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Offseason Changes Forcing Packers to Evolve

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Offseason Changes Forcing Packers to Evolve

NFL free agency is six days old and already Packer fans find themselves welcoming unexpected players and bidding farewell to others who many hoped would stay. While the Packers have added some exciting and significant talent, the fact remains they let some talent walk away as well, and at some key positions.

Among those not returning to Green Bay next season are T.J. Lang, Micah Hyde, Eddie Lacy, Julius Peppers, JC Tretter and Datone Jones, all of whom contributed significantly to the organization during their time there. Five of those six, Peppers being the exception, were drafted by the Packers and will be experiencing new surroundings for the first time in their NFL careers.

Considering general manager Ted Thompson’s history and noted reputation for drafting and developing his own guys, the departure of this many former Thompson draft picks at once could certainly be considered out of the norm.

Justification can be found for all of the Packers’ offseason departures. Money played a big part in the loss of both Lang and Hyde, who both received contracts well above what the team was willing to pay and, at least in Hyde’s case, above what most viewed as fair market value. Lacy reportedly weighed in at 267 pounds during one of his three free agent visits, which did nothing to quell fears about his ability to stay in adequate game shape. Peppers is aging, Tretter was never going to stay to be a backup, and Jones could never quite seem to shake the look of a bucket of unfulfilled potential.

You get the picture.

And while all of the decisions are perfectly understandable for the aforementioned reasons, I’ll posit one more theory. These changes will force the Packers to evolve, and that is a very good thing.

Since Aaron Rodgers began his meteoric ascent to the top of the game, it has been common for pundits and fans alike to wonder aloud: Who wouldn’t want to play for a team that has the best quarterback in the league? That’s a no-brainer, right?

Apparently, no, it isn’t. T.J. Lang’s comments earlier this week regarding the Packers’ perceived overconfidence in their ability to use their quarterback to leverage other players into making smaller deals were quite telling, even if some viewed them as sour grapes.

This offseason, more than any other in recent memory, has proven the Packers may no longer be able to get away with extending lowball offers in exchange for the promise of a better win probability. If they want to keep pace, they’ll need to put their money where their mouth is, or use that money to find players whose collective impact will be greater than that of the players to whom they’ve shown the door.

Because those players were not retained, however, the Packers have an opportunity to add newer, younger and more diverse talent to positions of need. Defensively, they’re free to pursue speedy, athletic defensive backs and pass rushers. They can find running backs who fit their mold and complement Ty Montgomery. They can even pursue more weapons for that two-time MVP quarterback, which they’ve already done by signing tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.

As the offseason progresses and the Draft draws nearer, the Packers have an opportunity not to change their approach, but to evolve it in a way that benefits all facets of the team. Cutting ties with valuable players, the majority of whom were homegrown, has forced them too, and that’s okay.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (45) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Juli Hogan's picture

Man....i always get concerned this time of year. I can't understand the logic behind the 'let go's. But wait to see the pick ups before I get loco.

DesertPackFan's picture

Really you can't understand them? I predicted most and others, like Hyde, could have, except that even for a FA he got much more than anyone thought.

EdsLaces's picture

We know you predicted them Stroh we know ....

The TKstinator's picture

I am noticing a general disdain for any type of "I told you so" message...

Packer_Pete's picture

the 'i told you so is fine', as long as it really was a 'i told you so' BEFORE anything happened. the problem is, with this particular poster, it always is ' i could've told you so'...

DesertPackFan's picture

Now that's a load of crap. Everyone here always know my thoughts and opinions. I don't hide them at all and come out after w/ "I could've". Its always well know where I stand by anyone who's around here often.

If I come w/ a "I told you so" its usually directed specifically at a single person.

rdent's picture

Yep, you are a legend, in your own mind.

Rossonero's picture

The essence of leadership is managing change.

The team will continue to change well into the summer. I think what myself and a lot of fans are anxious about is the lack of defensive FA signings. We're not expecting a Reggie White or Charles Woodson type of signing, but even a mid-level guy like Connor Barwin.

