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Economic Realities

Economic Realities

In the quest for the Superbowl, one of the hardest facts to overcome is that a Superbowl team cannot afford to pay all their players, all that they deserve.  It makes sense; the salary cap (assuming it comes back) requires teams to create separation while expending equal resources. A team will not create separation if they disproportionally spend resources on a player or position that is not schemed to be a playmaker.

Mike Neal appears to be the most controversial pick of the Packers’ 2010 draft class (for example, running polls asking “what rookie will make the biggest impact” and “who is your favorite rookie” on Tuesdays episode of Packer Transplants at each had Neal garnering less than 1% of the vote).  The most consistent criticism of the pick is that DE is not a current need on the Packers’ roster. This post will defend the selection.  As I’ve stated previously, I don’t break down film, and I am certainly not a student of the young man from Purdue.  However, a case can be made for selecting a DE in the second round after evaluating the business considerations of the 3-4 defense and the impending free agency of Jolly and Jenkins.

By its very definition the 3-4 defense utilizes less down linemen than the traditional 4-3 defense.  This is especially pronounced in the sub packages (nickel and dime).  Unlike the 4-3 defenses, which always utilize four down linemen during nickel and dime packages, the 3-4 only utilizes two down linemen in these packages.  Further, the Packers utilized a sub package titled “Psycho” in which the Packers only utilize one down linemen.  So, accordingly, it would seem illogical to dedicate a lot of resources to a position group that isn’t on the field that often.  Further, The 3-4 defense is designed to cause quarterback pressure through complex series of blitzes rather than defensive line pressure.  While having a 3-4 NT that can hold the double team is crucial (hence the reason guys like Pickett, Hampton and Wilfork get paid), the 3-4 DE is only expected to hold the line and let the OLB make the play.  Compare that to the 4-3 defense which requires its linemen to be responsible for creating the lions share of quarterback pressures and backfield penetration.

These considerations are especially relevant to the Packers.  The Packers have just given Pickett a four year 25 million dollar contract and Raji currently has a five year 23 million dollar contract.  These facts bring me to the conclusion that the Packers cannot justify expending the necessary resources to retain both Jolly and Jenkins given the underutilization of the 3-4 DE and the financial commitment made to the defensive line.

The Packers will have a near impossible task of keeping both Jolly and Jenkins once they hit free agency next year (Jolly’s free agency assumes a new CBA deal).  That is because 3-4 defensive linemen can make a lot more money by becoming 4-3 defensive linemen.  Case in point, Colin Cole, the former Packer who was a questionable roster spot, was able to earn a five year 21.4 million dollar contract from 4-3 Seattle.  Chris Canty, the former Dallas 3-4 DE was able to secure a six year 42 million dollar contract from the 4-3 Giants.  Compare this to Igor Olshanksy, who remained relegated 3-4 DE status and was only able to receive a four year 18 million dollar deal.

The decision to not allocate significant resources to the 3-4 DE position is not unique to the Packers and when Jenkins and Jolly both aren’t retained by the Packers it won’t simply be a product of the Packers’ reputation for fiscal conservatism.  In the past two seasons Dallas for has seen Canty and Ellis migrate to greener 4-3 pastures.  The Cowboys will probably repeat the same outcome when Spears becomes a free agent after this season.  Pittsburg’s 3-4 DE Aaron Smith may be 9th overall on the Steelers sack list, but his contract is only three million richer than Cole’s.  Arizona has made no substantive progress in extending 3-4 DE Darnell Docket despite the fact he constantly threatens to hold out.  Along the same lines, Haynesworth was given a 100 million dollar contract last offseason.  This offseason, Washington began implementing the 3-4 defense and immediately began looking to move Big Albert.  In short, I cannot recall one 3-4 DE getting paid big money.

In conclusion, the Packers not only had to plan for Jolly’s possible suspension, but also the probability that they will be unable to retain both of their starting DE’s past this season.  With that reality in mind, the decision to take a defensive lineman in the second round that was highly rated (assumingly so) on the Packers’ board was not an unreasonable decision.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (25) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Stan's picture

Nice article. I guess there are a number of explainations for the Neal move (some thought it was a message to Justin Harrell, or perhaps just better rotation with Jarius Wynn not impressing much last season). But yeah it all comes down to money in the end and with Cullen Jenkins already being vocal on his dislike of the 3-4 (he then promptly shut up once we started winning again), it's reasonable to believe he'll do a Kampman on us.

