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Inbox: It's not about statistics or workload

Winning with house money never gets old

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RB Aaron Jones

Eddie from La Crosse, WI

Judging by the way this week has been going, I pity the fool who uses "your" and "you're" incorrectly in they're submission.

There's (more than) one in every crowd.

Kent from Whitehall, MT

Where and how does Aaron Jones take "that next step" in his evolution as a great running back?

The next step is not about statistics or workload, per se. It's about handling defensive fronts that are geared to stop him from Week 1. He's going to see more of those than he saw in 2019, because his all-around game was on display for a full season. LaFleur will have adjustments built in to counter, and Jones has to adjust to defenses focusing on him more.

Scott from Grovetown, GA

I would argue Bauer would only be effective in taking down the terrorist if there was a terrorist behind COVID19. I think Dustin Hoffman is a better choice. On to my question. If you're on the clock and there are four players at different positions you have ranked higher than all other draft options, does BAP become a needs pick?

Need breaks most ties.

Theologos from Athens, Greece

A healthy Christian Kirksey may very well be an upgrade in ILB but I am not feeling confident that the same can be said in RT. Bryan Bulaga is one of the best in the business and Rick Wagner's career does not give me the optimism that he can replace Bulaga's production. Am I wrong?

The Packers weren't going to find an upgrade for Bulaga. He's one of the two or three top right tackles in the game. They decided against investing big in him at this stage of his career, and they plan to find their right tackle of the future in this draft or next. For now Wagner is the bridge to that player, whoever he may be.

Snapshots of newly-signed Green Bay Packers T Rick Wagner.

Hannes from Milwaukee, WI

Based on talent and injury history I would classify the free-agent acquisitions made last year were low-risk players with high-risk contracts. Contrary, this year's crop looks riskier in terms of production but with little contractual obligation. Am I reading too much into this or does this prove Mr. Gutekunst takes whatever the cap dictates? Offseasons won't get boring with this guy.

No, they won't. I've said all along these moves make plenty of sense given the Packers' circumstances.

Jerry from Las Vegas, NV

Good morning, II. I'm sure you've answered this question before but, here goes: What exactly is a guaranteed contract? What money is guaranteed and in what circumstances is it guaranteed? Injury? Being cut? Being traded? Being waived? And is it a special clause in the contract or are their some contracts that the money is guaranteed implicitly?

NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed, like they are in the NBA and MLB. Kirk Cousins' original three-year deal with the Vikings was fully guaranteed, and that was new. In the simplest terms, guaranteed money is the signing bonus and any salary or other bonuses written into the contract as guaranteed to be paid, whether or not the player gets hurt or cut. A traded player's contract goes with him, so any stipulations are absorbed by the new club unless they renegotiate. To give an oversimplified example, say a player signs a five-year contract worth $50 million that has a $10 million signing bonus and pays him $8 million in salary per year. The first year of salary is almost certainly guaranteed (you're not going to give a guy $10 million to sign and then not have him play for you at all), so that $50 million contract has $18 million in guaranteed money, with $10 million per year in cap charges ($8 million salary plus $2 million in prorated signing bonus spread out over the five years). If the club wants to cut the player after one year, it's off the hook for the non-guaranteed $32 million in salary, but it would take an $8 million cap hit at some point on the signing bonus portion that hadn't yet counted. That's what's called dead money. Again, vastly oversimplified, but hope it helps.

Dennis from Parrish, FL

Today we go to a random street in Green Bay, with proper spacing of course! Who runs a better 40, Mike or Wes?

I'll concede Wes, but I think I could keep it close. A mile? Wes by (almost) a mile.

Derek from Norton, KS

The Funchess acquisition is receiving a lot of scrutiny from a certain Packer "Insider" on Twitter. I understand that Funchess never blossomed into the pro that many expected. Would you attribute any of that to QB play? I feel playing with Rodgers could certainly eliminate some of his inconsistency.

Newton was no slouch, so I wouldn't necessarily go there. Funchess' hands haven't been reliable over the course of his career. He's had a lot of drops. Issues like that can build and fester when a player is in one place for an extended period. I suspect Funchess was looking for a reset by signing with Indy last year, but the broken collarbone nixed that. Now he's looking for another reset.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

Mike, as we'd be in the midst of NCAA March Madness right now, I wanted to flash back to last year's tournament. Was the run by Tony Bennett's UVA (Cardiac Cavs) team one of the most improbable and magical (one game won in the last tenth of a second, another tied at the buzzer, another tied in the last 15 seconds of regulation)? Do you think that type of run will ever be replicated by a single team? Never has "team of destiny" and redemption ever seemed so appropriate to what we witnessed.

