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Packers Free Agency: Rating the 2013 FAs

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Packers Free Agency: Rating the 2013 FAs

The Green Bay Packers have 11 players whose contracts will expire at the end of the 2012-13 league year. Using grades and snap counts from Pro Football Focus, we rated each looming free agent for Green Bay this offseason:

RB Cedric Benson (Unrestricted Free Agent)
2012 stats: 71 carries, 248 yards, TD; 14 catches, 97 yards
PFF Grade: +0.3, 200 snaps

Benson started the first five games before suffering the dreaded Lisfranc foot injury in Indianapolis. After being held to just 18 yards on nine attempts in the opener, Benson twice cracked 80 yards and appeared ready to give the Packers a consistent threat in the running game. A crafty, smart veteran, Benson knows how to set up blocks inside and push the edge on stretch runs. He was a surprise as both a pass blocker and receiver, too. Benson wants to return to Green Bay in 2013, but any discussions with the Packers will start and end with his foot. If it's healthy, Benson has a chance to get a second shot.

TE Tom Crabtree (Restricted Free Agent)
2012 stats: 8 catches, 203 yards, 3 TDs
PFF Grade: -7.1, 389 snaps

Crabtree is far from the biggest, strongest or most athletic player on the NFL field. But what lacks in physical acumen is made up for by smarts and a will to win at the point of contact. Of Crabtree's 389 snaps, 283 came in either a pass- or run-blocking role, and he'll be tough to get off this roster because of his fighting mentality in the trenches. Given limited opportunities in the passing game, Crabtree did catch three scores over 20 yards. Each was a result of catching the defense asleep at the wheel, not Crabtree winning a matchup or creating separation.

OL Evan Dietrich-Smith (RFA)
2012 stats: 2 sacks allowed
PFF Grade: -0.5, 603 snaps

Forced into 4.5 games at left guard because of injuries and reshuffling, Dietrich-Smith established himself as a capable player in the run game. His deficiency inside—at least early on—was moving defensive tackles in pass protection. After taking over at center for the ineffective and injured Jeff Satuday, the opposite was true. Dietrich-Smith was less effective as a run blocker but better at anchoring the middle of a pass-protecting line. His low point of the season might have come in the second half of the Wild Card win over Minnesota, when Fred Evans and Kevin Williams tossed him around while the Packers were attempting to melt away clock. His versatility makes him a near lock to return, and the center job might already be his to lose.

WR Donald Driver (UFA)
2012 stats: 8 catches, 77 yards, 2 TDs
PFF Grade: -3.7, 154 snaps

Rarely does GM Ted Thompson make the mistake of holding onto an aging player one year too long, but that's exactly what he did with Driver. A win on Dancing with the Stars, plus Driver's long history of accomplishments on and off the field in Green Bay, allowed for a victory lap of sorts in 2012. But a painful lap it was, as Driver saw just 154 snaps and then wasn't active in four of the final seven games. There's not much left in the tank. He may want to play until he's 40 years old, but Driver isn't hitting that goal while wearing green and gold.

LB Robert Francois (RFA)
2012 stats: 9 special teams tackles
PFF Grade: +1.5, 0 snaps

Francois didn't play a single snap on defense, but he didn't need to. His impact came on special teams, where his nine tackles were second on the team behind Jarrett Bush. The Packers rarely let such important special teams players go.

RB Ryan Grant (UFA)
2012 stats: 31 carries, 127 yards, 2 TDs; 1 catch, 34 yards
PFF Grade: -1.7, 77 snaps

Brought back to Green Bay before Week 14 because of an injury emergence at running back, Grant played very few meaningful snaps. Forty-one of his eventual 78 came against the lowly Titans, who allowed the slow-footed Grant to rumble for 80 yards and two scores. The book should be finally closed on Grant's time in Green Bay.