DaveK's picture

Most fans only look at needs for the upcoming season. They consider DE not to be a need position but you have very effectively outlined why TT and the Packers probably feel differently. And, it is much easier to find a nickel or dime CB then it is to find a starting caliber 3-4 DE that weighs 300 pounds and can move.

PackersRS's picture

It's a very fair point, but one more important to make was the state of our DL last year, stamina wise.

It was no coincidence that late in games Jenkins simply couldn't make any kind of pressure: He was exhausted. Add the fact that Jolly was innefective against the passing game, and the pocket simply never moved.

With 2 guys that can create pressure, or at least relieve Jenkins, and with Raji not being subbed at both DE and NT, just NT, chances are we're gonna get all we can from our DL.

More than create sacks, it'll disrupt the pocket, forcing the QB to get unconfortable, or move to CM3's and Jones' side, allowing them more sacks. You see that all the time with Dockett, with Ratliff, with Smith.

There were 2 main reasosn we lost the way we did against the Steelers, and mainly the Cardinals:

1) Coverage. Our secondary got completely lost by crossing routes, bunch packages and motions. It had 2 internal reasons:
a) Bush, Bell, Giordano, Underwood and Martin simply couldn't cover well. That's solved by the addition of Burnett, who will no doubt play dime and nickel CB, and go to S if Bigby gets hurt, as well as the comeback of Pat Lee and Will Blackmon, who are much more competent cover men than the forementioned. Not counting on Harris.
b) Capers failed to prepare the backups of the backups of the backups. That will be solved, with one more year of confort with the playbook.

2) Failure to disrupt the pocket. More than outside rush, Warner was simply comfortable in the pocket, while Rodgers' was consistantly being pushed backwards (other problem that has apparently been solved). It had 1 core reason:
a) Due to the lack of depth (DL composed of only Raji, Jenkins, Joly and Pickett. Wynn is too weak to play), there wasn't much rotation. Add to that that during half the season Raji was hurt, and the other half Pickett was, Jenkins and Jolly simply played too many snaps. Jolly is innefective against the pass as it is, overwhelming Jenkins. As a result, late in games he couldn't even move. The problem is solved. Even in the imminence of Jolly's suspension/arrest, between Jenkins, Harrell, Pickett, Raji, Neal and Wilson, there will be plenty of rotation, which will assure that the most productive DL will be on the field all times, which will considerably increase the pocket pressure.


As it is, and doing a buttload of happy projection, I only see 6 problems on our team (1 defensive, 1 offensive, 4 on ST):

1) OLB rotation. I don't see how Poppinga and Obiozor can spell CM3 and Jones adequatedly. Will be an even bigger problem if one of them goes down.

2) The change-of-pace back. I'm not convinced Starks and BJ can be that guy. They don't have breakaway speed. But Starks seems like a player. We may have this problem adressed...

3) The Punter. Again, we could have this problem solved. But I'll only acknowledge it when I see it do well...

4) The Kicker. Same as the #3. I don't thrust Crosby.

5) The return game. Between Blackmon, Shields and Dillon, we might have something. But it's a big might...

6) The coverage unit. While it wasn't as poor as in 08, showing flashes of competence, it's still a problem. Martin played well, and Shields seems like a very competent gunner. But until I see production, I'm skeptic.

Well, that's my take. Sorry if it's long...

Globalpack's picture

Don't be sorry for it being long. All really valid points and I appreciate the feedback.

I agree that there are lots of problems on special teams, and I'm concerned that we aren't bringing in competition (its never too late) against Crosby and we didn't bring in an established punter.

I don't have the luxury of having the equipment to break down the tape, but I often wonder why our coverage units experience such crucial breakdowns in big games. It seems like we have players who are on the roster solely for their special teams ability (Martin, Havner, Bush), but it hasn't translated into restaurant quality coverage units. Maybe during the second year under the position coach can create some increased continuity.

FITZCORE1252's picture

"restaurant quality coverage units"


Alex Tallitsch's picture


PackersRS's picture

Restaurant quality was indeed awesome...

Well, what happens when you have a shitty ST coach, and replace him with his assistant? Shitty ST performance...

For as much heat Campen (deservedly) receives, Slocum should face even more...

FITZCORE1252's picture

Yeah, it's tough to argue any of that, I concur.

I was especially relieved to FINALLY have you 'end the rumors' and address the following: "I don’t thrust Crosby." See guys, I told you... pay up!

