- With Kirk Cousins likely to top Jimmy Garoppolo‘s record-setting quarterback contract in the coming weeks, the Packers should move quickly to extend their own signal-caller in Aaron Rodgers, argues Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com. Green Bay likely doesn’t want to let Rodgers get too close to an expiring contact (he has two years remaining at present), so the club needs to hammer out a long-term deal in the near future. In fact, the Packers could press Rodgers to ink a new pact before free agency begins next month. Not only would that timeline allow Green Bay to sign Rodgers before Cousins resets the quarterback market, but it would give the team a long-term view of its salary cap situation.
- The Packers have two big-name WRs of their own who could be cap casualties. Rapoport gets the sense that either Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson will be shown the door. Based on recent production, it could be Cobb who is cut loose. Cobb is slated to carry a $12.72MM cap hit in the final year of his deal, but the team can save $9.47MM with just $3.25MM in dead money if they release him.
Now that the Packers seemingly have their backfield set for the foreseeable future, they could consider moving Ty Montgomery back to wide receiver, opines Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Montgomery moved to running back late in the 2016 campaign, and entered last season as Green Bay’s starter. However, as some had predicted, Montgomery wasn’t able to hold up as a full-time runner, and managed only 71 carries on the season. The Packers drafted three running backs in 2017, and two of them — Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones — gave early indications that they can become the foundation of a solid rushing attack. Green Bay’s wide receiving corps is less stable, however, as Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb could conceivably be asked to accept a pay cut or be released. Montgomery, then, would give the club another option at wideout as he enters his contract season. A third-round selection in the 2015 draft, Montgomery is now eligible for an extension and is projected to hit the open market in 2018.
In advance of March 14, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll begin this year’s series with the Green Bay Packers, who lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 6 and subsequently limped to a 7-9 record.
Pending Free Agents:
- Geronimo Allison, WR (ERFA)
- Ahmad Brooks, LB
- Donatello Brown, CB (ERFA)
- Morgan Burnett, S
- Joe Callahan, QB (ERFA)
- Quinton Dial, DL
- Jahri Evans, G
- Brett Goode, LS
- Demetri Goodson, CB
- Davon House, CB
- Jeff Janis, WR
- Ulrick John, T
- Joe Kerridge, FB (ERFA)
- Justin McCray, G (ERFA)
- Adam Pankey, G (ERFA)
- Lucas Patrick, C (ERFA)
- Taybor Pepper, LS (ERFA)
- Richard Rodgers, TE
- Jacob Schum, P (RFA)
- Joe Thomas, LB (RFA)
- Herb Waters, WR (ERFA)
- Jermaine Whitehead, S (ERFA)
Top 10 Cap Hits for 2018:
- Aaron Rodgers, QB: $20,900,000
- Randall Cobb, WR: $12,750,000
- Jordy Nelson, WR: $12,550,000
- Clay Matthews, LB: $11,400,000
- David Bakhtiari, T: $11,200,000
- Nick Perry, LB: $10,750,000
- Davante Adams, WR: $10,537,500
- Mike Daniels, DE: $9,900,000
- Bryan Bulaga, T: $8,350,000
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S: $5,957,000
- Projected cap space (via Over the Cap): $21,979,291
- 14th pick in draft
- Must exercise or decline 2019 fifth-year option for CB Damarious Randall
1) Add an explosive wide receiver: While nearly every statistical decline by the Packers’ 2017 offense can be at least somewhat attributed to the loss of Aaron Rodgers (and the related poor play of backup quarterback Brett Hundley), there is a way to strip out the performance of Green Bay’s signal-caller and assess the play-making ability and speed of the club’s offensive weapons. The NFL’s Next Gen Stats use on-field location data to track player acceleration, and the Packers have not fared well over the past two seasons. According to researcher Anthony Staggs, Green Bay’s wide receivers tied for last among the 32 NFL clubs with an average speed of 12.81 mph as ball carriers since 2016. Fleet-footed the Packers are not.
Green Bay’s wide receiver room could look a lot different in 2018, both due to the recent performance of the team’s pass-catchers and financial realities. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are the 17th- and 18th-highest-paid wideouts in the league, and it’s not clear that either is worth his current salary. Cobb hasn’t topped 650 yards receiving since 2015, while Nelson looked his age (32) last season. The Packers could save nearly $9.5MM by releasing Cobb and more tan $10MM by cutting Nelson this offseason, and while both are candidates to be let go, I wonder if Cobb will be saved by his relative youth (he’s still only 27 years old).
