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Inbox: Don't worry about the numbers

Just keep trying to find better players


Justin from Ames, IA

Spoff, if you got a signing bonus five times your salary from last year, you wouldn't have to steal Wes's lunch anymore!

Amen to Ames.

Ryan from Racine, WI

With the free agent players we just signed, where do you believe lies our biggest strength on defense now?

I don't think it's changed. The Clark-Daniels and Alexander-King pairings are still the strongest spots in my view.

Matt from Lakewood, CO

Really, Wes? "The dawning of the age of Za'darius"? I bet you were waiting to use that one from the first moment you heard of his signing. You may be a rookie but the Dad jokes are strong with you.

Wes did me a solid on Thursday, coming in on a day off to help with the coverage of the free-agent intros, and I absolutely loved that line.

Chris from Richland Center, WI

Hello Insiders, everyone is reacting to the 2019 free agent signings with statements like, "Ted would never do this," but he did exactly this in 2006. He signed Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, Marquand Manuel, and Ben Taylor as free agents. He later drafted A.J. Hawk, Daryn Colledge, and Greg Jennings with his first three draft picks. Oh, he also hired a new coach prior to his second season as GM. The 2005 and 2018 teams had gaps in talent, and their course corrections, so far, are eerily similar.

To a point. Except Manuel was the only free agent of that bunch signed right away. Pickett was four days later, Taylor another 10 days after that, and Woodson – the most significant signing – not until free agency was 50 days old. This was a decision to be a major player in the market from the get-go.

Tony from Denver, CO

There are some things I still find confusing about the accounting practices associated with managing the salary cap. I just read that the Packers' four free-agent signings will have a combined cap charge of only $23.4 million for 2019. Some simple math led me to discover that the average yearly value of these four contracts is almost $46 million. How is the 2019 salary cap hit so much lower than the yearly value of the contracts?

At the risk of oversimplifying too much, the Packers packaged the bulk of the first-year pay in the signing bonus, with a very low salary. So the cap charge in the first year is the low salary plus the pro-rated portion of the bonus. The cap charges go up considerably in the second and third years of the deals.

Team photographer Evan Siegle shares some of his favorite images of the 2018 season.

Kai from Madgeburg, Germany

Hello Mike, does the fact that the salary cap is constantly rising affect the way the contracts are structured? So by paying the Smiths more in the later years of their contracts, the Packers do themselves a favor?

Yes, that's a standard consideration when signing players in their mid-20s. Signing older players, you'd prefer to front-load the deals.

Luke from Oconomowoc, WI

Which do you think is more likely, someone filling out a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket or someone perfectly predicting the first round of the NFL Draft?

I wouldn't bet a nickel on either, but the astronomical odds have to be better for the draft.

Eric from Oshkosh, WI

The draft truly DOES seem to have all kinds of possibilities now that BG added these FAs. Thinking about it, it really doesn't matter what position/player it is: DT (Oliver), TE (Hockenson/Fant), DE/EDGE (Sweat/Burns), ILB (White), WR (Metcalf), RB (Jacobs), OL (Dillard/Williams). Adding any one of these players gives the Packers a stronger, deeper group at those positions. There's a lot to be excited about, and that's only thinking of the FIRST of our two first-round picks!

BAP is a beautiful thing.

Dave from Germantown, TN

I count 68 players on our roster including exclusive rights and restricted free agents. We have 10 draft picks. By my math we have room to sign another 12 players either undrafted free agents or current free agents. (Assumes a 90-person roster.) How many more current free agents can we sign or are we better off waiting and taking a crack at more UDFAs? How do players like Campbell and Wilkerson, who we may want to re-sign but they can't pass a physical, factor into these future decisions?

You don't worry about the numbers right now. Just keep trying to find better players. There are players currently on the roster who won't make it to OTAs or training camp, because the Packers will make moves they deem upgrades and keep churning along. It's just how it works.

Michael from Savage, MN

Mike, I know that this is an exciting time with the addition of the 4 FAs, but it is also exciting for Brewers fans as the season is two weeks away! My question is on the new rule changes. The one that I am most interested in your take is where pitchers would have to face three batters minimum. Was this a direct change due to the Brewers' Game 5 maneuver vs. the Dodgers last year? Does this hamper CC at all?

Due to some time off I have coming up, the next time I'll write Inbox will be on Opening Day, so I'm going to take this one now. The three-batter minimum (for 2020) wasn't totally in response to Counsell's use of "openers" a couple of times down the stretch last year. It's more to eliminate the one-batter relief pitcher and reduce mid-inning pitching changes to speed up the game. I don't like it. I enjoy the chess match, and for pace you could limit mid-inning relievers to three pitches from the mound after all the bullpen warmup tosses. But I'm not worried about Counsell. He's proven he's a pretty shrewd guy, and he'll strategize within the new rules with the best of them.

Adam from St. Louis, MO

Any idea of when jersey numbers will be announced for the four new guys? Looks like all their previous numbers are already taken.

Dunno. That's been up to the GM around here.

Mike from Minneapolis, MN

Will the Smiths have a P. and Z. on their jerseys for identification sake?

That has not been the prior practice.

Packers CB Tramon Williams celebrates his birthday on March 16.

Marty from Grafton, WI

I think it's funny that so many fans and draft "experts" think we shouldn't pick an edge guy with our first pick because we picked up two FAs. Rusher is a premier position. We cannot have enough depth. Not to mention the cheap contract at a premier spot like that in the future.

Yup yup.

Rod from Chugiak, AK

Cynical, "expert" analysts out there spew GB's FA splurge is too little, too late to rescue what's left of the Rodgers era because an effective enough turnaround will take too long. It doesn't seem that way to me. Only a few years back, both Chicago and Minnesota looked dead in the water, and now look at them. What's your comparison of their turnarounds, including prospects for their sustainability at present levels, and what it looks like for ours, especially if we crush this draft?