The draft is great, but unless Ted hits big on his defensive picks, and they have terrific rookie years, we're basically looking at weaker version of last year's defense.

The loss of about 10 sacks with Jones and Peppers' departures mean that production has to come from somewhere. But who? Kyler Fackrell and Jayrone Elliott? Guion won't even play the first 4 games, so guys like Kenny Clark need to step up - fast.

Randall and Rollins are in a make or break year. They need to stay healthy and show they can play or we'll be talking about them being let go 2 years from now.

Spock's picture

Don't forget Nick Perry was a FA who could of signed with ANY team. It may seem like a "status quo" move, but the reality is that Perry was a defensive signing!

Rossonero's picture

True. I should've specified that I was thinking about non-Packers defensive FA signings.

croatpackfan's picture

And what if Connor Barwin do not want to sign with Packers? You expect? What is your information that Connor Barwin is interested in Packers? As far as we knows, Packers are interested in Barwin, not vice versa...
Mainly I can read here is that dooms day already came. Dean Lowry had 2 sacks as rookie and show lot of promises, but he is not good. why? Because he is not 1st round pick. He must be bad. Despite he played well last season nobody mentioning him...
Also, I can tell you that 75% comments here regarding Datone Jones was something like: "ah he may stay for minimum. He has no value..." But now, when he was signed from other teamfor 3.75 plus 1.25 mil in additional incentives (5 mil per season) suddenly, he become big mistake because Packers do not have any OLB on the roster...
Eddie Lacy was to fat for all of you - suddenly he is big loss for Packers. Wow.
Can any of you make your mind and keep some consistency in commenting?

Rossonero's picture

The Packers contacted Conor Barwin as early as March 11. I cannot post the link due to spam rules, but just google "conor barwin packers" and an article on nj.com will appear.

I'm not sure who you're referring to about Lacy or Datone Jones, but I was posting on here yesterday, furious about them letting Lacy go for peanuts.

I also thought Datone was worth bringing back on a 1 year deal, so I'm not sure who said he has no value. At the very least, he's a solid rotational guy who was still figuring out the elephant position.

I think Dean Lowry has potential, it's just that these guys are going to have to grow up really fast next season.

croatpackfan's picture

Regarding Connor Barwin - I know that Packers showed interest in him. Does he showed interest in Packers? Is he willing to come to Green Bay. That is what we do not know.

Regarding Datone and Eddie, That was not on your account, but generally on the people here. Very few keeps his opinion from one day to another. So, that part was for them...

Regarding peanuts - 5.5 mil per year is not peanuts...

Rossonero's picture

I can only assume he would at least consider the Packers. The same can be said about any other FA.

The contract signed by Lacy in Seattle is actually worth $4.25 million, with $2.865 million guaranteed. Initial reports were inaccurate. $2.8M is peanuts to me....your thoughts?

"Per multiple reports, Lacy gets a $1.5 million signing bonus and a guaranteed salary of $1.365 million. He also has a whopping $1 million in per-game roster bonuses, which means that for each game he misses due to injury or otherwise, he loses $62,500."

"Lacy also has a $385,000 workout bonus, which contains a weight clause. Which means he’ll need to do something far more challenging than showing up and putting in the work in order to get the cash."

UmpireMark's picture

It was reported somewhere (bleacher report?) that the ViQueens and Packers offered Lacy fairly close contracts to what he accepted with the Sea Chickens.

For what that's worth.

Rossonero's picture

I didn't know that. That is interesting. We have more opportunities in our backfield than Seattle does, plus a better offensive line. I wonder what motivated him to leave.

The TKstinator's picture

I think you will find my inconsistency to be very consistent.
That is, when I'm not too busy being hypocritical.

slit's picture

Eddie Lacy was definitely a "big" loss!

GLM's picture

How big was it?

mnklitzke's picture

267 pounds worth!

Three and Out's picture

McCarthy and Capers evolving?? HA! They refuse to change their playcalling during a game and we expect them to evolve? Hilarious.

