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Inbox: They feel like they're close

Who are the best defensive players drafted over the last 30 years?

Defensive huddle

Jacob from West Allis, WI

I love the Insider Inbox T-shirt jokes. Can we please get a basic II T-shirt made up for purchase from the Pro Shop? I would LOVE to have an official Insider Inbox T-shirt. Is there anything the fans can do to help make this happen?

Who said I was joking, Jacob? Your move, Packers Pro Shop. Otherwise, maybe I should just open my own Etsy store. I know people. My sister-in-law owns a Cricket.

Steve from Palm Springs, FL

Hi Mike and Wes, hoping you and your families are well. I believe signing Aaron Jones is one of the most important deals this offseason. He's such an exceptional player for the team. Add in a cornerback and offensive lineman in the draft to strengthen the squad. The Packers should be ready make another run. Your thoughts gentlemen?

OK, class. Everyone settle down and take your seats. Well, we're one week into the new league year and what have we learned? The Packers feel like they're close. So they have placed a premium on retaining their own free agents and building through the upcoming draft. Jones was the centerpiece of Green Bay's offseason plans. Now, we wait.

Scott from Noblesville, IN

All too often, and especially after the COVID-marred 2020 offseason, fans get stuck in a fantasy football mentality where we assume players can just come in and produce because of past numbers. That being said (assuming there is some sort of mini-camp or OTA setting included in this off-season) in your estimation, how important is it we get free agents signed in time for such activities to include them? I guess I'm wondering if our systems are so complicated vets need those "installs/reps?"

In the age of COVID-19, I don't think it's as crucial to get an outside veteran signed before the start of the offseason program – especially if it's all virtual again this year. It's boring, I know, but the Packers need to make sure they find the right ingredients (in their price range) before we start talking about what's on tomorrow's menu.

Kyle from Eden Prairie, MN

What is your preferred antonym for envious? That is how I feel towards both of you handling the Kevin King news in tomorrow's Inbox.

Spoff is still on vacation, so I'm sure he's doing just fine. I'm going to keep saying this for whoever needs to hear it – Kevin King is a good player. There aren't many 6-3 cornerbacks with his speed in the league. The NFC title game left a bad taste in everyone's mouth but the breakdown at the end of the first half wasn't all on King. The Packers believe in him. Just look at what King's teammates were saying on Twitter Tuesday.

Steve from Kansas City, MO

I may be in the minority here, but I'm glad the Pack signed Kevin King for another "prove-it" year. We know what we have with him, and he is younger than the other options still on the free agency list. My question is this – will we be able to afford to sign him to another lengthy contract if he does bounce back this year? Or is this solely a one-year bridge to buy time for a drafted CB or two?

I'm reminded of what the Packers did with Nick Perry in 2015. They didn't pick up his fifth-year option but re-signed him to a one-year deal and Perry responded with a career year. King's deal is a win-win for both sides. Still only 25, King can reset his market with a strong season, while the Packers buy time to ponder their future at CB.

Burt from Oconto Falls, WI

It might just be another senior moment but it seems to me King was much more effective earlier in his career when he played tight coverage, while last year he was trailing all the time and obviously struggled. He certainly needs to find a way to stay healthy and available (which is a different issue) but do you feel a change in how he is being asked to play could help his performance?

That's what I'll be watching – how can Joe Berry's system complement King's skill set. Because again, King looked to be on the verge of becoming a real problem for QBs in 2019.

Jeff from Eveleth, MN

I don't know what your thoughts are, Wes, but I think a big reason Aaron Rodgers had such a good year was that he was in the right frame of mind. He seemed more at peace. When I saw the picture of him in the back of David Bakhtiari's truck with a case of beer, I was convinced.

Rodgers said 2020 was special for him and one of his most enjoyable seasons to date. Rodgers has had success before, but I think his third MVP season was the perfect blend of skill, scheme, Rodgers being in a good mental space and the Packers having a tight-knit locker room.

Adam from Wausau, WI

I'm glad you mentioned Micah Hyde as one of the Packers' better returners. What I liked about Hyde is I never had to worry about him fumbling/dropping the ball on punt returns. And I know the question was about returners yesterday, but as much as people didn't like Jarrett Bush playing defense, I still think he was our best special teams performer over his career. Thanks.

