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It's a tricky business

Posted Feb 11, 2017

Will the Packers be in Dallas on Thanksgiving?

Jake from Great River, NY

Can we start talking about the draft yet?

I’ve been intentionally avoiding a lot of draft questions because I don’t really sink my teeth into it until I get back from the combine and start working on Prospect Primers. That time is coming soon. Thanks for your patience.

Walter from Skandia, MI

I read a story about Micah Hyde being a free agent. It said the Packers may be able to resign him for about $5 million a year, unless other teams drive up the price. How does that happen if he can only negotiate with the Packers until the first week of March? Are other teams allowed to give his agent possible salaries they will offer him, so the agent knows where the market price is going?

Agents gauge the market on their own. That’s their job. I don’t know any specifics of Hyde’s situation, but in a general sense, before the open market arrives, the agent will tell the current team what his player is looking for. If the team is interested in re-signing the player, it will almost always have a lower number in mind to begin negotiations. The team might stick to its number, or it might come up a little bit. The closer the team comes to the player’s number can indicate how accurately it feels the agent has pegged market value and/or how badly it wants to keep him. If the player really believes in his number, he’ll probably take it to the open market and see if he’s right. The relatively new two-day negotiating window (March 7-9 this year) can be used to confirm or refute assumptions, on both sides, which can either spur an agreement or a parting of ways. It’s a tricky business.

Leo from Hamburg, Germany

Dear Insiders, was the new touchback rule successful in terms of reducing the number of kickoff returns? What is your opinion? Will it stay at the 25 next season?

I don’t have that list in front of me, but I think the rule is here to stay.

Ricky from Beloit, WI

People need to know the rules to free-kick field goals. What I know for sure is when there is a punt and fair catch, there has to be no time left on the clock at the end of the first half or game. Then the team can do a no-timed field goal attempt at the spot with no rushers on the field. The only thing I'm hazy on is if the ball is allowed on the tee or held like a normal field-goal attempt (believe no tee) and if a short kick is allowed to be returned (don't believe it can be since no rushers).

This is a mess, and many remain confused, so let’s clarify once and for all. A fair-catch free kick can be attempted anytime. It doesn’t need to be with no time on the clock at the end of the half or game. That’s pretty much the only time we’ll see one, though, because attempting the free kick surrenders possession, and if a team makes a fair catch in good position with enough time on the clock, it’s going to try to score a touchdown, not go for three and give up the ball. A tee is not allowed, and no snap is required for the free kick. It’s from the spot of the fair catch, with a holder. Both teams have their full complement of players on the field, but no one on defense can line up within 10 yards of the offense, similar to a kickoff. So no one can block the kick, but it can be returned if it misses and remains in the field of play. I hope that covers it.

Mike from Rhinelander, WI

Conor from Chicago had a good question. In OT, if the kicking team tries an onside kick and recovers it and makes a FG, do they win?

Yes.

Zach from Peoria, IL

I've cracked it! To make overtime rules fairer, simply don't re-flip the coin. The team that started the game with the ball would get the ball to start overtime. This way, if teams want to defer when they win the toss so they can potentially double-up, they risk giving the opponent the ball first if the game were to go to overtime.

You aren’t the only one to suggest that, but it still doesn’t address the issue many others see as fundamentally unfair, that both teams aren’t guaranteed a possession in overtime. Other suggestions about a two-point conversion needed to end the game on the first drive, or the receiving team in OT starting on its own 10-yard line, have made me think, but I still believe the greater imbalance to the game is the second team being able to go for it on fourth down every time.

Ryan from Madison, WI

Mike, the overtime rules debate is out of control. My youth soccer coach used to tell us "don't leave the fate of the game in the ref's hands." Meaning, don't rely on the ref to call the game in your favor. Just be the better team. If you don't like overtime being decided by a coin flip, win in regulation or make a stop! Be the better team and don't let a coin toss determine the fate of the game.

Amen.

JQM from Neenah, WI

Just wanted to point out how much simpler the path to the NFL championship was for those Lombardi teams. Before the Super Bowl era, all you had to do was win your conference, then you played in the title game. The Packers were obviously dominant in the early to mid-’60s, but they didn't have to run the gauntlet like teams do now to become NFL champion. Brady had to play a total of 15 postseason games in his five Super Bowl-winning seasons. Starr had to only play a total of nine to earn his five titles.

A valid perspective.

Mark from Gillett, WI

I think everyone needs to understand that we can't compare Lombardi/Starr to Belichick/Brady in terms of who had a better dynasty. But, in terms of longevity, I don't think the Patriots are matched by any other dynasty. Five Super Bowl wins (two more appearances) over 15 years, without ever having a single-digit win season. I love my Packers and their history, but recognize greatness when you see it.

Amen again.

Dan from Long Beach, CA

Insiders, in hindsight, Atlanta's pick-six in the Super Bowl reminds me of Eric Weems' kickoff-return touchdown during their playoff matchup with the Packers back from the 2010 season: huge play, but it put their defense right back on the field after a long drive, which hurt in the long run. Do you think dink and dunk, controlling time of possession and running a lot of plays, is the best way to attack in today's NFL?

