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Inbox: That's how games get away

It makes all the sense in the world

Packers defense
Packers defense

Steve from Eau Claire, WI

Hi Mike, how do I get to ride in an elevator with you? You seem to meet a lot of interesting people in there.

Hey, when you're in Indy for the combine, any elevator ride could be interesting. I bumped into several prospects in elevators as well. Some of them might've been first-rounders for all I knew. Then I was out for a late-night walk (burning off those Steak-n-Shake calories) and cruised right past Cris Collinsworth on the street. You never know, man.

Mike from New Orleans, LA

Mike, that's just cruel dropping "a very important meeting" on us.

It was just a hunch. I've known Russ long enough to recognize when he's in all-business mode.

Michael from Baraboo, WI

What are some players that you predict will still be on the draft board when the Packers' pick comes up?

That's what I'm researching right now via an extensive perusal of reputable mock drafts. The research will provide the foundation for the list of Prospect Primers we produce next month. I know there hasn't been a whole lot of content on the website this week aside from this column, but that's why – I'm working ahead before my next chunk of time off.

Jeremy from Montreal, Canada

What differentiates a formal from an informal prospect interview? Are they just shorter?

They can be. Every night in Indy, the formal interviews are scheduled and conducted in hotel rooms. At a similar time, other prospects are available in group settings where scouts can just approach them for an impromptu chat, sometimes in conjunction with scouts from other teams. Those are the informals, and there are no time or number limits.

Aumed from Moorhead, MN

Good morning, Mike. I would like to continue the discussion of the "difference-makers" list. While I agree with the defensive side, I would argue either Zach Tom or Elgton Jenkins could take place of Aaron Jones or Christian Watson. As talented as they are none of their production comes unless the boys in the trenches allow it to. And both have been healthy for the most part of their careers. Thoughts?

My list of difference-makers wasn't meant to disparage anybody or discount significant contributions. In my book, difference-makers are the guys opponents game plan around, the guys they're accounting for schematically whenever they're on the field, who change how teams attack or defend you. That's it, that's all.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

The Packers' last two drafts produced multiple starters. The expected Year 2 and 3 jumps from these players should have everyone excited for next season. However, I don't think it's crazy to expect the biggest jump to be taken by Jordan. Going into this season he had so many questions to answer. Can he play? Can he lead the team off the field in the locker room? Deal with the media? He answered everything with flying colors and his comfort level has to be sky high. Can't wait to watch him grow.

I'm not saying Jordan Love is done growing, but I don't know if we'll see a bigger jump than the one he took from the first half of last season to the back half. That nine-week run from the Chargers game through the Dallas playoff win (116.6 passer rating over 300 attempts) was statistically as good as any stretch we saw from Rodgers through his first MVP season in 2011. Love's biggest area of growth at this point is situationally, in crunch-time moments for example, not necessarily overall play.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Next year is full of high hopes after the playoff run. But then I look at the late season TB-NYG-Carolina games as a caveat plus the earlier four-game losing streak. What do you think happened in those games that won't happen again, versus what we will see bouts of next season? Has Dr. Jekyll gained the upper hand or is Mr. Hyde still lurking nearby?

Those three December games you reference represented the defense's worst stretch of the season, bar none, a complete flip from how the unit had played the previous two games vs. the Lions and Chiefs. The offense had, in effect, one bad quarter in each of those December contests, and the special teams had a brutal turnover in the Giants game to boot. But those three games prompted the defensive coaching change more than any others.

Josh from Seattle, WA

Just like last year was exciting, and had little expectation for the team, but especially the young offense, this next year will be exciting to see what the new coaching, young secondary, and new faces will do to the defense. Just enjoy it! Also, if you could see one thing from the new defense next year, what would you want that one thing to be?

Resiliency within a given game. When things start to go wrong, which they inevitably will, can they turn it around on the next series or in the next quarter? If it takes too long to right the ship, that's how games get away.

Eric from Springfield, VA

Most players don't want to be tagged because they want a long-term deal, which makes sense. However, doesn't a tag average mean a big (one-year) payday due to it being an average of the top five salaries? Do you know of an example where a player played on the tag, without (too much) complaining and it really benefiting the player long term? Maybe then securing a big deal with the current team or a different team?

Kirk Cousins is the best example. He played back-to-back years on the tag with Washington, and then landed a monster contract with Minnesota. Yes, the tag provides a massive one-year guaranteed salary, but players dislike the tag because they assume all the injury risk for (usually) less guaranteed money than they'd get on a long-term deal.

Darren from Wakefield, MI

Hi Mike. What is your take on the rumor Justin Jefferson resetting the WR market at 30M/year? A lot for a guy who missed darn near half the season last year. According to my research, that I didn't do, isn't that almost double Davante dollars? Seems like a lot of dough especially if they going to pay Cousins his numbers.

Adams' deal carries an APY of $28M, so I fully expect Jefferson, just 24 years old, to crack $30M. Someone will give it to him.

Ken from Port St. Lucie, FL

Wowza, gonna keep the QB Tush Push. I suppose instead of sound logic to outlaw we will, unfortunately, have to wait and have a big-time QB get injured. I thought for sure it would be gone!

Me, too. I despise it. It's not football.

Michael from Baraboo, WI

Looking at the QB situation in Chicago makes all of us as Packers fans grateful for the decades of great QB play. Do you feel the Bears would be better off building around Fields or taking Williams and trading Fields?

I won't pretend to know, but I've said all along if you don't want your QB to be a big part of your running game, then there's no reason to stick with Fields. If you want a more traditional, pass-oriented NFL offense, then take Williams, and it sounds like that's the direction they're going.