Bush might be the most underappreciated Packers player of the McCarthy Era. He was a four-core special-teamer and assignment-sure reserve defender who could play seven positions. Bush had a great story, having entered the league as a college free agent.

Craig from Appleton, WI

Outside of Corey Linsley, would you expect any of the other free agents we have lost to net a compensatory pick?

Assuming the Packers don't sign an unrestricted free agent, Jamaal Williams' contract with Detroit should net Green Bay another compensatory pick.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Gents, slowly but surely, news about the season to come are emerging, and with it also news on events leading up to it. I am looking forward to announcements regarding the shareholder meeting and hopefully an in-person Packers 5K. When do these pieces of the preseason puzzle emerge?

We typically would be only a few weeks away from the preseason schedule being released but the NFL likely will take its time before making any proclamations for the 2021 season. The draft is a month away and the league just announced Monday what the plan was for Cleveland.

Jason from Woodbury, MN

Hey Wes! Got a couple of quick questions in advance of the NFL owners' meeting I'm hoping you can answer, as you clearly have an inside track on everything that goes on in the owners' boxes around the league. Are there any rule changes reportedly on the table that you would like to see implemented? And, specifically regarding the 17th game proposal, how can the NFL reconcile adding a 17th regular season game with its recent push for player safety?

The competition committee usually releases a list of rule proposals before the owners meeting every year but I have yet to see that. As far as the 17th game, the league likely will use the progress it's made with player safety and the smarter approach teams have taken to offseason training, including the reduction of preseason games, as rationale.

Mike from Cottage Grove, MN

Wes you mentioned to Mark from Pitt Meadows that several of the players he mentioned were on the 'wrong side of 30.' Wasn't Charles Woodson on the 'wrong side of 30' when the Packers nabbed him as a free agent? Or is he a special incident compared to what's available this off season?

Remarkably, Woodson was only 29 when the Packers signed him in May 2006. Woodson also possessed rare longevity for a DB to play as long as he did at a high level.

Mark from Hudson, WI

Really fun question from Tim from Warwick, UK and equally fun answer from Wes. Following up on that question, and since all your picks were offensive players, and assuming your Tuesday is as boring as your Monday was, who would be your picks for the top defensive players from each round over the past 30 years?

I'll go with Clay Matthews (first round, 2009), Nick Collins (second round, 2005), Mike McKenzie (third round, 1999), Mike Daniels (fourth round, 2012), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (fifth round, 2000), Johnny Jolly (sixth round, 2006), and Lawrence Guy (seventh round, 2011). Again, that's if we're going back to 1991. If you throw in the 1990 class, then you could also make a case for LeRoy Butler and Bryce Paup.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams from his Pro Bowl season.

Phil from Marietta, GA

Dorsey Levens and not Aaron Jones in the fifth round? Please explain your rationale because I can't imagine it was an oversight.

That was the hardest one and I asked around before writing Inbox. It'll be Jones soon enough, but Levens played seven years in Green Bay. He was voted to a Pro Bowl, rushed for more than 1,400 yards in 1997, and contributed to the Packers' Super Bowl XXXI season. Longevity and production were my reasons for picking him…for now.

Aaron from Brooklyn, NY

There's a lot of talk about returners in relation to special teams and you mentioned one of my favorite special teamers in your response about great Packers returners. But truth be told, I always felt like Jeff Janis's return skills paled in comparison to his abilities on coverage. He was one of the best gunners I've ever seen and I always thought that was more than enough to justify his roster spot.

Janis excelled as a gunner. As longtime readers know, I used to sing his praises quite a bit on special teams. I thought Janis would catch on somewhere after he left Green Bay in 2017. I'm still scratching my head over that one.

Nic from London, UK

Which Packers player would you nominate for a David Tyree equivalent catch (clutch/difficult catch by a deep bench guy) in the last decade or so? Spencer Havner? Tom Crabtree?

It's gotta be Janis in the NFC Divisional playoff game in Arizona, right? He was the last man standing against the Cardinals after Randall Cobb got hurt. The guy almost had more receiving yards that night than the rest of his career combined.