The turnaround would take too long if Gutekunst were to rely solely on the draft. He clearly is not doing that. Sustainability in Chicago and Minnesota is highly dependent on their QBs. The Vikings need more from Cousins, and the Bears need Trubisky to continue improving, especially with their limited draft capital this year and next. I've said all along there's no reason the Packers can't turn it around quickly with a QB like Rodgers. If LaFleur gets him back to previous levels and Pettine keeps the defense progressing, it can happen, fast.

Tudor from St. Augustine, FL

Spoff, Vic covered plenty of bad Jags teams prior to his time with the Packers, and he stayed true to his convictions regarding free agency throughout all those bad seasons in Jacksonville. To suggest that Vic would sing a different tune about free agency if he covered rosters with more holes is inaccurate.

I should have explained more fully. With a roster in bad shape, did the Jaguars ever have a Hall of Fame quarterback with a handful of years left? To suggest Vic wouldn't adjust his thinking in the face of special circumstances doesn't give him much credit.

Eli from Yardley, PA

In your opinion, of the four newbies, whose "Five things to know" article was most interesting? Any one specific aspect that stuck out to you?

Researching the Smiths' pressure stats on PFF and comparing them to the Packers' numbers from last year was very revealing.

Justin from Wausau, WI

In response to the question yesterday about the rookie blue-chip TE blocking Mack, I would posit that there might be just one TE in the whole league whom I would possibly trust with that duty if needed, and he's already on our roster. I feel he was greatly underutilized last year, and I can't wait to see what Matt LaFleur does with Marcedes Lewis.

Me, too.

LeeAnn from Carefree, IN

A week ago it seemed fairly easy to name or rank the Packers' needs going into the draft. Today, TE and then? As of today (things are likely to change in the next month) how do you see the Packers' draft needs and in what order of priority?

Without regard to BAP, I put the biggest Packers' draft needs at tight end, offensive tackle and safety, with linebacker, running back and receiver the next tier, though I'm not sure how to rank them all.

Jay from St. Paul, MN

So with these four signings am I the only one who thinks we should move up (if needed) and take the best offensive tackle this draft has? I won't begin to say who that is (I have zero years of scouting experience) but this is perfect time to get Bulaga's replacement. What do you think? Is that now the only glaring hole (provided these players are good signings)?

I think drafting a future right tackle to replace Bulaga is a high priority in this draft, but I don't think the Packers necessarily need to trade up from 12 to do so.

Chris from Lakeville, MN

One scenario I see playing out for the Packers: At pick 12 there are multiple players rated evenly on their board. Gute trades back a few spots while accumulating more draft picks. He then turns around and pairs the acquired picks with the second-round pick of ours to move us into the first round. We would then have three of the top 30 players on our board plus the option for picking up that fifth-year on the first-rounders. Sound like a plan?

As I said yesterday, I see anything and everything on the table.

Gerald from Santa Fe, NM

Lots of focus now on drafting BAP. How does the scouting staff evaluate (grade?) which player is better when different positions require such vastly different skill sets? How do you compare a wide receiver to an offensive lineman?

You don't. Scouting is about projecting a player's effectiveness and potential at the NFL level. Does he project as a solid NFL starter or a future Pro Bowler? No one knows for sure, but that's why scouts do this for a living and you and I eventually find out what they think.

Andrew from Redcliffe, Australia

G'day mate, I'm wondering going into draft with 10 picks and two of those first-rounders, what would you say in four years' time and we look back, what would be a successful draft. Three starters? Or do we aim higher?

Disregarding potential trades, with three picks in the first 44 and six picks in the first four rounds, three long-term starters would be the minimum goal, and I think Gutekunst has a chance to do better.

Chris from Atlanta, GA

A free-agency board? I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

I'm setting a record for the number of times I've said it's a new era.

John from Clintonville, WI

At the risk of straying into a discussion of "ageism," do you think the recent replacement of McCarthy, Thompson, and Capers are part of a league-wide trend to go young in coaching and personnel acquisition? MM isn't old by any means, but it would appear all three were kind of left behind by new, fresh trends in the NFL. It's amazing how much the NFL has changed in the last 10-15 years. Successful methods from that era seem almost antiquated now. Is there a full-on youth movement in the NFL?

I don't think it's specifically about youth and trends, though that's part of it. I think it's more about finding the coach or GM on the rise so your team benefits from a star-in-the-making's arrival and prime years. Have they proven themselves? No. Is there risk? Yes. But a lot of organizations would rather take that path than hope someone's previous success can be re-created in an ever-evolving game.

Eli from Yardley, PA

I think you guys hit on two Prospect Primers last year that the Packers drafted. If you had to wager, over/under 1.5 Primers correct this year?

I'll take the over. I think we'll get two, and I'm hoping for three.

Brandon from Pleasant Prairie, WI

I keep seeing all these draft questions and mock drafts, but I can't help feeling that on draft day the draft room very closely resembles the old saying, "Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face."

Rolling with those punches comes with the territory.

Harry from De Pere, WI

Does the draft team conduct mock drafts themselves to handle different draft-day situations? Or do they develop a "playbook" for possible situations? If this happens; we move up, move back, stay put, etc. Surely, that may be more difficult in latter half of the first round or rounds after, but having pick 12 seems a bit more feasible to put together simulations that may actually pan out.

No question. Yes, they will mock several scenarios in advance to help prepare, but trading up or down still comes down to finding a trading partner on rather short notice.

Michael from Eau Claire, WI

I gotta ask, we have the Smiths, is there a Wesson out there?

A Weston will have to do, and he's all yours while I fall off the grid for a bit. Have a great weekend, everyone.


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