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Inbox: That's what the best teams do

There are a lot of receivers and defensive linemen to like in this year’s NFL Draft

Packers CB Jaire Alexander and RB Aaron Jones in the Lambeau Field locker room
Packers CB Jaire Alexander and RB Aaron Jones in the Lambeau Field locker room

Charles from Riverside, CA

What is the probability of turning Blake Martinez into a blocking running back?

I'll take "Signs we need free agency to begin for 500," Alex. Good morning!

Paul from Las Vegas, NV

12, 14, 16, 17? Really? There's a reason why the schedule increased by two games. I've heard no one talking about the competitive imbalance of a 17-game season. Do the owners realize half of them will have one more road game than home? Or am I missing something. Is this not an issue? Or were they willing to settle for this knowing they wouldn't get 18?

The owners know they aren't getting 18 regular-season games anytime soon. I think 17 is the compromise in their minds. I thought this topic was dead a few years ago but it picked up steam again as a means to reduce the preseason to three games. It creates an imbalance but it also creates revenue and revenue is what drives the league. By the way, I happen to be sending this from McCarran Airport in Vegas. Go figure?

Derek from Sheboygan, WI

What was the biggest takeaway for the Packers in regard to needs on defense and at receiver from the combine?

Everyone seems to have a prescription for what the Packers need but Brian Gutekunst has the only vote that matters. My takeaway from Indy was there are quite a few receivers and defensive-front prospects who will help NFL teams sooner than later. Time will tell if the Packers choose to be a part of the fray.

Tony from Chanhassen, MN

I don't think it was a fluke Mason Crosby had his best season when there was a kicking competition in training camp. Any idea what his stats have been during the first year of his other long-term contracts?

Crosby was 85.7% in 2011 after signing a five-year deal and 86.7% in 2016 after inking a four-year extension.

Steve from Neenah, WI

Do you think the Packers will get a free agent in the first couple of days?

It depends on whether they re-sign anyone. It's that simple.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

Wes, you say take any free-agent rumors with a grain of salt. When it comes to the national media, I definitely take most of those clowns with a grain of salt. However, Rob Demovsky is posting some of these rumors too like the Packers being linked with Austin Hooper. How do you recommend treating otherwise trustworthy sources in these perilous times before free agency?

It's all part of the free-agency process. Teams are assessing the league landscape and agents are propping up their clients. Still, it's just hype until the negotiating window opens. That's when we separate substance from speculation. Also, I love how you intimated Rob isn't a national reporter. I can't wait to give him a hard time about that.

Nikhil from Washington, D.C.

Wes mentioned that the middle linebackers and the defensive line are like peanut butter and jelly. I have often felt the offense and defense work together, as well. A good defense gets off the field fast and puts the offense back on the field quickly against the opponent's tiring defense. A good offense keeps its defense on the bench, resting so it can make plays and end drives quickly. How did the Packers' offense and defense help each other or hurt each other in 2019?

I think the two helped each other this past season. Without question, they were more harmonious than the previous two years. I felt like that synergy was one of the 2019 team's biggest strengths. There were games the defense picked up the offense and vice versa. That's what the best teams do and it's a big reason the future is bright right now in Green Bay.

Julian from Las Cruces, NM

It is both draft and trade season, so humor us. How did we end up with Brett Favre (franchise-changer) for so cheap? Incidentally, I became a Packer fan in the early 70s and there was no hope for the change that he created.

I don't know if I would classify a first-round pick as "cheap," but give credit to Ron Wolf for trusting his scouting eye enough to ship that high of a draft choice to Atlanta for a second-year quarterback who had two of his five pass attempts intercepted the previous year.

Randy from Highland, IL

Gentlemen, how do teams like the Packers stay in playoff contention virtually every year while others can never seem to get to that level? Are there specific things the Packers do that others don't or just do better than other teams?

Having two Hall of Fame quarterbacks helps matters but Ron Wolf, Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst all did great of drafting good players, believing in their talent and not overpaying for high-priced outside veterans whose best years are behind them. As I wrote yesterday, you want to reward your players first and then go outside the building when assistance is needed like last March.

John from Charlottesville, VA

Can teams work out prospects at any time or are they limited to pro days and official visits?

Teams can obviously attend as many pro days as they choose but they're otherwise limited to their 45 official pre-draft visits (unless it's a local prospect).

Chris from New Canaan, CT

Lucas Niang is a graduate of New Canaan High School, Class of 2016. He is a fine young man and a fabulous football player. Draft him. He will not disappoint and nothing would make me happier than to see him in the Green and Gold.

Well, there's one vote for Niang.

Steve from Wichita, KS

How do you decide the value in re-signing a veteran like Bryan Bulaga and paying him what he's worth? Or a possible ascending player like Jack Conklin from Tennessee? When do you decide to let a vet walk and bring in younger talent? My gut tells me that that's why they signed Lucas Patrick to an extension last year.

These are the difficult questions GMs have to answer – can a veteran still play? And if so, how much does he have left? When I watch Bulaga's film, I still see one of the game's top right tackles. Patrick is a solid reserve interior linemen but I don't believe his extension affects the Packers' plans at right tackle whatsoever. I see it more as investing into a young player who's the primary backup at all three spots on the interior O-line.

Adam from Wausau, WI

Hi Wes, I know I am a little late to the party about left-handed QBs, but does the O-line set up change compared to a right-handed QB? Would David Bakhtiari move to right tackle because that is the new "blindside" or/and do teams start paying the right tackle more than the left tackle?