Since '61's picture

Chris - I agree with article completely. Earlier this week I posted in another article that the departure of Lacy, Jones, Lang, Hyde, etc..., gives the Packers the opportunity to improve each of their positions. While I believe that there is no substitute for experience the NFL is a young man's game with the exception of QB and place kicker. I hope that the Packers still sign an experienced pass rusher but who and for how much is the question. I would like an experienced CB as well but I'm not sure I want any of the remaining FA CBs so House will need to fill the bill for CB experience. Fresh legs at RB can only help improve the position group over the 267 lb. Lacy. We still have the draft, UDFAs and player cuts before our roster is completed for 2017. It will be a challenge to fill all of the current needs but it is a great opportunity to evolve and hopefully improve the team as well. Time will tell. Thanks, Since '61

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

This is a real stretch. 7 likes, huh. Releasing AR would give us an opportunity to get better at QB, too. But I kinda doubt it. I can and have defended letting each of these players walk. The odds of getting better at OG are close to nil. Short of using a premium draft pick, the odds of getting better at RB, OL, and OLB aren't great, at least in 2017.

As for available CBs, there are quite a few: Claiborne, Newman (39), Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, Patrick Robinson, Leodis McKelvin, Darius Butler, Leon Hall. All of them are around 30 and have had success in the past to varying degrees. Another couple of guys who aren’t quite as old, but also haven’t had quite the success (though were drafted early): Shareece Wright, Justin Gilbert. Nickell Robey-Coleman played solid as the Bills nickel CB, I’m not really sure why he got cut, since they only saved like $1.6 mil. There are a ton of good CBs out there. Only a couple of these guys are probably better than our current personnel. It seems possible to me that Thompson might sign one of the lower profile players, if the price is very, repeat very, reasonable. Also, only Hall, Carr, Newman & Butler would count against compensatory picks.

Lphill's picture

Hightower back to the Pats so we can stop dreaming , forget Lang he got overpaid Ron Wolf said never overpay a right guard. Let's just get Barwin and have a good draft.

Seth Borden's picture

"This offseason, more than any other in recent memory, has proven the Packers may no longer be able to get away with extending lowball offers in exchange for the promise of a better win probability."

Not if the Packers win 12 games and compete for a Super Bowl it doesn't. Not if Datone, Micah & TJ's play declines, or their teams go nowhere.

This only winds up being true if the Packers cannot compete the next few years. We cannot draw this conclusion yet.

ironman3169's picture

The addition of kendricks and Bennett should really put the offense over the top as long as they find one more running back.
Defensively, as of right now, I see the status quo. Hyde, while smart, just wasn't the athlete needed. Peppers, while productive, wasn't the game changer needed. Jones is the most easily replaced I think. The addition of House leaves us no better or worse off. The key to improvement seems to lie with Randall, Rollins, Elliot, Fackrell, Ryan, Thomas, and Martinez making leaps. That and the draft.

Oh yeah, and scheming to our players' strengths.

The TKstinator's picture

And someone to play RG, who might already be on the team.
And please not be the guy who wears 67.

ironman3169's picture

I know, right?

The TKstinator's picture

I think he'd have to improve quite a bit to even reach JAG status.

jww061356's picture

I agree with the article completely, in terms of being forced to evolve. We need(and have for awhile) needed to get faster. Hyde is a great example. I liked him, good guy, hard worker, versatile, and a part of me wanted him back. But 30 million for a guy that can't cover the better tight ends/slot receivers? No way. We need to get faster on D and replace Lang on O.

Ryan Graham's picture

I understand the concern I defense, I share that same concern. I think House may surprise people this year, he's leaving a dreadful, mismanaged and highly undisciplined situation in Jacksonville and is very much looking forward to returning to Capers (don't ask me why, as long as he's happy about it). He was outstanding his first year at Jacksonville setting a franchise high in passes deflected and career high in six interceptions I believe.

I'd like to see some supplemental talent at outside backer, as most would, and D end. I like Chris Long or Dwight Freeney to come in and take a roll for Peppers last year, for far more cheap. Replacing Jones at D end can be made in the draft easily, he just wasn't a fit to our system I'm glad he was not brought back because of that. Another guy flying way under the radar is UDFA Jacquies Smith, DE at Tampa Bay. He did miss all of this past season but is tendered at 1.8M and will not cost a comp pick because he went undrafted. Not very big for a D end at 6'2" 260 but he can possibly play elephant.