WR Greg Jennings (UFA)
2012 stats: 36 catches, 366 yards, 4 TDs
PFF Grade: +4.2, 531 snaps

Thanks to an abdomen injury that eventually required surgery, Jennings missed Week 2, most of Week 4 and then all of Weeks 5-12. The time off hurt his 2012 stat line, while likely costing Jennings some money in his wallet this spring. That said, Jennings still has No. 1 receiver talent and will be paid as such by some needy team in free agency. The Packers, unless Jennings suddenly wants to take a huge hometown discount, aren't likely to figure in the bidding. Few receivers in Green Bay have mastered the art of route running quite like Jennings did for seven years.

LB Brad Jones (UFA)
2012 stats: 77 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, forced fumble
PFF Grade: +6.8, 828 snaps

After losing both Desmond Bishop (hamstring) and D.J. Smith (knee) to season-ending injuries, the Packers turned to Jones to flank A.J. Hawk inside. A former outside rusher, Jones transitioned nicely to inside linebacker. While lacking the thump of Bishop and instincts of Smith, Jones held his own over 828 snaps. His best football came during a two-week stretch against the Bears and Titans, when Jones tallied 10 total "stops" and made one of his two sacks. He faded late as the competition rose and the snaps wore him down. As a backup, Jones still has value.

CB Sam Shields (RFA)
2012 stats: 28 tackles, 3 INTs, 10 passes defensed, 1.0 sack
PFF Grade: +16.7, 742 snaps

A year after being berated for his lack of physicalness, Shields rededicated himself to tackling and playing bump-and-run coverage on the outside. The result was a play-making corner who deserved to be starting opposite Tramon Williams, regardless of the emergence of rookie Casey Hayward. After suffering an ankle injury that cost him six games, Shields came back with a different look to his game. He tackled, and quarterbacks completed just 11 passes against him from Week 14 on. Overall, Shields' passer rating against in 2012 was a nifty 57.1. A restricted free agent this spring, Shields deserves a high tender from the Packers.

LB Erik Walden (UFA)
2012 stats: 46 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 INTs
PFF Grade: -30.5, 882 snaps

For the second season in a row, the Packers had to give a large number of snaps to a backup player. And for the second season in a row, Walden graded out as PFF's worst 3-4 outside linebacker. Good NFL defenses simply don't have liabilities like Walden playing over 800 snaps. He's at his very best when the snaps are defined and, more importantly, limited. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has received his share of heat, but his job becomes hundreds of times harder when he has to attack quarterbacks with a guy like Walden at one of the defense's most important positions. The Packers won't get any better on defense until Walden is either a depth guy or playing elsewhere.

LB Frank Zombo (RFA)
2012 stats: 8 tackles
PFF Grade: -5.9, 115 snaps

Zombo has a chance of returning to camp next summer, but he'll need to blow away coaches in August to overcome the ineffectiveness he put on tape in 2012. His 115 defensive snaps produced just five solo tackles and a single quarterback hurry. To be fair, injuries have mostly sapped Zombo of any untapped potential he may have had following the 2010 season. His time might be up in Green Bay.

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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.

kennypayne's picture

Lock up Shields long-term. Sign EDS to a modest deal. Keep Francois for STs.

Offer Jones, Crabtree, and Benson veteran minimum deals otherwise they can go elsewhere.

Jennings is gone to a bigger payday. Understandable.

Grant and Driver are both former contributors who are now over-the-hill and unlikely to be in the NFL in 2013 and if they are it should not be with GB.

Finally, please, please, please do not offer anything to Zombo or Walden. I don't think I can stand to watch another year of piss poor OLB play.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"Finally, please, please, please do not offer anything to Zombo or Walden. I don’t think I can stand to watch another year of piss poor OLB play."


imma fubared's picture

Throw Hawk and Neal and Worthy in that mix

paleoreef103's picture

We're going to stick by Hawk. Worthy is too young to give up on and did show positive flashes. Neal was fairly effective once he healed up. I'm fairly sure all three of them are locks to make the roster next year.

cow42's picture

I pretty much agree with this.

