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Inbox: The approach has worked

It’s going to be a huge challenge just to earn another shot

Team huddle
Team huddle

Eddie from La Crosse, WI

The Three Things we've come to know best here at the Inbox: "Those in the know...know," "You never know until you know," and "I don't know, Margo!" Know what I mean?

And once again we're off.

Ingrid from Superior, WI

Did we just see some of Aaron Rodgers' personality on yesterday's Jeopardy? There was a Green Bay Packers answer and no one guessed it. He then gave the contestant that answered the next clue correctly some crap. I loved it!

Best moment of the two weeks, by far. Making the roundabout reference later in the show to his own "Celebrity Jeopardy!" victory was the icing on the cake.

Dennis from Appleton, WI

Do NFL teams request specific highlights of college prospects' game films or do the schools package identical material and submit them upon request?

I believe National Football Scouting, Inc., provides access to all the college game film.

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

Top of the morning, Mike. As the new NFL year has come and gone I am still confused as to how the Packers are under the cap. Sites such as Spotrac show the current 53-man cap number at $193M. I also assumed that the delay in the Aaron Jones signing was probably to restructure other contracts to fit under the cap. Since I am sure that the NFL wouldn't allow such transgressions, are you aware of other contract adjustments that have been done or is there a reliable source to show where we stand?

Rest assured, the Packers are under the cap ($182.5M). They rolled over a few million from last year, so their actual cap is a little higher. Spotrac shows the Packers currently have $193M in active contracts for 2021, and they'll add more to that when they sign their draft picks. But only the top 51 count against the cap until roster reductions at the end of training camp. Barring trades or other significant signings, their first four picks will crack the top 51 as of now, so they might need to do a little more maneuvering to close those deals.

Mark from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Can you remember a team with so many highest paid players at their position when a new contract was signed? Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark, probably Davante Adams, likely Jaire Alexander. Won't that spending come back to haunt at some point?

Not as much as it would haunt to have those top guys playing against you. The "highest paid" designations change with each new big contract, so it's all cyclical. Structure can help manage the cap, which is why I expect with Adams and Alexander the Packers will gear the larger cap hits on their next deals for when the new TV money kicks in.

Rick from Beloit, WI

Hi Mike, I've always been a believer in the Packers draft-and-develop philosophy over the years, but often wonder if we end up developing these players for other teams instead. It seems as though there have been times where we draft and develop only to lose those players before we get the rewards of our investment. You've certainly been around long enough to remember some of these players that I'm referring to. I'd like to know what your thoughts are on this subject.

If you draft and develop well enough, you'll never be able to keep everybody. Sure, there are tough decisions that can lead to regrets, but that list is far shorter than the one of the successful investments that have kept this team in the hunt year after year. There's no comparison.

Jeff from Eveleth, MN

I didn't know David Bakhtiari was engaged, congrats to him. Do you think he will do any beer chugging at the wedding reception?

That's like asking if it's cold in a Wisconsin winter.

Jon from Waukee, IA

Hello II! I'm sure this is a tough question to answer but I'm always so intrigued about the undrafted free agents or other "underdogs" that people don't really hear much about. Is there anyone on the roster who you see taking steps forward to carve out a role for themselves this year? Or maybe some development players you are just plain interested in seeing more of this year? Thank you!

I got out of the prediction business long ago. But as far as the undrafted rookies we saw only briefly last year, to narrow it down to a top three, I'm most intrigued to follow Dominique Dafney, Tipa Galeai, and Stanford Samuels.

Donna from Minneapolis, MN

To get my football fix I've been watching old videos. I watched one called "I'd light you up," the best of AR mic'd up. About 3/4 of the way through it shows an interaction of AR, Woodson and Harris on the sidelines. AR to Woodson, "I think we've got a pretty good squad." Woodson replies, "Good squad. I'm thinking Super Bowl and you are taking me there." Harris adds, "My legs are too old so I am jumping on your back." Leadership and mindset displayed. Who will the 2021 leaders be do you think?

Pretty much the same ones as last year. Rodgers, Marcedes Lewis, Adams and Bakhtiari are the first four who come to mind on offense, with the Smiths, Adrian Amosand Clark a similar quartet on defense, plus Mason Crosby. Younger guys taking on bigger leadership roles could include Jones, Alexander and Darnell Savage, among others. There's no shortage in the Packers' locker room, and the current leaders don't discourage others from stepping forward. The approach has worked.

David from Janesville, WI

Insiders, a lot of speculation about offense or defense in the early part of the draft for the Packers. I'm sure it depends on how the board falls, but in spite the need for OT depth history seems to point to defense. Capers got Raji and Matthews his first year with no other picks until the fourth (Lang). Pettine got Alexander, Josh Jackson and Oren Burks in the first three rounds. Are we closer now to a complete defense, or do you think Barry can expect a similar haul?

Unlike the years you referenced, the Packers have no glaring holes in their starting lineup right now, which will allow Gutekunst the flexibility to take the best available players and/or move around the board to maximize value. The team's biggest needs are for depth, future concerns and competition. But that's not to say immediate competition can't result in a starting lineup change, and it very well may.

