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Inbox: It's a unique fraternity

New voice and few free-agent additions made all the difference for Packers in 2019

WR Davante Adams, former WR Jordy Nelson
WR Davante Adams, former WR Jordy Nelson

David from Appleton, WI

Kobe Bryant's passing made many step back and remember him and his legacy in the NBA. Bart Starr passing last summer didn't have nearly the same impact on the national conscience – probably because of the amount of time since Bart last played. In your opinion, is there any NFL player's passing that has had the same impact as Kobe's?

Bryant's NBA career was over, but at 41, he still had his entire life ahead of him. That's what kept me up on Sunday night. He was set up to become one of the biggest cultural icons of his generation, with the way he developed his brand. So I can't think of any individual in football or any mainstream sport whose passing in the prime of his or her life has had this type of wide-scale impact. We were robbed of greatness. Two days later, that reality still has me crestfallen. I'm not alone based on what I've seen on social media.

Evan from Oesterle Lake, WI

How about those Pro Bowl performances from the Packers?!

Brilliant on so many levels. It was great to see Davante Adams  finally get the opportunity to showcase his talent on that stage and Za'Darius Smith was just flat-out fun from start to finish.

Jeff from Eau Claire, WI

What's your take on Adams' pass in the Pro Bowl?

Not a surprise. All the beat writers have witnessed Adams' arm strength in practice over the years. In the past, he's talked about his exploits as a quarterback growing up. Who knows? Maybe the Packers will work one of those trick plays into a game plan next year.

Alex from Kentwood, MI

Good morning, Insiders! What did you guys think of the "new" onside kick procedure?

It still feels gimmicky to me but the NFL does need to do something different. Unless you're Younghoe Koo, onside kicks are nearly impossible to convert anymore with the change on kickoff procedure.

Thorben from Bochum, Germany

Since we're already talking about the draft, what would a quarterback-needy team have to invest to receive the No. 1 overall pick from the Bengals? Don't get angry, I'm not talking about the Packers. Just curious.

Everything *Thanos voice*

Paul from Rockford, IL

How do we avoid a sophomore slump like the Rams did last year with their new coach?

A big part of it is how smart and savvy the Packers have been with their cap and draft assets. They didn't mortgage the future to put all their chips in the 2019 basket. The Packers' key pieces are all long-term investments, which should keep Green Bay in the thick of the NFC race for years to come.

Matt from Manhattan, KS

For his first two drafts, Gute had the "luxury" of a relatively high spot in each draft round, and for the most part I'd say he delivered with getting some great players. Now that he's going to be a good 10-15 spots back in the draft for each of the non-traded picks, how much harder will his job be this April?

It makes the task at hand a bit more challenging but it's not impossible to find an impact player at No. 30. That spot has netted some decent players over the years.

Jake from Milwaukee, WI

Hello! It seems clear to me that a focus of the offseason will be to add weapons at WR and TE. In looking at even Davante Adams' progression, it appears that rookie WRs tend to take some time to get on the same page with Aaron Rodgers and earn his trust. I imagine an early draft pick will be at WR, but I'm a little concerned with their ability to contribute effectively next year. Do you think there is any interest in trying to re-sign Randall Cobb to add an immediate WR that has Rodgers' trust?

Cobb had a nice bounce-back season in Dallas but I actually take the exact opposite approach as yours. I think it would make more sense for Green Bay to draft a young receiver to groom under Adams – much like the Packers did when they drafted the three-time Pro Bowler in the second round in 2014. It's been almost six years since the last time the Packers took a receiver on either Day 1 or Day 2 of the draft.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

A legitimate WR2 would be nice to have, and that receiver may or may not currently be on the roster. Allen Lazard could theoretically take it, but if another WR gets even a little close to Adams level – even just slight – Lazard becomes ridiculously dangerous as a WR3.

Again the more playmakers, the merrier. Did anyone really care how Nelson, Cobb, James Jones, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver were labeled back in 2011? The end justifies the depth chart. That position has a storied history in Green Bay. It's a unique fraternity and there's room for more.

Andrew from Fullerton, CA

Vic and other writers bring up that the Smiths aren't as good against the run as pass-rushing. I know Rashan Gary didn't play much this year, but he's also a big man and seemed to have a decent amount of tackles in the snaps he had. How do you evaluate him against the run? Might we see him more on running downs as he makes a second-year jump?

I disagree with that. The NFC title game was not a banner game for the Packers' run defense by any means, but I felt Za'Darius Smith held the edge pretty well during his first season in Green Bay. Historically, Preston Smith has been solid against the run, as well. If Gary keeps developing, I do like the potential havoc he and Smith can create given their similar skill sets.

Tom from Lakewood, CO

Do you feel it is still too soon to judge Gute's first draft in 2018?

It's definitely too soon. For example, just look at how much we learned about the 2017 NFL Draft this past season.

Colin from Ossian, IN

Where is Josh Jackson? This being his second year, I anticipated an expanded role in our defense.

Frequent readers know my feelings on Jackson. I still think he can be a starter in this league. He was thrown in with the sharks as a rookie and then had a setback with the heel injury to start camp. With how healthy the secondary was in 2019, Jackson just didn't get a lot of opportunities on defense. I felt Jackson was exceptional on special teams, though. He did everything that was asked of him and has a good head on his shoulders.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

What do you think about GB signing Reggie Begelton from the CFL?

I don't know much about Begelton but his stats sure jump off the page. The Packers did their homework with CFL prospects. I think they've signed three to futures deals so far.