Sorry RS, couldn't resist. :)

Seriously though, those are all valid points, nice take.


PackersRS's picture

Thanks. And what rumors? I've called Crosby countless names after the 08 Vikings game. I never thrusted him. He's my 3rd hated player, behind "voldemort", whoever unts, and then there's him.

OR, like I like to call him, Mason "Wide Right" Crosby...

FITZCORE1252's picture

No rumors. Another failed attempt at humor on my part.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Cross #6 and possibly #5 off your list RS

Sam "WIND" Shields (I know you mentioned him, don't know if you saw this or not)... That's right, if that sticks, remember where you heard it 1st! Wind-shields, I roool

PackersRS's picture

Maybe so... I still like Blackmon as a PR, and wouldn't count Dillon out either...

Like I said, between the 3, there's got to be something in there...

FITZCORE1252's picture

I would think/hope so.

Packerhq's picture

OK so I agree with your economic point BUT there a few concerns if folks would dig a tad deeper.
While Neal has the ability to dominate, he can disappear for stretches and his motor is way too inconsistent.
He has great weight room strength but his on the field toughness is questionable, being thrown around by stronger collegiate linemen.
He could be a fantastic under tackle in a 4-3 front but very well could be a decent 3-4 DE. I think the biggest concern I have heard which is very true was making this pick in the second round when a better quality Safety or DB could be taken. Thoughts are that we could have moved up later during round 3 or maybe waited until round 4 too snag Neal.
I think the "over valued" thought is most likely true here that doesn't make Neal a bad pick it does mean he was taken off the board a round or two early.
Nice Read Alex !

Alex Tallitsch's picture

I did not write this, but thanks. Good job Globalpack.

PackersRS's picture

I don't know about the motor thing.

What I do know is that, like Jenkins, he played 95% of the snaps, and got tired in the end. That's not motor, that's lack of stamina.

Not a problem with us...

Jersey Al's picture

Have you seen any film on Neal? I can't find any. I've read the same things about him that you mention, but that's it.

If that evaluation is true, it's the reason I may like C.J .Wilson more than Neal.
If you have seen film of Neal, please let us know where to find it.

FITZCORE1252's picture

"I may like C.J .Wilson more than Neal."

Neal/Wilson...Wilson/Neal, if we hit on one, that's a good batting average for draft picks (I recently read an article that proclaimed the magic # was .333 on draft picks, If I can remember where, I'll Link it... informative read). For Ted's sake I hope it would be the former.

You've probably seen this on Neal:

*** Below I'll throw up a link to Wilson highlights (you can only post 1 link per here)***

I think I'm with you, Al. Wilson's a GAMER!


FITZCORE1252's picture
JohnRehor's picture

Mike Neal highlights vs. Michigan State. The only thing I could find.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Yep. 34 DE's are valuable yet expendable. I will be surprised if both Jolly and Jenkins are on the 2011 squad (I personally think Cullen will be gone). Ted clearly seemed to be looking a year or two down the road with the Neal pick. There is no way I believe Mike Neal was the BPA on the GBP's board @ 56, no way. Maybe he was close, so Ted married a perceived not-so-distant-future 'need' with a highly rated player.

I have no problem with taking the kid in the 2nd round, although from most accounts, there was a distinct possibility he could have been had in the 3rd (but, who the hell knows). Like I've said before, If the kid turns out to be a player, I don't care when or how we drafted/signed him... Ted's doing his job.


Max's picture

Nice breakdown, Globalpack. I think you're absolutely right about not being able to keep Jenkins and Jolly.

I agree with Fitzcore that we won't be keeping Jenkins. As you stated, his pass rush ability will garner him a huge raise. I don't think that raise will come from the Packers.

Finally, it wouldn't be a Packers' draft without Ted picking a defensive lineman AND an offensive lineman - they just happened to be drafted in the first two rounds this year.

Jersey Al's picture

Just wanted to say nice job with this article...

Globalpack's picture

Thank you Al! That means alot coming from you.

Asshalo's picture

"the Packers cannot justify expending the necessary resources to retain both Jolly and Jenkins given the underutilization of the 3-4 DE and the financial commitment made to the defensive line."

Great points all around. It's hard for teams to justify allocating that much to one small part of the team. It's part of the reason the Bears cut Brown after the peppers signing. They too replaced him with a rookie.

Carriveau brought up good points too in the reasoning the short-term value of Neal and WIlson. This year at least they cut the fat the DE depth (Harrell and Montegomery).

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