TE Matthew Mulligan.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/DT Datone Jones, RB Eddie Lacy, OT/G David Bakhtiari, G/OT J.C. Tretter, RB Johnathan Franklin, CB/S Micah Hyde. Packers Rookie Forecast Offseason Losses:
RB Cedric Benson, RB Ryan Grant, WR Greg Jennings, WR Donald Driver, TE Tom Crabtree, C Jeff Saturday, DE/OLB Erik Walden, DE/OLB Frank Zombo, ILB Desmond Bishop, S Charles Woodson.
2013 Green Bay Packers Offense:
The Packers lost a player who has been viewed as their top receiver for several years this offseason. Will this derail one of the top offenses in the NFL? Not by a long shot.
Greg Jennings took the money and ran to Minnesota, but Green Bay's offense won't skip a beat. Aaron Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the NFL. He didn't have his greatest season in 2012, yet still compiled 4,295 passing yards, 41 touchdowns (39 passing, two on the ground), 259 rushing yards and just eight interceptions. He was aptly rewarded with a 7-year, $130.75 million contract in April.
Despite losing Jennings, Rodgers still has a very dynamic supporting cast. The most intriguing weapon is slot receiver Randall Cobb, who caught 80 balls for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in his second NFL campaign. He also rushed for 132 more yards. He's a dynamic player who will see an even greater role in 2013; there's some talk that he could catch 100 passes this year.
Jordy Nelson and James Jones will be the starting outside receivers. The second half of Nelson's 2012 season was derailed by injuries, but he figures to be back to full strength. Jones, meanwhile, had always been a disappointment because he was prone to so many dropped passes. He got his act together last year, however, as he hauled in a ridiculous 14 touchdowns. Perhaps Jones' improvement can rub off on the sluggish tight end Jermichael Finley, who was brought back for 2013 despite never coming close to meeting expectations.
Rodgers could be even more dangerous this season because the Packers have a new offensive element that they haven't possessed since the Ahman Green days. Green Bay now has a potent running back who can move the chains efficiently on the ground and another who poses as a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Green Bay spent a second-round pick on Eddie Lacy, a tough runner who would have been selected much earlier if it weren't for injuries. Two rounds later, the Packers chose Johnathan Franklin, who fell inexplicably. Franklin, perceived by some to be the top back in the 2013 class, caught 33 balls for UCLA last season. He's been compared by some to Warrick Dunn.
The only concern regarding the Green Bay offense is the front line. Rodgers took 51 sacks this past season, which would explain why he had slightly downgraded numbers in 2012. That figure is way too high, especially for a mobile quarterback. To help remedy this situation, the Packers spent two relatively early selections on linemen David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter. The former will compete for the right tackle job with Marshall Newhouse, who surrendered nine sacks as Rodgers' inept blind-side protector last year. Bryan Bulaga, who was knocked out for the season in November with a fractured hip, will take over at left tackle.
Unfortunately, Tretter is out for six months after fracturing his fibula 11 days after signing his rookie contract. He was supposed to compete with the pedestrian Evan Dietrich-Smith at center. That will once again be a position of weakness for Green Bay - Jeff Saturday was miserable there in 2012 - but the Packers at least have two talented guards flanking him. T.J. Lang is solid, while Josh Sitton is easily the best blocker in the entire group.
2013 Green Bay Packers Defense:
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers better have spent the entire offseason figuring out how to contain the read option. His stop unit looked completely inept against it when the 49ers demolished them in the playoffs. Green Bay will battle San Francisco in the opener, so we'll see how much Capers has learned from his abysmal game plan in the divisional playoff battle.
The Packers spent a first-round pick on a player who can apply lots of pressure on the quarterback, which will help their efforts against Kaepernick and other read-option signal-callers. Datone Jones will give Green Bay a consistent pass-rushing presence on the defensive line, which is something it did not have this past season outside of Mike Neal, who was just a situational player. Jones will start along with stud B.J. Raji and run-stuffer Ryan Pickett.
Of course, Green Bay's top pass-rusher will once again be Clay Matthews, who registered 13 sacks in 2012 and was subsequently rewarded with a 5-year, $66 million contract. He'll continue to dominate at one of the rush linebacker spots, so the main concern here is Nick Perry's progression. Perry, a first-round pick in 2012, started a few games across from Matthews, but did nothing. He was ultimately knocked out for the year in Week 6 because of a wrist injury. He'll need to improve for Green Bay's stop unit to look at least functional against the better quarterbacks.
Getting Desmond Bishop back looked to be a big boost for the Packers as well, but he was released in June after missing all of 2012 with a torn hamstring. Brad Jones performed well in his absence next to A.J. Hawk, so there won't be too much of a drop-off. Hawk, meanwhile, was pretty mediocre. He's just an average starter who neither really helps nor hurts the team.
Bishop wasn't the only defensive veteran to leave this offseason. Charles Woodson walked away from the team after six-and-a-half highly productive
seasons in Green Bay. The half year was in 2012, as Woodson played in just seven games. He was clearly declining, but still happened to be the heart and soul of the secondary. His absence created a big hole at safety next to the talented Morgan Burnett. M.D. Jennings, currently projected to start next to Burnett, is just mediocre. Green Bay was expected to find help in this area during the offseason, but failed to do so.