But I probably would not offer Benson anything and I would probably offer Jones more than the vet's min. I would much rather have Bishop, Smith, Jones, and Francois than Bishop, Hawk, Smith, and Francois... even if releasing Hawk is a big cap hit. No turnover producing plays in two seasons is ridiculous no matter what your responsibilities are in the defense.

I have been thinking about this team and this past season A LOT.

I think I've finally come to a conclusion...

I think we're going to see a change in this team's demeanor.
The past 2 seasons they seemed to have an ora of "entitlement" to them... "Hey - we're the Packers... we're sort of a big deal around here."

Addition by subtraction is going to create a new atmosphere. This team isn't going to belong to Woodson or Driver or Jennings anymore... and I'm thankful for that.

As much as I loved those guys over the years, the truth is...

-Jennings has been a turd for a while now. He changed with the ring. It's been all about Greg for quite some time.

-Driver disappointed me. Boo-Hoo, you didn't get to play as much as you wanted this year... stop sulking on the sideline. I thought he'd be more of an energizer... instead he was a pouter.

-Woodson seems to be getting more and more comfortable calling out coaches, etc. I could be reading too much into little bits and pieces, but coming out after the 49'ers game saying that the defense "made no adjustments" and then refusing to come talk to the media (instead sending out Bishop) seem like moves made by someone who's decided none of what went on was HIS fault.... didn't see you bothering Kprk too much, bro. He's a leader - but if he's leading troops AWAY from the coaches then he's a detriment to the team (even if he's right).

The new leaders will be guys with hunger... Bishop, Hayward, Cobb, Perry, Worthy, Sitton, Lang, Smith, Neal (yup - I said it). I think we're going to see a nastier team.

I also think the general physicality will improve...

Bulaga's more physical than Barclay
(going back and watching Smith was exciting for me. When he hits you-you STOP)
McMillian>Woodson or Jennings

kennypayne's picture

Oh, I fully agree that I'd rather have Jones at a modest salary than Hawk at the $5.5M he will be paid in 2013 (and another nearly $12M the following two years).

And in fact AJ's cap hit is not that bad this season (and his salary only goes up the next two years).

But, but, but Hawk's play has never justified his salary yet TT pays him like he's Patrick Willis so I am not optimistic that he won't collect the remaining $18M on his his contract and we can look forward to more tackles 8 yards down field and ZERO turnover plays for the next 3 seasons.

imma fubared's picture

What and made TT look like he screwed up a number one pick aka Mike Neal, probably Perry too.

jeremy's picture

"The past 2 seasons they seemed to have an ora of “entitlement” to them…"

This is the truest thing I've heard from you cow. And, I totally agree with the rest of your post.

cow42's picture

add moses to my list of physical players

draft pick

ditch hawk, zombo, walden

Ruppert's picture

Nice post, Cow. I don't really disagree with any of it. I'm not a big Brad Jones fan, and would rather see him spend more time on special teams than on defense, but he's fine as a backup ILB.

We need to get at least 3 or 4 new OLBs in for training camp. The best 2 of the 4 can replace Zombo and Walden.

I can't rip Barclay too much. Any UFA that comes in and holds the fort down at OT without having any Allen Barbre games (or even moments) has potential. He didn't have a single game as bad as Bulaga's game against the Seabags.

MarkinMadison's picture

I generally agree with the take, but I think you might be taking the Woodson bit a little too far - or maybe not far enough. Aaron Rodgers has reached the same point vs. McCarthy. Woodson and #12 have both been openly critical of the coach most responsible for their side of the ball this year. These are two perennial All-Pros who both want to win, and both are openly taking shots. You have to wonder, can you win a Super Bowl if your team leaders do not believe in their coaches, whether they are right or wrong?

cow42's picture

i agree with you.
it's scary to think that Rodgers might not be standing in line directly behind McCarthy.


this sucks so bad.

why can't they just lose normal competitive playoff games?

every year the get bounced from the playoffs involves some sort of complete dismantling.

we have to sit and stew in this garbage for an entire off season.

