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Point of Veau: Expiring Contracts Nearly Necessitated Pick on Defensive Line

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Point of Veau: Expiring Contracts Nearly Necessitated Pick on Defensive Line

UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones. Photo by Brian Carriveau of CheeseheadTV.com.

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 carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (61) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jmac3444's picture

Didn't know Morgan Burnett was a FA next year. He is almost as important to sign as Raji is.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

A case could be made he's the priority between the two imo.

THEMichaelRose's picture

Agree Fitz. I think they're 1A and 1B. If Erik Walden got paid as much as he did, I'm sure we'll have a hard time paying the others what someone else may think they're worth.
Shields is actually the most important to retain IMO, but feels like we could get a longer term deal done now. Would be very nice.

redlights's picture

Yeah, lots of priorities. I really think Shields should extend; drafting a Safety would allow GB to let Burnett walk if McMillan or Jennings step up; and I am not smart enough to know if Raji gets too many snaps; runs hot/cold; or lacks playmaking ability. We need more from Raji than the one interception returned fro TD in 2010 playoffs. Maybe Neal/Wilson could be had for Raji price?

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Prudent pick by Ted... In several facets. Great start... On to tomorrow.

GBP FOR LIZIFE

BrianD's picture

Packers 2nd round picks under Ted Thompson:

2005: NICK COLLINS, terrance murphy
2006: daryn colledge, GREG JENNINGS
2007: brandon jackson
2008: JORDY NELSON, brian brohm
2009: used to get CLAY MATTHEWS
2010: mike neal
2011: RANDALL COBB
2012: jerel worthy, CASEY HAYWARD

it's insane how TT has hit on exactly 50% of his second rounders. wonder which it'll be this year. boom or bust

Walty's picture

"Hit"is an understatement. Every hit on that list is Pro-Bowl talent.

50% Pro-Bowl talent in the second round is amazing.

Idiot Fan's picture

Terrance Murphy was looking promising before the neck injury; Colledge and Jackson were serviceable players who helped us win the Super Bowl; and the verdict is still out on Worthy. I'd say Brohm is the only true bust on there. Pretty incredible.

Am I remembering incorrectly - I had thought Pat Lee was a second rounder?

jmac3444's picture

pat lee was a second rounder

PackersRS's picture

sigh

MarkinMadison's picture

With Sylvester Williams sitting there I'm a little surprised TT went this direction. TT might be looking for the next JJ Watt, but my recollection is that Watt got pushed around in the running game a bit, especially in the playoffs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this doesn't seem like the right answer for a team that has trouble with the run. His official playing weight at UCLA last year was 275 lbs. It's easy to look at a guy and say, "he's 6'4", he can just add weight." I don't think it's that simple. I'll be happy if I'm wrong, but I'd have taken S. Williams.

ArodMoney's picture

JJ Watt was probably the best player against the run last year. Houston runs a little different 3-4 than the Packers though.

Also supposedly Jones has very little body fat for someone who is 280 FWIW. Hopefully that means he can pack it on.

MarkinMadison's picture

PFF graded Watt out as the best DL against the run during the regular season. I was thinking he got run at in the play-offs. I'm going to just have to stew this for a while and let my tiny brain adjust.

Stroh's picture

Packing on bad (fat) weight isn't the idea tho. Gaining fat doesn't make him a better player in any way shape or form. He's got an athletic build and that's a good thing, but adding more fat to it just slows him down.

Evan's picture

Two things.

1. I feel like a broken record, but about adding weight. Everyone talks about Watt, but Justin Smith is another force at 3-4 DE and Jones is already the exact same size as Smith (6'4", ~285).

2. I'll never forget how the Packers shut JJ Watt down last year. No real point here, I just loved that.

ArodMoney's picture

Watt sacked Rodgers twice?

Evan's picture

He did??? Don't tarnish my rose-colored memories!

ArodMoney's picture

Yea he did. But hey the Dline absolutely shut down Foster. So theres hope for next year.

