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5 Things to Look for as the Packers Approach the 2019 Season

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5 Things to Look for as the Packers Approach the 2019 Season

With training camp less than a month away all of the questions we've had throughout this offseason will begin to get sorted out.  Training camp, the preseason and the regular season's first month will go a long way in answering the questions that are on my mind as the 2019 season approaches.  

Here are five things I will be looking to have answered during the early part of the season:

1. Will Aaron Rodgers buy into Matt LaFleur's Offense? 

With the honeymoon period still ongoing between Rodgers and LaFleur, it is easy to play nice in the media.  The true test of Rodgers buying in or abandoning ship will be if LaFleur's offense takes some time to integrate during its initial in-game action and whether the Packers face early pre-season and regular season struggles.  

Everyone will be looking to see whether Rodgers will abandon the run and abandon involving the running backs and tight ends involved in the screen game.  Critics will also be observing whether Rodgers will audible out of LaFleur's play calls and run the show by himself reverting back to his old ways of gunning the ball downfield and avoiding his check downs at all costs.

2. Will the Packers extend Kenny Clark at Some Point in 2019 or Wait until the Offseason?

As Kenny Clark gets set to establish himself as an all-pro caliber defensive lineman in 2019, the question must start to be asked whether or not it would behoove the Packers to open up contract talks with the 23-year-old now or wait until next offseason.  Let me first say, the Packers would be well within their rights to wait until just before Clark's fifth season to offer him an extension, but as we look at how his career has significantly ascended with each passing year it may be wise for the Packers to take a preemptive strike and lock up Kenny Clark long term in 2019.

If the Packers let Kenny Clark's contract go until next year and he takes another significant jump in production, the Packers could be looking at paying him an extra year and $20-25 million more in 2020.  If I were Brian Gutekunst I would be very aggressive with Kenny Clark and his camp and start the bidding by offering him an additional 4 years and $50 million on top of his $9.45 million option in 2020, bringing the total value of his new contract to around 5 years for $60 million.

3. Was Kyler Fackrell's 2018 an Aberration?

Many in Packernation believed that 2018 was a put up or shut up year for Kyler Fackrell, and to his credit, Fackrell had a career year registering 10.5 sacks.  As he enters the final year of his contract, the Packers are faced with the decision of extending him in the preseason or making him go into the 2019 season without a new contract and being asked to show that 2018 was not a fluke.  

The debate of whether or not to extend Fackrell is a fair one, after watching Nick Perry have just one productive season after cashing in on a career contract year.  I personally would take a conservative approach on Fackrell and have him go into 2019 without a new contract and look to extend him during the early part of the season if he still continues to flourish in Mike Pettine's system.  

The key to this potential negotiation with Fackrell is timing.  The Packers need to do their due diligence and make him show that he can consistently produce in Pettine's system without letting his production get too far away from them where they are stuck paying him $10+ million per year.

If Fackrell continues to be productive in the first month and a half of the season, I would offer him a team friendly deal in the 4-5 year range for around $25-30 million.  

4. What is Blake Martinez's Future in Green Bay?

I am aware that there is a mixed reaction to Blake Martinez amongst the many pundits around Packer Nation.  The reality is, the guy is as solid as they come and brings his lunchpail to the ballyard every day.  His measurables will not light up a combine chart, but his football IQ and solid fundamentals make him a valuable member of the Packers defense.  Martinez has essentially been a 3-year starter for the Packers as he has started 41 out of a possible 45 games played (he missed 3 games during his rookie season) and has had over 90 solo tackles and over 140 combined tackles in each of the last two seasons.

As I look at the Packers 2019 salary cap situation and see over $8 million in cap space, I believe the Packers should look to extend Blake Martinez during the preseason.  I would bite the bullet and give him a $5 million dollar raise for this season as part of a 5-year team friendly extension where I controlled his year 2-4 cap numbers and backloaded the final year of the deal.  If I am Brian Gutekunst, I would look to have Blake Martinez signed to a 5-year deal worth around $35-45 million by week 2 or 3 of the preseason.  

If a team friendly deal with Martinez cannot be worked out, I would spend the final 2-3 weeks prior to the regular season opener exploring Martinez's trade market.  Part of whether Blake Martinez could be expendable will rely on whether Oren Burks, Reggie Gilbert, and other young members of the linebacking core are ready to step in and match Blake's production in 2019.

