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Inbox: Versatility is everything in this game

The Packers’ job is to build depth and create more competition

CB Corey Ballentine
CB Corey Ballentine

Jeff from Montclair, VA

According to my research (AIMBW), Wes violated the no math rule in Insiders on Tuesday. Is there a penalty and fine involved? Or did I just ask you to violate Rule No. 1?

I threw a quarter into the math jar on my way in the office Tuesday.

Mike from Allen, TX

Wes, in considering how to "replace" Davante Adams, Green Bay's process reminded me of the "Moneyball" scene: "Gentlemen, we're not going to replace Giambi." The budget constraints of A's and Packers don't line up, but the organization was wise not to try to replace Adams with a single receiver. They found several guys to replace Davante's production. Oh, I guess I should ask a question. What do you think?

I think you're spot on. That's pretty much how the Packers handled it. They signed a veteran (Sammy Watkins) and drafted three rookies (Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure) to complement Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Last year, the Packers added three more wideouts through the draft and now it's one of the deepest positions on the roster.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Wes, if the Packers were to go into the 2024 season with the roster as is, what concerns would you have?

I honestly don't have many. With Xavier McKinney and Josh Jacobs in the fold, the Packers have a solid starting offense and defense on paper. Now, the job is to build depth and create more competition for training camp. Green Bay has plenty of assets to do that, nesting on 11 draft picks.

Sam from Iowa City, IA

I read AJ Dillon was re-signed using a four-year qualifying offer. This is not a contract mechanism I had heard of prior to this. My understanding is that it allows a portion of his salary to not count against the cap. Is this a rare case where even though you pay it, you don't cap it? Are you able to explain this further?

Correct. It works like the veteran salary benefit, where only a portion of Dillon's contract counts towards the cap. A qualifying contract is a way for teams to save cap room while retaining players who have been with the club for at least four consecutive years. Each offseason, NFL teams are allowed to sign up to two players to such a deal. Josiah Deguara is the Packers' only other unrestricted free agent who's eligible (and no, I don't know whether Jo is coming back).

David from Cable, WI

Regarding the AJ Dillon signing, I remember hearing how important it was for a RB to know his responsibilities in the passing game, especially blocking. Not sure how proficient Jacobs is in that area, but I think any other new RB is going to have to show that he can handle that to beat AJ out as No. 2.

Pass pro is critical. It doesn't matter how fast, powerful, or explosive a running back is if he can't be trusted to protect his QB. Having Jacobs, Dillon, and Emanuel Wilson is a good starting point. If Green Bay drafts a running back, he can learn at a comfortable pace like Aaron Jones did.

Ray from Phoenix, AZ

I see the Packers re-signed Caleb Jones. He has not received very many game snaps but apparently Gute and his position coaches see something other than his size. Is it that we need depth at offensive tackle, or could he transform to another position?

At 6-foot-9, 340 pounds, Jones is definitely an offensive tackle. His development closely mirrors that of Yosh Nijman, another former undrafted free agent who didn't play much during his first two seasons in Green Bay. With Nijman leaving for Carolina, Jones, Luke Tenuta and Kadeem Telfort are all vying for the swing-tackle post this summer.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

Although I'm confident the Pack will field a solid starting five on the offensive line, the lack of depth really concerns me. When injuries come, and they probably will, we are pretty thin. Do you see the Pack bringing in a veteran, or will they go solely with the draft? Or do they wait until after the draft to decide?

Possibly both. Gutekunst has signed several offensive linemen during his six years leading the personnel department, but I also think it's a near-certainty the Packers will draft at least one next month. Last year was only the second time since 2000 that Green Bay didn't take an offensive lineman. I don't anticipate Gutekunst will make it two in as many years.

Darren from Wakefield, MI

It was about a year ago when it was discussed we needed a lot of "Thunder and Lightning" for Jordan Love to be successful. Due to availability, it really was "Thunder or Lightning" throughout the season and the theory was shown to be true with mostly lightning. Interested on how Jacobs and Dillon are used, separately or together on the field? Hope if Jacobs has a good day there is no "he really '8' up the defense..." comments. Did I type that out loud?

That you did. Again, it's likely Green Bay looks to add a speed back into the offensive mix to balance out the room. Either way, count me among those curious how much the Packers will deploy the two-RB "Pony" package. That's been a staple when the backfield is healthy.

Kevin from Westminster, CO

I wasn't surprised by Josh Jacobs and Xavier McKinney both referencing Jordan as influencing their decisions. Is it safe to say the best judges of talent are the players?

Speaking from experience, it's always nice to have good coworkers. Money matters but so does the ensemble.

TK from Grafton, WI

Hey Wes! Loved the Seinfeldian response yesterday! Here's a fun mental gymnastic: You are an NFL assistant coach. Would you rather try to remedy a rookie linebacker with sloppy tackling habits, or a running back with fumbling issues?

I'd favor the latter. Fumbling has dire consequences for a team, but a good running backs coach can help clean up those fundamentals. It's no coincidence the Packers have protected the ball as well as they have during Ben Sirmans' eight years leading the RB room in Green Bay.

James from De Pere, WI

Good morning, Wes. I'm asking about the philosophy and practice of taking a cornerback and making him into a safety. I'm sure that it's done, but are the skillsets required by each position so exclusionary that it's more of a gamble than a sure thing?