Craigen from Spring Valley, WI

I've always loved reading your replies, but this is my first time asking a question: Do you know of any other teams who do a column like this, with a Q&A this personal? If not, do you think being a small market team makes something like this so much easier to do?

A handful of team sites write five- or six-question mailbags a couple times a month but nothing like this. I'm not sure if it's the "small market" thing as much as it is the Packers' rabid fan base.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

Insiders, which is worse, the fan who wants the Pack to spend like crazy and forget the cap. Or the fan who wants the Pack to save every nickel and dime as if it were his own?

The latter doesn't exist. There are fans who want the Packers to spend and understand the ramifications of spending, and fans who want the Packers to sign every player like it's a one-hour shopping spree at K-B Toys.

Mick from Decatur, IL

For cap reasons, does a team need to have the roster full or can it be short a player?

A team can have fewer than 53 players on its active roster during the regular season. There used to be a rule that teams couldn't carry players in their third year of eligibility on the practice squad if they had a spot open on the active 53, but that may have been altered with all this past year's COVID-19 changes.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers WR Equanimeous St. Brown from the 2020 season.

Sal from Hailey, SD

I'm guessing the Pack must be broadcast locally to Sioux City, IA, or Bryan would already be inured to the cost of being a fan with us out-of-market folks. Amazon can take Thursdays as long as the NFL pries Sunday Ticket free from DirecTV! P.S. When can we expect the draft primers to start popping up on the site?

Our draft profile series is slated to begin next week after Spoff gets back. It'll be a little different than the traditional Prospect Primers because there wasn't a combine this year to get sound from the players.

Statham from Pineview, GA

What is your take on Cleveland saying the draft will be "normal" and allow fans? Obviously things will be much different, but this has to be one huge step forward, right?

I'm excited about it, especially with vaccine distribution underway. After how things went this past season, I have confidence the NFL will make it as safe as possible for everyone in Cleveland next month.

Jake from Appleton, WI

Tell me I am not the only one who picked up the Draft Day reference last week? "We live in a different world than we did 30 seconds ago. I want my draft picks back and David Putney!" The movie is so bad its good.

It's the best fictional movie ever made about the NFL Draft. I'll fight anyone who disagrees with me.

Matt from Bloomington, IN

Not a question, just wanted to publicly highlight and thank Jamaal Williams and Tim Boyle for all their excellent pregame fan engagement. Both players often came out early and interacted with the fans in the stands, and it was a real treat. Now if Boyle gets the starting nod at some point in Detroit, I can brag to my friend, who is a Lions fan, about having personally caught a pass from his QB!

You and me both, Matt. I'm going to miss Tim. He's a great dude with a story made for Netflix.

Mike from Cascade, ID

Hi Wes, I was excited to read the outline of the proposed plans that the NFL has for the upcoming draft. There is nothing like having fans live, booing their team's draft picks! "Who the freak is Daniel Jones?" Good to see yet another small step back to normalcy. And, we are spared seeing Roger Goodell's basement. But to be honest, that was one step above your videos from your parents' house. Just kidding, your folks were very accommodating. Let the games begin!

Please don't remind me. Those were the darkest days of the quarantine.

Billiam from Mills, TN

Wes, if holding is a 10-yard penalty, what's the penalty for hodling? Especially if it's Dogecoin. P.S. You're new name is Wes Hodlkiewicz.

Oh, I like that!

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Just a bored, offseason thought. How about an Inbox T-shirt slogan contest, where the fans submit their slogan? Maybe Insiders could throw in a prize, as well. My selfish wish would be a case of Spotted Cow.

That sounds like our first entry for the 2021 Outsider Inbox.

David from Janesville, WI

Wes, we all have to believe in something. I believe in laser goalposts, the cap, the roster, the seam of a good block, the hanging punt, high tempo, good game plans, that the rantings of Skip Bayless are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Frenchy Fuqua touched the ball. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the Tuck Rule. I believe in soft hands, the wide receiver screen, deferring when winning the opening coin toss rather than taking the ball and I believe in long, slow, deep, steady scoring drives that last eight minutes.

Good night.


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