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There’s no slam-dunk call to make

CB Chandon Sullivan

Deb from Green Bay, WI

What a way to start the day – briefs in the Inbox and prostates in Larry's ode. Thanks for the smile.

Larry recited one of his odes during a "Three Things" video once and I almost didn't hold it together long enough on camera. Another gem from the Rock.

Steve from Dixon, IL

I saw a mock draft with LB Jamin Davis going to the Packers in round 1. The comment was he is a fast riser and multiple teams have a first-round grade on him. I was so pleased to learn that teams are now releasing player grades, ranking information and draft boards. This should significantly reduce the suspense of the draft. It's about time. Won't this make your job this time of year much easier?

Of course, if I plan on believing everything I hear and see.

Mark from West Bend, WI

Mike, do you think the price to trade up in this year's draft might be slightly higher than in previous drafts based on how different the past college season and offseason have been?

Not really, unless a rather universal agreement exists that there's a huge drop-off in first-round talent after, say, the 20th pick. If a lot of teams' boards align that way, the cost to trade up from the bottom third of the round could spike.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

With cornerback appearing to be a need, I think back to the irony of Ron Wolf's draft following Randy Moss's rookie year with the Vikings. Wolf picked a corner in each of the first three rounds. Remarkably, Wolf's picks in round one and two did not turn out too well, but he found a gem in the third round with Mike McKenzie. Lesson learned that sometimes fans put too much emphasis on the very early rounds.

When Thompson used picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds in '17 to draft running backs, the fifth-rounder (Jones) turned out to be the best one (though the fourth-rounder, Williams, is no slouch). The following year it was Gutekunst using a fourth, fifth and sixth at receiver, and the fifth (MVS) again is the best of the bunch. You never know.

Caroline from La Crosse, WI

Hi Mike. I am still so confused by our performance in the NFCCG. Yes, our best players didn't play well. But WHY didn't they? I just cannot get to the bottom of it or to a peaceful understanding of what really happened. Can you help my heart let it go?

I don't know, but I can try. The why is the human element. I wouldn't say, in blanket fashion, the best players didn't play well (and one was missing, remember), but the all had letdowns at key moments, which is all it takes when the stakes are highest and only the best teams remain. Both sides made major mistakes – Tom Brady threw three picks, for crying out loud – but one team made the other pay worse for theirs. That was the difference.

Heather from Green Bay, WI

Ryan from Elmhurst, IL, asked whether the Inboxers ever wore briefs (InBriefs?) while composing the column and Mike deftly sidestepped the question. Would a woman have a better chance of getting an answer? Asking for a lot of friends.

Oh my, and Wes isn't back to rescue me from this for another week.

Terry from Rothschild, WI

Spoff, you may have heard that legendary D.C. Everest football coach Wayne Steffenhagen recently passed away. Would you have a Coach Steff memory or story you could share from your days in Central Wisconsin?

What an icon. I only covered Valley football for 3½ seasons, but Steffenhagen was a singular powerhouse presence. My best story is from a game I covered walking the Everest sideline. I was 10 yards or so away from a DCE ball-carrier and opponent colliding right in front of Steffenhagen, and the ball popped out as the players tumbled away. The fumbled ball just sat there for a few moments on the turf, in bounds no more than four feet from Steffenhagen, and he hollered at the top of his lungs to no one in particular, "Somebody … GET IT!" I honestly thought he was going to jump on the ball himself. When an opposing defender slid in for the recovery, Steffenhagen just growled in frustration, and threw his arms up in the air as he turned away. The whole crowd heard and saw him, and got a good chuckle out of it. I never covered a coach who was so intense on the field yet just as much a gentleman off of it. May he rest in peace.

James from Appleton, WI

I have the feeling that a healthy Josiah Deguara would run many of the routes a slot receiver would. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do. If he stays healthy, AJ Dillon steps in as the primary back, Jon Runyan earns a spot on the line and Kamal Martin is regularly crunching bodies, will the Packers get graded twice for essentially having two drafts this year?

Ha. Though if such developments come to pass, it would go to show how useless immediate post-draft grades are.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

It seems from the outside as if there's a binary choice between re-signing Aaron Jones or Corey Linsley, with management leaning towards Jones. I feel this would be a mistake after investing a second-round pick in Dillon, as well as Linsley asserting himself as the top center in all of football. Is center a more easily replaceable position? Wouldn't locking up 60% of the line with Pro Bowl-caliber players in front of a HOF QB make more sense than paying a RB you already drafted a replacement for?

There isn't an easy answer. While I understand and appreciate your argument for Linsley, it's clear more than one workhorse-type running back is needed for LaFleur's offense to be at its best. I also think Jones' skills, as I've mentioned before, are uniquely suited to this offensive system and would be more difficult to replace. Jones is 3½ years younger than Linsley, and the Packers have others on the roster who can play center. But again, with no overstating the value of protecting Rodgers, there's no slam-dunk call to make here. It's tough. The only sure thing is if the Packers can't bring both back, they're going to lose a whale of a player.

