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Inbox: He finally has the NFL's undivided attention

Everyone knows the stakes in the NFL playoffs

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WR Davante Adams

Donald from Fayetteville, NC

Does J.J. Watt qualify as Spoff's big missed news or is that too many degrees of Packers separation to count?

If the "big news" results in me grabbing the Advil, then it counts…and I made two trips to the medicine cabinet on Friday.

Gary from Davenport, IA

I'm putting the over/under for number of "J.J. Watt should become a Packer" submissions at 99. Was it over or under that total? Of course, this was for entertainment purposes only because gambling is illegal at Bushwood.

I'll keep track and let you know how many questions there were at the end of the column.

Bruce from Arbor Vitae, WI

Wes: "And if Devin Funchess wants to play in 2021, I hope we get to see him in this offense with Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and possibly an incoming rookie." So....are you hinting the Packers are drafting a wide receiver this spring? I certainly hope it's in the first round, since we all know the lack of a first-round receiver kept the Pack from winning the Super Bowl a few weeks ago.

The Packers haven't drafted a receiver in two years. Fun fact: They haven't gone three consecutive years without taking at least one receiver since DraftHistory.com began categorizing players as "wide receivers" in 1965.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Good morning, Wes! I am very interested in seeing if Equanimeous St. Brown can make the jump in 2021 that MVS made in 2020. Personally, I think the Packers have a myriad of receivers with Adams, Lazard, MVS, EQ, Funchess, etc. Would you say that position is a strength, not a weakness, going forward?

It was just good to see Equanimeous St. Brown playing again. He had a minor setback with the knee early on but established himself as the No. 4 receiver by year's end. I'm sure the two-point conversion play is going stick with him for a bit but there were a lot of positives to draw from E.Q.'s comeback year. The Packers are slated to bring back everyone in the receivers room next year, a rarity in today's NFL.

Scott from Noblesville, IN

The highlight film of Davante Adams is so very enjoyable to watch! Thank you II and packers.com. That being said, it is truly amazing the reel "jumps" from Week 1, to the Pack being 4-1, to its next scene. My question is, did any other receiver who had "a season for the ages" have such a gap in games played throughout the season? I would think no, and would then remind our "often-all-too-critical" fan base of the "just-as-often" wise decision-making ability of our staff.

I'm sure there are more examples but no one else comes to mind. Adams had a career year despite sitting out for 2½ games. Just imagine what his final stat line would look like if he'd played against New Orleans and Atlanta. Adams has arrived, man. It took seven years to get here, but he finally has the NFL's undivided attention.

Peder from Sturgeon Bay, WI

So do you think Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or someone else, is the really, really good GOAT?

Touché.

Peter from Ashland, WI

Scot from WPB, FL made a point about a lack of talent on D. I don't agree (per se) but you seemed to get defensive, why? I think the point was, the face of the cupboard looks nice but it's pretty bare past that. Top-tier talent is great but production as a whole is more important. The weakest link breaks first. It's Gute's job to build a strong chain and Barry's job to get the most out of it. Don't get upset cause some fans think we need some stronger links. It takes all 11! Right?

I wasn't upset. I merely disagreed with the premise of the question. The Packers had a top-10 defense and played considerably better during the second half of the season. It wasn't just because of six players who were average or better. I felt it was ridiculous to argue the rest were just "bodies" and responded as such. Do the Packers have work to do this offseason with their defensive personnel? Indubitably, but all Brian Gutekunst has been doing for the past three years is working to "upgrade the talent" of which you speak. It's disingenuous to present Scot's comment as a novel concept.

James from Chicago, IL

Tampa Bay stopped two of the league's best offenses in back-to-back weeks. Todd Bowles clearly must have discovered some new scheme no defensive coordinator ever thought of. It couldn't possibly be that building a lead, getting massive pressure with four talented D-linemen, and dropping seven DBs and LBs to cover four pass catchers has always been a successful strategy? (Please don't overlook my sarcasm).

Your sarcasm is noted. You can disperse credit to whoever you wish, but Tampa Bay's defense was legit. More importantly, the Buccaneers played complementary football in the game's biggest game en route to capturing the game's biggest prize.

John from Worthington, OH

Since the number of NFL teams/players have increased significantly since the first class was inducted in 1963, has there been any consideration by the HOF to increase the number of modern era inductees each year?

