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Inbox: The Packers' players took it from there

The floodgates to the Hall of Fame have opened for safeties and defensive backs

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Pregame tunnel

Dar from Mansfield, TX

So, how was Hodapalooza 2021? I hope the sun was warm and the root beers were cold.

I had a lot of fun. I got to spend time with my son, finished my wife's Christmas present and took a daytrip to Central Wisconsin. It was a great week. Thanks for asking.

Jordan from Virginia Beach, VA

I agree QBs can make WRs look good and WRs can make QBs look good. Stefon Diggs going to Buffalo and stretching the field not only made Josh Allen an MVP candidate but also opened up the middle of the field for Allen to hit other targets. An offensive line can make a good RB great (Dallas with Elliott). A good TE can open up the deep shot for QBs if a safety is having to step up instead of shadowing the deep threat (Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill in Kansas City). Football is the ultimate team game. Beat them with what they give you.

That's what made the Packers' offense work last season. Matt LaFleur, Nathaniel Hackett and the offensive coaches developed game plans that complemented their personnel – and the Packers' players took it from there.

Russ from Henrico, VA

With left tackle uncertain for the early season and zero certainty your tackle prospect(s) will fall to you in the draft, what did Rick Wagner's release says about tackles already in the room?

The Packers have options. Billy Turner and Elgton Jenkins can play anywhere, Jon Runyan was an All-Big 10 tackle at Michigan and Yosh Nijman was on the 53 all last season. Wagner was a valuable member of the 2020 season but there's still quite a few jars on the shelves. And that's before we even get into free agency and the draft.

Andrew from Green Lake, WI

My daughter and I have been discussing the size of some of the current NFL lineman. We see someone like Billy Turner who looks bigger than other linemen. Who is the largest lineman you have ever covered and was there anything about them athletically to set them apart?

Nijman is impressive. My jaw dropped a little the first time I saw him during the rookie minicamp in 2019. He's a tall guy (6-7) and carries his 314 pounds well. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see him take many meaningful snaps with the cancellation of the preseason.

Mike from Post Lake, WI

Is everyone forgetting Dexter Williams? As fans, we only have a small sample size of his attributes. What does he bring to the table?

Explosiveness was his calling card coming out of Notre Dame. This is a massive offseason for Williams regardless of what happens with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.

Paul from Gorham, ME

Good morning! Who was the last running back the Packers signed as a free agent?

The last unrestricted free agent Green Bay signed was Nick Luchey, who was technically a fullback, in 2003. Before that, it was Raymont Harris in 1998. The Packers also signed "Mr. Third Down" Tony Fisher as an undrafted free agent in 2002.

Take a look at some of the best smiles of the Green Bay Packers during the 2020 season.

Reed from York, PA

This will be Brian Gutekunst's first draft with significant compensatory picks from FAs that got signed last offseason. Now that he's been active in signing FAs and drafted players attractive to other teams, I'm excited to see how that value can be used for draft-day trades or to select future stars/depth pieces. How impactful do you see those picks being this year and in the future for supporting the improvement of the roster – both the players themselves and dollars saved by their contracts for pursuing FAs?

Gutekunst has done a lot of moving and shaking during his first three years as GM and this likely will be no exception, especially now that compensatory picks can be traded. If there's a player the Packers covet – in any round – they should have the draft capital to make it happen.

Aaron from Green Bay, WI

There is a lot of talk about the drop in the salary cap this year. What does the conversation about next year's cap sound like? If the COVID situation is behind us this fall, does the cap increase by 40 million? How does this affect the contract negotiations?

Time will tell. The salary cap is tied to revenue. While welcoming back fans to stadiums would help immensely, I'm most interested in what those new TV contracts will look like. As contracts increase, so too will the salary cap.

Warren from Fond du lac, WI

What do you see happening with Aaron Jones and the running back position?

I'm (still) not sure but the franchise tag estimates OverTheCap.com put out for running backs on Monday caught my eye. I'll leave it at that.