Derrick from Fairmont, MN

Regarding the overtime discussion, the coin-flip winner would always choose the placement. If they were to choose offense/defense first, the opponent would spot the ball on the corresponding 1-yard line. Most teams choosing yardage first would revert to a "safe" play of the opposing 20-to-30-yard line every time to avoid getting too "cute." In sudden death you have to choose offense first and the only thing accomplished is the kickoff is eliminated. Right?

Under the new proposal, the coin-flip winner would decide whether to choose the yard line or offense/defense to start, but then whoever is picking the yard line obviously goes first. What I've read is most analysts suspect the swing spot would be around the 13- or 14-yard line. Put the ball on the 15, most teams would choose offense, but on the 12, more might choose defense. The crux of the potential improvement is the new procedure would be more strategic, and therefore with outcomes based less on luck (the coin toss).

Patrick from Murfreesboro, TN

What yard line would you choose to not put AR on the field for a chance to win? Or if you're the opponent, what yard line would you choose to invite Aaron Rodgers to try and beat you? It's fool's gold to suggest that the Ravens' proposal reduces the impact of the coin toss.

How? The coin-toss decision becomes much more tactical, rather than automatic. But to your point about Rodgers, who the QBs are in any given game would almost certainly impact strategy as well. LaFleur might push the standard envelope a bit and want to give Rodgers the ball at the 12, but if the opponent hedges and chooses the 10, it knows it's risking sending its QB out there in a tough spot. The permutations are fascinating.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers LB Za'Darius Smith from his Pro Bowl season.

Matt from San Luis Obispo, CA

I have a crazy overtime proposal. Play a 10-minute OT period, no sudden death.

One alternative to the new OT proposal is to start it as outlined, but play a 7½-minute period to its conclusion. That's also worth considering.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Stopping OT altogether and allowing ties would certainly be a change in the dynamic. It would also keep the games shorter and on schedule, which I am sure TV stations would like. I wonder how strategy would change for a team in that scenario if at all? Would there be an incentive or disincentive to play to win in regulation time?

I think it would depend on where a team is in its season, and/or perhaps the opponent that day.

Philip from Miramar, FL

Why is the general manager not reworking some contracts of some players and have this done before free agency begins to see how the salary cap is improved?

Because they're waiting to see exactly what the final number will be for the cap before making all their decisions, which don't have to be official until March 17 anyway. I'm sure they've made some, but I would suspect they have different scenarios lined up if the cap is $180M or, perhaps, bumps up to $185M.

Matt from Highland, IN

Good morning. If we do get a sky judge in the booth for personal fouls, will they have a high-pressure cannon to shoot the flag all the way down to the field? Or will they just scorch the grass at the yard marker where the penalty occurred with a laser?

Either idea would be outstanding.

Gardner from Circle Pines, MN

Jake from West Allis had a great take on CBs. With the NFL truly being QB-driven, it makes sense that all NFL defenses are becoming pass-defense driven. Edge rushers, LBs who can cover, and CBs are coveted and in short supply. I believe the importance of the CB position is now second on any team next to QB. You just can't get enough of them it seems. Do you agree or are edge rushers still the premium on pass defense?

They go hand-in-hand to me, and always will, so they're both at a premium. I will say greater depth is needed at cornerback, though, because you're playing most snaps with three on the field, and plenty with four, so due to the potential for injuries, you need six on the 53-man roster most of the time. You can get by with fewer edge rushers than that.

Tony from Chanhassen, MN

Why let an unusual season disrupt teams' salary caps and the terms of this year's free-agent contracts? Why not keep the salary cap where it would have been sans COVID and pay ALL players 90% or so of their contracted salaries?

A lot of folks are asking this, and it sounds good in theory, but it'll never be that simple. Cap numbers are based on salaries and bonus prorations, not just salaries, and signing bonuses on long-term deals already have been paid. You're not getting players to just give back some percentage of that based on the cap adjustment. Not a chance.

Lyle from St. Louis, MO

Someone somewhere at some time has said NFL fans can't understand the game without knowledge of the salary cap. In the spirit of fan enlightenment, let's replace the captains' patch on the jersey with the player's cap hit value that season. Announcers would be prompted by the patches to sprinkle in "nice route for an $903,000 rookie contract." Imagine the trash talk possibilities for the players. "Hey old timer, is that the veterans' minimum or are you on social security?" Thoughts?

This offseason is already too long.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning Wes and Mike. It feels like we're going to need and extra layer of Insider-stability over the next two weeks. Is your A-game ready for it? Serenity now?

Have a good weekend, everybody.


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