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Inbox: The game is always changing

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Lee from Leesburg, FL

Do you believe we will be a passing or running team this year?

Yes. Good morning!

Richard from Menasha, WI

I believe a pass rusher (EDGE) is the greatest draft need. However, are there any skill-position players we should keep our eye on? I know it depends on how the board falls, but how deep in the draft do the Packers wait to draft a skill position player?

It largely depends on free agency. For example, I’d look to draft a receiver earlier if Randall Cobb doesn’t return. Regardless of how Brian Gutekunst handles the tight ends, though, I’d like to see the Packers draft one and start that development process because it’s going to take a season or two to bring him along. Plus, it’s going on five years since the last time Green Bay drafted a TE inside the top 200.

John from Flagstaff, AZ

Do you know which Valentine's Day card was downloaded the most? I gave the Mike Daniels card to my wife (along with a regular card, of course).

I think it’s safe to say Aaron Rodgers took the cake…for like the sixth year in a row.

David from Minneapolis, MN

On the topic of best Aaron Rodgers throws, I still come back a throw from the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Protecting a small lead with third-and-10 from his own like 20-yard line, Rodgers put it on a rope to Jennings just over the outstretched fingers of great coverage and underneath Polamalu for a 35-yard gain and almost a TD if not tripped up. That’s when I really knew the moment wasn’t too big for him.

Rodgers already made several big plays in his career prior to Super Bowl XLV, but I’ve always felt that throw was his “announce my presence with authority” moment. You have to remember Rodgers wasn’t a two-time MVP yet. He wasn’t even a Pro Bowler in 2010. However, Rodgers was on the verge of something special and that pass served as the harbinger for his breakthrough.

Dave from Germantown, TN

On defense, it seems to me we have a lot of young (fewer than four-year) players on the roster except for edge rushers. On offense, it seems we have more veteran players except at wide receiver and running back. How much does the age of the players by position group influence the team strategy in pursuing free agents and the draft?

The renovation of Green Bay’s defensive line is probably the best example of how to ease a position group from aging veterans to a younger nucleus. In 2013, the Packers pivoted from tried-and-true 340-pound defensive tackles built for a traditional 3-4 to players who better fit the direction of the league such as Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry. At each position, teams must analyze the roster, forecast future growth and build around those they feel can get the team to where it wants to go. The game is always changing. It’s up to the GM and his personnel department to read those winds and decide whether to augment a position through the draft or free agency.

Sean from North Fond du Lac, WI

Gents, I know we’re talking football moves here, but what about the infamous grave digger celebration by none other than Gilbert Brown? Oh and how about that Gilbert burger? Not too shabby, either.

Speaking of 340-pound defensive tackles…

Rick from Muskego, WI

Hi Mike. Joe from Clio, MI, asked a question I have thought about for some time regarding the upcoming CBA. I think guaranteed money might make it in MLB and the NBA, but injuries in the NFL can end careers, thus they have upfront signing bonuses for UFAs. Having guaranteed money is a slippery slope for the NFL with average career years so much lower.

I’ve struggled with this for years. On one hand, I think having more guaranteed contracts would benefit the Packers because of how well they manage their cap and contracts. On the other, I fear they’d fall into the same trap as the Brewers, playing in a league where big markets dominate. As exciting as last year was for Milwaukee, I can’t get invested in the MLB because of its structure. Any NFL team has a legitimate chance at winning a Super Bowl in 3-5 years with good management. That’s just not the case in MLB – and if a small market does succeed, it’s hard to make it last. But yes, injuries and large roster sizes complicate fully guaranteed contacts for NFL teams.

Etienne from Gaspe Coast, Canada

Anyone remember Randy Moss going to the Patriots? If I remember, Favre was not too happy the Packers didn’t pursue him. Moss never got the ring, but Brady got 50 TD passes. See where I am going? Draft and develop first, but once-a-generation talent available, may as well take a shot.

People remember the production and rightfully so, but what hindsight specialists overlook is why Moss was on the market in the first place. He’d worn out his welcome in Minnesota and Oakland, and it eventually happened in New England, too.

Flavio from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Perhaps more a comment than a question: I don´t recall the fan base panicking when the Bears had Brian Urlacher AND Julius Peppers. Is it possible that Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith are any better than they were?

Better right now? No. Younger with their best days ahead? Yes.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

Are there a lot of people wanting to trade/cut Kevin King? If so, can you let them know I think they're nuts?

Sure.

Matt from Hoboken, NJ

Kevin King for a third? Give me a break. Anyone who has been watching can see that the defense is totally different with King and Alexander out there together. Add Breeland to that (God willing), and all of a sudden the corners are arguably the strength of the defense. We should be thanking our lucky stars they didn’t deal Davante for a third back in 2015. How many times will we go through this exercise before people realize that you need to be patient with young guys?

There were so many fans who wanted to cut Adams after 2015. Could you imagine what the public outcry would have been if the Packers actually did and he caught 111 passes for 1,400 yards elsewhere in the NFC? This isn’t some high-priced veteran who’s underperforming. King is a young, ascending player whose best days are ahead of him. Have a little patience, people.