Nothing substantial. Contrarians would say the Hall of Fame is already allowing in too many modern-era players. I think the HOF committee struck a good compromise with creation of the "Coach" category, which aims to widen the doors into Canton for coaches that previously had to go through the modern-era process. The byproduct of that is more players getting in over time.

Bob from Emmaus, PA

While looking at the Aaron Rodgers photo gallery, I have one question: How did AR and David Bakhtiari get up on the wall?

Very carefully.

Cam from Pekin, IL

I saw LeRoy Butler play his entire career. He was one of the best at his position. He definitely belongs in the HOF. Eli Manning is getting a lot of attention. I know LeRoy and Eli played two different positions. The difference in the publicity though is LeRoy doesn't have a father (Archie) and a brother (Peyton) talking him up in the press and to the voters. If he did, he'd already be inducted, and that's the unfair part of the process.

That's fair. As I've said before, I think more people need to speak up for Butler – especially since Reggie White and Fritz Shurmur aren't here. Certainly, Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren have done their part. Anyway, it's my hope Butler's bust will be forged by the time Eli Manning is even eligible for the Hall of Fame, let alone set to join him.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

So happy for the great season the Packers had, it brought a lot of joy in a tough year. I'm finally now over the NFC Championship Game, onward to a new season. The Packers have a dilemma at backup QB with Tim Boyle. Can they afford to pay three QBs in this salary cap crunch year?

It shouldn't be that big of a problem. Some teams are paying $8 million or more for a veteran backup QB. Even if Boyle gets the right-of-first-refusal restricted tender, that won't be astronomically higher than the base salary for a fourth-year veteran who was a third-day draft choice in 2018.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

It's the time of year when a lot of the talk turns to salary cap cuts around the league and this year more than ever. Players with more than one year remaining on their contracts usually will list pre-June 1 and post-June 1 cap savings with the latter about 50% higher. Why? Also, why would a team not designate all as post-June 1 if they gain more cap space? Thanks Wes.

If memory serves, teams can only designate one player as a post-June 1 cut. Even then, many teams prefer not to go that route because they're only kicking the can down the road. You're still gonna have to pay the piper at some point.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Wes, I've been waiting till offseason to ask about Luke Butkus. I hear his name mentioned as an integral part of the O-line room and being a good coach, but I know next to nothing about him as a person, outside of his famous last name. Do you have any interesting stories, what's his personality like? I got to see him up close in training camp. He sure looks scary.

Ha. Luke definitely looks like a Butkus, but I don't find him the least bit scary. I've only talked to Butkus once – after he was hired as Adam Stenavich's assistant two years ago – but found him to be quite personable. Butkus has put in the work to earn this opportunity, and appears to have developed a good rapport with Stenavich and the O-line.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

Question for GM, Wes. Assume you manage the current GB roster, and have the choice of re-signing Corey Linsley and Aaron Jones to multi-year contracts on the one hand, or using that same money to sign a young, low first-tier FA WR to a long-term contract, along with an aging veteran CB on a shorter deal. Not looking for you to opine on a specific player, but more curious as to how you value those two options relative to the 2021 season and why. Thanks for your work.

If those are the two options, I'd re-sign Linsley and Jones in a heartbeat. I feel both players will be money well-spent for either the Packers or another NFL team.

Nic from London, UK

I suppose it's not statistically improbable, but man we've lost to several eventual SB champions who weren't unambiguously superior. We were clearly outclassed by the Niners and Falcons (neither of which went on to win the big one) but no one can convince me we'd lose more games than we won against the Giants teams or the Bucs. Guess it really is about when you peak, just like us in 2010?

The NFL playoffs are similar to the NCAA Tournament, which may be why those are the two most popular postseason formats in all American sports. Like I said in the lead-up to the NFC title game, it's win or go home. Everyone knows the stakes.

Zack from Vacaville, CA

Now that J.J. Watt has been released, do the Packers have a better chance of signing him?

OK, let's dive into this. The Texans cutting Watt a month before the start of the new league year creates a big question for the entire league. Watt is now free to sign anywhere and doesn't count towards the compensatory equation since he was released. But there still are questions left to be answered: How quick will Watt's market form? What kind of contract is he looking for? And is a team willing to spend to sign him before we get to the new league year? Watt is a generational talent but also has been a little banged-up in recent years. Still, I can't recall someone of his talent level, age (31) and reputation going on the open market a month before the start of free agency.

