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The evaluation process starts now

Posted Jan 2, 2018

The Packers have prospects in the pipeline


Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

I feel that Matthews had a good year partly due to being healthier. I agree he still is a disruptive force on D even though he isn't the pass-rushing dynamo of the past. Do the Packers keep him outside, move around, or more inside?

We’ll see. The evaluation process starts now. There are decisions to be made in the coming days, weeks and months. Mike McCarthy has made it clear he prefers to move Matthews around in the defense, particularly in the dime rush package. The Packers’ pass rush has work to do after finishing tied for 17th with 31 sacks, but I thought Matthews put together a solid campaign. He was healthy for most of the season and affected games.

Mitchell from Edmond, OK

One of the positive takeaways from the last two games was the young players getting game experience. Being an Oklahoma State fan, it was good to see Lenzy Pipkins make some good plays from the Vikings and Lions game. With the exception of a handful of players, no roster spot is guaranteed for next year, but hopefully Pipkins will stay with the Packers and continue to get some playing time on defense.

Pipkins did his job. That was a big spot for the undrafted rookie and he held his own. He’s talented and possesses inside-outside versatility. He’ll be in the mix again this summer. The past month gives him something to build on.

Col from Ludlow, UK

Happy New Year, Wes. Due to Rodgers’ injury, this season has shown me just how incredibly difficult this game is to play. I was watching before the Favre era, but now more than ever I take my hat off to those who play the game, win or lose. Is there any one thing that has stood out to you this season?

This season opened my eyes to how the health of a team at key positions correlates to how far it goes. Minnesota lost its quarterback and running back early in the season. There were tough losses. I’m not discrediting that, but the Vikings’ foundation – their defense – featured practically the same starting lineup in Week 17 as it did Week 1. Teams can weather a certain number of injuries and drive on, but it’s tough to keep the car moving when you’re missing a key piece.

Chris from Chicago, IL

In 2016, the Packers drafted Kenny Clark before a crowded field of first- and second-round defensive tackles who went off the board, including Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Butler, Chris Jones, A'Shawn Robinson, and Jarran Reed. Do you think Clark has emerged as the best of this group? Even better than Sheldon Rankins who was drafted ahead of him?

It’s hard to compare defensive linemen because I’m not sure what’s being asked of them. At first blush, Clark’s numbers stand out from that pack. I confidently can say Clark is a good fit for the Packers’ system. He’s a stout run defender and has the makings of a dynamic inside rusher.

Aaron from Tamborine, Australia

It seems to be pretty widely agreed upon that the Packers need to go after support at the LB/CB positions in this year's draft. Going back to last year's however, most people I'm sure would agree that King is going to be a mainstay for years to come, but do you think Biegel has the size and ability to step into that Matthews-ish linchpin role, remembering he came to the team requiring foot surgery and had to sit out most if not all of the preseason this year?

It’s a little early to project where King and Biegel are headed, but they have potential. The Packers have prospects in the pipeline. Once King gets his shoulder right, I think he has what it takes to be a difference-maker in this defense. He has size and athleticism you cannot coach. Biegel should benefit from an active offseason. That foot injury was a tough way to start his NFL career.

Kevin from Kinderhook, NY

If Aaron Rodgers wants to play another 6-8 years, the next starting QB for the team isn't on the roster now and won't be for a few more years. With this in mind, what's the obsession w/having a developmental project be the backup QB? Why not have a more experienced QB who, while perhaps on the downside of his career, can at least give you a chance to win some games?

Here’s the thing about veteran backup quarterbacks – most of them are still looking for an opportunity to start. There’s not a direct avenue to the field in Green Bay unless Rodgers is hurt. They’re also expensive and often have reached their ceiling. That’s why many teams elect to use the draft to develop a backup at a modest price with the possibility of trading him down the line.

Jeff from Fall Creek, WI

With Jordy on the tail end of his career, what do you think of Michael Clark replacing him as the deep-ball and back-shoulder threat? He did really well when he was on the field. Will he take the next step in 2018?

I’d caution against writing off Nelson. A lot of folks made that mistake with Larry Fitzgerald in 2014 (63 catches for 784 yards and two TDs) only to see the Pro Bowl receiver bounce back with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at ages 32-34. Clark is a nice prospect. This will be an important offseason for him to grow. Clark has the physical gifts, but he’s still green.

David from Marana, AZ

Is picking at No. 14 twice as good as No. 28, or is it exponentially better?

If you go off the draft-value chart, the 14th spot is worth 60 percent more than No. 28. It’s the highest the Packers have drafted since 2009. It also was the last year Green Bay traded back into the first round to make a selection. Those two acquisitions – B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews – were vital to the Super Bowl run over the next two seasons. There are gems strewn about every draft, but there’s no denying the odds of finding an impact player improve astronomically the earlier you’re picking.

Troy from Westminster, CO

The Packers, Cowboys and Seahawks all failed to make the playoffs. The Packers finished 7-9 without their starting QB for 10½ games, while the Cowboys and Seahawks were 9-7 with their QBs the entire season. While the Packers certainly have some shoring up to do this offseason, perspective shouldn't be that difficult. This team would have easily been 11-5 or 12-4 with Rodgers at the helm and had a real chance to get to the Super Bowl. Losing Rodgers didn't "expose" the Packers, it's the reality of the NFL.

That’s what I’ve been saying and getting ridiculed for. Because it’s unfathomable to consider the loss of your franchise player for half the year having a significant impact on the outcome of your season. The 49ers looked a heck of a lot different with Garoppolo at quarterback, did they not?

Curt from Oronoco, MN

It seems to me on defense, the Packers are only one big-impact edge rusher away, since that would impact everything. Are the stars aligning for a trade up to get one? Who might that be?