5. Who is Ready to Emerge from the Last Two Draft Classes?

I think all eyes will be focused on Rashan Gary, Oren Burks, and Joshua Jackson this preseason, focusing on whether or not any of this trio of promising players is ready to step in and play a vital role on defense.  With the success of Jaire Alexander in his rookie season, Brian Gutekunst and his staff could come out looking pretty if one of these three players emerge and another one shows signs of development in 2019.

My Thoughts: 

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions to be answered for the Packers in 2019.  There has been a lot of change to both the coaching staff as well as the roster over the last two years which makes it very difficult to predict how 2019 will go.  I believe the 2019 season will give us an accurate indication of the direction the Packers will head in, in the next 2-3 years.                             

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Turophile's picture

With Kenny Clark, I'd try to lock him up soon after the 2019 season is done. He'll get a big payday and he deserves one.

After losing Jake Ryan ( who in the past was a solid competent ILB), I'd try hard to keep Martinez. He isn't a Kuehly or Wagner, but he is plug and play. He is the only banker ILB Green Bay have at the moment. Oren Burks is a question mark at this time and the only other vaguely realistic guy who MIGHT be anti-awful there, is Crawford. It's too early to have much expectation for Ty Simmons.

Luckily the early rumours say that unlike the 2019 draft, the 2020 one will have plenty of talent at ILB.

As for who makes a jump, I'm going for Josh Jackson. His great strength is reading the QB and being very productive when the opposing QB throws his way. However, he is a mid 4.5 guy, so he needs to learn how to play man coverage and get away with some contact, while not getting called for it, like Richard Sherman. He is more suited to zone play than man coverage, because he can look at the QB longer. PFF had him as the top CB in that year (though many others disagreed with that), mainly due to speed. I'm guessing that LaFleur finds good ways utilise him, while he refines his coverage technique and allows his heady anticipation skills to shine.

Richard Smith's picture

I love Martinez! He is a tackling machine, and the people that compare him to Hawk, they seem to forget quite a bit. I never saw Hawk shoot a gap and make a tackle for a loss. Also, Hawk had one pick, if I remember correctly (maybe an exaggeration), but you get my point. Blake had his hands on a number of passes last year. If he can turn those knock downs into picks, he's up there with some of the top ILBs.

Coldworld's picture

As I see it there are a myriad things to watch for. How will the defense operate. What will the offense look like, which players emerge and which raise or lower their standing based on the new approaches.

Finally, there is almost no position where there isn’t a true competition without a known outcome. QB, but questions after Rodgers; RB, but how will they be used and which benefits from passing game opportunities; OLB, usage and depth behind Smiths. I might concede DT, LT and C and although S looks set, both are new to us and depth is a question.

It is going to be a camp and year that offer more things to watch and think about than has been the case for a very long time.

Nick Perry's picture

There's been so much written about #1 and I just can't see Rodgers just going off and doing his own thing without giving it a REAL try. I mean Rodgers IS the Player and MLF the HC. If Rodgers was to start to turn rebel on MLF early this year IMO it only backs up all the negative press he's received this offseason.

Rodgers needs to chill the F out and let the offense and scheme work for him. He's got some pretty damn good weapons at his disposal...Use them ALL and stay within the scheme and see what happens.

#4 is one I don't understand. So many Packers fans don't like Martinez and are ready to just cut him loose. I mean even if Burks takes a jump, the Packers will still need a tackling machine like Martinez in the middle. He's an above average ILB, something GB has lacked since Desmond Bishop or Nick Barnett.

If #1 is the $5 million question then #5 is the $1 million question. What if Burks and Jackson both take some sort of jump? I think Alexander is going to have his own "Island", possibly this season. If Burks and Jackson both make any kind of jump and King stays on the field for say 12 games and is there for the playoffs this team is capable of winning it all, a year earlier than most of us thought it would take. AND it's all entirely possible.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"Rodgers needs to chill the F out"

Pretty sure he's going to be fine. If you read/listen to the whole interview there is no indication of any rift between MLF and AR.

ricky's picture

Hard to say at this point. Rodgers has said he'd like to be coached. Well, time to "walk the walk". He effectively checked out of MM's system last year, if not earlier. Now, he has a new, untried, young coach who is inheriting a HOF QB. If anything, AR has become similar to Favre in his attitude, without the (seemingly) constant "retirement drama". Now, the drama is "will he or won't he" buy into the system. We'll know a lot more once the games are real, especially, as mentioned, if the team gets off to their accustomed slow start.