Curt from Algonquin, IL

What makes this interesting is that Watt is from Pewaukee, WI and grew up a Packers fan. I doubt any Packers fans would fantasize about bringing a hometown hero back, especially in some misguided dream of him being the final piece putting the Packers back in the Super Bowl. However, out an abundance of caution, could explain to your readers why such a move would infeasible under the Packers' current salary cap situation?

That goes back to my point about what kind of deal Watt covets. Some fans were writing, 'Well, maybe he'll play for the veteran minimum.' Um, that's $1 million. Not happening. He made $15 million last year. His price tag will be tricky considering the past injuries and the fact he's coming off a five-sack season. And we've talked ad nauseam about what the Packers are facing with this year's cap.

Ben from Menomonee Falls, WI

What do you think is more enticing to a guy like Watt? Getting the opportunity to potentially play in your home state, on your favorite team that's just been to back-to-back NFC Championship games with the NFL MVP? Or getting the opportunity to play with your two brothers?

This needs to be considered, as well. As excited as I'm sure most Packers fans were about Watt coming free, Steelers fans also are salivating at the thought of completing the Watt trifecta in Pittsburgh.

Nik from Moore, SC

I'm sorry for what has happened to you the last 24 hours. Would that move be enough to calm the "go all-in" people? Do we need OBJ, too? I pray fans calm down and realize '99' may still want to maximize his earning potential....and not chase a ring.

I totally understand fans' passion and interest. Watt is one of Wisconsin's most-beloved athletes. He was raised here and has an incredible backstory. But I'm also not going to prey on fandom for extra clicks. That's why you weren't going to see Watt in the Inbox headline or even the first few graphs. If Watt somehow found his way to Green Bay, believe you me we'd cover the heck out of it. Until that happens, however, Watt is just another fish (albeit a massive one) in a sea of free-agent uncertainty.

Joe from Appleton, WI

If a released player (like Watt) were to sign with a team right now, could the team use money from the 2020-21 salary cap to pay him? Or would they have to use money from the 2021-22 cap and beyond even though the new league year hasn't started?

No, you can't leverage against the future. It's like a credit card. When you've reached your limit, you've reached your limit. The only other thing teams can do is restructure existing contracts into signing bonuses to prorate out that money. But again, you're back to kicking the can.

Josh from Waukesha, WI

Am I the first to ask about J.J. Watt?

Ha. You actually were, Josh. We had 93 Watt-related submissions by the time I filed Inbox, though I'm guessing Spoff will have plenty more waiting for him on Monday.

Jeremy from Rice Lake, WI

It's February, it's cold, and I'm tired of the GOAT talk, the engagement, who will we keep through FA questions and all the other stuff that will sort itself out in time...is it too early to ask for a Prospect Primer, or a discussion on who are you excited to watch at the combine?

We'll get back to you on Prospect Primers. Spoff and I need to discuss that. Because we're not going down to Indianapolis and likely won't have the sound from prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine like past years.

Basil from Nags Head, NC

Not a question but an observation: how about that Alex from Charlotte, NC in the Feb. 12 inbox? That question about Nathaniel Hackett was insightful, humorous, and relevant. That guy Alex must be brilliant! Oh, it also happens that he's my son. We both love reading II and watching the Pack play. I go back to the Super Bowl I days, and Alex was born in the Brett Favre Super Bowl era. Hope to see y'all in person next season! Keep up the good work, and Go Pack Go!

Father and son going back-to-back.

Cambo from Indianapolis, IN

Year-round connoisseur of y'all's work. Appreciate another great ride with you both, and already looking forwards to next season. Do either of you have dogs and, if so and more importantly, are they good boys/girls?

We do have a dog. He is a very good boy who gets all the treats and pets.

Dale from Palmyra, NE

Wes, I really want to see you, Spoff, John, Larry, and Wayne do a "5 Guys with Several Things," a five-minute segment. I can see you guys having a hoot doing it and it would be a blast to watch.

We'd need a wide lens to get us all in the shot…and a stool for me to stand on.

Chas from Phoenix, AZ

Wes, just wanted to say thanks to you and Mike for the reporting this season and hope you enjoy a deserved rest period. For the hard job you do, tell the higher-ups you also deserve a raise if for nothing else putting up with the screwed-up COVID rules. Enjoy the time off.

Are you reading this, Duke? Thank you, Chas. That's kind of you to say. Well, we made it. And so, I am off…which means Spoff is in for the quietest week ever before I return Feb. 22 to more news. Be nice to one another yet.

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