I'm part of the culture that believe Ted needs to take a seat to Eliot Wolf, but he's not an idiot. He understands the situation he finds himself in with this mini rebuild. Im sure he saw something of this nature coming considering he wasnt going to be able to bring all these guys back. I see him adding a veteran outside backer before the draft. Losing 1.5 at that position is signal enough I would think.

Turophile's picture

Nine key losses.

Starters like Lacy, Shields, Cook, plus sometime-starters/key backups Hyde, Peppers, Tretter, Starks, D.Jones. Whatever you think of each of the losses, they must all be replaced somehow.

Some positions have guys in place. For example, Tretter's loss is not so severe when you have another starting quality center in Linsley. The loss of Starks is less, because Montgomery grew into his backup RB role. Cook is replaced with two guys that make the position stronger than before, while House is (sort of) a replacement for Hyde.

Despite all of this, nine key positions are a lot to replace in one year. You are unlikely to get more than three at that level from this draft. Three veteran additions, plus three draft picks still leaves a three player 'hole'. Filling those three remaining holes must come from later draft picks and rookie free agents (because it won't come from trades, not with the Packers) and THAT is a lot to ask.

What does all this mean, well, even if you can get good production from one later draft pick and perhaps one rookie FA pans out in spades, another veteran pickup is STILL needed to match gains and losses. The Packers are juggling with running chainsaws, if they miss a step, it will hurt. Just one bad draft can hurt.

The 2013 draft, not very far back, now sees Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy, J.C.Ttretter, all gone. That is a cruel blow when you are a D&D team. Only Bakhtiari is left as a significant pickup. Just two bad years of drafting can turn the Packers into a ghost of what they were.

It's not the turnover of the tail end of the roster that hurts so much, it is the loss of key contributors, that is hard to replace. The NFL is a tough business and it's all too easy to slide back to an 8-8 team.

Handsback's picture

I think the biggest evolution is MM use of the 2-TE set. I expect it early and often and see defenses wondering how to stop the ARod machine!

Rossonero's picture

Random note here -- anyone remember DE Lawrence Guy? He was a 7th round pick from 2011. He was on IR in 2011 and then was part of the final cuts in 2012.

He's bounced around to the Colts, Chargers and Ravens, but today signed a 4 year, $20M deal with the Patriots. Looks like Ted had a late round gem, too bad we didn't give him more of a chance.

Lphill's picture

Evolve? Well we are set at QB , TE and WR . How much can the Packers evolve?

marpag1's picture

It's kind of funny, really. I mean think about it. During the season, Shields takes a digger on his head in the first game of the year and will probably never play football again. Lacy's ankles burst under the strain of all that weight and he's done after one third of the season. Our running back is a wide receiver. Randall needs groin surgery, Rollins is out. Undrafted Ladarius Gunter is our top corner. Desperation corner Dorleant is called up and immediately blows out a knee. Nick Perry plays dang near the whole year with a giant phallic symbol strapped to his right arm. Last year's free agent savior, Jared Cook missed six games.

Then Datone Jones signs with the Queens and NOW ... ooooh, MM is really going to need to learn to adapt!

Hmm. I think MM already knows about that.

Before last year's NFCCG, the Packers won 8 games in a row without Lacy, knocking off five playoff teams in the process (HOU, SEA, DET, NYG, DAL). But Eddie Lacy - who played in NONE of those eight games - signs with the Seahawks and now there is no way we can win anymore.

A few internet reports mention that the Packers have inquired about Conor Barwin. It hasn't happened yet. And now if the Packers do not sign Conor Barwin (Conor Barwin!!) their off-season will be an unmitigated disaster.

TJ Lang spews a soundbyte or two about not getting paid by Green Bay, and now the Packers have a very, very serious problem with "low-balling" good players. Fire Ted Thompson, I say.