Super Bowl followed by 15-1 followed by 11-5 and i still have this sinking feeling inside that the team just isn't as good as the record shows.

yep - every team has flaws. but do all supposed "Super Bowl contenders" have this many?


OL is shaky
QB constantly take subtle shots at the head coach
RB has been a carousel for years
WR group's losing their #1 guy
DL get worked every playoff catastrophe
LB's - i don't even know? when they're injured they suck
CB i actually like this group
S no playmakers there as far as i can see
K - yikes

D coord. might be done
O coord. what does he actually do
Head coach - stubborn to a fault. lacks creativity. does not adjust well "in game"

"Soft" is stamped on the back of 90% of the squad

next season's schedule is terrifying

I am not having a good day.

signing Kreuger and Gholston in the off season sure would make me feel better.

John Quint's picture

Harris gives me the most hope for improvement. Tough kid and he plays hard. Always gets the extra yard.

KurtMc's picture

Hawk will be gone. The salary saved can be used elsewhere. Keep Jones who has proved he is a valuable back up.

We still don't know how Perry will do or Moses given a greater opportunity to play.

kennypayne's picture

Doubt Hawk will go. He is the GM and Def. Coordinator's boy.

TT overpaid when he signed him for $33Million over 5 years in back in 2011 and letting him go now might make people take notice of that decision -- while kicking Jenkins to the curb at the same time.

imma fubared's picture

After watching a real super bowl team (9ers) and they aren't going away soon, the packers are fooling themselves thinking a lot of these bubble players should stick around. Zombo, Walden, Wooden, Driver, Jones, Grant, Williams should all be gone and a rebuilding on defense needs to be in place.
The Packers will not go back to the playoffs until they secure top defensive players to compliment the offense.
Never saw Atlanta or the 9ers rush more than four people the whole game Mr Capers. OK a few times but not every time.
The Packers have had the opportunity being in the NFC North and playing a host of other patsies of being in the mix the last 6 years and have one super bowl to show for it and that is because the defense sucked.

Point Packer's picture

That's some good meth, eh?

John Quint's picture

Dude, hes spot on. The defense was atrocious. We need nasty!

MarkinMadison's picture

The 49ers defense has a lot of guys in the 28-33 range. They also rely more heavily on their starting 11 than any defense in the league. Translation - they are aging and thin. The injury bug could easily catch up with them at any point in time. And Frank Gore is 29, so the odds are that he is at about the end of his tank. I think the bye week did the 49ers a world of good. If the Packers had locked up the bye I think the game would have looked quite a bit different. The 49ers are not invincible. No team is. Remember, just a couple of years ago people were talking about the Packers as a dynasty because of all the youth and depth. There are no locks in the NFL.

cow42's picture

yeah - did the Ravens, 49'ers, Falcons, or Pats have ANY playmakers lost for the year? Gronk at the end really hurt NE.

But, damn - Balt and SF basically have their entire starting 22's from week 1 still in place.


imma fubared's picture

Lucky for the Pack the Lions and Bears were not up to speed and they ecked out a win against the now 13-3 Vikings. Otherwise they would not have even been in the playoffs.

murphy's picture

How's the weather in Candyland?

MarkinMadison's picture

Cow42, you can only post under one name per thread please.

cow42's picture

mcginn (who can be a curmudgeon) over at jsonline wrote a fantastic article regarding the state of the Packers - calling them soft.

he took everything i've been feeling for the last 2 seasons but couldn't put a finger on and organized it.

the entire article is TRUE (even the portion regarding the fans at Lambeau... and I got crushed earlier this season for daring to make similar statements)...the crowd there isn't as "blue-collar" as it used to be.

thing is - i think we're going to see things start to turn around. the Packers will be able to upgrade at least 4 positions (RT, ILb, ILB, OLB) even before you consider anyone they may draft.

the only position group that might be looking at a step back is the WR's - and how many of those do you really need (barring injury, of course)?

i really like what i've seen from Ross... that guy's physical. if he can catch we may have something there..


is still better than what most teams have.