Coming off the loss as a No. 1 seed to a 16 the previous year, the first time that had ever happened, made the Bennett/UVA journey truly unique (appropriate use of an otherwise overused term). I think just about every NCAA champ survives a buzzer-beater or heart-stopper of some kind on its way to a title. But to me the greatest of those stories remains Jimmy V's 1983 N.C. State Wolfpack. They had their backs up against it multiple times in the ACC Tournament just to get into the Big Dance in the first place, and then they pulled off the impossible. I remember watching a lot of it unfold in real time, but if you haven't seen the "Survive and Advance" 30 for 30 film, it defines March Madness.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Your answer to Andrew that SF was unique in their running production was surprising. Baltimore similarly used a run-focused offensive scheme as did the Titans and Bills. Each employed a different method but all were certainly run-first teams. I see the pendulum swinging again as defenses continue selling out to the pass.

Baltimore's QB was highly involved in the running game and Tennessee's ground game was built around one power back. San Francisco's was very different than anyone else in how the offense was built and distributed the ball. That was my point.

John from Provo, UT

Mike, I read an article yesterday that talked about how college coaches are dealing with COVID-19, such as holding coaches meetings over Zoom, sending players workout plans and workout equipment, and then following up on the players' workouts. Are Coach LaFleur and his staff doing something similar? How are they preparing the team for the season?

I'm sure the coaches are meeting and communicating in similar fashion. There's no football-related contact between coaches and players allowed until the start of offseason workouts on April 20. Those workouts are indefinitely postponed and I haven't heard what the NFL will allow in terms of communication.

Nicholas from Portland, OR

Really interesting to see how Gutekunst is gaming the compensatory picks. Go all in on big free agents last year, accept you won't get any comp picks, then come back this year and focus on signing released players, ensuring a couple of those comp picks will come our way next year. Quite brilliant actually. Have any other GMs played it like this before?

Ozzie Newsome was a master at acquiring comp picks as Baltimore's GM. The Ravens have been awarded more than any other team, by quite a margin.

Robin from Kenosha, WI

Spoff mentioned recently that the shotgun approach to the draft might not work well on the big guys and we have heard in the past how "God only makes so many big guys who can move so draft them early." That being said Wolf and TT both seemed to be successful drafting big guys late. Kabeer, Kampman, Jolly, Wells, Tauscher, Rivera, Timmerman were all fifth-rounders or later. Do you think that success was atypical and not likely to continue or did the Packers excel at scouting/coaching big guys?

Well, you just rattled off eight guys who were selected over a span of 12 drafts (from Timmerman in '95 to Jolly in '06), and Thompson also found Sitton, Lang, David Bakhtiari, Dean Lowry and Tretter in the fourth and Corey Linsley in the fifth, which to me feels like a lot of success with big guys in the mid-to-late rounds. I don't have hard evidence to back it up, only a gut feeling, but I don't think that's normal. I also think as the college game continues to spread things out, success with late-round big guys has diminished.

Mike from Algoma, WI

Loved watching the 2016 Divisional playoff game again. Thank you! The game I can't ever watch again? SB XXXII. I just can't.

Winning with house money never gets old, and unmet expectations are the hardest to process. We learned the following year the Broncos never should have been two-TD underdogs to the Packers, but regardless, it's too bad. That one game has been keeping LeRoy Butler and Mike Holmgren out of the Hall of Fame, to this point.

Timmy from Chicago, IL

Which NFC North team is the first to DRAFT their quarterback of the future? When does it happen?

With the No. 3 overall pick, Detroit might do it this year. The Lions can get out of Stafford's contract with minimal dead money after 2021.

Anne from San Jose, CA

Wes and Mike, it was so great to see you both. Thanks so much for the video chat! The technology worked perfectly and it was comforting to know that we don't have to lose "Packers Unscripted" during this time. Please stay well and also do more of these. I especially appreciated the insight on the Packers' recent acquisitions. I've been concerned about the injury history for Kirksey and Funchess and you provided a great perspective. Thanks again!

You're welcome, and we will certainly look into doing more the longer the current situation drags on.

Tom from West Salem, WI

Do you see the NFL pushing the draft back to a later date to give teams more time to evaluate prospects?

There are reports a lot of GMs are asking the league to push the draft back, but thus far the league is sticking with the scheduled dates.

Lites from Long Beach, CA

Don't forget "The West Wing," Spoff. I seem to recall that you were a fan? And a very big second/third on "Newsroom."

Oh, I loved "The West Wing," and Sorkin fortunately got several years to develop that show. "Sports Night" was the half-hour version of it, in a TV studio instead of the White House, and it deserved more time.

Brian from Menominee, MI

Super Bowl XXXI champs vs. Super Bowl XLV champs, which team wins?

Impossible for me to choose, honestly. The XXXI team was the better overall team from start to finish that season, but the XLV team was as hot as any team could be.

Steve from Gurnee, IL

Bears, Lions and Vikings have a tougher 2020 schedule as far as opposing quarterbacks. They have to face No. 12. Twice! Great job guys!

Likewise.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Mike, are you still planning on calling in sick on Friday? If so, do you plan on binge-watching "Ozark" or will you take the whole weekend to watch it?

I'm actually taking next Monday and Tuesday off (when I was planning to go to Miller Park), so that might be my window to absorb the new season of "Ozark." I'll sign on for tomorrow's column and then Wes will take over again for a few days. Happy Friday.

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