Evan's picture

Maybe that's what I'm thinking about?

I just remember all the talk going in was how the Packers were going to get run over and how Watt was going to be unblockable.

Idiot Fan's picture

One of those was an Oline miscommunication and Watt just ran unblocked right at Rodgers. I don't remember the second, but it's absolutely true that the Pack held Watt in check for the bulk of that game.

PackersRS's picture

Profootballfocus listed those 2 sacks as the only instances where he got near the QB (sack + hurry + hit).

So those were the only 2 instances where he won in the game.

But they were 2 sacks...

Drealyn Williams's picture

Can't forget how Rodgers was holding on to the ball way too long. It's not like Watt was destroying anyone. The game plan to neutralize Watt worked.

Stroh's picture

As a former Strenght and Conditioning Coach, I can tell you its absolutely not that simple. Looking at his physique it looks to me like he's pretty much maxed out. His hips and legs are very large already and his upper body development is looks like its not far behind. Can he add bad weight? Sure, that he can do, but bad weight (fat) doesn't make him a better more powerful player. It just slows him down.

hayward4president's picture

Great pick imo. Just think if Perry is halfway decent bishop comes back healthy, and Worthy gets a little better this D could do a complete 180 from last year. Safety or RB please?

A-rodg's Mustache's picture

Love the pick...
This guys is crazy on the field. Good study off the field. Love the way he takes on tackles and actualy can get away from them. High motor. Good measurables. I almost think he has the quicjness to play outside linebacker.
Lets get a hard hitting S today... PLEASE!?!

Rymetyme81's picture

In the offseason, McCarthy sent his def. staff to Texas to study how to defend the read-option (Kaepernick, RGIII).

The coaching staff's conclusions are probably a big reason why that they took an athletic, high-motor DE over a more traditional 4-3 DL (Sly Williams).

MarkinMadison's picture

To my mind, in this system, I figured you would look for your DL to eat up blockers and counter the read-option with more speed at the ILB and S positions. I shall live and learn.

Evan's picture

Stroh must have had a stroke last night.

Lots of good players left. Cyprien is still there if TT wants to use his 4th round pick to move up a bit. A bunch of WRs and RBs. Oline got picked apart pretty good, unfortunately. Maybe a Barrett Jones in the 3rd.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Nah, he was vomiting all over Jersey Al's board last night.

Lucky953's picture

+1 cutting down Mr Ks options is critical. Sub 4.8 speed

Nononsense's picture

The potential need for Dlineman may extend to the 2nd round which would make me happy. Margus Hunt would be my choice if he lasts till 55 but theres a chance Big John Jenkins will still be on the board at 55 as well as a guy like Jesse Williams,6'3 323 lbs. to protect us against the loss of Pickett and Raji.

Cyprien, Montee Ball, LeVeon Bell or one of the OTs still available could be nice Terron Armstead or Menelik Watson.

Drealyn Williams's picture

I'm with you on that.

Evan's picture

I'd really like to come away with a safety today too. It'll be interesting - lot of good players available, lots of places of need.

Idiot Fan's picture

I would like one more DL, an ILB, a safety, a WR, Zach Ertz, and maybe a RB (I actually kind of like our guys). Oh, and I would also like to trade up at some point to get a left-footed punter. The good Lord only made so many left-footed punters.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"The good Lord only made so many left-footed punters."

Lol, nice.

hayward4president's picture

Or possibly Rambo @ safety?

mark's picture

I was wary of Datone Jones, just seemed like one of those in between guys to me. But I trust in Ted. Jones is a Packer. And I will cheer hard for him. I do love the guy's ambition and attitude.

My big hope was Matt Elam, but I understand the need to get stout on that D-line. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we went D-line again tonight.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

While I initially hoped they would take Lacy if available I do see the logic in this pick. The impending free agency post 2013 along the DL and the fact that championship teams have strong offensive and defensive lines that make an impact. For those saying Datone Jones can't play a 5 technique end and hold up at the point of attack you simply haven't watch film. I'm not talking about highlight videos from youtube....I'm talking about game film. Watch an entire game and you'll quickly see why this man will be, if he remains healthy,a force. He isn't without flaws as no prospect or player is perfect but he already possesses the traits needed to be a star at a 5 or 3 technique.