Ruppert's picture

I have been saying for a few years that Lambeau is becoming like Wrigley Field. It's becoming more of a bucket list tourist destination for upper middle class football fans from all over the country than an intimidating home stadium.

Barutan Seijin's picture

Given ticket prices & bullshit like personal seat licences, it's going to be mostly upper middle class fans at most stadiums, not just Lambeau.

Point Packer's picture

"And the crowds at Lambeau Field have started to remind me of those staid assemblages at the University of Michigan. It's the place to be seen and all that, but it has been a long time since a visiting coach or player went on and on about how it difficult it was to hear and play in Green Bay."

After being a yearly and enthusiastic visitor to Lambeau for the last six + years, I totally agree with McGinnn and Cow on this one. The season ticker holders are boring, quiet and entitled. And worse, they sold their souls before the Giants game last year.

I love the Packers fans, but the season ticket-holders could use some new blood. Sure, go ahead and rip me a new one for that one. I am sure many will. Give me the whole "my grandparents passed those seats to my father.....blah blah blah". Whatever, you guys are quiet, lame and have done a great job making Lambeau a docile place to play the last few years. Oh and then you sold your tickets to a bunch of A-holes from NY to top it off. Congrats.

I pay $200.00 to freeze my a$$ off and then scream till my throat hurts. All while you privileged queens sit on your hands and whine when I stand up on 3rd and 10.

McGinn called it. And Cow is right. And I hate, HATE writing the latter.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"I pay $200.00 to freeze my a$$ off and then scream till my throat hurts. All while you privileged queens sit on your hands and whine when I stand up on 3rd and 10."

Yep. Then you have the $500 plane tix. $150 a night hotey... That game just cost me a grr before I drink or eat... And I get looks for getting loud, for getting after the opponent? Lambeau is soft as hell, and it pisses me off. This became crystal clear to me 5 or 6 years back, when the bears pasted us at Lambeau on Christmas day. I was in the last row of the club seats, with the wall to my back. There was one bear fan in the row, screaming the whole game, beating his fists off the wall, and just talking shit relentlessly. Nobody besides me said a word to him, they just sat on their hands and let that scrote come in and take over their row, it really was sad. Almost as sad as the piss poor Packer product on the field that Christmas day.

MarkinMadison's picture

Closing up the South end zone is already making the place louder. And yes, there were waaay too many Giants fans there last year for the playoff game.

But it wasn't just the ticket holders selling out. The Packers rented out a huge portion of the 2nd level of the atrium to Giants fans the night before the game, and they were partying up in the place, talking trash, and enjoying our house to the nth degree.

Part of it is the Packers selling out (see below). Part of it is just midwestern politness. The other part of it is that the blue-collar fans are having a hard time keeping up with the ticket prices. You're joe blue-collar, making $50K a year and hanging onto your dad's four seats. You shell out, what $1300 a year per seat. Then the playoffs come around, you are buying Christmas presents, and the Packers send you a letter saying, "here, we need another $300 per seat for the playoffs." Then you are like my wife's nice blue-collar aunt, and you either buy the seats and make the $ work by selling the tickets to one game, or you just say, "pass." My point is, the fans are soft and often visiting because the Packers have sold out for the buck. You want hard core blue collar fans? They have to be able to afford to buy.

wiscokid's picture

I understand where you're coming from but I think that it pisses them off more that we don't think enough of them to bother yelling at them. Kind of a mind game thing. On the other hand, maybe we are getting too complacent.

Point Packer's picture

I agree with the comments about the blue collar crowd and the economics of dumping your tix to a New Jersey A-hole. And yes, I sympathize with those folks who are going through a tough time and are just trying to make ends meet. The economy has been rough on all, including GB's season ticket holders. I get that.

That being said, there is a long-line of passionate (mostly blue-collar) folks who would die to have those seats for six games (or two) a year. And they would likely go to all of them or pass them along to friends/family.