The Jennings spot is the one hole in Green Bay's secondary, as the team has three outstanding cornerbacks. Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward are all exceptional. The Packers are in a great spot here, as both Shields and Hayward are both very young; Hayward snagged six interceptions as a mere rookie in 2012 - and he played about two-thirds of the snaps.
2013 Green Bay Packers Schedule and Intangibles:
Green Bay is 115-38 at home since 1992 - the year Brett Favre first became a Green Bay Packer. Aaron Rodgers is continuing the tradition; he's 28-5 as a host the past four years.
Mason Crosby is as unreliable as they get. He was just 21-of-33 last year, including a dreadful 2-of-9 from 50-plus. He'll once again be Green Bay's kicker.
Punter Tim Masthay was just 21st in net average, but he did tie for seventh in terms of attempts placed inside the 20.
Green Bay's special teams were awful prior to 2011, but Randall Cobb has changed that. Cobb scored on a punt and a kickoff return in 2011, and then added another touchdown last year. The Packers didn't surrender any special-teams scores.
The Packers have a brutal schedule. Their first three opponents (and five of their initial seven foes) all made the playoffs last year. They barely have any easy games.
2013 Green Bay Packers Rookies:
Go here for the Packers Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2013 Green Bay Packers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2013 Green Bay Packers Analysis: Despite having a ridiculously taxing schedule, the Packers are expected to win the NFC North and compete for homefield advantage. As long as they have Aaron Rodgers, they'll always be in contention for the Lombardi Trophy.
Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.
Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: Outside of the running back, center and safety positions, the Packers don't have a glaring need on the roster. They can pretty much sit back and take the best player available, though they need to keep in mind that they have several key players hitting free agency in 2014 like James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Morgan Burnett.
2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Ted Thompson is one of the best general managers in the NFL, so it's no surprise that the Packers came away with one of the top draft classes this year. They filled needs all while taking players who were great values at each pick.
Datone Jones was a solid first-round selection, as he'll give the Packers a much-needed pass-rushing presence up front. There were even better choices later, as Eddie Lacy inexplicably fell to No. 61 despite being discussed as a first-round option early in the draft process. The Packers also added another running back, Johnathan Franklin, in the fourth round even though he was considered by some to be the top player at his position in this class. Green Bay couldn't run the ball at all last year, and now the team suddenly has a tremendous backfield.
The Packers also made some other solid picks, including David Bakhtiari, who has left tackle potential. Micah Hyde, chosen on the third day (No. 159), played corner at Iowa, but could move to safety to fill a hole at that spot.
2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
26. Datone Jones, DE/DT, UCLA: A- Grade
Datone Jones has been discussed as high as No. 19 to the Giants, so the Packers are getting good value with Datone Jones. They're also getting a tremendous upgrade on the defensive line. Green Bay was completely obliterated by Colin Kaepernick, so the team needed to find players to help them stop the read option. Jones is a great fit, as Ted Thompson continues to be one of the better drafters in the NFL.
61. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama: A+ Grade
Ted Thompson makes this looks so easy. Not only did he sit and wait for the top running back in the 2013 NFL Draft; he also moved down and still managed to maintain him. Eddie Lacy would have been a first-round pick if it weren't for an injury that he'll quickly recover from. He'll be a tremendous upgrade in the backfield.
109. David Bakhtiari, OT/G, Colorado: A Grade
Ted Thompson loves versatile linemen, and David Bakhtiari definitely fits the bill. He can play both tackle and guard positions, so he'll definitely help somewhere on an offensive line that needed to be upgraded. Baktiari was an early third-round projection, so the value is good.
122. J.C. Tretter, G/OT, Cornell: B- Grade
Another versatile offensive lineman, though J.C. Tretter is more of a guard whereas David Bakhtiari should be at tackle. I'm not as crazy about this pick because I feel like Tretter could have been taken a round later.
125. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA: A+ Grade
Wow, what a steal! Johnathan Franklin was viewed as the top running back in this class by some, so it's inexplicable that he fell all the way to the bottom of Round 4. Projected as a player similar to Warrick Dunn, Franklin will form a tremendous one-two punch with Eddie Lacy out of the backfield.
159. Micah Hyde, CB/S, Iowa: B Grade
Micah Hyde played cornerback at Iowa, but he may have to move to safety in the NFL because of speed concerns. Ted Thompson could be fine with that. He likes versatile players and needed help at the safety position. I thought Hyde would go in the middle of the fifth round, so this is the right range for him.
167. Josh Boyd, DE/DT, Mississippi State: B Grade
It's no surprise that the Packers spent two selections on the defensive line because they have some expiring contracts coming up soon. Josh Boyd is a solid selection who fits the range as a fifth-round prospect.
193. Nate Palmer, DE/OLB, Illinois State: C Grade
Nate Palmer wasn't a draftable prospect, but that's not a big deal at the end of the sixth round. What's more surprising is that the Packers waited this long to take a pass-rusher.
