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Inbox: That spot might be hotly contested

The evolution will be ongoing

G Sean Rhyan
G Sean Rhyan

Tom from Iron River, WI

What is the hardest part of your position during the offseason?

Wanting to spend all my time at baseball games.

Joe from Swansea, IL

Re: Your latest Prospect Primer. A 297-pound man who can jump 33 inches off the ground. I get the feeling these athletes are different than you and me.

You're just figuring that out now?

Bob from Bella Vista, AR

Do you already know who the Primers are going to be? Can I assume that Cooper DeJean will be one of them? Can you reveal who's on the list?

I'm not going to reveal the entire list, but many folks are asking about DeJean, and yes, there will be a Primer on him at some point.

Ted from Amherst, NY

Somehow the Prospect Primer on Byron Murphy II reminds me of Aaron Donald (who was also too short for the position). Am I on the right track – or am I falling for hype?

I can see the similarity. Donald, though, was not just a sawed-off beast, but a highly decorated sawed-off beast coming out of Pitt. Except for the Heisman, for which he inexplicably didn't even crack top 10 in the voting, he won every major collegiate award he could in 2013 – the Willis, the Outland, the Lombardi, the Bednarik, the Nagurski – and then he went and dominated Senior Bowl week against all the top prospects. The fact he lasted until the 13th pick that year, and four defensive players were chosen in front of him, boggled the mind then and does even more so now.

John from Byron, MN

I'm not an aviation expert, but think I can help with the Brazil question. You just have to read between the lines. Of course you can refuel. But based on Murphy's comment – without saying it directly – that would not be ideal. Guessing it's an added hurdle for an already taxing journey, that probably no other team in the league would be subject to.

Exactly. It's already a monster trip, and it's not as though refueling a Dreamliner resembles a Formula One pit stop.

Ron from Broken Arrow, OK

Mike, if the Packers offered their first-round pick and their two second-round picks, approximately how high in the first round could they climb? I realize they'd need to find a team willing to do the trade, but if there is a player Gutey really likes, wanted to know how high the team could move up in the first round.

According to the trade chart I most frequently consult, picks 25, 41 and 58 are worth the equivalent of pick 6 or 7.

Brian from Maple Grove, MN

An ESPN draft evaluator recently said there are about 18 first-round players in this draft. With so much draft capital this year, and given Gutey's history, don't you think he'll want to move up to ensure he gets a player he covets? I'm thinking a team like Seattle at 16, who doesn't have a second-round pick.

Gutey and Schneider certainly have done business before. But look, anything and everything is on the table because Gutey has set himself up with a level of draft capital that provides flexibility and options. As I always say, it'll depend on how the board looks at any given moment. Just because one draft evaluator says there are 18 first-round talents in this draft doesn't mean all the teams will agree.

Al from Green Bay, WI

The Packers have had great success drafting quality offensive linemen on Day 2 and 3, with D-Bak as the poster child. Might this string of success deter the Packers from spending their first-rounder on the O-line, especially if there is a corner or linebacker they really like available?

It won't deter anything if the clear-cut best guy on their board in the moment of truth is an offensive lineman. Their late-round success at finding O-linemen also doesn't mean a hill of beans if their evaluations don't show that much depth at that position in this particular draft. That's also what I mean by "how the board looks" as the draft unfolds.

Eric from Muskegon, MI

I'm looking forward to 2024 draft and was wondering, do you think we should focus on the defensive line or defensive back? I think the Packers need to find a ball hawk at the corner position.

Yes. Sure. All of the above.

Craig from Sussex, WI

I hate to say this but the Bears are building themselves a decent team. At least on paper.

People forget the Bears became a decent team last year, going 5-2 down the stretch before the loss to the Packers in Week 18. Now they've decided to start over at QB, and they should be able to get another cornerstone-type player with the No. 9 overall pick. But the problem is they have only two other picks, in the third and fourth rounds, after that. It'll be interesting to see what exactly transpires with them.


2024 Prospect Primers

Mike from Cascade, ID

Hi Mike, regarding the new kickoff rule: After the ball is in play and the kicking team's players lined up on the 40 can move, could a couple of the faster players on the line retreat say 10 yards or so to spy the returner? I keep hearing commentators saying that there should be quite a few times where the returner just needs to break through the line and run to daylight.

Every coverage team will design its strategy and adjust from there, based on results and the opponent. Some will do what you suggest, others will employ different approaches. The evolution will be ongoing.

Randy from Erlanger, KY

There has been a lot of talk about the new kickoff rule, but will it change how the kick/punt after a safety is executed? Any specifics?

Same thing. The new rule applies to all free kicks, which means those after a safety as well.

Megan from Noblesville, IN

The Packers have been fortunate with not having the distraction of "Hard Knocks." And thank goodness they made the playoffs last season because it was my understanding "Hard Knocks" could only choose teams that haven't made the playoffs for two consecutive years. But what about this new spin of the show where they will cover an entire division? Looks like the NFC North will be at the top of the list.

I'm sure the new in-season version of the show, covering an entire division, will hit the NFC North soon enough. As for the training camp show, the playoff exclusion no longer applies. The league is making more teams "eligible" for the training camp show because it's had a hard time getting clubs to volunteer.

William from Chamberlain, SD

Mike, Wes wrote an article on the O-line and talked about Sean Rhyan replacing Runyan. Is that considered a capable swap, or a possible upgrade?

It could be an upgrade, but there's no way to know because Rhyan still has such limited experience. Maybe, maybe not. Also, that spot might be hotly contested depending on how the draft goes.

