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Inbox: He more than proved himself

There’s reason to be fired up

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CB Eric Stokes

Gary from Davenport, IA

Unlike Dan from Toledo, I can remember an offseason day comparable to Tuesday. It was the day when Reggie White announced he was coming to Green Bay. I instantly knew a Super Bowl title was on the horizon, which was very exciting to someone like me who was in kindergarten during the previous championship season.

April 6, 1993, was the signing. Spring of my junior year in college. I was probably playing in a ballgame that day, weather permitting.

Mike from New Orleans, LA

Could you go into any more detail on how the franchise tag works regarding other teams? If Team B offers Davante Adams a massive contract with a huge cap hit in Year 1, would the Pack have to match that exact contract or could the overall money be the same, just distributed differently? If the former, it seems that gives any team with a good cap situation a lot of leverage every year.

My understanding is "matching" a contract offer means providing equivalent guaranteed dollars and APY. The size and timing of the individual cap hits don't matter.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi II, assuming DA gets the franchise tag, what happens if five days later he signs a contract? The franchise tag is voided, right? Can that one-and-only Packers franchise tag then be used on another player? If so, then is there a player where the franchise tag might be advantageous salary-cap wise?

If Adams signs a new deal, the tag goes away, but the Packers have used their tag for this year and can't apply one again until next offseason.

Chris from Bettendorf, IA

Read a comment of how the Packers would be better letting Aaron Rodgers and Adams go. The justification offered was the Packers could have just as easily been 10-7 last year with them. My counter is the Packers could have had home field in the playoffs if not for the "Fail Mary." They could have been in a Super Bowl with a recovered onside kick. The common thread of all those scenarios, that's not what happened in reality. No one know what's coming for sure, enjoy the ride.

Works for me.

Craig from Appleton, WI

If you were creating a ranking of QBs in the two conferences it shows quite a disparity. In the AFC take your pick among Mahomes, Jackson, Allen, Herbert, Wilson, Carr, and Burrow. In the NFC you have Rodgers and then...Stafford? Murray? Cousins? With Wilson traded and Brady retired the path to the Super Bowl should be wide open to us.

Don't undersell Prescott, but … yeah. And now Khalil Mack of all players is back in the AFC, too.

Kevin from Indianapolis, IN

I've consistently been impressed with ML's leadership. Do you have a sense of his approach to getting his staff to internalize his vision and execute it? Are there specific tactics he might be taking this offseason given the turnover, e.g. staff retreat, lots of one-on-one meetings, something else?

He's never really shared any specific activities or approaches in that vein. Most coaches don't, publicly, and I don't blame them. Anything that provides a competitive edge is worth holding close to the vest in such a cut-throat business.

Rick from Trempealeau, WI

I fully understand the argument for keeping the stars on the bench for meaningless preseason finales and no-benefit end-of-season games. But … last season the starters predominantly skipped those two games and the Packers laid an egg in their first game and came out pretty flat in their final game. There was no rhythm to the offense. Do you think ML would approach it differently if he could have a do-over in the coming season?

No. The Packers earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC, so the Week 1 debacle meant nothing in the end. As for the playoff game, the offense drove 69 yards in 10 plays for a TD on the opening drive. It then gained 33 yards on the first four snaps of the second drive before Lewis fumbled. So the struggles thereafter can't be pinned on rust/rest. Upon reflection, if LaFleur has any regrets about how he handled the end of the season, one might be the decisions he made with the offensive line, which were tricky. I honestly don't know. I'm certain he regrets the inability to fix the special-teams woes before it was too late.

Glen from Leesburg, VA

As exciting as it was to see 12 and 17 stay in the fold, strategically speaking, I'm probably more excited to see how they keep the rest of the band together. De'Vondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, Allen Lazard and other key FAs are needed to make sure this isn't going to be a rebuild but rather a reload. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in Russ Ball's office to see how they are restructuring deals and putting together contracts to keep the core intact, not to mention any other FA of interest. Can't wait!

There are two rooms in this building I've never set foot in over my 16 years here – the draft room, and Russ's cap room. All I know is there's a lot of information on those walls.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, another cap question. Is there a minimum that a team has to spend on team wages, other than the mandatory minimum individual pay scale?

There is a salary floor. Under the previous 2011 CBA, the minimum spending requirement was a percentage of the cap over a multi-year period. In recent years, I believe the league has gone to a specific annual salary floor.

Bob from Bryn Mawr, PA

How is compliance with the salary cap policed? Are all player contracts sent to NFL headquarters and reviewed by the NFL?

