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Inbox: It's always a cat-and-mouse game

The salary cap rules

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL football draft in 2019

Jeff from Eau Claire, WI

Where is Green Bay leaning in the draft?

Toward being ready to pick a good player on April 29.

Reid from Woodbury, MN

Interesting tidbit...My desktop calendar states Mason Crosby led the team in scoring in 2018 for the 12th consecutive season, which prompted me to look at 2019 and 2020. Aaron Jones bested Crosby 114-106 in 2019, and Davante Adams outscored Crosby 108-107 in 2020. Two impressive years by 33 and 17 no doubt!

Indeed, and do you know the last time the Packers were led in scoring in consecutive seasons by non-kickers? For those who want to think about it, I'll put the answer at the bottom of the column.

Chris from River Falls, WI

What will be the biggest change we see in the special-teams unit next year with our new coach?

I honestly don't know, but I believe some personnel changes will give Drayton a better chance at success. Gutekunst on Tuesday sure sounded like a GM interested in making sure his roster has a dynamic return man on it, for one thing. I'm also curious what kind of competition might be brought in at punter and long snapper.

Rob from Edinburgh, Scotland

Hi Mike/Wes, I'm not good at keeping track of who is answering the Inbox on a given day, sorry. How much more involved is Adam Stenavich going to be in the offense as a whole this season now that he has been named run game coordinator, and what will his new responsibilities entail? Is this primarily a move to prevent other teams from poaching him?

Judging by what Hackett said Tuesday, it seems Stenavich pretty much had those duties already, so I suspect the reasons for the new title (and pay raise) are two-fold – a pat on the back for a job well done, and some incentive to keep a young, up-and-coming coach around a while longer.

Robert from Chandler, AZ

A year ago, the supposed GB need for a No. 2 receiver was all the rage. This year, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan all improving, the rage has been reduced. Yet their remains a thought that GB still lacks a true slot receiver: a Randall Cobb-type, someone who could relieve Davante Adams of needing to catch all those short-yardage plays. What is your thought on this?

The Packers have functioned fine offensively without a classic slot receiver, but I think adding one to the mix would open up a few more wrinkles for LaFleur and his rather creative offense. That might also tie in nicely with the dynamic returner mentioned earlier.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

Hey Mike, in Gute's presser, I was surprised that questions were not asked on a variety of hot topics. But then from reading your "10 things," turns out they were covered but not shown. Thanks for providing full coverage.

Yeah, just to explain the Gutekunst availability from Tuesday, it was similar to what would normally occur at the combine. After his formal news conference in Indy, he'd hold a separate media session with beat writers only, no cameras. We had that yesterday via Zoom (after the initial Zoom), since the combine was nixed this year.

Duane from Oak Creek, WI

I miss the combine. Is everyone else going through combine withdrawal?

I almost hit the road last week just to find a Steak-n-Shake.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Wes and Mike, as we have moved into March, what is worthwhile to keep in sight?

The next significant date is March 9, the deadline to apply the franchise tag, which Gutekunst said is definitely in play for Aaron Jones.

Cam from Pekin, IL

Good morning, regarding Aaron Jones, my question is would the Bears allow Walter Payton, the Lions allow Barry Sanders, or the Vikings allow Adrian Peterson to walk away in the prime of their careers? Gute needs to find a way to keep him, he's a winner.

Let's not go comparing Jones, after just a pair of 1,000-yard seasons, to three Hall of Famers. That's not fair to anybody in this discussion.

Phil from Madison, WI

If a player receives a transition tag but then goes to another team when his current team declines to match an offer, does he count toward the draft compensation formula?

I don't believe so.

Tony from Bronxville, NY

Mike, I was reading about the new TV deals and, using my great math skills, see that revenues will be north of $8B across all networks. That is quite a bit higher than last year. How is it that the salary cap will be lower? Unless the $8B will be for the following year?

I've read the new TV deals, even if they are completed soon, won't affect the 2021 salary cap. Gutekunst even questioned Tuesday how much they would impact the '22 cap, presumably because the '22 cap will be based on '21 revenues, and the current TV deals with the big networks already run through '21 (ESPN Monday night) and '22 (FOX, CBS, NBC). So if the new TV money isn't actually coming on the books for a while, the owners would have to "advance" some to the players in the cap calculations to ease whatever '22 cap crunch is left over from this year. I guess we'll see.

Gretchen from Dousman, WI

Good morning, Mike. I'm going to try to find the words for this thought that keeps spiraling in my mind. Perhaps it's hard for me because I grew up in the era when players tended to stay with a team throughout their careers. It just seems puzzling that the team drafts and develops players and they find great fit and chemistry, but then players are reshuffled in free agency. Is this a parity thing, a money thing, or something I just don't understand?

The salary cap rules the game, Gretchen, and it didn't exist until 1994.

Julius from Providence, RI

Last summer, there was a question about whether teams would get credit back on their salary caps for offseason bonuses players were unable to earn because facilities were shut down. Do you know whether/how that has been resolved?

I believe players ultimately received those bonuses for participating in the qualifying percentage of virtual offseason program days, similar to how they had normally earned OSP bonuses.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers TE Robert Tonyan from the 2020 season.