Troy from Ninety Six, SC

Here's a motivator – if the Packers do not make the playoffs in 2019 they become eligible to be on “Hard Knocks.” Uff da.

Here’s a bigger motivator – if the Packers do not make the playoffs in 2019, it would be their third consecutive year missing the postseason. That would be the first time that’s happened since Brett Favre’s first season in Green Bay.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

What positions do you see as deepest in this year’s free agency and/or draft?

We’ll learn more at the combine, but the pool of pass rushers appears to be deep. That’s interesting considering Demarcus Lawrence, Dee Ford, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark and Tre Flowers are set to hit free agency.

Hansen from Waukesha, EI

We don't talk about the CFL much, but do the Insiders have any thoughts on the splash the Toronto Argonauts made with the signing of DT Cory "Poop" Johnson?

My only thought is why an NFL team hasn’t made this splash signing.

Rob from Buckinghamshire, UK

If you could steal one player from each of our NFC North rivals, who would you choose?

Khalil Mack from Chicago, Harrison Smith from Minnesota and Darius Slay from Detroit. 

Dale from Kettering, OH

Denver and Baltimore are taking two different QB paths – older, expensive pocket versus younger, cheaper runner. Is this as close to a straight-up comparison as we’ve seen?

Pretty much. Denver is scrambling to find a quarterback. The Broncos swung and missed on Paxton Lynch in the first round and then struck out again after going the veteran route with Case Keenum.

John from Colonial Beach, VA

Just read an article that the Bengals are struggling to find a DC. What do you think factors into this?

I can only speculate, but Zac Taylor had his hands full through the month of January. Either way, it is strange so many coaches have reportedly turned the job down.

Team photographer Evan Siegle shares some of his favorite images of the 2018 season.

Chris from Golden Valley, MN

I read an incredible story this week about NE backup quarterback Brian Hoyer's contributions to its Super Bowl win. He essentially had a mental copy of the Rams’ playbook after hearing their players talk about how the system was similar to the offense coach Shanahan ran with Hoyer at QB in Cleveland, and realizing that they used the same terminology. Is it common for coaches to use the same terminology from team to team? Why not change to code words to mask that?

It’s been four years since Kyle Shanahan and Hoyer were together in Cleveland. It’s common for terminology to remain the same from system to system, but it was interesting to hear how much alleged carryover there was with what McVay is running in LA. What makes it insane, though, is how it started with Hoyer watching Peyton Manning’s ESPN+ show. 

Eric from Oshkosh, WI

Regarding onside kicks, I suggest using the old rules in the last two minutes (or five minutes if need be). Make the kicking team announce its intentions beforehand (just like with PATs/two-point conversions attempts) so the receiving team can send the hands team out. It still keeps the vast majority of kickoffs safer, while allowing for a legit chance of regaining possession on an onside kick. Problem solved. To add excitement, just let either team line up as creatively as they want on the attempt!

I agreed with this idea a while ago. Yes, you’d lose the element of surprise onside kick, but it improves the overall odds of the play.

Ryan from Oshkosh, WI

Will the AAF become the feeder system for players to the NFL?

The NCAA will forever be the feeder system to the NFL. I believe – and hope – a few players can resurrect their careers through the AAF, but scouts still would rather look for the next college prospect than sift through a professional discard pile.

Rudy from Milwaukee, WI

If the fourth-and-12 "onside kick" was implemented and you kicked a go-ahead field goal on the first drive in overtime with 4:59 left on the clock, would you send Aaron Rodgers out to just go ahead and win it with the "onside kick”?

I’d be more tempted to do that than kick an actual onside, especially if the Packers trust their third-down defense.

Dan from Carlsbad, CA

Marino in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," or Favre in "There's Something about Mary"? Maybe that's what is really bugging Marino. Laces out, Dan.

Serious question: is Favre’s performance the worst by a professional athlete in a major motion picture? Not like some D-list, direct-to-DVD movie, but a legitimate box-office success.

Braden from Aurora, CO

The draft board talk is great, but is there an II “banned” board? Is it full of magnetic names? Who would be No. 1? Is there a watch list of potential “banned” prospects? Can a questioner be pulled off the board for good submissions?

I keep a physical list and it takes quite a bit to make it on there. In three years writing this column, no one has been pulled off the list and returned to the general Inbox population. Once you’re done, you’re done. And those who continue to submit insults, I stop reading as soon as I see your name.

Bob from Russellville, AR

Hey Wes, on the magnet for the Packers’ draft board, did they spell your last name correctly? 

True story – the Press-Gazette’s IT department spelled my last name wrong in my email address. They missed the “K” and it caused me a ton of problems my first year.

Jim from Lima, OH

No question today, just thanks to Evan Siegle for the outstanding work he does. What an eye for both the dramatic and intimate moments!

Fun fact: “Drama” is E’s middle name.

Keith from Indianapolis, IN

If you're gonna do burgers and beers at the combine, I'd suggest Burger Study downtown. It's in the St. Elmo's restaurant group. Get the famous shrimp cocktail there too. What other places to you like to visit downtown Indy?

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse is my favorite, but I have to stash a few paychecks to afford it. There also is this little pizzeria, Napolese, that’s become my annual tradition.

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