Watch multiple games on this guy. The Stanford game is very impressive. He all but abused the right tackle. When he was called upon to go inside and play a 3 he was virtually unblockable. Jones has something that no other defensive lineman in this draft can even come close to when you watch the film....his first step explosion. This man has the quickest first step I've seen in a long time.....and that list covers some pretty outstanding lineman to play the professional game. He also crowds the ball which is a must. He gives offensive lineman very little space to react. He uses his hands well and can run the heel line on zone runs away and get to the ball. You don't see him get scooped (i.e cut off) much. Unlike Floyd, he rarely gets cut because he uses his hands. At the point he is stout against the run. He rarely gets pushed back. At worst he causes a stalemate. People getting hung up on his weight and concerned about his ability to hold up at the point need to be reminded that he is 280 pounds. That's not small. Second, he's not going to be asked to be a 2 gap 5 tech end all of the time. Third, he plays behind his hips (i.e. leverage). I don't care how big you are....if you can't play behind your hips you are useless. I love the fact that you often see him knock off pullers on toss and power plays. This frees up linebackers to become free hitters.
The only concern I have is that sometimes he seems to get locked out on occasion if he can't beat you with his first step. In those instances he needs to be more active with his hands instead of peeking for the ball.
This was a really solid pick. He will be the starter from Day 1. I really like the fact they got a long lean athletic body on the front. He's a natural bender....although sometimes in his desire to get upfield he can be easily trapped. However, the NFL isn't about running the inside trap 15 times a game so I can live with it.
Very solid pick in my opinion.

Idiot Fan's picture

Thanks POC. I've read a lot of really good things about him. So, why did he last until 26?

Evan's picture

Because guys like EJ Manuel and Kyle Long went way too early?

Mike's picture

Combination of that and fit/needs for the teams ahead of us.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

A lot of factors contributed to him dropping. Many think he is a one year wonder and workout guy. I don't believe that. Throw on the tape from his junior season and you'll see a good player not being utilized like he should have been. His production did increase this year but not by huge leaps and bounds (20 more tackles and TFLs). The difference this year was the coaching staff change and his ability to be aggressive. He has the tools already to be a very very good player in the league.

CSS's picture

I've watched two of his games, POC, and the one characteristic you mentioned above that I noticed as well: he closes space so quickly off the snap offensive lineman just don't have time for good hand placement and tend to absorb Jones with their bodies. Perry and Matthews are going to benefit big-time on inside stunts and twists as a byproduct. Early in the year, both linebackers are going to get some free runs. I expect lineman to overset/overadjust to compensate, then Jones will get some free looks off the same twists.

This is potentially big for both OLB's.

Mojo's picture

Good to hear this about Datone.

As far as the expiring contracts, I think there's a good chance Pickett would come back at a significantly reduced price, due to his age and he seems to like playing in GB. Jolly's a long-shot to make this years roster. Raji's got the weight, but has been up-and-down. Don't know if he's worth top dollar. Wilson would probably re-sign at an affordable price. Maybe the same could be said for Neal. But get used to losing some pretty good players at other positions also. Such is the price of paying two players such a large percentage of your cap.

PackerPete's picture

Thanks POC. I certainly don't have the experience to tell or judge either way, and you were a former player and coach. I do have 2 questions regarding your post, though. First, wasn't the same you say about Jones true for Worthy last year? He has a real quick first step, and didn't get pushed around a lot either. And second, why so high on Lacy? I think his production had much more to do with a great Alabama OL than his running abilities. In the BCS game he went untouched beyond the LoS most of the time, do you really think he is a 1st round talent?