The Lambeau as a novelty issue is only an issue if a large % of the season ticket holders dump their tix, which is what is happening. I am not aware of what % of Lambeau is held by season ticket-holders, but I assume it is pretty large. I know a certain number of seats are held for the opposing teams.

Secondly, the comments below do not address the generally docile nature of the home crowd. Yes, the place gets rowdy once and awhile and yes, us Midwesterners have a generally polite nature, but it does not excuse long-term season ticket holders from not getting emotionally into games. As someone who only gets to shell out a paycheck once a year to go to a home game, I am beyond pumped to walk into Lambeau. And when I do, I am going to be loud and I'm going to stand, clap, etc - you know, do those things that fans do.

Many of the season ticket-holders (not all) seem to have a holier than art thou edge to them. Standing in front of them is a burden. Being loud when the opposing team is in your end-zone is a burden. Taking my 8th bathroom break is a burden. My big foamy cheese-head is a burden. My overall exuberant game-time support of the Packers is a burden.

Love to get the opinion of one of the CHTV's elite on this topic. And then enjoy ensuing comment storm that erupts a la Mount St Helens circa May, 1980.

Idiot Fan's picture

-305 grade for Walden? Actually, that sounds about right.

Zach Kruse's picture

Good catch, although I did have to re-check PFF just to make sure :)

Point Packer's picture

-30.5 seems a bit generous.

Walden had a few moments, but overall he was a disaster.

And surely part of the reason that the 49'ers went to the Pistol in the division game. Anyone who knows anything about the NFL would have noticed how bad he was and exploited his corner. Which is what the Niners did to perfection in the divisional round. He is a clear liability. If he is on, let alone starts in 2013/2014, it will be a clear mis-step. Or chronic inability to find a replacement.

paleoreef103's picture

I can't wait for Perry to come back. The kid may have been predictable in the pass rush, but he was physical and he can set the edge reliably. I hope his injury was merely a fluke and not the start of a pattern.

Kevin Lamb's picture

I was thinking this weekend, who is the toughest guy we have on defense besides Clay Mathews, I came up with Sam Shields. That is perty bad when Sam Shields is one of the toughest guys on D. Packers D needs to toughen up.

Jamie's picture

I think Ryan Pickett is tough as nails. Then throw in Desmond Bishop, DJ Smith, and Nick Perry, and you have a pretty hard hitting front 7.

But I don't disagree with your general point. I think the one position where we lack bite it safety. Specifically Morgan Burnett. He's never really hit anyone. Look at Seattle and Kam Chancellor or Goldson in SF. Those two guys bring the wood and are the enforcers from the back. We lost any semblance of that once Nick Collins went down.

Evan's picture

Any hope for McMillian to become that with more experience?

paleoreef103's picture

It's true. I was fine with Woodson as a free safety, but we do need a big hitter at strong safety. We don't have a lot of players that put any type of fear in the middle of the field. Smith was a good run stopper and did hit hard, but he got exploited in coverage a lot. The Packers NEED a mean streak. Just watch the Patriots Ravens game to show you how a mean streak can influence a game.

Lars's picture

Not with the pile jumper, AJ Hawk you don't, and as long as TT is GM, Hawk is going to start at ILB in Green Bay. Burnett had 137 tackles last year. I think you put McMillan in place of Woodson (or draft a guy like Reid to play SS.

This is a very soft defense and it needs to get some thumpers. Manning at ILB along with Smith would be a nice start. The CB's are the least physical in the league.

John Quint's picture

Throw hayward in there as well. Tough kid who made FEW mistakes as a rook. Cant wait to see Shields and Hayward on the corners.

Mike's picture

He just needs to learn how to actually tackle the QB when he is all alone in the backfield on blitzes!

Pack12's picture

Give Shields what he deserves say goodbye to the rest!

pooch's picture


cow42's picture

= Aaron Rouse

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"The Bears still suck!"
"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. "