216. Charles Johnson, WR, Grand Valley State: B Grade
Wide receiver is another position I thought the Packers would address earlier. Charles Johnson is a seventh-round prospect, so he makes sense at this spot. He might be able to make the team.
224. Kevin Dorsey, WR, Maryland: C Grade
This is a much more questionable receiver pick. It's the seventh round, but I don't think many would have considered Kevin Dorsey in the old 12-round format.
232. Sam Barrington, LB, South Florida: B Grade
Considered a seventh-round prospect, Sam Barrington should be able to contribute on special teams and provide solid depth.
There weren't many teams that suffered more injuries than the Packers this past season, yet they still managed to win the division and advance to the second round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, they ran into a Colin Kaepernick buzzsaw. Aaron Rodgers did what he could, but coordinator Dom Capers inexplicably didn't have his defense prepared for the read option.
Vikings sign ILB Desmond Bishop
Packers cut ILB Desmond Bishop
Raiders sign S Charles Woodson
Packers sign TE Matthew Mulligan
Chiefs sign DE/OLB Frank Zombo
Packers re-sign ILB Brad Jones
Vikings sign WR Greg Jennings
Buccaneers sign TE Tom Crabtree
Packers re-sign ILB Robert Francois
Colts sign DE/OLB Erik Walden
Packers tender CB Sam Shields
Packers tender C Evan Dietrich-Smith
Packers cut S/CB Charles Woodson
Packers announce retirement of WR Donald Driver
Packers announce retirement of C Jeff Saturday
Center: Jeff Saturday was voted to the Pro Bowl despite being benched in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith. The center position desperately needs to be upgraded. Drafted J.C. Tretter
Running Back: DuJuan Harris had a nice playoff run, but he probably can't be counted on to carry the load. The Packers have to find a true starting back. They can try one in the first round, but there will be plenty of options available in Round 2. Drafted Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin
Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings is a free agent. If he leaves, Aaron Rodgers will still have Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones at his disposal, but none of those guys are No. 1 receivers. General manager Ted Thompson may opt to draft one at the end of the first round.
Rush Linebacker: Green Bay's front office needs to make sure that Erik Walden isn't on the field very much next year. He is terrible.
Offensive Tackle: The Packers need to bring in another tackle for depth purposes so Don Barclay doesn't have to see the field next year. Drafted David Bakhtiari
Tight End: Jermichael Finley may not be back next year because of contractual issues. If so, Green Bay could be looking at Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz this April.
Safety: Safety depth is needed in the wake of Charles Woodson's released. Morgan Burnett and MD Jennings can start, but the position is now awfully thin. Drafted Micah Hyde
Quarterback: The Packers could stand to have a better backup behind Aaron Rodgers. I wouldn't trust Graham Harrell.
Kicker: Green Bay should find some competition for Mason Crosby, who was second in missed field goals this past season.
2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Matthew Mulligan, TE, Rams. Age: 28. -- Signed with Packers
Green Bay Packers Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Sam Shields (RFA), Packers. Age: 25. Tendered by Packers (2nd round)
Sam Shields missed some time with a high ankle sprain but otherwise enjoyed a stellar 2012 campaign in which he became a legitimate shutdown cornerback. If he keeps this up, he'll be rich come Spring 2014 - if not sooner.
Desmond Bishop, ILB, Packers. Age: 29. Signed with Vikings (1 year, $1.5 million)
Desmond Bishop was released for some strange reason. He's one of the better 3-4 inside linebackers in the NFL, though he missed all of 2012 with a torn hamstring.
Greg Jennings, WR, Packers. Age: 29. Signed with Vikings
Greg Jennings is a talented receiver, but he may be overvalued because he's always worked with either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. Plus, he tends to get banged up quite frequently.
Brad Jones, ILB, Packers. Age: 27. Re-signed with Packers
Desmond Bishop's season-ending injury was initially thought to be a big deal, but it turned out to be very minor because Brad Jones stepped in and did a great job. Jones played all three downs highly effectively. He deserves a big contract.
Charles Woodson, S/CB, Packers. Age: 36. Signed with Raiders (1 year)
Charles Woodson was released because of financial reasons, so it's not like the Packers don't think he can't play anymore. While Woodson isn't nearly the elite defensive back he used to be, he can still get the job done as a soon-to-be 37-year-old (in October).
Evan Dietrich-Smith, C/G, Packers. Age: 27. Tendered by Packers (original)
A capable lineman who's versatile enough to play all three positions on the interior. He was an upgrade over the decrepit Jeff Saturday.
Cedric Benson, RB, Packers. Age: 30.
Slow and sluggish, Cedric Benson averaged 2.9 yards per carry or worse in three of his five starts in 2012. He'll be 31 at the end of the 2013 campaign.
Erik Walden, DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Colts
Tom Crabtree (RFA), TE, Packers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Buccaneers
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers. Age: 30.
Frank Zombo (RFA), DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Chiefs
Rob Francois (RFA), ILB, Packers. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Packers
@Mark C. I was going to point out to Walter that people can actually travel and most people attending games don't live within walking distance of the stadiums. A 4 or 5 hour drive to go see a game is absolutely nothing. It's only 8 regular season home games each season after all.