Also, a small correction about Perry. He had a very good season when he was in his contract year. Before and after, he spent more time injured than on the field.

ricky's picture

Hard to say at this point. Rodgers has said he'd like to be coached. Well, time to "walk the walk". He effectively checked out of MM's system last year, if not earlier. Now, he has a new, untried, young coach who is inheriting a HOF QB. If anything, AR has become similar to Favre in his attitude, without the (seemingly) constant "retirement drama". Now, the drama is "will he or won't he" buy into the system. We'll know a lot more once the games are real, especially, as mentioned, if the team gets off to their accustomed slow start.

Also, a small correction about Perry. He had a very good season when he was in his contract year. Before and after, he spent more time injured than on the field.

ricky's picture

Hard to say at this point. Rodgers has said he'd like to be coached. Well, time to "walk the walk". He effectively checked out of MM's system last year, if not earlier. Now, he has a new, untried, young coach who is inheriting a HOF QB. If anything, AR has become similar to Favre in his attitude, without the (seemingly) constant "retirement drama". Now, the drama is "will he or won't he" buy into the system. We'll know a lot more once the games are real, especially, as mentioned, if the team gets off to their accustomed slow start.

Also, a small correction about Perry. He had a very good season when he was in his contract year. Before and after, he spent more time injured than on the field.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"I would look to have Blake Martinez signed to a 5-year deal worth around $35-45 million by week 2 or 3 of the preseason."

What? That would make him a top 6-10 paid ILB. That's a lot to pay given he's never even sniffed a ProBowl. I would offer 3 years 15 now. They can even pump up the garaunteed money in the first 2 years.

Overpaying an ILB in this NFL could get you fired. Just ask Mike Maccagnan...

Coldworld's picture

I see zero reason to sign Martinez until we see how he plays and is played this year. Half way through the season we may know if he fits our future and to what extent.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

That's fine, just not over 20 million unless he liggts it on fire.

Coldworld's picture

His value as seen will set the bar. That’s my point. It’s as much about fit and usage in the coming year as about his level of talent in isolation. If he lights it up, we all benefit. If the scheme moves away from him then we know that too.

Lare's picture

Five things I'll be looking for this year:

1. Will the offensive line turn into an asset instead of a liability?

2. Will Rodgers play within the system, even if it means hitting on shorter passes to move the chains?

3. Can King & Jones stay healthy for a whole season?

4. How will the new defensive players play?

5. Can the Special Teams improve to even average?

IMO, the answers to those questions will determine the outcome of the season.

Gort's picture

Your #1 is my #1 too.
QB gets the headlines and glory, but the key is the O-line.

Bure9620's picture

Yes agree on O-line, I think there is a real chance Taylor gets beat out by Jenkins, maybe not even immediately, but later in the year, also pending injuries. Also, does Spriggs make the 53? He is more on the bubble than many think, and word is Alex Light has shown promise. Also, I have said this many times on here, Cole Madison will eventually be a tackle, his feet are his best asset, leaving him at guard wastes that. He is a natural tackle.

Qoojo's picture

It's just going to be fun watching a different and, hopefully, less stagnant and predictable offense. On paper, it sounds like an offense that really fits the current WRs, especially the new fast guys. I think Tonyan might be an overlooked guy with all the other TEs, and ready to make a jump.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

#3) no

stockholder's picture

1. Yes. I see a happy Honey moon. 2. Clarke must be extended. 3. Frackrell won't burn bridges. sorry, He's leaving. (The packers made the changes.) I expect him playing well in spurts. 4. Martinez will get his tackles. The wheels better not come off. 5. Who will emerge? Better be Savage.

flackcatcher's picture

Nice overview Mike. I can only add to your article, injuries. Prior to last wave this team was 6-2 last season. But the Packers were so thin that any hit at any position would cripple that team. It did, and the Packers went with it. What we don't know is how deep this team is. With so many new players as core backups, that will determine how well the Packers do. Going to be an interesting year.

BoCallahan's picture

Out of curiosity I compared Blake’s stats to CJ Mosley, B Wagner, L Vander Esch, & Darius Leonard (All Pro 1st & 2nd teamers). BM is right there with Mosley, Wagner, & Kuechley. I mean, RIGHT THERE. Leonard’s numbers were crazy good and Vander Esch only started 11 games but probably would have beaten everyone including Leonard if he was a starter all year. I compared the numbers made available by Pro Football Reference. The stats show that BM is in the 2nd tier of linebackers right behind Leonard & Vander Esch. Number-wise, CJ, Wagner, & Kuechly would be in that 2nd tier as well.
I know, some of you hate stats. My point is that BM is having a quiet but very good NFL career. He is going to get paid.