Let’s assume the Packers will need to add at least one outside receiver to play alongside Davante Adams, who recently inked a four-year, $58MM extension. The first place to look will be the free agent market, and two options who could be had for relatively cheap are the Colts’ Donte Moncrief and the Cardinals’ John Brown. Marcus Mosher of Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 series recently discussed both options through a series of GIFS (Moncrief: No. 1, No. 2; Brown: No. 1, No. 2, No. 3), noting Moncrief’s “insane amount of unlocked talent” and Brown’s “easy speed” and ball-tracking ability. Neither has been effective since the 2015 campaign, meaning Green Bay should be able to land either on a one- or two-year deal.
Other receivers that could make sense for the Packers include Paul Richardson and Jaron Brown, who managed the most 20+ yard catches among free agent wideouts; Mike Wallace, who’s made a career out of handling deep balls; and Brice Butler, who boasts an intriguing size/speed combination and is looking for a starting job. Given the presence of Adams, and the fact that at least one of Cobb or Nelson will likely be retained, Green Bay doesn’t need to go searching for a No. 1 wide receiver, and can instead target marginal upgrades with specific skills.
Having said that, the Colts T.Y. Hilton would look good in green and gold and would immediately give the Packers one of the best wide receiving corps in the league. Hilton, of course, isn’t a free agent, but his name did pop up in trade rumors last October. While Indianapolis reportedly holds Hilton in “high regard,” it’s possible he could still be available for the right price, especially if the Colts decide to undergo something of a mini-rebuild. Hilton, 28, is under contract for three more seasons with base salaries between $11MM and $14.5MM. Other wideouts who could be acquired via trade (or following a release), such as Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, aren’t fits for Green Bay, but Michael Crabtree could be on new general manager Brian Gutekunst‘s radar if he’s cut by the Raiders.
The Packers could also use the draft to secure another wideout, but they likely won’t invest a first-round pick on the position. While other receivers could sneak into the first round, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is the only lock to be selected on Day 1. Green Bay, for what it’s worth, hasn’t used a first-round pick on a pass-catcher since 2002 when they took Javon Walker out of Florida State. SMU’s Courtland Sutton, whom Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says has the best potential of any 2018 receiver, could be on the table for the Packers in Round 2, while D.J. Chark (LSU), Deontay Burnett (USC), and Deon Cain (Clemson) are among the speedy options who may be available in the middle rounds.
2) Fix the pass defense: Green Bay’s secondary was among the NFL’s worst in 2017, as the unit ranked 26th in DVOA (including a dead last finish against opposing No. 1 wide receivers), 30th in yards per attempt allowed, and 31st in passer rating allowed. All of the Packers’ primary cornerbacks, including Damarious Randall, Davon House, Josh Hawkins, and Kevin King, finished in the bottom quartile of Pro Football Focus‘ CB rankings. While changes could come organically — much of the Packers’ secondary is still young aside from House, and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine should be an improvement over Dom Capers — Green Bay should look into adding another corner this spring.Read more
With the Super Bowl in the books, we now know the draft order for the entire first round of the 2018 draft. Here’s the rundown:
1. Cleveland Browns (0-16)
2. New York Giants (3-13)
3. Indianapolis Colts (4-12)
4. Cleveland Browns (via the 4-12 Houston Texans)
5. Denver Broncos (5-11)
6. New York Jets (5-11)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
8. Chicago Bears (5-11)
T-9. Oakland Raiders (6-10)
T-9. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) (Note: The Raiders and 49ers have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broken by a coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 9 and the other club receiving the No. 10 pick.)