Indubitably.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

With the salary cap deadline only five days away the Packers have a lot of work left to do. Gute will be making the ultimate decisions on cap cuts but Russ Ball will also be very busy redoing and restructuring multiple contracts and working with players and their agents. Does Russ Ball have an assistant or other people that help with what seems to be a nearly impossible task?

Melanie Marohl, whose title is director of football administration/player finance, works closely with Russ on all the cap and contract matters. She's actually been here longer than Russ has. Mel joined the Packers as a salary cap analyst 21 years ago.

Derek from Sheboygan, WI

Should the Packers look to the draft or free agency should MVS end up leaving?

Until we see what the team's cap situation is come next Wednesday, and probably even after that, the draft is the more likely answer.

Josh from Long Beach, CA

Can we ask draft questions now? What are the chances Jameson Williams drops to the Packers with his injury?

I've begun studying various early mock drafts to see the pool of players projected to be available in the bottom third of the first round, and Williams' name is there rather frequently.

Anthony from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Three potential MVP awards and the concept that this wouldn't necessarily motivate Aaron Rodgers? To be honest we need to recognize that ego drives these guys. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, but in the end personal accolades drive the ego and high-performance athletes are driven by their ego. Everybody tries to make AR into some cognitive guru. There is no doubt in my mind that AR has a third consecutive MVP front and center along with winning a Super Bowl. Ego, winning and money drives AR.

Perhaps your motivational hierarchy is more accurate. I don't know. What I do know is if Rodgers is playing like an MVP, the Packers will be winning games and putting themselves in the position they want to be in. Green Bay's fewest regular-season victories in one of his MVP seasons is 12.

Andrew from Chicago, IL

Slight correction on your Rodgers' 2018-2019 take. He injured his knee on opening night in 2018 and it lingered throughout the season. 2019 brings Rodgers his first coaching change (and new offensive scheme) as an NFL starter. And other than Adams, those two WR rooms were mostly rookies/sophomores. He still had 4,000-plus yards, 25-plus TDs, and four or less INTs both years. The only "decline" apparent from Rodgers was from his own otherworldly standards. Suggesting otherwise ignores the context above.

All true, but with those being Years 11 and 12 as a starter and the coaching transition raising a lot of unknowns, it was entirely understandable for Gutekunst to hedge his bets at the game's most important position and, in essence, protect the future. Rodgers himself said a rededication to leg workouts in 2020 rebuilt his physical foundation and helped put the '18 knee injury further in the rear-view mirror. Much of that work occurred after the 2020 draft.

Daniel from San Diego, CA

Let's say AR gets a four-year deal with X amount guaranteed. What happens to the guaranteed money if he decides to retire after two years? Thanks.

It would depend on how the guarantees are structured, such as if they're based on him being on the roster. Also, barring any specific prohibition in the contract, a team is within its rights, if it desires, to recoup a pro-rated portion of signing bonus for a contract the player chooses not to fulfill.

Thomas from Cedar Rapids, IA

The Packers are in win-now mode. If Rodgers happens to get hurt for a game or two, having Love on the roster will help the team more than the potential return of say, a second-round pick we would get in a trade, barring an impact player still being available. A full season of Love won't bring that elusive ring, but a game or two may prevent elimination from contention. Unless Gute is blown away, let's put the "trade Love" talk to bed.

And if he lights it up in the preseason this summer, with Rodgers planning to continue playing into 2023, the discussion becomes worth revisiting at this time next year.

George from North Mankato, MN

Which offseason transaction has surprised you the most thus far? Care to make a bold prediction before the start of the new NFL season?

With all the potential QB movement out there, I'm surprised one of the earliest dominoes to tumble was Carson Wentz.

Allen from St. Paul, MN

Given the cap situation and his recent struggles, what are your expectations for how the Packers handle Crosby? Restructure his deal? Bring in competition? Pending release? No. 2 always seems to find a way to bounce back … I'm hoping the front office gives him a chance and that he makes good on it in 2022.

Various possibilities exist with Crosby. Competition is already present on the roster in the form of two other kickers. Gutekunst has said he wants Crosby to remain the Packers' kicker. There are cap issues to consider. We just have to wait and see.

David from Las Vegas, NV

Good morning Insiders. How impressed were you by Eric Stokes' rookie season? I know I was really impressed. What I really liked was how every time he made a play, he just got right back into the huddle. He didn't do any showboating. I think he's a class act. Just do your job and get ready for the next play! GPG

The young man got thrown into the fire more quickly and thoroughly than anyone intended, and he more than proved himself. For those who missed it, I posted this story on him a little over a month ago. There's reason to be fired up about what lies ahead for Stokes.

Justin from Sammamish, WA

MLB opening day is April 7. Hallelujah!

You said it. Happy Friday.

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