Packers Plan: | January 19, 2013
The Packers season came to an end last weekend losing 45-31 to the 49ers in the divisional round. After a slow start to the season, with a record of 2-3 and injuries mounting up, many like myself thought the late season run could be similar to the one experienced in 2010-11 when the Packers went onto win the Superbowl. However, it turned out that wouldn’t be the case, after a impressive performance by Colin Kaepernick stopped the Packers season abruptly.
Another long off season looms for the Packers fans and even though the coaching staff will head off to Hawaii to coach the NFC team in the Pro Bowl they will have their eyes firmly fixed on making sure they are coaching a week later next year. I’ll take a look at what the Packers may or may not do this off season regarding the draft and free agency.
Free Agency/Re signings:
The Packers are not a team who dip into Free agency market very often to try to attract big name targets but they do have issues with their own in Greg Jennings who is expected to become a UFA. Jennings is targeting a contract of $10-12 million a year, and potentially even more, so with the team needing to resign the likes of Mathews, Raji as well as signing Aaron Rodgers to a new contract I don’t see Jennings coming back on a 4-5 year contract with the team. Ultimately the Packers may decide to franchise Jennings for the season as depending what the cost is for franchised wide outs it maybe the cheaper option for the season. The emergence of Cobb, who has a excelled in his 2nd year, James Jones coming into his own this season, leading the team in TDs and Nelson recently signed to a new contract, Jennings probably won’t be back and will be looking for a new piece in 2013.
Donald Driver, who was inactive for the last 4 weeks of the season, played on special teams on Saturday night and will definitely not be back as a Green Bay Packer, after a incredible career the team is ready to move on from Driver. However, I think the most important decision the Packers will have to make is with Jermicheal Finley, having signed a 2 year deal with the team for $14 million and a team option for the 12 – 13 season, in which he is set to make $8 Million,he was a noticeable non factor in the first half of the season. With people sighting the lack of chemistry between him and Rodgers as well as the number of drops throughout the last couple of seasons he has been targeted less and used more of a decoy. When Finley is catching and running well he is one of the better tight ends in the league and can be used effectively as a wide out as well. I would like to see him come back for another season as with Driver and Jennings expected to leave, Finley will have a more of a role in the team next season with Nelson, Cobb and Jones being the 3 main receivers.
Finally Charles Woodson may have lost a step but I believe the Packers will bring him back for the 2013 – 14 season as the secondary is young, Hayward who had a superb season is still a rookie and McMillan is still learning the position, it would be good idea to bring him back. With Woodson being one of the better coming on the blitz, he still has a role on this defence.
The Packers have issues on the D line and O Line as well as at ILB, and these are the positions they may target in the draft. Packers could decide to move on from AJ Hawk and Brad Jones who switched from OLB to ILB may be gone also. With Bishop and DJ Smith returning from injury next season depth is required at the ILB position. Someone the Packers could target is Kevin Minter, a junior inside line backer from LSU, he a had a superb season and quietly went about his business this season. He is his good against the run and will bring that physical style of play which has been somewhat lacking from this defence.
Ultimately I see the Packers looking at improving their Offensive Line, Sherrod will return from his broken leg but how healthy will he be? Can he be same type of player he was prior to the injury? Barclay stepped in for Lang at RT this year and did a decent job especially for a person who wasn’t expected to play. Jeff Saturday will most likely gone after he was benched in favour for Evan Dietrich-Smith who himself was shaky as guard but did a decent job at Centre and come training camp will be favourite for the job. If they do look at centre, Barrett Jones from Alabama could be the name that pops up he played C at ‘bama but filled in at G and RT when required so he would bring the versatility that the Packers require across their shaky line.
The biggest depth in this draft is across the defensive line with there being a number of 3-4 ends in this draft and there could even be a quality NT in round one allowing Raji to move to end where he seems to be more effective. Jon Jenkins of Georgia could be a guy that the Packers plug in at NT switching Worthy and Raji to ends creating more pressure from the inside, which they haven’t had since Cullen Jenkins left. Another interesting prospect is Margus Hunt from SMU who had a superb bowl match but hasn’t been playing American Football for a long time and therefore is someone who could be there in the later rounds.
An interesting prospect in the later rounds who the Packers could have some interest in is Joseph Fauria, a 6’7 TE from UCLA, depending on the situation with Finley. The Offensive and defensive lines need are a much more urgent need and someone like Fauria who could develop into a really good TE and could create mismatches would be a great pick up in rounds 4-6. Another interesting prospect could be Sean Porter who looked out of position in a 4-3 OLB in 2012 and looked much better as an a 3-4 OLB. With Walden struggling and Moses still learning the position Porter could be someone who slots into the team and can rotate with the likes of Mathews and Perry who is returning from injury.
Another interesting aspect is whether the Packers will address their need at RB? DuJuan Harris came into the team late in the season and played pretty well, running hard and picking up extra yards. Benson won’t be back having only signed a 1 year contract. Alex Green was inactive towards the end of the year with a concussion and the team brought back Ryan Grant after all of the injuries. With a deep class of running backs, meaning you don’t need take one early in the draft, the Packers could take a late flyer at RB. Joseph Randle from Oklahoma St could be a prospect with the speed and his ability to catch out of the back field. Another possibility is Jawan Jamison who was the star RB at Rutgers and should be available later in the draft.
Finally in the draft last year they went defence heavy, this year we could see the opposite and them attempt to improve the offence in multiple positions at RB, WR and O-Line but saying that after that performance against the 49ers they could be looking to bulk on defence.