Charles from Richfield, WI

I loved Mike's nugget on how the Bears have enacted a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom by having 14 retired jersey numbers and banning the retirement of more in the future! I think our six retired jerseys are appropriate with Aaron Rodgers soon-to-be seven. I thought the Packers would retire Curly Lambeau's No. 1 jersey during the 100-year team anniversary. Any insights why? I can't recall even one player in my lifetime who has ever worn jersey No. 1 for the green and gold.

I'll defer any questions about Lambeau's No. 1 and Paul Hornung's No. 5 to the incomparable Cliff Christl but I think the Packers have gone about handling jersey retirements the right way. This franchise easily could've retired 14 numbers by now, but that honor is reserved for the most important players, and figures, in team history.

Sawyer from Simpsonville, SC

Mike/Wes, with regards to retired numbers and them being a finite commodity, my alma mater Clemson does retire numbers, but current players can wear them. I think they have to get permission from the player/family (if the player is deceased) and they wear a special patch on their uniform to honor whoever's number it is (Deshaun Watson and C.J. Spiller both wore these). Do you think this something that could be in the NFL one day?

That's probably the direction the NFL and legacy sports leagues will have to go someday…but not in my lifetime.

Mike from Niles, IL

Mike, agree with and appreciate Mike's support of Ron Wolf as a premier general manager. The Pack was lucky to have him aboard in rebuilding a sorry franchise into the juggernaut it has become – response to Keith from Greendale. I have a handwritten note from him thanking me for thanking him for all he had done for the Pack upon his retirement. I will always treasure it.

That's awesome to hear. Wolf and Ted Thompson are the architects who made Green Bay into Titletown again. As I said last month, it's incredible what this organization has accomplished over the past 25 years compared to the previous 25.

Bill from Clive, IA

"It's one thing to know the day of the dance but who's stepping out the floor first?" As a guy who took up ballroom dancing as a way to bless my wife, I can very much relate to that analogy. To get me to be the first one on the floor, I need two things to be true: 1) a partner who I can depend on to work well with me, and 2) a type of music being played that I know I'm good at executing and at a tempo I can handle (read: terms and expectations). If one of those is missing, I wait and watch.

Right on. Again, there will be a few high-profile players who will sign as soon as they're allowed to. But I think that pool of players will be shallower than most years, while the second wave of free agency will take longer to reach shore.

Joshua from Houston, TX

If I were the Bears, I'd probably do what it takes to get Deshaun Watson (and see if J.J. Watt would come at a cheaper price due to his fiancé playing in town).

That would be a huge move for the Bears – and really any team that makes a run at Watson. That still would be a tough move to make for Chicago after passing on him and Patrick Mahomes in 2017.

Mark from Verona, WI

Good morning, with the anticipation the salary cap will be lower than last year, do you see players accepting one-year "prove-it" deals with hopes of striking it big next year? Thanks.

You would think so, but the issue there is all that money has to hit the 2021 salary cap. So how big could the contracts really get? I guess you could tie some money into unlikely to be earned bonuses (that counts against the following year's cap if the player achieves them) but I don't see many guys jumping to sign those deals.

Neal from Ft Worth, TX

Welcome back Wes. Can you please explain a few things regarding players designated as a post-June 1 cut? Why is the cap savings greater in many cases? If designated a post-June 1 release at the beginning of the new league year, does the player immediately become a FA or does he hang in limbo till June 1?

Yes, for that exact reason. The post-June 1 designation was created because the NFL and NFLPA didn't want veterans scrambling to sign somewhere in the middle of summer. This way, teams can get some relief by pushing dead money forward, while players can immediately sign elsewhere and get to work on the playbook. It saves money because all of the dead money is deferred to the following year's cap.

Paul from West Allis, WI

Good morning Wes and Insiders! I'm not particularly in favor of a lot of the clutter of information that is put on the screen during games, but let's say the day comes when LeRoy Butler is in the Hall of Fame or the Green Bay Packers organization should deem appropriate to honor him...I wouldn't be against having his number on the walls for the Lambeau Leap! Even if only for a year.

You know, that isn't a bad idea.