11. Miami Dolphins (6-10)
12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)
13. Washington Redskins (7-9)
14. Green Bay Packers (7-9)
15. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
16. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
18. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
19. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
20. Detroit Lions (9-7)
21. Buffalo Bills (9-7)
22. Buffalo Bills (via the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs)
23. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)
24. Carolina Panthers (11-5)
25. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
26. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)
30. Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
31. New England Patriots (13-3)
32. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
- Aaron Rodgers interprets the language coming out of Packers headquarters this offseason as indicating he’ll have more help in 2018. The 34-year-old quarterback said his team will need to improve on both sides of the ball. “I think based on some of his comments, he’s going to be aggressive,” Rodgers said (via Nate Davis USA Today Sports) of new GM Brian Gutekunst. “We gotta get better on both sides of the ball. And that’s on Brian’s staff, that’s their job responsibility to give us a product we can work with and then it’s on Mike (McCarthy) and the staff and leadership to make it work.” The Packers have been perhaps the stingiest team in the league regarding non-street free agency investments, and with Rodgers entering his mid-30s, it would make sense for the franchise to go after the window it has.
After Ted Thompson oversaw one of the NFL’s most stable organizations for over a decade, the Packers will have one of the more unique front office setups going forward.
Thompson moving into a different role with the franchise prompted Packers president Mark Murphy to subsequently divvy up the former GM’s responsibilities between successor Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball, who was once considered the favorite for the GM post.
Neither will have the power to hire or fire Mike McCarthy, with Murphy being in line to do that if the time comes, and McCarthy will report to Murphy as well. Gutekunst and Ball will report to Murphy, with the former being in charge of the Packers’ offseason and regular-season rosters, along with the draft, with the latter running the salary cap and negotiating deals.
Murphy explained his decision to revamp the front office in an answer to a Packers fan on the team’s website.
“A key factor in my thought process was to improve communication within football. I felt that, over time, silos had developed within football operations and communication had suffered,” Murphy said. “Also, I wanted to create a structure that gave Brian the best chance to succeed.
“By narrowing his responsibilities, it allows him to focus on the most important aspects of his job, the draft and determining the 90- and 53-man rosters. As I came to the end of the search process, I realized how important it was to keep both Brian and Russ with us. I determined that having both of them (as well as Mike) report to me would help us achieve this objective. Finally, all organizations evolve over time and I believe this change will help us improve as we move forward.”
This adjustment may have come as a way to appease McCarthy, who hasn’t made it too much of a secret he wants the team to be more open to free agency as a method of roster augmentation. A Thompson protege, Ball was not expected to deviate much from Thompson’s old-fashioned approach to team-building. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes McCarthy may have wanted out if Ball was given the job.
But the Packers attempted to keep everyone happy by opting for this arrangement, and their best-of-both-worlds attempt will be interesting to observe this offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- While Aaron Rodgers made it clear that he wants to play into his 40s, he also told the Associated Press that it may require him to play for another team. The Packers quarterback cited the departure of Brett Favre, who bounced between the Jets and Vikings after more than a decade in Green Bay. “I think you have to be humble enough to realize if it could happen to Brett, it can happen to you,” Rodgers said.
Aaron Rodgers may not be too pleased with one of the moves the Packers made to restructure their coaching staff. While a new GM might mean more avenues to team improvement are now open, one of Rodgers’ former position coaches is now in Cincinnati. Rodgers spoke out about Alex Van Pelt not being retained as quarterbacks coach.
Van Pelt spent six seasons on Green Bay’s staff, the last four coming as QBs coach. The Packers let his contract expire at season’s end, freeing him to join the Bengals. Frank Cignetti Jr. will now serve as Green Bay’s QBs coach, coming over after two years as Giants quarterbacks instructor. He will work under now-two-time Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin — OC for the team’s most recent Super Bowl title and Rodgers’ first MVP slate a year later. However, Rodgers won the second of his two MVPs under Van Pelt, in 2014 and threw 40 touchdown passes in 2016.
According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.
If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.908MM in 2018. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.
Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2018 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:
Bears: Adrian Amos, S
Bills: John Miller, G
Browns: Duke Johnson, RB
Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, LB
Chargers: Kyle Emanuel, LB
Dolphins: Bobby McCain, CB
Falcons: Grady Jarrett, DT
Jaguars: A.J. Cann, OL
Lions: Quandre Diggs, CB
Packers: Jake Ryan, LB
Panthers: Daryl Williams, T
Raiders: Clive Walford, TE
Rams: Jamon Brown, G
Ravens: Za’Darius Smith, LB
Saints: Tyeler Davison, DT
Seahawks: Tyler Lockett, WR
Steelers: Jesse James, TE
OverTheCap.com was essential in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.