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Inbox: That's really hard to answer

If all the decisions are easy, then a lot of mistakes were made along the way

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Former Packers WR James Lofton

Craig from Milwaukee, WI

Where do you think J.J. Watt will end up? A Packer?

I don't know.

Daniel from Waukesha, WI

Will the Packers go to the Super Bowl next year?

Still don't know.

Ben from Menomonee Falls, WI

This year's offseason is set up to be one of the more exciting in recent memory (at least for me). With the cap situation, pending free agents, and what is sure to be an interesting/idiosyncratic combine and draft, I am looking forward to seeing what the Pack do. I am glad I am not in the front office having to make all these decisions. As for the draft, what position do you think/want the Packers to draft round 1? I am really hoping for either a WR, or OL (personally think OL is more pressing).

Before seeing where the Packers sit after free agency, the first three positions that come to mind for me (as I mentioned in my mid-week chat) are offensive tackle, defensive line and cornerback, in no particular order.

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

Who was the last RB we extended with a second contract? Which RB has the most seasons as a Packer?

James Starks played for the Packers beyond his rookie deal. I'm not sure what you're after with your second question. William Henderson played 12 seasons and Tony Canadeo 11 for Green Bay.

Corey from Bethlehem, PA

With most college teams not playing full seasons or at all, how hard will it be to evaluate draft prospects this year? Outside of the top-tier prospects is there enough film on the blue-collar rounds 3-7 guys?

Interesting question. Scouts study all the film from a college player's career, not just his most recent season, so they'll work with what's available. What's tough to answer for someone not in the scouting business is whether less film will mean more consensus across the league in evaluations and opinions, or greater disparity.

Patrick from Murfreesboro, TN

The draft combine gave scouts size, speed, and agility comparisons across many prospects on the same surface at the same date. This year it's only individual pro days at different times in different conditions. What impact, if any, do you think that will have on teams' draft evaluations this year?

Another good question. Again, I'm just speculating because I'm not a scout, but I would think they'd lean on game film even more than they already do.

Andy from Verona, WI

When will the defensive players first have an opportunity to see the new defensive playbook?

When the offseason program officially starts, which is usually mid-April.

Dennis from Parrish, FL

Corey Linsley's agent knows it and so do I. Zero penalties in 13 games in 2020! ZERO! I have never heard of that before, impressive!

Indubitably.

Ryan from Baldwin, WI

Mike, in your mid-week chat the question came up about Jenkins possibly moving to C if Linsley departs. My question is, which position C or G do you want your best lineman? In lower levels, it always seems the center is probably the least talented of the bunch, but in the NFL I think that narrative changes a bit.

The center has the biggest communication responsibility up front, so you need the player who can best handle that as well as the physical demands. I think Elgton Jenkins and Lucas Patrick are both legitimate options at center if Linsley doesn't return. When Linsley missed three games in December, the coaches went with Jenkins.

Take a look at the best snow photos at Lambeau Field from the 2020 season.

Ed from Minneapolis, MN

Hey Mike, did you ever interview Walter Payton? Any good tales of our Chicago foes?

I never interviewed Walter. I got his autograph a few times as a kid. He used to bring an RV to Platteville for training camp and park it right outside the campus dorm building where the players stayed. One time when I was hanging out by the dining hall after practice to get autographs while the players went in and out for dinner, my friend and I decided to just walk over to the RV and knock on the door. He answered and, surprisingly, didn't appear bothered by our intrusion. We didn't ask for autographs, just struck up a friendly chat. He seemed about to invite us in to hang out when he spotted a small throng of fans heading toward us. He politely said, "Sorry guys, I'd better go," and shut the door.

Ron from Waukesha, WI

Spoff: My cardiologist just told me to limit my salt, limit my red meat, and limit my watching our defense drop back 10 yards on third-and-7. I'm sure I can do the first two but I'm going to need some help from Joe Barry on the third item. Should we expect to see noticeable changes in our defense in 2021?

I admire the creative submission. Judging from LaFleur's late-season comments, he's looking for a different approach in certain situations.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Every year I spend three months perusing through all the mock drafts. I get honed in on the "areas of need." I get juiced about the gems that might fall to the Packers and then the draft comes and … Why do I keep torturing myself Mike?

Maybe you should see if Ron's cardiologist knows a good psychologist.

Dan from Kenosha, WI

Mike, I fully understand the perspectives regarding the WR position but I can't help but feel that if Marquez Valdes-Scantling converts three or four of those crucial drops the conversation would be completely different. He would have been near 900 yards with 2-3 more touchdowns. He is clearly a special talent which explains the Packers' patience. His showing in the NFC Championship Game has me encouraged. Bold prediction: MVS solves the dropsies and explodes as a complement to Davante Adams in 2021.

No one would complain. That would be a boon to the offense next season. But since no one can guarantee that – and if it does happen, he might price himself out of a second Green Bay contract – I'll stand by my statement from yesterday that it would behoove the Packers to add legitimate competition and plan for the future at the position.

Joe from Shirley, NY

The Packers normally have been pretty good about managing the cap, or so I thought. How did they wind up in this position?

Mostly because they signed four expensive free agents two years ago, with most of the deals structured with larger cap hits in Year 3, and now the cap is dropping rather than going up by its usual $10M-plus per year.