There's always risk involved. Damarious Randall bounced between cornerback and safety throughout his entire NFL career without really settling into one permanent spot. Sometimes, it's teams trying to project where a player fits best or isolating on a particular trait/measurable (e.g. Micah Hyde) that leads to a switch. Age also can play a factor like it did with Charles Woodson on the back half of his career. But there is no hard-and-fast rule. It's often based on feel.

Matt from Fitchburg, WI

Do you ever foresee a team that needs a QB forgoing one in the draft because there isn't one it likes? Instead, spend picks on shoring up the line and other positions of need? It just seems like teams reach on a QB a lot of years, even if there isn't a plethora of talent at the position in the draft.

The first thing that comes to mind is when Kansas City had the top pick in 2013. Instead of drafting from a shallow QB class, Andy Reid and John Dorsey traded a second-round pick to San Francisco for Alex Smith. It was a prudent decision. Kansas City instead took Eric Fisher, who started 113 games and made two Pro Bowls. Meanwhile, Geno Smith is the only QB from 2013 to really pan out and it took a late resurgence in Seattle for him to do so.

Lori from Broomfield, CO

Does the Pack shy away from a player like Cooper DeJean now that Xavier McKinney is in the fold, or do you double down on the similar skill set knowing you have a couple of guys who can play at all three levels?

I think you keep chopping. Some years, defensive backs take up a fifth of a team's 53-man roster. Teams not only need six DBs on the field in certain passing situations, but it's also a valuable position to special teams. Versatility is everything in this game. Corey Ballentine is a perfect example of a cornerback who contributed to both phases last season. So, even with the addition of McKinney, I don't think that prevents Green Bay from drafting a cornerback or safety early if that's the best player available. You can never have enough. Just look at what Detroit did last season with Brian Branch.

Jason from Austin, TX

Given the relative failure of what happened with the Carolina-Chicago trade last season, where Carolina unknowingly traded away the No. 1 pick of this year's draft, do you think teams will be less likely to trade away future first-round picks or do you think it'll make no impact to the trade market? In my opinion, any team that trades away future first-round picks to move up in the draft to get their QB of the future is setting themselves up for failure. They're immediately limiting themselves.

I mean, there's a reason the Packers historically have been averse to trading away future draft assets. Because you never know what might happen. Even at the time, I disagreed with Carolina because there wasn't a consensus No. 1 pick. The Panthers not only risked missing on the pick, but they also put Bryce Young in a career-long comparison with C.J. Stroud.

Te from Fort Myers, FL

Have you talked to players that do not care at all what number is assigned to them?

Yes, Richard Rodgers. He could not have cared less what number he wore and happily yielded "89" to James Jones when Jones re-signed with the Packers in 2015. You know another funny "89" story? When Michael Clark retired before training camp in 2018, it created the forgotten butterfly effect of Marcedes Lewis moving from "85" to "89" and Robert Tonyan switching from "49" to "85."

Jerry from Rockford, IL

Good morning, Insiders and Wes. With the gameday roster of 53, why does not the NFL like having your center also being the long snapper? I've wondered this for a long time. It seems like an easy way to get another playmaker on the 53 if you don't have to use one if you already have one. This season is going to be fun, just like the last 35.

Bill Belichick once answered this with like a 10-minute response. I'll try to be more concise. First, an NFL offensive lineman has a lot on his plate already with his full-time job on offense. Long snappers live on the hip of kickers and punters during practice. Collectively, the specialists do a lot of drills together while the team periods are occurring. It's also not easy for a 315-pound man to cover punts. NFL teams typically like a snapper in the 245-pound range for that reason. Finally, there isn't much need to sneak an extra player on the 53 anymore with the expanded practice-squad rules.

Joe from Hampshire, IL

Wes, will there be any of your cohorts riding along on the Tailgate Tour to keep us posted with photos and stories along the route? Did you ever get to take part in any capacity on the tour? Do any other NFL teams have a similar outreach event for their fans?

The Tailgate Tour is a one-of-a-kind deal. There's nothing else like it in the NFL or even pro sports. And yes, we'll have folks riding on the bus when it traverses Wisconsin next month. I'll be at the sendoff.

Andrew from Clearwater, FL

Don't you think having Justin Fields work behind a quality quarterback for a year will help him reach his full potential?

It can't hurt.

Paul from Northglenn, CO

Are submissions so sparce that successive dismissive answers must be printed?

Not at all. That's solely for my personal amusement.

Eric from Skokie, IL

Although this probably won't happen, imagine if in the NCAA Tournament South bracket, we end up seeing a Marquette vs. Wisconsin match before the Final Four! How bizarre would that be?

That would be awesome, especially after their game earlier this season. That possibility reminds me of when I was a wee little Hod in 1994, cheering for Wisconsin and UWGB to meet in the Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, neither team advanced. I still haven't forgiven Jim Boeheim for ending the Phoenix's run.

Greg from Marquette, MI

As a Yooper, we dispatched the Night King, but he chose Wisconsin on his own. We have had enough of him, and he chose to see what's happening in your neck of the woods. He was impressed with your wit and the changes that the Pack has made. If you send him back, please do with some cheese curds!

So, does that make Green Bay Winterfell? Is Mike the prince that was promised? OK, I'm done. Valar morghulis.

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