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Inbox: Their approach feels prudent

They’ll have two such decisions again next spring

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

Charlie from Morgan Hill, CA

If I had the opportunity I'm torn between knowing what goes on in the draft room or behind the curtain of II. I'm still leaning toward the draft room but it's close. Thanks for your work!

Trust me, I don't think the inner workings of II would prove as compelling as many believe.

Brian from Fort Atkinson, WI

Hi Mike, hope you are doing well. I will ask the question a lot of fans are wondering. When can we expect your first Prospect Primer?

If all goes well, our Primer series will start the first week of April.

Brendan from Warren, MI

Hi Mike, not a question but a quick comment: I'm surprised Kenny Clark wasn't mentioned on your list of "difference-makers." Might be nitpicky, but I was hoping you could elaborate. Thanks for your insights as always, particularly at the beginning of this long, dreary offseason.

I thought about it and probably should've included him coming off his career-best season. In my opinion he's been at that truly elite, high-level impact vs. both run and pass twice in his career – 2019 and last year.

Greg from Conway, SC

Top of the morning to you Mr. Mike! Does Mr. Russ have any input into draft selections, or is he only a numbers guy that tells Gutey when to stop spending?

Ha. Make no mistake, Russ knows football, and it wouldn't shock me if he's reviewed film on a prospect here or there over the years. But his work with agents and the cap keeps him plenty busy. I bumped into Russ in an elevator in Indy, too, but others were along for the ride so we didn't engage. I will say he appeared en route to a very important meeting.

Timmy from Bath, SD

Through the years we have heard how well the Packers have managed the cap, yet the last few years have seemed to be struggling with cap space. Did the bloated Rodgers salary and trade hit push them towards the bottom? I remember someone saying pushing the money out catches up eventually.

The Cliff's Notes version is the Packers did a lot of financial maneuvering out of their comfort zone to keep a contending team together when the Covid-related cap drops were steepest ('21 and '22). They went for it, came up short, and have had to deal with the consequences. Then the Rodgers trade left $40M in dead money on their cap in '23, but that's gone now. They aren't entirely out of the woods yet with money they pushed out and those cap charges coming due, but currently their cap is in its best shape since pre-Covid.

Cary from Sioux Falls, SD

Mike, were you surprised at Russell Wilson's release? A few years ago he seemed a lock for the Hall of Fame. Now I'm not so sure. Any thoughts on whether he catches on with another team?

He will, as long as he's not retiring, because he can take a league-minimum deal and keep collecting the big bucks from Denver. He may have to wait a while for Canton, but I expect he'll become a Hall of Famer someday (nine Pro Bowls, eight double-digit win seasons, seven 100-plus passer ratings, a 9-7 postseason record, all in his first 10 years). But what the Broncos gave up to acquire him, plus what they paid him for 30 starts (and only 11 wins), and the cap hit they're absorbing upon his departure puts the Packers' John Hadl trade from 50 years ago to shame.

Brian from Chesapeake, VA

I have been using my own NFL offseason to watch full replays of early '80s and specifically 1983 Packer games. You are right, Lynn Dickey could really throw the deep ball. Amazing how differently I watch football now than I did as a teenager back then. What an offense! And honestly, we really had some studs on defense … maybe it was plays not players? Couldn't resist. To my question, any special games outside of 1983 stand out to you in the Lynn Dickey era I should watch?

Outside of '83, I'll suggest three. The December '81 game at New Orleans (19-of-21 with five TDs), the '82 opener vs. the Rams (rallied the Packers from down 23-0), and the '82 playoff win over the Cardinals (four TD passes).

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Mike. Has new DC Jeff Hafley decided if he will coach from the sidelines or press box on game day?

Haven't heard.

Dave from Emmalena, KY

I have heard more than one rookie talking about learning how to watch film (or even a couple veterans). How does the team go about approaching this? Is it up to the position coaches to help teach how to break everything down? A designated individual that players can reach out to? Also, do players have access to film for study during this part of the offseason?

The players dedicated to their craft turn to their position coaches and veteran leaders to learn how to maximize film study. Rasul Douglas referenced Jerry Gray in that regard, while for Tramon Williams it was Charles Woodson and Al Harris. Players can request film downloads from the video department in the offseason, but they take their time to disconnect and get away, too.

Jason from Rockton, IL

Hi Mike, my question relates to the fifth-year options that teams have for first-round draft picks. If a team is lucky enough to have multiple first-rounders, can they use the fifth-year option for both of those picks? Is there a limit to fifth-year options you can use? What if a team somehow possessed three first-rounders? Can they apply the fifth year to all of them? Thank you for all you do!

Every first-round pick, regardless of the team that drafts him or how many first-rounders that team selects, has a fifth-year option in his contract. The team must decide whether or not to exercise it by the early May deadline following the player's third season. The Packers exercised the fifth-year options on both Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage from the '19 draft, and they'll have two such decisions again next spring for Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt from the '22 draft.

Ken from Oceanport, NJ

I know things have worked out well with Rodgers and Jordan Love by having both of them sitting three years and then playing. However, the negative is that the Packers have not had the luxury of a QB playing on a rookie-level contract like Seattle, San Francisco and Philadelphia, which would have enabled them to bring in quality free agents at other positions. If Rodgers and Love don't hit in Year 4 of their contract, we are back to square one. What are your thoughts?

Lots of folks ask some form of this question. I believe the Packers' perspective is this: Having a high draft pick waiting and learning from a top-level QB increases his chances for success when the time comes to play, while throwing a young QB into the fire right away risks causing more harm than good to that player's prospects. Their process aims to minimize the need to go back to "square one" at the expense of forgoing that potential rookie-contract window. When you look at all the teams forced into trying for such a window and failing, their approach feels prudent.

