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Inbox: May the best … and most consistent … man win

The task and path were dramatically different

LS Jack Coco
LS Jack Coco

Ben from Pensacola, FL

I think Jones was built to lead in some capacity anywhere and everywhere he goes.

Couldn't agree more.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

On what Super Bowl winner was Danny Etling? New England? Was he on the active roster or the practice squad?

He was on the 2018 Patriots' practice squad.

Sharon from Lakewood Ranch, FL

What role does the coaching staff play in helping No. 10 develop a great rapport with the WR trifecta and his offensive line, or does that responsibility solely fall on Jordan Love?

Players develop rapport mostly on their own – in the meeting rooms, in the locker room, on the practice field, on the plane, at the hotel, etc., and now there are rumors of guys getting together this offseason, too. Coaches play a role by setting standards and holding players accountable to that standard, which on tight-knit teams leads to players holding one another accountable, too.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

Would banking future draft picks have more value to the Packers as viable QB insurance than 2023 picks? Or, do you see the Packers drafting a developmental QB this year?

I could see the Packers drafting a developmental QB, probably on the third day.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

Welcome back, Mike. Are you surprised by the large amount of one- and two-year contracts signed by free agents this year? Seems like a larger number than usual.

I'm not all that surprised. Teams have been restructuring contracts left and right as they continue to deal with their cap situations and the fallout from the pandemic adjustments. As a result, mid-level free agents probably aren't getting as much guaranteed money as they'd like, so they seem more interested in short-term deals that will allow them to hit the market again while still in their so-called prime earning years.

Jim from St. Paul, MN

I feel Vince Lombardi would have an issue with you saying playoffs are always a crapshoot. That's a lousy mentality if you're trying to be a champion. Granted, no one wins 100% of the time, but great teams (and their coaches) win more than twice in 30 years given the quality of athletes the Packers have had in that time. It's not a stretch to say we should have won more. The only question up for debate is who was at fault in any given year. We usually appeared to not want it as much.

Not want it as much? C'mon, that's insulting, and I've never said the Packers shouldn't have won more. I completely understand that sentiment and have only tried to explain why/how it didn't work out, and that it's not as easy as Brady & Co. made it look. As for my view of the current NFL postseason, that's never been put forth as the mentality the players should have. Goodness, how absurd, and the reality is the playoffs weren't a crapshoot in Lombardi's time anyway. His first two titles required winning one postseason game, the NFL Championship. In '65 and '66, each took two postseason wins. The '67 title needed three. That's a total of nine postseason victories for five titles. The two titles in the Favre-Rodgers era required a total of seven postseason wins, and those two QBs posted 16 other playoff victories that did not result in championships. My point is the more games you have to win in the playoffs, against the best teams, the more something can go wrong and randomness enters the picture, particularly in a 32-team salary-cap era known for parity, which Lombardi's time was not. I'm not denigrating his accomplishments, but merely pointing out it was a 14- to 16-team league that placed far greater emphasis on the regular season, during which by nature of the beast only a select few teams got a chance to win it all. The task and path were dramatically different.

James from Appleton, WI

I appreciate what Allen Lazard did for the Packers, along with his blocking and physical attributes, and I wish him success with the Jets, but the bottom line is that all the factors were in place for him to be Green Bay's next 1,000-yard receiver and he didn't do it.

Which is why the Packers aren't paying him the $11M per year the Jets will. I'm thrilled for Allen that he cashed in, particularly given his road to where he is, but I totally understand why the Packers weren't interested in that price.

Avida from Vienna, VA

I know you're both professionals and you have to remain neutral and objective, but I have to imagine seeing Packer free agents leave the team that you covered over the years and got to speak to and get to know must be hard. Putting away your journalistic hat, I would imagine that players leaving stings a little with you as it does the fans, as you've gotten to know them personally over the years.

It's never easy, but I've just come to accept it as part of the deal. I always hope that maybe I'll bump into a guy again, whether it be in the bowels of a stadium before or after a game, upon return to Lambeau as a retired alum, or years later at the local Target (true story, Evan Smith). Honestly, though, if you let departures get to you too much, you're in the wrong business.

Jeff from Littlefork, MN

I get that Bruce from Bloomington was a bit tongue-in-cheek with his question about the long snapper acquisition, but doesn't that spell doom for last year's feel-good story at the position? I know a lot of nuance of the game is lost on a casual fan like me, but I don't remember Jack Coco costing us games. Am I missing/forgetting something obvious? Was this really an upgrade?

Coco and Matt Orzech are going to compete. May the best – and in the case of specialists, most consistent – man win. Coco didn't have any disastrous snaps last season, but the eye test told me he had his share of shaky ones late in the season, getting saved by a veteran holder in Pat O'Donnell on a few placekicks.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers DL T.J. Slaton during the 2022 NFL season.

Tom from Highland Village, TX

Hi Mike. Hope you enjoyed your time off. Great answer to Hank about the hurt feelings when players enter free agency and learn their value. My question is could you please list the salary caps from 2019 to 2023? Also, I recall the players were given a cushion so as to not have too extreme a cut the first year. Has that money been fully accounted for and when?

