now.  There are multiple teams that are said to be interested in acquiring his services.  If the Vikes can acquire multiple pieces and fill multiple needs, aren’t they better off moving the pick?  This fan says no.

Todays game requires exceptional QB play.  Exceptional offensive line play is the first step in achieving that level of QB play, unless your QB has the last name Brees, Brady, Manning, or, [unfortunately] Rodgers.   The Vikings offensive line was offensive this year.  Nearly every player took a step back from the year before.

This guy's bloodlines would make the child of two Olympians blush.

As if that was not enough of a reason to draft Mount Kalil, the Vikes also happen to have a Hall of Fame RB who will be coming off knee surgery and would likely do much better with a road grader like Kalil plowing the road in front of him.  With Mount Kalil in purple, it is easy to see All Day bursting into the second level with only the wreckage from Kalil behind him.

While it may be tempting to off load their pick for a wealth of future picks, the Vikings should pass.  Do the right thing.  Secure their line of the future and take Mount Kalil.  If nothing else, we might finally get a chance to see what we have with our first round pick from last year, Christian Ponder.

After all, even though Rome was not built in a day, with Kalil acting as the muscle to the development, there is a really good chance the Purple return to prominence sooner than later.