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Inbox: That's already looking like the story of next season

The challenges can be overcome

Packers LB Za'Darius Smith hits Chargers QB Philip Rivers in a 2019 regular-season matchup in Los Angeles
Packers LB Za'Darius Smith hits Chargers QB Philip Rivers in a 2019 regular-season matchup in Los Angeles

Jim from Tempe, AZ

Too bad you guys can't do II seven days a week.

Rest serves a purpose, but I'm back now to fully dive into this work-from-home thing. Hope everyone is staying reasonably healthy.

Jake from Athens, GA

Emmanuel Sanders goes to the Saints? Now I'd really like to get that game out of the way as early in the schedule as possible. I have a feeling the schedule-maker has other plans, though. What's your biggest news of the weekend, Mike?

I got my taxes done, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Welcome back, Mike! Notice any changes since you've been gone?

Yeah, my son (and all his stuff) are home from college, after a rather spur-of-the-moment 3,000-mile round trip to get him a full six weeks ahead of graduation. I saw more of I-80 in a two-day span than I ever plan to see again. Oh, you mean with the Packers? From afar, I felt I was watching a GM very prepared for the reality of his situation, acting decisively with the resources available, and mindful of future contracts on the horizon.

Jim from Woodbury, MN

Most surprising free-agent move so far?

Across the league? It's not free agency that surprised me as much as the trades, particularly what the Texans got for Hopkins vs. what the Vikings got for Diggs. I was floored.

Scott from Kissimmee, FL

Have the Bucs just secured the Thursday evening opening game for the upcoming season?

Chiefs-Bucs is in Tampa, not Kansas City, so that might dampen the prospects a bit, but last year the league went away from the tradition of the Super Bowl winner hosting the kickoff opener, so I guess we'll see.

Ryan from Noblesville, IN

Well, I guess Spoff is next in line to talk to Wes about MMA with Vitale gone.

He knows better.

Terrance from Sun Prairie, WI

What is a big need the Packers can address in the draft?

Take your pick. I think inside linebacker and offensive tackle are still draft needs, regardless of last week's signings. There's also defensive lineman, receiver, tight end, possibly running back. The Packers won't be able to address them all early in the draft, but they'll definitely hit a few.

Aaron from Monroe, MI

Why was Clay Matthews cut from the Rams? Did his broken jaw take his opportunity away? Clay can be a change-of-pace player for any team!

I would think the Rams were reasonably satisfied with the season they got out of Matthews, except for the injury, but the cap is the cap, and teams do what they have to when they're up against it. The Rams tried to stay loaded up for another run at a Super Bowl, but they missed the playoffs entirely. That'll change any team's thinking.

Karl from Fort Collins, CO

Wes's "best game" list was very good for the Rodgers era. How about a best game list for the Favre era?

Off the top of my head, my top five would be 2003 at Oakland, Super Bowl XXXI, 1992 vs. Cincinnati off the bench, the '93 NFC Wild Card playoff at Detroit, and the '94 monsoon in Chicago. But this list would admittedly be open to a lot of interpretation and preferences from all angles.

Joan from Freedom, WI

How are they going to do the draft? Old school?

The logistics of the draft itself – picking the players, making trades, etc. – are the easy part. Every team's decision-making contingent is at its home base anyway. It won't feel much different to them. The challenge will be in how to televise it and orchestrate the rest of the media coverage.

Gordy from Plymouth, WI

Will the Pack get any compensatory picks for losing Fackrell and Goodson?

The new CBA changes the comp pick formula to include only the top 35 percent of UFAs (as figured mostly by average annual salary), not the top 50 percent as in the past. So keep that in mind. I haven't seen any financial details on Goodson's or Vitale's contracts, but I doubt their deals would factor into the equation much. Fackrell's likely will net something, though if the Packers sign anyone that could change, of course.

Jake from Shoreview, MN

Is the Rick Wagner signing about him being a starter or adding depth?

To be determined. Let's see what happens in the draft. What the signing does is allow Gutekunst to not be forced to find a starter in this draft if the right guy isn't there when the Packers are on the clock.

Ted from Bruce, WI

The St. Paul paper said Cephus ran a 4.56 at the Wisconsin pro day. Do you think his stock might rise with that time?

He helped himself. Shaving .17 off his combine time is significant. It doesn't make 4.73 go away, but it's mitigated some.

Beth from Vadnais Heights, MN

Mike, welcome back. The extra home time has provided the time to watch the "Legacy" series. What a fantastic job of writing and editing. I have read almost all the Packer books, but still learned a number of new facts. The historic interview segments showed how Packer fans and players make this team unique. Must-see TV. Thanks to all the people who made this project a success.

I meant to get going on "Legacy" during my time off, but unfortunately failed to do so. The aforementioned family concerns got in the way, but I do want to get to it soon.