I can't remember what the Falcons and Eagles did when Michael Vick was their quarterback but it makes sense to build an offensive line around a premier right tackle. You don't need to move an All-Pro left tackle over to do it, though.

Tim from Greensboro, NC

I am in the camp for keeping Bulaga. If it does not work out, that does create a big hole. However, might we have the replacement on the roster now? I seem to recall my Hokie brother, Yosh Nijman, was starting to turn a few heads when he got injured. Is my memory accurate?

Nijman has great size for the position but I don't know much about him outside of that. The Packers called him up to the active roster after Cole Madison tore his ACL, but Nijman hurt his elbow the following week and was placed on injured reserve. Once healthy, Nijman will be back in the conversation for a roster spot.

Marlyn from Warfordsburg, PA

Being from Pennsylvania, I got to see most of K.J. Hamler's games. Boy, he would be a good fit in the slot for the Packers. Do you think the Packers would be interested?

With that type of explosiveness, a lot of teams are going to be interested in Hamler. The guy can play but I keep going back to the size. I can live with his 5-foot-9 stature, especially in today's NFL, but 178 pounds is really lean for a slot receiver. He'll have to prove his body can hold up to the stresses of a 16-game season, especially having already torn his ACL once before. Brilliant talent, though.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

Now that the 2020 presidential primaries are in full swing, which Green Bay Packers, past or present, do you feel are most presidential?

Micah Hyde, JC Tretter, Jordy Nelson, Tramon Williams and Oren Burks were the first five names that came to mind.

Rod from Star Meadow, MT

Of the four players you mentioned about coaching playing a key role in development, perhaps Corey Linsley had the least. He was cast into the furnace as raw material against the Legion of Boom right off the mark. Even recall one of their linemen saying he would pray for him. And yet, didn't he make that spot his own in that game?

Credit goes to Linsley for swimming in those shark-infested waters but James Campen also did a fine job getting a rookie center ready to play straightaway. Coaching is more than stressing fundamentals and technique. What often gets overlooked is how a coach marries a player's natural talent with the offensive scheme and direction.

Sal from Hailey, ID

Jared Veldheer wants to come back for another season. Bulaga would prefer to stay in Wisconsin. We've got spots to fill at TE, LB and WR, whether it's someone on the team stepping up, someone in the draft or FA coming aboard. The cap is stressing me out big time; I don't know how the front office does it! And I've got an airbnb in beautiful Hailey, ID, if you and the wife ever want to see the mountains, Wes! No charge. Question: Is Curtis Bolton fully recovered from his ACL tear?

That's very kind of you, Sal. I was happy to see the reports about Veldheer wanting to play again in 2020. He looked like he still had a lot of fire in the belly during his month with the Packers. Everything I've heard about Bolton's progress has been positive but I'm not sure whether he'll be ready for the start of the offseason program or not.

Eric from Kenosha, WI

How about Corey Clement on the former Badgers RB list? I still smile when remembering him juking Anthony Barr out of his shoes in the 2017 playoffs.

I didn't count undrafted free agents. I felt you have to be drafted to be considered a "hit" or a "miss." Either way, Clement carved out a niche for himself in Philadelphia. We'll see how he bounces back from the shoulder injury next season.

George from Milwaukee, WI

Hi, are practice-squad players part of the salaries that count towards the team's salary cap? What about coaches?

Practice squad, yes. Coaches and scouts, no.

Dave from Germantown, TN

Since both of you have some downtime before the start of the new NFL year and free agency, will you be reading the 450-page agreement between the league and the players, and give us fans a synopsis from the Packers standpoint?

I'll dive into it once the dust settles and the final CBA is approved. From there, we'll do our best to answer all of your questions.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Wes, if team sportswriters could be traded by their team, and Gutekunst came up to you and said you did a great job but you were going to be traded, before he uttered a sound, which team would you hope to be shipped off to?

For my family? The Buccaneers. For myself? The Seahawks. I love Seattle.

Chas from Phoenix, AZ

Wes, how hard on a scale of 1-10 is the II to do in a week without Spoff? I'd imagine that it starts to get old after about three days.

This week has very much flown by. Really, the toughest part is writing this column every day and still getting all the other content I produce for our website done in a timely manner.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

I just watched the Rock Report on Rashan Gary and it got me wondering: How much, if any, interest do the players themselves take in these articles? That is, how likely is it that Rashan would see this video? And if they do, do you ever hear about it? As in, "Hey, thanks for the nice piece on me"? Or are the players above that kind of stuff and it's just us fans that dig it?

It depends on the player and the time of the year. I've found guys are more likely to watch a video or read a story in the offseason than in the heat of the year. Speaking only for myself, I've had quite a few players come up to me over the years and thank me for stories I've written about them. That's kind of neat.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Wes, how's the running going? Training for the Packers 5K this year?

Good. I'm ready to get back outside, though. The plan is to do the trifecta again in 2020 – Bellin, Packers 5k and Al's Run.

Ryan from Sun Prairie, WI

What is the story behind the reporters tussle?

I could tell you…but then I'd have to ban you.

Dan from Golden Valley, MN

As an older fan who watched this franchise deal with existential threats to its existence due to financial uncertainty, I find the day-to-day questions about draft picks, prospects, angst over playoff losses continually refreshing. We have a publicly-owned team to back with all of our passions that will be here for long term. I can't emphasize enough the degree to which this column is a daily tangible reminder of that. Let's remember how lucky we really are as fans of this franchise. Thank you!

You're welcome! One more day of me and then Spofford returns. Make it a great Friday, folks.