Coaches don’t just give lip service to time of possession. They know it matters. Your note prompted me to look up the play-by-play from the Weems game. Right before his big return, the Packers had driven 81 yards in 13 plays for a TD. Right after, they went 92 yards in 10 plays, and the next three times the Packers had the ball (spanning halftime) they scored three more TDs on drives of 80, 80 and 50 yards. In that game, Tramon Williams’ two interceptions (one for a TD) factored significantly into the momentum of as well, but I think the lesson is how crucial the latter half of the “back-to-back” possessions is for a defense put in that situation. If it can’t get off the field quickly, it could be in for a long night. After Alford’s INT-TD, which ended a long drive, the Atlanta D was on the field for 10 more plays before halftime. Even though it held the Pats to a field goal, that was maybe the bad omen.

Jerry from Harlingen, TX

Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis both made the HOF with less-than-sterling credentials. Did their being on the NFLN, and being hyped constantly by that source, help them get chosen, in your opinion?

No. Trust me, the committee that meets for 10 hours on the day before the Super Bowl to thoroughly discuss and vote on candidates doesn’t give a rat’s rear about NFL Network.

Alexander from Tucson, AZ

What's your opinion on players not making the HOF because of behavioral issues? I'm talking about Terrell Owens.

I think Owens’ case is why it’s important to have a large, committed group from across the NFL media spectrum to discuss all candidacies. There’s no question that Owens has HOF talent and HOF stats. But when multiple teams toss him to the curb in his prime because they feel his production doesn’t outweigh the damage he does to his team, the hesitation to induct him is warranted. I think Owens will eventually get in someday, but I’d be pausing long and hard before casting my vote, too.

Gary from Madison, WI

Can you list the restricted and unrestricted players the Packers have to decide on from their team this year?

The Packers have 11 unrestricted free agents. In alphabetical order, they are Barclay, Cook, Goode, Hyde, Jones, Lacy, Lang, Michael, Peppers, Perry, and Tretter. The two restricted free agents are Elliott and Tripp.

George from Torrance, CA

Is there any player you consider to be the top priority on the Packers’ re-sign list? Personally, I believe it's Micah Hyde. His versatility is too valuable to lose and extremely difficult to replace. Your thoughts?

There are multiple guys on that list I’d like to see return, but if I had to prioritize, I’d start with Cook. I think what he brings would be the toughest to replace.

Martin from Wigtown, UK

So with the tags being able to be applied this week coming, if you were in charge, would you tag any of our impending free agents? If so, who and why?

I don’t anticipate any Packers players getting tagged.

Chris from Lexington, KY

Where does continuity of the team come into the conversation regarding signing free agents from other teams? I feel it's a big reason to take care of your own first.

Locker-room harmony or chemistry or whatever you want to call it is always a consideration in player acquisition here.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

In regards to Josh from Downers Grove, IL, I have been wondering the same. In 2015, Green Bay and Seattle both finished second in their divisions. Since their divisions were not scheduled to play each other in 2016, Seattle came to Green Bay. At the end of 2016, they both finished first in their divisions and again their divisions are not in rotation to play each other in 2017, yet Seattle comes to Green Bay again. How does that happen in two consecutive years in which their divisions do not play each other?

The “same place finisher” rotation doubles up. The NFC North hosted the “same place finisher” in the NFC West in 2016 and will do so again in 2017 before the full divisions are paired in 2018. In 2019 and 2020, the West will host the “same place finisher” in the North in consecutive years. To look backward, before the two full divisions squared off in 2015, the Packers traveled to San Francisco in 2013 and Seattle in 2014 in “same place finisher” matchups. It just wasn’t the same team.

Isaac from Nashville, TN

I have a picture on my wall of Raji, Collins, and Shields celebrating in the end zone after Raji's pick-six in the 2010 NFC title game. It's strange to have your memories turn into history.

We have to relish each season for what it is and who’s involved.

Alex from Ipswich, UK

What’s your favorite Sam Shields memory?

One time just before entering the stadium on gameday, a gentleman stopped me in the parking lot to complement me on some of my articles. I was flattered. Then the man revealed to me that he was Shields’ dad, and we chatted for a while. It was a reminder you never know who’s reading. As for Shields on the field, I’ll always remember him as a clutch playoff performer. Two INTs in Chicago as a rookie, the pick-six of Kaepernick in San Francisco, the end-zone INT of Wilson in Seattle just before halftime. That’s why I was so stunned he dropped the one from Palmer at the pylon in Arizona last year. I just assumed he’d get it.

Jason from Tucson, AZ

I come from a family that is divided almost exclusively between Cowboys and Packers fans (my dad is a Bears fan). Being that we probably aren't going to be playing the Falcons in the season opener, what is the likelihood that the Packers play the Cowboys for Thanksgiving? That's going to be the best rematch of the 2017 season, in my opinion. Seeing as it was probably the best divisional game this past season.

A distinct possibility, for sure. The Packers have played on Thanksgiving in every odd-numbered year in the McCarthy era, for whatever reason. From a ratings standpoint, FOX and NBC will probably be fighting over that Packers-Cowboys rematch. We’ll see who wins.

Tom from Blaine, WA

Hey guys, here's an idea. How about a season summary, Inbox style? You could choose a question and answer from each week that represents what the Inbox was thinking about at that point in the season. I think it would help bring some perspective to all the twists and turns of an NFL season.

Sounds like a great project for next week.

Mark from Amarillo, TX

Mike, I know Wes had a pretty solid first year, but can we expect a big jump from year one to year two?

Perhaps we’re about to find out. I’m disappearing for a bit, so after Monday, you get Wes for the rest of next week all to yourselves. Go easy on him.

 
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