It’s about playmakers. I don’t care if it’s edge rusher, defensive tackle, safety, cornerback or inside linebacker. Each year is a search for field-tilters. You get enough of those – like the Packers had in 2010 – and you’re in the hunt.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

If a QB is the BAP at the 14th pick, do the Packers take him or trade down? Rodgers was selected when Favre was still playing well.

No. This is a chance to improve your football team around Rodgers. Quarterbacks are playing longer than ever before. The other thing with Favre was the constant retirement speculation. There has been none of that with Rodgers, who often has spoken about his desire to play past 40.

Anthony from Minneapolis, MN

Why is it so important to always say the Packers need to take care of Aaron Rodgers? He’s got two years left on his contract and making 20 million a year. It’s not that he’s underpaid, but all the other guys in front of him are overpaid. Why make the same mistake as others? For the record, I bleed green and gold.

Because that’s not how capitalism works. You’re worth what someone is willing to pay you. The Packers have benefitted from Rodgers playing below market on both his second and third contracts. They’ll take care of him when the time is right and justifiably so.

Connor from Murray, UT

Spoff said the Rodgers extension should be the next roster move the Packers perform. Now my question is, would Rodgers wait until he sees what Kirk Cousins’ and Jimmy G’s contracts are gonna bring, or is he so loyal to Green Bay that he will trust them to pay him more than Cousins that he will do the deal earlier?

That’s certainly his prerogative. Rodgers still has two years on his contract, so it’s not like he’s up against a March 1 deadline or anything. The two sides previously agreed to terms on an extension on the eve of the NFL Draft in April 2013 after the market settled.

Peter from Las Vegas, NV

Mike, your words: "The Packers will be better for what happened this season. Just look at 2008 and where things went from there." I agree to a point. Rodgers was eight years younger then. Does Rodgers have another eight years in the tank? I doubt it.

Rodgers didn’t need eight years after 2008, though. He needed two.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN

Very odd, both teams used a play where the receiver passed to the QB. It looked strange for Hundley to have a catch and several of the regular receivers none. Was Detroit dissing us on their two-point conversion? Not only unnecessarily going for two, but mimicking the receiver passing to the QB?

Who knows? As Spoff tweeted Sunday – they probably just wanted to run that play before the season ended. Congrats?

Mike from Mercer, WI

Not so much a question but more of a comment. Joe is much better than Brett. It's unfortunate that MM didn't give him more of an opportunity to showcase his abilities in the game. Good job on your column. I do enjoy it even if I think you are wrong on Brett. He might be a good running back just not a good QB.

You surmised Callahan is better than Hundley based on his seven snaps in the final two minutes of Sunday’s game? Hey, the overall stats are what they are, but what I can’t get out of my mind is how well Hundley and the Packers played against 13-3 Pittsburgh in November. That game showed Green Bay could hang with the best, but it just couldn’t put those kind of performances together consistently enough to be a playoff team.

Daniel from Los Angeles, CA

I'm still trying to figure out how Adam Thielen got the Pro Bowl vote with four touchdowns but Jordy didn't get it last year with 14 and slightly more yards.

Beats me. There’s a certain randomness to how receivers get selected for the Pro Bowl since it’s a passing league and every team typically has at least one standout receiver. I’m guessing Nelson probably goes to Orlando as an alternate last year if it wasn’t for the rib injury.

Paul from Cumming, GA

First silly question of the Silly Season: What is people's obsession with Jon Gruden as a head coach? His numbers hardly bear out his hype.

Probably his exposure. He won a Super Bowl. He’s also highly visible on ESPN and Monday Night Football. I spent an evening following Gruden around Green Bay in his cruiser three years ago. He is a high-energy guy. People gravitate towards that sort of thing. 

Benjamin from Bear, DE

The season's over. It's now time to evaluate what worked, what needs to improve and get ready for the draft and free agency. You're the new GM and you have the 14th pick. Do you sit tight, trade up or down? You're on the clock, whatcha gonna do?

Use the remaining four months I have to evaluate the NFL Scouting Combine, pro days and pre-draft visits to make a halfway informed decision.

Zaedon from Graytown, OH

Sense of entitlement? I disagree. The world changed long ago. Many people seemingly missed it. Continuous improvement has long been the mantra for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Packers fans are not entitled. They are baffled by the lack of improvement from year to year.

My apologies, Zaedon. I cut down your 206-word comment due to length, but yes some Packers fans are entitled. Not all of them. Some. In businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Max from Milwaukee, WI

Of all the years to have a poor season and end up with a top-15 pick, this was the year. Those 11 picks are needed.

The Packers have options, especially now that teams can trade compensatory picks.

Greyson from Peterson, MN

Because of the controversy regarding the Martellus Bennett signing and release, is there a possible scenario where his signing does not affect the compensatory picks received by the Packers?

It’s my understanding Bennett won’t count against the compensatory formula.

Noel from Norwalk, CA

I really dig the way you've continued with the column. Just like Favre, then Rodgers, we had Vic, now Spoff and Wes. Truly turnover is part of life and we must enjoy the turnover, just like the leaves in fall. Carpe Diem boys.

It’s been an interesting year. It wasn’t always easy to pull up my emails and dive into this column, but I’ve generally enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the fans. Generally.

Laura from New Lenox, IL

Who got fired?

We’ll talk about the future once all the dust settles, but I hope when that day comes commenters show better decorum than this. Yes, it’s a production-based business, but there’s a human element involved. Contrary to popular belief, not all these people are set for life. We’re talking about individuals with families and mortgages. Show a little respect.


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