Daren726's picture

I love it. Nice job researching him. I love stats. Can’t believe all these packer fans can’t see the value in Martinez. He’s very good. Just not a lot of flash plays so he doesn’t stick out unless you really watch him. If he caught a few interceptions, everyone would be drooling and I guarantee you they would all say pay him.

Packer Fan's picture

Item 1 is overblown. Success makes things work. Item 2: sign Clark. Item 3: Fackrell won't get 10 sacks. But sacks are overrated. Hurries are just as important. 4: Martinez is very important. Item 5: how about young ol providing depth

Lphill's picture

Must retain Martinez ,Packers thin inside I don’t think Burks steps up this season. Would be a shame to lose him.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

I'm very curious how the WR battles shake out.
I just hope it's all from their plays made & not anything to do with injuries.

Tundraboy's picture

I would be tempted to sign Clark early. Otherwise let's see how all the parts fit together.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

$9.45M is the option for DEs. Clark is definitely a DT, and his option should be $7.69M.

A lot of the grumblings about Martinez would disappear if he signed for $7M AAV, probably even $8M. Fans start balking at his probable comp, Eric Kendricks, who got $10M AAV coming off a season with 6 QB hits and 10 TFL, the exact same stats Martinez put up in 2018. Martinez puts up more tackles overall than Kendricks, but Kendricks has been better in coverage and big plays (though PFF gave Martinez the award for most improvement in coverage for LBs and gave his a solid 82 grade).

For several reasons, I do not favor extending anyone in 2019. I particularly hate the idea of tossing $5M in additional salary at Martinez in 2019 because GB will need every nickel of cap space in 2019. And rollover does not make it unimportant because there are some special rules for 2020 (last year of the CBA) contracts, though there may be enough loopholes to make things palatable.

I am still wondering if Fackrell gets enough snaps to show much in 2019.

Sol's picture

Currently the Packers have 32.5 million tied up in six players Bulaga, Graham, Spriggs, Williams, Taylor and Crosby. While only having 3.68 million tied up in Martinez Clark and Fackrell, It seems to me a little wealth distribution should take place in the upcoming season and I think the Packer Brass should have many options and be able to figure this one out going forward.

Packer Dave's picture

Exactly, and you can add Daniels to that number. Kenny and BM can be paid fairly and KF should be back at a reasonable price unless Donnerson makes a galactic jump.

Since '61's picture

Item #1 - yes, Rodgers will and already has bought into MLFs system. First off he is a professional, second he hasn’t played as well for as long as he has by not playing within the system. Third, why would he sabotage the rest of the team by not following through with the planned offense.

This question is an entirely media driven overblown issue based on unnamed sources. I have yet to read anything creditable from any of Rodgers current or former teammates that he ever undermined either MM or the team. Yes he had disagreements with MM on some play calls over the years but that happens with every long term player/coach relationship in every sport.

Item 2: Yes, the Packers will extend Clark. Why wouldn’t they.

Item 3: Kyle Fackrell in 2018 was likely an aberration. I’n More interested in seeing how the Smiths and Gary impact our defense.

Item 4: Martinez’s future is right there up to him.

Item 5: I looking to see Savage and hopefully Burks emerge from the last 2 drafts.

Thanks, Since ‘61

PatrickGB's picture

61, you nailed it!

Bearmeat's picture

Answer to the questions:

1. ARod has no choice. Green Bay owns him for the rest of his career if they so choose, including benching him if he doesn't play nice. And while that would submarine the remaining years he is with the team, then it also would tarnish his legacy. Yes, he could demand a trade, but management could also make the price so ridiculously high, it will kill any possibility. ARod knows he doesn't have leverage outside of passive-agressive swipes in the media, and that gives me great comfort. He will play nice.

2. Yes. Pay the man. The sooner the better.

3. No. Fackrell's 10.5 sacks were a mirage. Look at his QB hits and pressure rate. He's going to regress. He's a 4th OLB and special teamer. Ho-Hum.

4. I think he'll get re-signed if he's willing to take a mediocre contract. If he wants more money, he's going to have to get it elsewhere. He's a solid, albeit unspectacular player. Tough to replace, but far from impossible.

5. Alexander, A. Jones, Jenkins. I have high hopes for Savage.

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