Max from Ingolstadt, Germany

It is absolutely clear and has been discussed to exhaustion on here that Rashan Gary is an edge rusher and won't be moved inside. After taking a couple more looks at the snaps he took last year (thanks for the time, corona), I'm still pretty sure he will be part of the solution for stopping the run, though. Dude can literally line up anywhere on the defensive line and always be a disruptive force. Guys I can't tell you how excited I am to see what he can do in Year 2.

I think Gary will factor into the run defense in 2020 from the get-go. I'm not sure exactly how, but I'm leaving that up to Pettine.

Robert from Verona, WI

Rumor has it that the Packers were in the mix to sign Emmanuel Sanders, but he chose the Saints. A couple of years ago, the Packers were allegedly in the mix to sign Allen Robinson, but he chose the Bears. Perhaps the Packers didn't bring competitive offers to the table, or maybe there were other reasons they went elsewhere. Do you think there are any lessons to be learned in these cases, or is the lesson simply that every player makes their own decisions for their own reasons?

The latter, wholeheartedly, though more often than not those reasons involve dollar signs.

Dave from Coloma, MI

With the probable loss of some of the offseason program, how much of a disadvantage do you see it being for teams bringing in new coaching staffs?

It certainly adds more challenges, but back in 2011 following the lockout, a handful of new coaches went 8-8 or better, and Jim Harbaugh went 13-3 with the Niners and almost got to the Super Bowl. So the challenges can be overcome.

Elliot from Minneapolis, MN

Looking back at the season one of the more surprising things was finding out Aaron Jones only had 119 receiving yards over the last eight games. Are there any stats that stuck out to you looking back at the season?

A point differential of just plus-7 in the fourth quarter (84-77) when the Packers had to make so many clutch plays late in games to go 13-3. It seemingly doesn't compute.

Steve from Lake Stevens, WA

Regardless of what happens in free agency or the draft, how much of the equation is that some players have to play better?

Ding ding ding! For every player who had a career year (to date) in 2019, there's one or more who has another level to reach.

Michael from Morrison, IL

Guys, for all the talk about having to face Tom Brady in 2020, I'm surprised no one has mentioned having to face Philip Rivers for a second consecutive season. In four games against Green Bay, Indy's new QB has a combined statline of 117-for-175, 1,488 yards, nine TDs, four INTs (three of which came in the 2011 contest) and a 100.8 QB rating.

That list a reader sent in last week showing all the QBs the Packers have to face on the road in 2020 blew me away. Brady, Brees, Rivers, Garoppolo, Watson, Cousins, Stafford. And possibly Foles, who won a Super Bowl. That's already looking like the story of next season to me.

Wes from South St. Paul, MN

Mike, I find it interesting that some pundits seem to think that signing a couple of cheap free agents has taken OT and ILB off the table for the draft. Granted Gute has options, but I still think we will select OT and ILB as priorities in the first three rounds. WR seems to be a middle-round position. Your thoughts?

Anyone who thinks offensive tackle and inside linebacker are now off Gutekunst's radar wasn't paying attention last year.

Barney from Clear Lake, IA

Dear II, the latest talk about "the" Ohio St U. got me wondering what college is most used by the Packers. Of course, I'm biased toward Iowa/Iowa State and have seen a good share of quality Packers from the Iowa schools (Hyde, Bulaga, Daniels, enjoying Lazard's success, and now looking forward to Kirksey). Surprisingly, the current roster has five players from Miss. State with a good cross section from all over. Does Pack management have "connections" to certain schools that encourage a pipeline?

I don't think of it in terms of a pipeline, but scouts do develop relationships with coaches at certain schools and value their opinions on players. Good scouts will know who's giving it to them straight and who's just trying to pump up a guy.

Tom from Birmingham, MI

Gentlemen, with many sports channels showing historic/old games to fill the void left by no live games, I have found I have no appetite for watching them – something I certainly have enjoyed in the past – because there are no live games, no current seasons. Weird. Anyone else feel that way?

I've never had much interest in watching old games from start to finish, in any circumstance. Not sure why. I'll watch old highlights, but not old games.

Gary from Hope Mills, NC

This whole Packers community is awesome. Even the former Packers and soon-to-be former Packers. The prayers and good wishes I've received from all the fans has been incredible. I'm going to miss Kyler Fackrell. He and his wife both contacted me and said prayers for my son along with Ty Montgomery. I've never gotten support from so many people I didn't know personally. I want to thank both Spoff and Wes for your kind words also.

Somehow the name of your hometown doesn't strike me as a coincidence right now.

Jan from Naperville, IL

Wes, special thanks and kudos to your wife for her work at the hospital during these difficult times. All health workers are at elevated risk and they could simply walk away; but like warriors, they don't. Thanks to her and your whole family. Prayers for her and your entire family's safety!

A well-deserved shout-out to all the health care workers out there, as well as others who are staffing the grocery stores and similarly essential places. We all need to do what we can to support you, even if it's just saying a simple thanks.

Mike from Las Vegas, NV

They say you should sing "Happy Birthday" when you wash your hands to ensure you wash them long enough. What song do you sing when you wash your butt? Asking for a friend.

Happy Monday.