Hannes from Glendale, WI

I think Andy from La Crosse made an interesting secondary point about expanding roster size to soften the blow of the 18th game on teams collectively. Perhaps even keep the 53+16 format but adjust the rules for the active roster on game days. Is he onto something and would that fly with the owners and players? I don't think the league wants the risk of diminishing the playoffs by having more banged-up teams in them.

I don't see the 53+16 parameters changing, but maybe another adjustment to the game-day active list would come with an 18th game. But who knows, it's at least a handful of years off anyway, because it won't happen until the next CBA at the earliest, which is next decade.

Chris from Fort Wayne, IN

Whether the topic is 17 games (now 18), artificial turf, Thursday games, or the franchise tag, it seems the players are always on the short end. Sure, the owners will throw them a $ bone when negotiating the next CBA, but if there's money to be made the owners will stand firm – and win. Why? The only trump card employees have in a tough negotiation is to withdraw services, but what 20-something kid is going to give up 20-25% (or more) of his career earnings by going on strike?

Your question is rhetorical for a reason, but for the record, artificial turf and Thursday games are not collectively bargained issues. Back to your point, in the last truly contentious CBA negotiation (2011), the owners locked out the players to get some concessions. Still, the labor peace since then has been valuable, as the CBA framework currently in place works for both sides. If the owners want 18 games, they'll know how to get it.

Shane from Weston, WI

From 2015-2023, the NFL salary cap went up by an average of 5.9%. This year it went up over 13%. How much of a factor to that big jump in cap is related to the addition of the 17th game? I have to imagine that future salary cap increases had to be a big selling point to the players' union since they did not immediately see a pay raise for playing an extra game.

First off, that average cap bump includes the Covid-impacted years, and this year's jump was the first in a while with Covid off the books, so to speak. That said, the most recent broadcast deals that have entered the revenue picture went up substantially from prior years, in part due to the addition of a 17th game. They would have gone up anyway, but the extra game provided another boost.

Jeff from Champlin, MN

Joseph's deal includes a $117,500 roster bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus. When would he typically receive these bonuses? Commitment of guaranteed $$ informs the serious level of the kicking competition.

The workout bonus would be paid at the end of the offseason program, provided he meets the attendance requirement. He gets the roster bonus if he's on the roster Week 1.

Jeff from Omaha, NE

If a player makes the 53, then has a week where they are not on the active game-day roster, how is their pay affected?

It isn't, unless they have a weekly roster bonus in their contract for being active on game days. But those weekly roster bonuses are not in rookie contracts, only veteran ones, and not all of them by any means.

Dom from Holladay, UT

Good evening from the Wasatch front, II. I'm grateful to have found this page several years back. It has become a part of my morning ritual, paired with a cup of black coffee. How 'bout dem Texans? With all the talk we've had about "knowing when your window is open," it sure appears that the decision-makers down in Houston see their ballclub as being ready to make a run.

They've found their QB, and they've got two years before a new contract for C.J. Stroud is even a consideration.

Mike from Ames, IA

Regarding Stefon Diggs, I was immediately bummed to see that he's going to a team that plays the Pack next year. According to my memory, which could be overdramatic, it feels like his stats whenever he faced us as a Viking were Hall of Fame worthy. Thinking back, what players do you feel like have had the best careers against the Packers in recent memory?

I wasn't aware of this until I looked it up, but incredibly, when Diggs scored a TD for Buffalo against the Packers in 2022, that marked eight (8!) straight games for him vs. Green Bay with a touchdown, dating back to 2016. That actually beats Randy Moss's streak of seven straight from 2002-12. Among receivers, I also remember Calvin Johnson having a four-game stretch against the Packers (2011-13) where he racked up over 600 yards. Obviously, the pure numbers Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson put up against the Packers are pretty incredible. They all had multiple otherworldly performances. QB-wise, Philip Rivers averaged 355 passing yards over five games vs. Green Bay.

Joe from Dartford, UK

Further to Barb from Marengo's question about draft prospects' character background checks and your response around interviewing anyone closely associated, I imagine there is a game within the game in that most people you would talk to would likely want to paint that person in a good light for own self-interest or otherwise, so I believe there would be a certain amount of reading between the lines and cross-examinations. Gutey and Co.'s judgement of this is then the deciding factor.

Very true, and the relationships scouts build with coaches, particularly at the college level, also matter. When there's trust to give/get the unvarnished truth, that goes a long way in this business. Good programs always have more players in the NFL pipeline, so it isn't always in a coach's best interest to just talk up his guys and try to hide things.

Bob from Emmaus, PA

Game preparation requires creating a game plan to match the opponent's tendencies learned from familiarity and film and implementing that plan during practice. Another aspect to a successful game is reacting to the opponent's game plan once the game starts. When does the team start doing the evaluation of opponents and starting to plan for games? Do they have a "board" for each opponent that they use in planning for that opponent?

Coaching staffs always spend a portion of the offseason studying their division opponents, for obvious reasons. Most teams also start prepping preliminary game plans for their first few opponents over the summer, because there won't be much 2024 film to go on anyway. After that, it's mostly week to week with the most current film at hand.

Jeremy from West Allis, WI

As far as you know, do spring football teams or leagues receive a royalty for rules or players they develop for the NFL? Or is it simply publicity and a positive image in the eyes of prospective players and fans?

No royalties that I'm aware of. But if the NFL ever makes all the safety rules reviewable, Roger better toss a little extra into my 401(K).

Jeff from Montclair, VA

Kicking sticks are now allowed? How long till we can just use them for field goal attempts? I'll show myself out...

Happy Friday.

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