There's any number of reasons the Green Bay Packers made defensive lineman Datone Jones their first round draft choice on Thursday evening.
His 19 tackles for a loss as a college senior were obviously a top selling point. His 6-4 height is taller than any other Packers defensive lineman. And he might even help combat the read-option that was the Packers' undoing in their playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers last season.
But perhaps above all were the five expiring contracts among defensive linemen currently on the Packers roster.
B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson all enter 2013 as potentially their final season in a green and gold uniform.
Of those five players, there's a decent chance that only two of them will only be with the Packers by the time 2014 rolls around. Who those two might be is anyone's guess.
With the Packers making Clay Matthews the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history and soon to follow suit with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the resources available to sign veteran players to long-term extensions are rapidly dwindling.
Not only are five defensive linemen entering contract seasons, so are other starters such as tight end Jermichael Finley, wide receiver James Jones, safety Morgan Burnett and potentially cornerback Sam Shields.
Presumably, Raji will command a salary on par with other top defensive linemen in the NFL. A lot will depend on how his 2013 season plays out, but as a former top 10 overall draft choice, some team is sure to pay him handsomely.
In a perfect world, the Packers would most likely want to keep Raji in Green Bay, but whether they'll have the means to do so is another matter.
At 33 years old, it's perhaps possible that Pickett will be playing his final season on the Frozen Tundra.
And as for Neal and Wilson, the Packers may have no other choice than to watch them leave in free agency next season and hope they can get a compensatory draft choice for losses.
The addition of Datone Jones is an insurance policy against the potential departures a year from now, and the Packers may not be done yet.
While Jones may be an ideal fit as a five-technique defensive end, the Packers will still need to add another big-bodied defensive lineman to guard against the loss of either Raji or Pickett in 2013.
As a 3-4 defense, the Packers need more than one defensive lineman in excess of 330 lbs. They might wait until the 2014 draft to add another player of that size, but it's inevitable they do so over the course of the next 367 days or so.
This is what life will be like when so much money is dedicated to two elite players on the Packers roster. There will be more turnover than usual over the next few seasons and quite a few more younger faces in Green Bay. And that's not to suggest there's anything wrong with that.
As they say, it's simply the cost of doing business in the NFL. Without question, the Packers are better off with Rodgers and Matthews than without them.
But the addition of Jones is the beginning of what very likely will be a youth movement in Green Bay, which isn't a whole lot unlike the last several seasons under general manager Ted Thompson.
Out with the old and in with the new. Or put another way, out with the expensive and in with the cheap.
Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
- Like Like
- 0 points