Ryan from Austin, TX

Hola! When a player has void years added to their contract, does the original team still qualify for a comp pick if that player signs with another team? Take Darnell Savage – if he signs with a new team, would the Packers potentially get a comp pick for him, or does the void year mean he was technically cut/waved?

There's a lot of confusion about this, and I'm still not 100% sure how it works. My understanding is if the contract with void years was set to automatically void (not a decision to void by the team), those free agents still count in the comp pick formula. Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry had void years last winter but their departures are slated to earn the Packers a couple of comp picks this year.

Jeff from Mequon, WI

Hey Mike, would it have been more fortunate for the Packers if they had signed J-Love to his forthcoming massive extension prior to the salary cap boost? By having to wait 'til after, do you see this affecting the numbers being thrown around in negotiations?

It might, but the Packers had no choice. They have to wait until May. It's really more about where the QB market as a whole will be and where Love fits into it. How much will the QB market shift between the start of free agency and May? My guess is not as much as it might shift at other positions with the extra cap space out there, because other than Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield, there aren't a lot of new QB contracts up for discussion right now. I did hear the Jaguars are working on an extension for Trevor Lawrence. That could be interesting and is more directly applicable to Love's situation. I guess we'll see.

Jacob from Holmen, WI

The Packers need a back-end field general, a box enforcer-type safety, and another player that can play the slot corner or safety position for depth. Which player do you think Gutey is most likely to fill via free agency? If only the Woodson you described (Monday) Mike was on the market, it feels like the Pack would move salary cap mountains to get him here.

This is not the answer you're looking for, but if it's an early free-agent signing when the really big dollars are thrown around, the most likely is the one that provides the best value based on his age and upside (like Adrian Amos and the Smith Bros. five years ago). If it's mid-level acquisitions, it might be multiple spots.

Yom from Tapiola, MI

Given his stellar performance during preseason and the team's reliance on rookies in general, why do you think Emanuel Wilson didn't get more snaps when Aaron Jones wasn't playing? He averaged 6.1 yards per carry when they did call his number.

Early on, he was a work in progress in pass protection, so his opportunities were sporadic. Then just when his game was coming around and he appeared in line for more work, he hurt his shoulder and went on injured reserve for six games. Color me curious on Wilson's Year 2, though. Stay tuned.

Mike from Austin, TX

G'morning, Mike. In looking at some of the projections for our NFC foes, it looks like all three could have double-studs at WR (Jefferson/Addison, St. Brown/FA signing such as Aiyuk, and Moore/draftee such as Odunze). I think BG is biding his time to see what happens, but may end up prioritizing a second lockdown corner, which would presumably help a rookie S and an unseasoned nickel. A lot of what-ifs, but … can Carrington Valentine swing to nickel? Or am I (as my wife says) out-to-lunch?

I could see the Packers experimenting this spring and summer with Valentine at nickel, but I don't know if that's in the plans. You seem to be making a lot of assumptions there, and while I do expect the Packers to add to their cornerback depth in this draft, don't forget about Eric Stokes. Provided he can get and stay healthy, he could be a big part of this defense in '24 and will be highly motivated.

Craig from Lakeville, MN

Jason Kelce is a lock to get into the Hall of Fame in five years. Travis Kelce is a lock to get into the Hall of Fame five years after he retires. Other than the Watt brothers, are there any other siblings that you can think of who are among the top couple players ever to play their respective positions? Watching Jason's retirement speech and seeing how much him and Travis respect, support and care for each other was truly touching.

The Kelce and Watt brothers are certainly special, ranking right up there with the Sharpes and Mannings. I'd also submit Bruce and Clay Matthews II, as the latter has been oh-so-close to joining his brother in the Hall of Fame numerous times. The Bosa and Diggs brothers aren't bad pairs currently in the game, either.

Dennis from Parrish, FL

Repeat after me. Five picks in the top 91! See how easy that is. Not rounding off to the closet hundred!

How 'bout if I round down and just say four in the top 90? Will that bother you more?

Craig from Brookfield, WI

Hey Mike. If it's true that you "get what you emphasize," what are the points of emphasis your overlords are putting on you and Wes for next season? More one-word responses? Fewer questions about who (whom) will be drafted? Less salary cap minutiae? More better grammar? Post more questions submitted by Craig from Brookfield?

I've got my annual performance review with my boss next week, so maybe I'll let you know. On second thought, no I won't. I did see that line in your other submission about retired players still having 50 years to live "on this side of the tundra." That was pretty good.

Donn from Oshkosh, WI

Not all of us are longtime followers of the Inbox. Could you give us a list of all the rules, or maybe just the top 10 rules for the Inbox?

Sorry, that would break the first rule.

Gary from Davenport, IA

Mike, I see Bo Ryan is a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame again. He had a .908 winning percentage during the 1990s to lead all divisions of college basketball, won 4 national championships at UW-P, including two perfect seasons, and had a .717 winning percentage in Big Ten games to lead all coaches in conference history. I'm pretty sure I know your opinion about his candidacy. What was the atmosphere like in Platteville during his time there?

Electric. There was nothing like the big rivalry games against Eau Claire and Whitewater watching Bo's teams, never mind the postseason. My dad and I had season tickets in the front row, straight across from the Platteville bench and just a few seats down from Bo's wife. Great memories.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

I was in Dubuque last weekend and saw a Pickle Barrel Sub shop.

Now there's another memory. Happy Wednesday.

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