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

PackerPete: Worthy, in my opinion, is more of a mauler and less fluid than Jones. Worthy has a nice first step but nowhere near this kid's first step. It is scary explosive. I also think he understands how to use his leverage despite being 280....although 280 isn't small. As far as my infatuation with Lacy....well, he is by far the best pure runner. I like Ball as well but at 240lbs,Lacy just brings more to the table (no pun intended). Lacy has nice vision and quick feet for the weight he carries. He can change direction well and moves piles. You don't need to take him out of the game on 3rd and short and replace him with a "bigger" short yardage back because he can pick up the short stuff. Yes, he had a great offensive line.....most backs do have good offensive lines. Ball had a good one. Bell too. Franklin as well. The Packers have a glaring need at running back. I like Harris but there are too many question marks yet. With Lacy, there are none. He's pro ready from Day 1. He has low miles and he produced in a tough conference and on the biggest of stages. Is he perfect? No. Average to below average receiver but that's not his role. I just think whoever gets Lacy is getting a steal at this point. I'm certainly not upset about the Jones pick. It fills a need and I believe he's going to be a significant factor this year and in the future. Is Lacy first round talent? Yes he is. Is EJ Manuel 1st round talent? I don't believe so but he went ahead of a more highly productive Smith.

PackerPete's picture

thanks POC, that helps a lot. I'll watch film to see what you are seeing, it's always great to see the nuances and have that pointed out by a pro!

MarkinMadison's picture

Thanks for taking the time to put me stratight. As you can see from my comments above, I'm slowly coming around to this notion that we don't need guys in the 300 lb. range at 3-4 DE. I'm looking forward to eating crow all season long.

CSS's picture

I doubt you will eat much crow in his rookie year. Outside of Cortez Kennedy and Warren Sapp I can't recall many defensive lineman rookies that have too much of an impact. I hope the kid flashes, especially in sub-packages on a rotation. But you have to be realistic considering the adjustment it usually takes for rookie defensive lineman.

cow42's picture

POC just gave me a woody.

Brando's picture

I like the pick. Hopefully he has iron tendons/knees/ankles/shoulders. So tired of seeing our guys go down.

Drealyn Williams's picture

I always say the Packers have talent all across the board. They just can't seem to stay healthy at key positions. Remember the 15-1 season? Pretty healthy,right?

Juice's picture

D-Line was my choice all along. My only question during lasts night first round was how much would it have cost the Pack to move up and grab a stud like Star Lotulelei who can play multiple fronts in Dom Capers 3-4 scheme? Maybe a 1st and 3rd to get the Jets pick at 13 could have been a possibility. The cost would have been more than waiting for Datone at 26, but I think the reward and versatility would have been greater. But the pick "was" Datone Jones and I'll continue to trust in TT till he gives me reason otherwise. Go Pack Go.

Point Packer's picture

I see your point, but with such a deep draft - especially on defense - giving up a third is almost like giving up a second. Given our needs on D, that third rounder is key.

I see your point though.

lebowski's picture

Which side do you see him playing on, Perry's or Clay's? Part of me thinks the bigger end should play on Perry's side (the 'traditional' running side against right tackles and guards) and Datone should line up against left tackles. But it would be nice to have Clay coming from one side and Datone coming from the other.

Charlie M's picture

Jones played almost exclusively on the left side of the dl last year except when ucla went with their version of psycho and he played the nose. Even when they went 2-4-5 he lined up between rg and rt. I don't know how much he'll play in the base d (how much do we play that anyway) but I think he starts in nickel from day 1. I say put Jones on Perry's side (the left side) so when teams are forced to slide protection to Clay's side, Jones and/or Perry end up in 1on 1 match ups.

PackersRS's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Packers shade the NT when playing in the base D, towards the lighter DE, which is anyone opposed Pickett.

Can't really say left side (defense) = strong side anymore. Teams shift players too much it's irrelevant.

Adam's picture

The Pack need to sign Mike Neal to an extension this offseason before he goes out and has a huge year raising his value.

Drealyn Williams's picture

Ha!

ArodMoney's picture

I agree completely

Cole's picture

Agree. Shields as well.

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