My understanding is the league and players' union agreed to spread the pandemic-related impact on the salary cap over four years, beginning in 2021. From 2013-20, the cap went up $10-12M per year, like clockwork. By '19 it was $188M, and finally $198M in '20, when no adjustment was made during the actual pandemic season. Then the cap dropped $16M in '21, to $182M, the first of the four adjusted years. So teams were working with a cap that was effectively $26-28M less than they anticipated it would be in '21, prior to the pandemic. Then the cap rose $26M in '22, to $208M, and another $16M for '23, to $224M. Those are significant jumps, especially considering pandemic "hits" were factored in, and the climb was due largely to money from the league's new TV deals entering the equation. The '24 cap will be the last one impacted by the pandemic agreement, so the '25 cap will be when everything, technically, returns to normal. But here's the bigger picture: Had the pandemic not occurred and the cap continued to go up $10-12M per year after '20, the '23 cap would've been over $230M (more than the current $228M) … without even including the new TV money! How high would it be right now? I don't know, but it makes me very curious what the cap is actually going to look like in '25 when the pandemic adjustments are, so to speak, wiped from the books.

Dave from Germantown, WI

What is the effect on the Packers' salary cap if Aaron Rodgers is traded on June 2 instead of next week?

I fully expect the trade to occur prior to June, but if it somehow becomes a post-June 1 transaction, the Packers' $40M cap hit can be spread out over '23 and '24, with about 60% of it being pushed to next year.

Bil from Stateline, NV

Mike, you have said that the Pack won't get the same deal that the Lions got for Stafford. The Rams obviously thought (correctly) they were one player away from a SB. It seems the Jets are of the same mindset. When you stand Stafford and Rodgers side by side, I don't think there is any question which one you would choose to lead your team. So why is it such a far-fetched idea that the Pack receives equal compensation? Do you think the Rams gave up too much to win now?

The Rams got their championship. Kudos to them. But they don't get it if the Buccaneers recover Stafford's fumble late in the divisional round, or if 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt catches the INT Stafford put right in his breadbasket in the fourth quarter of the NFC title game. They got the breaks, so it goes, and now they're dismantling their team one year later anyway. But to your question, the compensation will be vastly different because Rodgers has an onerous contract the Jets are assuming, and he's year-to-year on how long he plans to play. Those are really the differences.

Bob from Myrtle Beach, SC

Hopefully, we aren't entering the Love era; by that I mean, we were never in the Bart Starr era, we were in the GB Packer era. GB staff have two opportunities with Love: 1) Build a team with a lower-paid QB like most Super Bowl teams have done for a long time. 2) Don't let the QB become all-important. Once Love's cap makes you start letting quality people go; then it is time to trade the QB and get one who is good enough not to be the reason for losing, with an awesome team. Right or wrong?

Great theory, but your second point is impossible. The QB is all-important in today's game, for everybody. There's no getting around it. Starting over anytime a high-level QB becomes expensive, and seeing him go play for another team in his prime, would be no way to run a franchise. It would constitute career suicide for the decision-makers.

Tony from Sussex, WI

Off the top of my head, Jordan Love has only played regular season snaps on the road and has yet to do so at Lambeau. I've got against the Saints in Jacksonville, the Chiefs at Arrowhead, Vikings in Minnesota and Eagles in Philly. Is that correct?

He also played the second half at Detroit in Week 18 of 2021. At Lambeau, he's made three relief appearances in blowouts – 12 snaps vs. Minnesota in Week 17 of '21 (37-10 win), four snaps vs. Jets last year (27-10 loss) and seven snaps vs. Vikings last year (41-17 win).

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Looking forward to seeing how this season plays out for Matt LaFleur and the Packers' offense. For the last four years the perception from fans and the national media was if the Packers succeeded it was because of Aaron Rodgers, if they failed LaFleur was to blame. I just think this is a huge opportunity for LaFleur and the offense to show their creativity and brilliance. Your thoughts Mike?

I'm eager to see how LaFleur's offense in its more pure form helps mold a quarterback, rather than the other way around. The LaFleur-Rodgers blend worked plenty well with a Hall of Fame receiver in the mix, but last year made for a rough transition. There will be plenty of bumpy spots with this change, too, as LaFleur figures out which elements of the scheme Love executes best, and they'll build from there.

Bob from Grand Rapids, MI

In the past, your answer to the question "Which is the team to beat in the NFC North?" tended to default to last year's division champs. Would you continue to hold to that approach this year, in light of offseason moves thus far?

I think so. I know there's a ton of change going on across the division, but until a handful of games are played and someone else is sitting on top, the Vikings are the team to beat.

Karl from Valparaiso, IN

Mike, please share with Jim from Galena. I believe I have the same puzzle. It's the Oct. 9, 2016, game with Jordy catching a touchdown pass in the first quarter. Packers won 23-16.

There we have it. Fun fact, that marked the last time Rodgers threw multiple INTs in a game the Packers still won (for those curious, there were eight such wins total, including the 2010 NFC title game in Chicago). And OBJ's hands were on a touchdown pass that night, instead of putting a hole in the wall outside the locker room. But I digress. Apologies for some long answers today. Happy Wednesday.

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