Johnny from Madison, WI

As a follow-up to my earlier question regarding a football variant of baseball's "Power-speed" stat with sacks and interceptions, this is the career top 5 DBs according to my research: Ronde Barber (35.09), Rodney Harrison (32.16), Charles Woodson (30.59), Brian Dawkins (30.54), LeRoy Butler (26.63). Interestingly, Ronde Barber and Rodney Harrison are also conspicuously absent from the Hall of Fame.

As much as Hall of Fame voters strained to get John Lynch into Canton, there hasn't been nearly as much hype behind Barber, his Buccaneers teammate. Listen, I'm going to look at the glass half-full and see the positives in Lynch getting in. In my opinion, the floodgates to the Hall have now opened for safeties and cornerbacks.

Kenny from Wild Rose, WI

With the 17th game becoming closer to fruition, is it time to reset modern-day record benchmarks relative to amount of games played? Wouldn't a 2,000-yard season be a better threshold (117 yards per game) than 1,000 (58.8 ypg) in the new NFL? If a contract has a "bump" for a 1,000 season, it seems a bit pedestrian now. I understand records are meant to be broken, but why can't the measure of greatness be moved along with it. There are eight members of the 2,000-yard club after 100 years. Soon to be more.

A 2,000-yard season is the more noteworthy accomplishment but we've set 1,000 yards as the standard and I don't see that changing anytime soon, especially with the prevalence of by-committee backfields in today's NFL. At the same time, I'm not sure how many contracts today have escalators and bonuses for eclipsing 1,000 yards.

Mark from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Yesterday you said, "Wagner and Kirksey are now free to find gainful employment if it is their desire to play in 2021." I thought there couldn't be conversations between players/agents and teams until just before free agency starts?

Not if the player is released. That's how the Packers signed Wagner and Kirksey before the nationwide lockdown last March.

Gary from Visra, CA

With the signing of another assistant coach, how many coaches, assistants, interns, etc., do the Packers have? How do the Packers compare with other teams in this category?

I'm not sure Gary but I promise to get you an official tally and how it compares to the rest of the league once the coaching staff is finalized.

Michael from Keshena, WI

How much pressure is on the agents to get things right for their clients? There's been a lot of chatter about the challenges and pressure GMs but the flip side is the agents. It seems to me the risk to badly play their hand is even greater. Sign short to get a bigger payday when the cap readjusts and risk injury or a lack of performance. Sign long and risk an undervalued contract. I'm not too envious of that job right now.

I wanted to be a sports agent when I was younger. I saw "Jerry Maguire" and thought it was the coolest job ever. Today, I joke about that with friends I have in that world. It's a tough way to make a living – rewarding, to be sure – but tough, nonetheless. I wouldn't be built for it.

Andrew from Green Bay, WI

Was Vince Lombardi a coach that would spend endless hours in his office planning for the next game?

Nah, he winged it.

H.R. from Las Vegas, NV

No question, just a huge bit of thanks to Mike and Wes for the inbox. I read SI's MMQB every Monday for the last 20 years. I read it on SI when it was Peter King, and then after King left, when Albert Breer was doing it. SI has now moved to a subscription model, which has taken one of my weekly reads out of circulation for me. For the two of you to write this column six days a week and 52 weeks a year – on top of all the other stuff you do in your jobs for the Packers – and keep it free? Kudos.

This is where I give Cenex a shoutout for helping make it happen.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Hats off to Biff and Spoff for honest reporting! I find it disingenuous when media reports how much teams are over or under the cap. It is a meaningless number unless you look at what opportunities there are to restructure or cut and replace. Sometimes a team can be right up against or over the cap and actually be in fine position. Another team might be under the cap but have no wiggle room once a draft class is signed. It whips people up into a frenzy and not much gets accomplished.

My intention is never to tell a reader what to think or how to feel. I try to step back, take a breath, and simply give my viewpoint – and you can take it or leave it. But what I will never do is lead you down an alley of false hope and then shoo you away with an insincere "Thanks for the clicks" when nothing materializes. Football is a beautiful mystery and we'll find out where this offseason road leads together.

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