Peter from Wellington, New Zealand

Hey guys, thanks for keeping us entertained during the offseason. Do you think Tae would have a legitimate shot at MVP if he plays all 17 games and is even just slightly better than 2020? I would like to see the award go to someone other than a QB for once. Cheers!

Good question. History says no, unless maybe he were to have more than half of Rodgers' TDs in a big season. Back in 2007, when Tom Brady set the (then) NFL record with 50 TD passes, Randy Moss set the TD catches record with 23, but the MVP went to Brady. Going back further, Jerry Rice set the previous TD receptions record with 22 in 1987 (in 12 games, due to replacement players), and the MVP went to John Elway. If Adams hits 20 TDs, Rodgers has 40 or fewer, the Packers are a top contender, and no one else breaks any longstanding records, I'd say perhaps.

Wes from South St. Paul, MN

Mike/Wes, with the Packers obvious needs at CB, OL, DL and ILB it is interesting to see the talking heads still preaching about the need to WR with some mocks having the Packers taking a WR in the first round. With the defensive needs and OL my over/under for a WR is fifth round. Any thoughts?

I could see the Packers taking a receiver much earlier than that.

Alex from Kentwood, MI

In response to Doug from Neenah's question, didn't we trade Lenzy Pipkins for Antonio Morrison straight up a couple of years ago before the regular season started?

Yes, during training camp in 2018, you're correct. I guess that trade wasn't considered significant enough to make the historical list in the media guide.

Mike from Eau Claire, WI

Spoff, could you give us any info on Barry as it relates to preparing his scheme and his style between now and the preseason? I'm not talking about giving away secrets but general preparation. How does he "get to know" his defense and how does he communicate his philosophy to other coordinators and his defense?

He gets to know his players by watching their film and projecting what they'll do best. Then there are two steps to the installation of the playbook – the classroom and the practice field. Communicating the scheme and assignments starts in the classroom. Then on the field he'll figure out how accurate his projections were about his players, and adjust from there.

Matthias from San Antonio, TX

Reading of the passing of William Mack threw my mind to Vince Papale for the Eagles: 30-year-old special-teams ace who didn't play college ball, walking onto an Eagles team in the '80s (I know Disney romanticized it a bit, be it that he was a pro with the Philadelphia Bell before he was an Eagle). Any stories that might be similar to Papale in Green Bay? Or elsewhere in pro sports?

I know a guy who was a chemistry major at a small Division II school in Pennsylvania who went undrafted, latched onto the practice squad of his home-state Steelers, won a Super Bowl ring, was claimed off waivers by the Packers, won another ring, got three Pro Bowl nods, two All-Pro selections, and had 80,000 people in Lambeau Field chanting his name all the time. I'd say that's a pretty good story.

Take a look at the top quarterback prospects heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

Vinny from Arlington, VA

How do you determine which prospects to perform Draft Digests on given the vast number of potential draftees? Is Draft Digest a more condensed version of the Prospect Primer from prior years? And lastly, how many Draft Digests approximately do you think there will be published prior to the draft?

As each post indicates, the Draft Digest players were those who showed up most in the bottom third of the first round in mock drafts from more than a dozen national outlets. There will be a total of 24 posted by the draft, and we'll still probably miss on the first-round pick.

Kevin from Savage, MN

With you actually answering a question (even to say you didn't have the info) on the number of questions selected from a given person, I am now going to give up trying. If I can't meet even that low of a bar, there is something wrong with me. So I don't have that going for me … typed with a semi-sarcastic smile. Or maybe I was banned and just didn't know it?

It must be understood that the quality of the question alone does not determine whether it gets published. The column writer's mood, whims, hunger, energy level, state of alertness, ability to focus or get easily distracted, amount of sunshine he sees that day, and plenty of other things I'm forgetting (did I mention memory?) are also significant factors.

Michelle from Ringgold, GA

What do you think will be the Packers' biggest obstacle to overcome this year?

The grind of the regular season, which appears to feature a beast of a schedule. After coming up one game short of the Super Bowl two years in a row, the Packers certainly plan to make another playoff run, but thinking ahead to that opportunity will only damage their chances of getting it. It's going to be a huge challenge just to earn another shot.

Joseph from Salt Lake City, UT

What would be your best event in the combine?

Easy. The Wonderlic.

Kevin from Grand Blanc, MI

Regarding the question from David in San Antonio, wondering about the older gentleman named Vic who walks the neighborhood clad in Packer gear. If I'm not mistaken, didn't THE Vic also cover Jacksonville, and I believe Pittsburgh? I would like to envision Vic wearing green and gold on Sundays and reserving the Jags attire for cutting grass in the backyard. But where does his allegiance truly lie?

I'll let Tyler take this one.

Tyler from Crane Lake, MN

The Vic you're looking for is wearing a Steelers hard hat, waving a Terrible Towel, and chanting "Here we go Steelers, here we go!"

I hope the longtime readers are laughing as hard as I did. Happy Wednesday.