Dale from Lima, NY

"…players drafted in the third round and later have a far lower success rate." Maybe for the league in general. David Bakhtiari (4), Corey Linsley (5), Jones (5), and Lucas Patrick, Tonyan, and Lazard (UDFA). That's half the starting offense. Dean Lowry (4), Kingsley Keke (5), Kamal Martin (5) or Ty Summers (7), Za'Darius Smith (4/fa), Adrian Amos (5/fa), and Krys Barnes (UDFA). That's half the defense. Mason Crosby (6), JK Scott (5), Hunter Bradley (7), Jamaal Williams (4). That's 80% of the primary special-teams players. I think Timothy from Wauwatosa, WI, is right.

You're really going to make me do this? Oh boy. You went back to the 2014 draft (with Linsley) in listing those 12-13 starters on offense and defense. Since 2014, the Packers have spent 47 draft picks in the third round or later, and have signed dozens more UDFAs in that time, to find those players. You're gonna play those odds every year? Puh-leeze. Plus, Timothy's team-building method of trading away all first- and second-round picks to stockpile selections later in every draft would mean (again, dating back to 2014) these players we know are on the '21 roster would never have been selected: Davante Adams, Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage or AJ Dillon. Again, I wish you luck.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

Based on the current roster (i.e. no guarantees for any of the current FAs), if you could pick one position for the Packers to land a reasonably priced veteran that performs well, what would it be?

I'd be inclined at the moment toward an offensive tackle or cornerback.

Hans from Tulsa, OK

For the life of me I've never understood why more teams don't trade back in the first round of the draft when near the top. Take the Colts in 2018 for example: three second-round picks for moving back three spots. If you aren't a QB-needy team at the top, it should be a no-brainer within the top 5-10 choices. The discrepancy in talent vs. quality of picks received is just not even remotely similar. In a QB-driven league, teams would be wise to take advantage of the needy. Your thoughts?

A lot of teams certainly try, but as Ted Thompson used to say, it takes two to tango. The QB-needy teams also like to read the board and hope one of those top QBs falls a little farther as other teams that can't move back select different players. It's always a cat-and-mouse game geared toward finding the right slot, trade price, value, etc. Plus, it also depends on the players available and a high-picking team's glaring needs. Over the last three years, non-QBs Saquon Barkley, Nick Bosa and Chase Young have won the offensive or defensive rookie of the year award as No. 2 overall picks.

Avida from Vienna, VA

Wow, Joe Barry mentioned going through 11 hours of interviews and another three hours of phone calls. Sounds pretty thorough indeed. How does that compare to the process Mike put Wes through in joining the packers.com team? Anything you can share as far as grammatical drills, written or personality tests, typing speed in the 40-second typewriting dash, or interview questions utilized as part of the Wes hire?

Ha, I actually had nothing to do, officially, with Wes's hiring. The decision was above my pay grade. All I did during his interview process was take him out to lunch at a local Mexican place we both like, and before we finished the first basket of chips and salsa I had a good feeling everything would work out. Since then, as is well-known, lunches are his responsibility.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers LB Kamal Martin from the 2020 season.

Randall from Chicago, IL

Why are there so many assistant coaches in the NFL? Seems like serious middle management bloat to me.

90-man offseason rosters. Growing practice squads. Specialization. Varied personnel groupings on offense. Sub-packages on defense. Constant substitutions. Situational breakdowns and accompanying analytics. I'll stop there. This isn't the same game Vince Lombardi coached. It's not even the same one Mike Holmgren coached, frankly.

Charlie from Mount Joy, PA

Hi Mike, thanks for the great work you and Wes do for us fans throughout the year. My question is, does bringing in a new defensive coordinator and a new system cause our defensive players to regress while they get acclimated to it, or do we have the talent to overcome any such occurrence? Stay well.

I don't think the new scheme presents a drastic enough change to really worry about it. Some differences will exist, but this doesn't strike me as anything resembling the transition from Bob Sanders to Dom Capers in 2009, or even McCarthy to LaFleur on offense two years ago.

Bruce from Menomonee Falls, WI

"Now you've got me afraid I may hear from (Rodgers) about putting that out there." In your correspondence with players, how many have admitted to you that they read the II? I'm hoping this question doesn't leave you laughing too hard to type anything else.

I've never been told by any players that they read II. I don't doubt some have people in their inner circles who make them aware of stuff from time to time, though.

Adam from Phoenix, AZ

Good morning! I spent the first 28 years of my life in Wisconsin, and everyone I knew (myself included) played Euchre, whereas not one person I ever encountered played Sheepshead. What's going on here?

I played plenty of Euchre in college, too, but back then we called it poor man's Sheepshead.

Jodi from Grand Rapids, WI

Yeah, but are they any good at cribbage?

Yet another worthwhile pursuit that cut into my study time back in the day.

Jim from Cadott, WI

We used our grill on Saturday, Feb. 27, to do steaks for our 50th wedding anniversary.

Congratulations. That's outstanding on multiple levels, and you've reminded me how long it's been since I had a good steak.

For the answer to the trivia question, you have to go all the way back to 1968 (Carroll Dale, 48 points) and '69 (Travis Williams, 54 points).

Happy Thursday.

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