Gordon from Newport Beach, CA

Mike, the entire punting/punt return units need to provide some contribution. Could you see the Packers drafting a punter?

I'm not sure I'd bet on it, but I wouldn't rule it out. I expect competition brought in there, one way or another.

Mark from Rock Vale Terrace, IL

Howdy, Mike! Are you getting tired of the Hod's lunches, RB player numbers and other non-football related nonsense like many of your readers? This is heading me for a ban, but I won't realize it as none of my questions have been answered for a couple of years. My questions may not all make the cut, but our time is valuable and seems like we both waste a lot on, again, nonsense!

Sorry, but I just don't take myself that seriously. Also, spending 50-100 words per day on "nonsense" in a 2,000-word column is a minimal sacrifice required for my sanity. I'm sure Dean's new counselor would agree.

Rachel from Appleton, WI

Does the list of Packer franchise tag use include the times when the Packers used it to gain time to work out a new contract? Have they ever used the tag without eventually getting a new deal signed? Thanks!

The only tagged player who didn't eventually sign a new deal was Corey Williams in 2008. He ended up being traded to Cleveland for a second-round draft pick, which was used on QB Brian Brohm.

Jake from Lake Mills, WI

The MVP of MVPs debate got me thinking about those Packer dark ages that featured only two playoff berths. Other than the obvious talent of James Lofton, who do you think would be considered the Packers MVP of the dark ages?

That's really hard to answer. Lofton is the only one in Canton, but I count 18 others from that era in the Packers Hall of Fame who didn't play for Lombardi nor on a Holmgren playoff team. Forced to choose, I'd probably say Lynn Dickey on offense and either John Anderson or Ezra Johnson on defense. But I also never saw guys like John Brockington or Willie Buchanon play. They were before my time.

Robert from Salem, WI

Do feel that any of changes made for this last season (playoff format, roster structure, etc.) will carry forward?

The seventh playoff team in each conference is here to stay. I'm not expecting all the roster/practice squad/IR rules to revert back to the old structure, but which new ones stick around, or are maintained in some modified form, I can't predict. David from Janesville asked about the three-week IR stint, which was a huge benefit, but the league will be cautious about the potential for abuse to stash players and manipulate roster options.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

Good morning, Mike. I usually agree with you on most things but I have to disagree with you on the QB/GM conversation. GM is the most important part of any sport franchise. Look how the Dolphins failed Dan Marino. The Seahawks are currently failing Wilson. The Packers failed Favre between Wolf and TT. The constant reshuffling of talent around the league is the hardest thing to manage. The Ravens won two SBs with subpar QB play because Newsome was an amazing GM.

It's an interesting debate, but I think you're oversimplifying. Your framework is an easy way to look at it if you don't believe in all the random, roll-the-dice craziness that occurs in this game, particularly in the postseason, and in how ultra-competitive at QB it is in the chase to win it all. To address your examples … Baltimore's second Super Bowl only happened because a Denver safety inexplicably let a 70-yard TD pass go over his head in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter in the divisional round. Newsome's unquestioned prowess as a GM had nothing to do with that. Under Sherman, the Packers blew advancing to an NFC title game on a fourth-and-26. With the Seahawks, I would agree they haven't invested what's needed in their offensive line since the back-to-back Super Bowls, but they've still made the playoffs five of the last six seasons and been ousted by two QBs in their MVP year (Newton in '15, Ryan in '16) plus a now three-timer Rodgers in '19. As for Marino, he went to the playoffs 10 times, eight of them after his lone Super Bowl appearance. Only two of those eight were one-and-dones, and two reached the AFC title game. I don't label that front-office "failure" when other AFC QBs Marino faced in the postseason included HOFers Jim Kelly and John Elway. My point? I'm not saying GMs don't matter, but GMs don't win playoff games and therefore Super Bowls. So I'll always want the best QB possible, because there are too many (darn) good QBs who are busting it to try to win every year, and random (stuff) happens all the time that no GM can influence.

Dale from Lima, NY

"The Packers as a franchise have now won nine MVPs since the advent of the Associated Press award in 1957." How does that compare to other NFL organizations?

You forced me to tally it up. Nine is tied for the most with the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (Manning 4, Unitas 3, Earl Morrall, Bert Jones). Next is San Francisco with five, Cleveland and the Rams with four apiece, then New England, Denver, Minnesota, Washington and the Raiders with three each.

Robert from Harris, MN

Lately I've read here a lot of bemoaning the "brutal choices" Gutekunst needs to make, but can you honestly think of another GM who wouldn't love to trade positions? Isn't it the goal of every (good) GM to put themselves in just this spot?

If all the decisions are easy, then a lot of mistakes were made along the way.

Alan from Fresno, CA

Morning Mike, you say you aren't a LOL guy when working and I believe you. But you mean to tell me you've never read a submission and let slip "what a dumb ass" out loud?

You'd be surprised how much just stays in my head. I talk more on one episode of "Unscripted" than I do the rest of any given day.

Curt from Algonquin, IL

Have you picked the date you want us to switch from demanding you tell us exactly what's going to happen in free agency to demanding you tell us exactly who the Packers are going to pick in the draft, or would you prefer we transition gradually? Having a specific day would be helpful, but there is something to be said for the organic feel of a more gentle transition.

Happy Thursday.

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