Tag Archives: Sconnie

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.

The Gloves Are Coming Off This Weekend!

Gloves will be sure to come off this weekend!

This weekend, Mariucci Arena will play host to the end-of-year Border Battle between the Badgers and Gophers mens hockey squads (yes, that means this is a hockey post. Don’t worry, I consulted with Denis Lemieux to learn the finer points of hockey.) In a complete 180 from recent years, the Gophers are the team to beat while the Badgers are the struggling bottom-of-the-standings squad. Yet, games between these two are always hard-fought – and sometimes literally.

The Gophers enter this game on top of the WCHA Standings. And because they swept the UMD Bulldogs back in October, the Goph are in the driver’s seat to claim the MacNaughton Cup. Two points guarantees a share of the title, while three points guarantees they will be skating away with the MacNaughton Cup. Regular season titles do not earn them a place in the Big Dance. Still, the regular season title will mean a lot to this group and should have the Goph fired up this weekend.

There are still some concerns for the Gophers, though. After starting the season by winning 10 of their first 11, the Gophers have barely been over a .500 team since. They’ve won their last four games, but those came against two squads they should sweep. There are some injury concerns too with Nick Bjugstad, the stud center on the top line, suffering an undisclosed injury in last Saturday’s game. Bjugstad has missed some practice time this week, but is expected to play. Meanwhile, Nick Larson and Ben Marshall could return to the lineup. Larson has been out for nearly two months with a wrist injury, and Marshall was out last weekend with his own undisclosed injury (did The Don go to the Bill Belichick school of preparing injury reports?).

Another interesting aspect of the weekend is that it is Senior night on Saturday. If Larson is healthy enough to go, The Don will have a tough decision to make between which two to start between Seth Ambroz (the enforcer – which will particularly come in handy at the end of the weekend when things get chippy), Nico Sacchetti, and Larson – the latter two are Seniors. You would guess part of his decision-making will hinge on whether the MacNaughton Cup is wrapped up or still left to be won.

Badgers look to prevent the Goph from skating away with the MacNaughton Cup

As for the Badgers, although they have been one of the better teams year-in and year-out recently, this years downfall was not unexpected. They lost three key players from last years squad. Still remaining is a player many argue has no business being in the college ranks still – Junior defenseman Justin Schultz. Schultz has 42 points in their 32 games. Outside of Schultz, the Badgers go as their top line goes. Scoring from their second line and down is rare.

This is undoubtedly a rebuilding year for the Badgers, who are loaded with some top, young talent and hardly any veteran presence (only one senior on the roster). Both goalies are freshmen, including one from the US Developmental League. Meanwhile, there will be two native ‘Sota freshmen donning the Red and White this weekend and making their first trips back to Mariucci – Joe LaBate and Patrick Daly – two products of private schools in the Twin Cities. Of those two, LaBate is the only one making a difference on the squad, currently sitting fifth in points on the team with 20.

Despite their inexperience, the Badgers will look to prevent their Border Rivals (see what I did there?) from celebrating the regular season title at their expense. Remember, this same Sconnie squad split the series back at the Kohl Center. Since their last meeting, Sconnie is a .500 team and currently on a 3-game winning streak. Expect the pesky Sconnie’s to give the Goph all they can handle. Assuming it gets chippy, as is bound to happen between these bitter rivals, the Goph have the clear edge on special teams: Goph are ranked second in the conference in both power play and penalty kill percentages, while the Badg are 11th in both categories.

The Goph OOOOOOWNS, OOOOOOWNS the series over the long haul. But that is of little difference to this weekends games because the Border Rivals do not like each other. Gloves should hit the ice. The players better put the foil on!