Take a breath, folks. It's March 15. Maybe Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of March, but the Packers are still kicking, thanks very much.

Ryan Graham's picture

Thank you marpag1. I agree almost entirely with you. The team will be fine, I think the offense may even be better and have more options. The only adjustments MM will have to make is running two TE sets, and I'm sure in his packages Kendricks will line up in the backfield, the wing, the slot, all over. He will utilize his new toys to the fullest.

Ted has something going on at offensive line, people are getting worked up because they aren't sure what that entails exactly. He has a plan. He usually does just fine with the offensive line. If you're gonna trust him somewhere, trust him there.

If Capers gets back to playing man coverage more with Davon House back on the roster - I guess that's why he wanted to come back, who would have thought? - and they can do it effectively, that defense will look better. I really think he's gonna surprise people, and it will cause a ripple effect throughout that position group because everyone will have that much less pressure on themselves. Barwin is not looking to be a rotational player, he wants to play full time. But, if the packers get him, great. I'm not counting on it. I bet they sign someone lesser for depth.

They will get deeper in the draft obviously. They will get an RB through the draft to compliment Montgomery. Rip will take handoffs. Cue *RELAX* soundbite please

Michael Grunewald's picture

It isn't the Lacy loss that has most of us folks up in arms. Since the 2011 season, it has been total lack of improvement on the defensive side of the ball. You can't blame the injuries. The defense has rotten - both with the overrated Shields and without. It was Shammie Shields that gave up over 200 yards to Julio in '15. It was Shields that made Geno Smith to Decker look like Montana to Rice. But, the truth is...when you boil it all down, the majority of the players on defensive side of the ball are not deemed worthy of second contracts.

When you pride yourself on being a draft and develop organization, either these have been terrible picks, the coaching staff has failed I developing them, or a little of both. We need to fill the two or three holes on defense with plug and play free agents. Yet, for the most part we kick the can down the road and wait for development that far too often doesn't come.

JacFrost's picture

the pack need a lot and only a few picks so how do they compete next season. the lins ha efilled needed holes with quality fa and can be picky in the draft filling a few needs and get backup help. bears will strenghthen the defense but still non contender. vikes will rebuild the o line and pass d and will compete.
ted has weakened the teamrathwr then strenghthen it.
was glad to see datone go and lacy may have done us a big favor but there were fa that could have beefed up the d and we passed.

JacFrost's picture

sorry should have said the lions have filled needs in fa.

Michael Grunewald's picture

We compete the way we have the past handful of years...claw and scratch to a week 17 showdown for the division title, win a playoff game, maybe two... and watch the season end wherever it does with a total defensive meltdown.

Otto's picture

My concerns extend back to last season. Losing two all pro guards hurts. I like AR upright with a clean jersey. Having a great offensive line is a luxury most teams don't have.

Also, when was the last time the Packers drafted a "wow" player? A guy who you knew was good from his 1st pre-season game or a guy there was buzz about in camp because he kept winning his 1:1 match ups. Cobb? Raji? It's been a while.

mnklitzke's picture

Lane Taylor replaced Sitton nicely. I'm hoping that Murphy is the one to replace Lang not Barclay.

mnklitzke's picture

Lang's comments remind me of Greg Jennings when we was whining about being brainwashed in green bay, that the Packers were not so much better then everyone else. Mad that Pack didn't pay him more... Well how did that work for you Jennings? Lang enjoy your mediocre season with the Lions cause they stuck all their money into the right side of the line... and their D is as bad as ours.

rstain99's picture

Not for nothing but is TT believing the money is coming from his pocket it would be a real shame if we don't surround AR with a good group of guys M Butler is out there tremendous shut down CB 2 time SB champ just looking to leave NE please release the money go get someone that will make a difference on defense. 10 million and 1st round pick or something equal to that. No, lets wait for the draft and take our chances lets convert a college safety to play CB. Longtime fan from 508 area code west of Boston, watching Bill Belichek just make a joke of the rest the GM's out there I can't stand it. They win and don't look now they are better than last year. Lets try and have TT draft some studs, good luck same as last year oh so close.

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