Steve from Wichita, KS

A couple of questions. We signed Ryan Grant but he seemed a healthy scratch most of the year. Was there a reason? Also, do you see a possible reunion between Matt LaFleur and Marcus Mariota?

LaFleur has coached in a lot of places with a lot of QBs, so I find it quite humorous this Mariota question keeps coming up. The Packers signed Grant when they were really banged up at receiver. However, they healed up quickly and stayed that way the rest of the season. That's just the way it goes sometimes.

Marin from West Lawn, PA

Now after having one season under his belt, will Coach LaFleur perhaps play a greater role working with Gute in deciding potential free agents and with the college draft?

Those two have had an open-door policy with each other in terms of player acquisition since the day LaFleur was hired. But like anything, a full year working together should only help cohesion. Both saw what the 2019 team did well and where it needs to improve for 2020.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Hypothetical, you're the GM, first round and the 30th pick is on the clock. There are four players on the board that you have mid-first-round grades on – a WR, a TE, a MLB, and a QB. And the Bengals are on the phone offering the first pick in the second round and the first pick in the fourth round for the 30th pick. What's the call Wes?

The ole draft value chart says move back two spots and get the first pick on Day 3. I'd probably go that direction with that much depth still on the board.

Bob from Grand Rapids, MI

What is the status of Yosh Nijman? I know he was placed on IR. What do you think of his chances as a backup OT next year?

Nijman is a massive, massive human being. It's too bad the elbow flared up after he was activated to the 53. I think he could definitely be in contention for a roster spot this summer if he gets his pad level down and keeps developing his upper body.

Karl from Fort Collins, CO

Wes, your answer to my question from last spring looks prescient:

"There's a lot of work to be done between now and opening day, but is it wrong to think that some optimism is justified?"

The Eagles were 7-9 in 2016 during Doug Pederson's first year before going 13-3 and winning Super Bowl LII. Sometimes it only takes a season to turn everything around.

That's just the way things work in the NFL. A new voice leading the locker room, a few impact free-agent signings and the continued maturation from players already on the roster made all the difference for Green Bay in 2019.

Vince Lombardi, an offensive assistant of the New York Giants, was named the Packers' fifth head coach. Lombardi went on to win five NFL championships in Green Bay.

Steve from Davenport, IA

Has the Pro Bowl become a joke? Should players just be nominated but not waste the game being played?

The ratings for this year's Pro Bowl aren't out yet but last year's game was the most-watched program on cable TV. Needless to say, the NFL ain't saying no to cash, bro.

Nicole from Trempealeau, WI

Has there ever been a Packer Pro Bowl MVP?

John Jefferson (1983) was the last Packers player to win one.

Malcolm from Fennimore, WI

Do you think changing the Pro Bowl to full-fledged flag football would improve it at all?

I've never been as down on the Pro Bowl as most fans and pundits seem to be. I'm OK with the glorified two-hand touch that the Pro Bowl has become. Guys are having fun and nobody is getting injured. The best thing the NFL did was move it ahead of the Super Bowl. Now it's another part of the party.

Mike from Ames, IA

Do you think the Pro Bowl would get more views if part of the skills challenge was a Royal Rumble match?

Never mind. Mike from Ames just solved the whole thing.

Dave from Franklin, WI

Will Darnell Savage be allowed to wear No. 21 next season?

No, and I think that ship has sailed. He's sticking with No. 26.

Bill from Bloomfield, MI

In every NFL decade one team has won three or more championships with no other team winning more than two. Those teams are the Bulldogs, Packers, Bears, Browns, Packers again, Steelers, 49ers, Cowboys, Patriots and Patriots again. Who do you like as the leading contender(s) for the 2020s and what elements from the past teams are the most important?

Patrick Mahomes is 24 years old and already won an MVP award. It would be foolish to not say Kansas City right now considering it has a chance to put the first trophy from this decade in the case Sunday night.

Steve from Neenah, WI

When do organized team activities start?

Official dates will be announced in early May. The Packers conducted their first public OTA practice on Tuesday, May 21, this past year.

Packers fans were in Orlando to cheer on the Green & Gold in the 2020 Pro Bowl.

Donny from Green Bay, WI

I hope the NBA retires Kobe's number like the MLB did for Jackie Robinson. Also, Kobe's legacy in my mind is summed up that he's a single name athlete. Reggie, Brett, Peyton, LeBron, Michael, Shaq, Tiger, etc.

So true. He was one of a kind.

Mike from Niles, IL

Thanks Mike, for remembering Kobe Bryant. Never considered myself much of a Kobe fan, but was shocked to hear the news. Proud of Davante and Za’Darius for leading Kobe tributes as well as for their excellent play. Way too many sports and music stars (Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper, Patsy Cline, and Jim Reeves) and closer to home, Alan Kulwicki, and the entire San Luis Obispo football team have died this way. RIP, all.

Alan Kulwicki was the first big death I recall. I was only five at the time. My dad was a massive Kulwicki fan. Parts of my childhood home are still decorated with his memorabilia. Coincidentally, Kulwicki and I share the same birthday.

Ashley from Chicago, IL

II, what are your favorite parts about the offseason?

It's great having weekends off again, and eating lunch and dinner at normal times. There's also more time to focus on special projects.

Brett from Atlanta, GA

The worst part of the Packers season being over was realized on Sunday as, by habit, I get ready for the 1 p.m. EST start time and my wife presents me with the "honey-do" list that dates back to September. It's going to be a long offseason!

I'm with ya. I actually took PTO today to finish a present for my wife's birthday, which was more than three weeks ago. Wish me luck.