Adilson from Rotterdam, Netherlands

If teams are required to make a decision on a former first-round pick's fifth-year option after the player's third season, that means the Packers have to decide on Eric Stokes' option within the next two months, correct? Seems like a difficult call to make considering the circumstances.

Yup, and the fifth-year option salary for corners is not cheap.

Jeff from Wauwatosa, WI

Hi guys, I know what Gutey said about the front seven but I wonder if that wasn't a play at deception because I think edge is a bigger need than most people think it is. This is probably Preston Smith's last year and I'm not expecting Kingsley Enagbare to play a snap in 2024. Moreover, while the Packers say they are happy with the progress Van Ness has made they really don't know what they have in him. If an edge guy is there in the first I think they'll take him.

Gutey lauding the relative consistency of the front seven, and edge rusher being a roster need moving forward, are unrelated in my view. Both can be true. JJ didn't get hurt until late in the year, and yes, Father Time is ticking on Preston. An edge in Round 1 is definitely on the radar.

Steve from Phoenix, AZ

I must be missing something – I keep reading that teams can get Russell Wilson on a league minimum deal due to the money he's getting from Denver. Why? Wouldn't his agent say to teams, "Denver money is not your concern; you pay Russell what you think he's worth or someone else will."

Wilson is guaranteed $39M for 2024 from Denver, and he had offset language in his contract that upon being released the Broncos' obligation would be reduced by what another team pays him. So Denver would absolutely love another team to pay Wilson more than the league minimum, but there's no reason for Wilson, his reps, or another team to bother worrying about it.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

In regards to the Hall of Fame talk, it might be my high standard for the Hall, but I just don't see Russell Wilson as a Hall of Famer. Same thing with other players I've seen mentioned (Eli Manning/Mike Evans/etc.). Sure they were good for a stretch and accomplished things in the league, but it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Great or Hall of Very Good. Do you think adding new people every year has watered down the requirements to get in at all?

That's probably a better question for Cliff, who used to be on the selection committee, but it says right on the HOF's web page: "There is no set number for any class of enshrinees, but the Committee's current bylaws stipulate that between four and nine new members will be selected each year." Having a minimum and letting that many players in is going to change standards, and no class of Canton inductees has been smaller than six since 2005 (though not all have been players). By contrast, baseball has inducted two or fewer into Cooperstown nine times since the turn of the century, in part due to keeping out steroid users, but the point remains.

Mark from West Bend, WI

Mike, hope you're doing well. Long time II reader. With the popular opinion being Jon Runyan is gone, my question is why couldn't the Packers consider re-signing him and have him and Sean Rhyan be the starting guards and move Jenkins to left tackle, where he played great until getting injured, and then have Walker as your swing tackle? I believe when Jenkins was extended there was a significant incentive in his contract for playing left tackle. That would be a solid OL with very good backup.

I get your drift, and we'll see what happens. But if the Packers have the right pieces at their disposal, I have to believe they want Jenkins at his best position. Yes, he's a solid left tackle, but he's one of the league's best left guards, and if I recall correctly, the LT incentive in his contract was only for Pro Bowl/All-Pro honors. There's still plenty of upside with Rhyan and Walker, plus an O-line rich draft and Green Bay loaded with high picks.

Mike from San Diego, CA

It seems like there are a plethora of safeties available in free agency for a veteran signing to bolster the group. Seems like Gute always does a great job of timing this with position groups and free agency. Coincidence? I'd wager not.

Lots of folks are asking which safety(ies) the Packers have their eye on in free agency with so many out there following the tag deadline. I have no idea what their evaluations are of the various options. What I do know is Gutey & Co. rarely box themselves into being position-desperate in a given draft, and safety is the roster's thinnest spot right now. So while Gutey answered my question in Indy by saying it's not a "necessity" to get a veteran safety for the transition to Hafley's defense, it makes all the sense in the world based on past personnel patterns.

Dustin from Kansas City, MO

With the variety of things you get to write about here, what is your absolute favorite of them all? Do you prefer the Inbox where people throw questions at you and you get to answer them? Maybe the Prospect Primers where you get to investigate possible draft picks? Or perhaps it's the WYMM where you get to dissect a game and show us some high-level stuff us average fans rarely ever notice? Just curious if you had one you liked more than the rest, or if you enjoy them all equally.

It's hard to rank them, but what I like best is the variety within this job. Every segment of the calendar, and sometimes every day, brings a different type of task. While we obviously have weekly (in-season) and annual routines, I enjoy coming at this game from all angles – fan interaction (live and deliberate), film analysis, interviews, research, fact-based recaps, opinion-slanted perspective. It keeps things fresh and challenging.

Rex from Laramie, WY

Since we're talking about Platteville – when I finished my graduate work in 1985, I interviewed for a faculty position at UW-P. I didn't take the job, but I lost $5 playing poker with the department head and the Dean. Since my wife is from Eau Claire and a proud graduate of UWEC, the rivalries would have been interesting. I probably wouldn't have had you in class, though, as I would have been teaching computer science, would I?

I didn't go to UW-P but my parents spent long careers there. I'm guessing my dad could figure out that department head and Dean with the poker penchant.

Ricia from Plattsburgh, NY

I'm going on 70 years as a Packer Backer and have read this column since Vince started. But I don't know the first rule of II, would you please educate me?

This column started way back in 1959? Wow, I had no idea. Snark aside, just Google "fight club rule," which was instituted post-predecessor.

Kurt from Sartell, MN

Mike, when you look at the Packers' official draft board, what strikes you as strange?

Never seen it, couldn't tell you. Happy Thursday.

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