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Inbox: Xavier McKinney is a tone-setting acquisition for the Packers' defense

Quarterback is such a tricky bullseye for NFL brass to hit

S Xavier McKinney
S Xavier McKinney

Ryan from Bloomer, WI

Welcome back Wes! We all hope you enjoyed your time off and got to experience some new memories with the family. We'd love to hear some highlights, along with your thoughts on all the groundbreaking Packers news. So, we're off, eh?

I reckon so. My vacations would bore the average person – a lot of small projects, day trips and family time. However, I capped my time off by attending my first Bucks game in four years (thank you, Tessa Ruid) and watching the WIAA state boys basketball tournament in Madison with Rob Demovsky and his two sons. All in all, it was a wonderful and much-needed break. I'll hit on most of Green Bay's moves in a moment, but my biggest highlight was Xavier McKinney. That's a tone-setting acquisition for the Packers' defense on par with signing Za'Darius and Preston Smith in 2019. McKinney caught my eye every time the Packers played the New York Giants the past few years. He's a smooth playmaker and always where he needs to be. It's a welcomed addition for a new era.

Doug from Neenah, WI
Welcome back, Wes. Where were you when the news came out about Aaron Jones and what was your initial reaction?

I was running on the Mountain Bay trail in Howard. That news hit me hard, as I'm sure it did for most Packers fans. I have never covered anyone quite like Aaron Jones. His story is incomparable, but the person behind the facemask is one of the kindest, most thoughtful souls I've ever come across. I didn't want the ride to end but also knew it eventually had to. That's just how life goes. I'm thankful for the memories Jones provided and look forward to seeing him again this fall.

Jim from Mundelein, IL

A comment for your response. Every team and every year are unique in this NFL (and life). You love "4." You love "12." Doesn't mean you love "10" less. I am totally impressed with Xavier McKinney and Josh Jacobs past leadership roles and current views of GB. Doesn't make me love Darnell Savage or Jones less. It's just the NFL (and life). I couldn't imagine a more positive offseason so far for GB.

Player evaluation at the NFL level is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but I trust Brian Gutekunst's eye for both talent and fit. Based on everything I've heard from people across the NFL, McKinney and Jacobs are solid dudes who'll add as much to the locker room as they do the football field.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Wes or Mike, what positions after initial FA and team FA signings are needing more competition to help the team be more complete heading into this season?

The Packers checked arguably their biggest box with McKinney, but there is another starting safety job open. Whether it's the draft, free agency or bringing back Rudy Ford, Green Bay still has work to do on the back end. With the release of De'Vondre Campbell, inside linebacker also becomes a need with the upcoming 4-3 shift. While the Packers remain deep on the offensive line, they lost two stalwarts in David Bakhtiari and Jon Runyan. But there's still plenty of time.

Paul from Ledgeview, WI

Wes, no apparent movement or activity in free agency at ILB. How do you read that? You can't sign everybody, or no good fit, or it just didn't come together, or that will be addressed through the draft, or?

Again, you can't sprint every mile of the marathon (well, at least I can't). The Packers need more bodies at inside linebacker but return Isaiah McDuffie, whom I believe has earned the right to compete for a starting job alongside Quay Walker.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Welcome back, Wes! Hope your time off was restful and relaxing! Which non-Packers signing or release intrigues you the most?

It's a tie between Pittsburgh signing Russell Wilson for the veteran minimum and acquiring Justin Fields for a sixth-round pick. I don't know what to make out of it all, but I'm intrigued.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Welcome back Wes. So, the Steelers got a top 15 QB for a sixth-round pick.

Hey, Mel Kiper Jr. came with some strong Fields predictions in January, too. By all accounts, Fields now has a year to watch and learn behind Wilson. I think that'll behoove him. At the end of the day, I want to see a team build an offense around Fields' athleticism rather than asking him to play a certain way in a certain scheme. Succeed or fail, that's what I want to see.

Ronald from Edison, NJ

Who will be our starting offensive left tackle?

Those decisions are made in August, not March, but Rasheed Walker deserves to compete for that job with how well he played during the second half of 2023. From a seventh-round pick who played four special teams snaps as a rookie, Walker came a long way in a short time. He learned from every rep he took while walling several of the game's premier pass rushers in the process.

Scott from La Crosse, WI

Well Clark, Rich Bisaccia is the gift that keeps on giving! After Raiders for some reason let him leave, we got ourselves one of the best ST coaches and now he also was a big factor for getting our RB of the future. Better returns than the jelly of the month club, for sure. Do you think our special teams will carry over a lot of personnel next year or will we be back to new faces? We started with a lot of penalties, but really started gelling towards the end of the season.

The Packers are halfway there with the re-signing of Keisean Nixon, Kristian Welch, Corey Ballentine and Tyler Davis. Depending on whether Eric Wilson comes back, that's a bulk of your "core four" phases from last season.

Chris from Waukesha, WI

I, too, hope we can extend Kenny Clark. Players like him don't come along every year. I see that Aaron Donald has retired. Donald was a player Vic talked about in the Inbox during the pre-draft discussions back in the day. Doesn't seem possible that it's been ten years. I must be getting old, or something.

Donald's flirtation with retirement made the official announcement less jarring for me, but it's still crazy J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald no longer play in the NFL. Those two combined for six of the last 12 defensive player of the year awards. To your first comment, I would love nothing more than to see Clark stay in Green Bay for the full duration of his NFL career. I actually messaged him last week, (jokingly) demanding he never leave. He's not only an incredible football player but also an incredible person.

Mark from Garden City, ID

It's been talked about in II about the OLBs in the 3-4 having simple move to a hand in the dirt in a 4-3. Does that include someone as new as Kenneth Odumegwu? I'm rather excited at the prospect of him as a 4-3 DE.

Until told otherwise, I assume Kenneth and all the returning OLBs will play defensive end next year. There aren't really any "tweeners" in there since Green Bay already possessed one of the larger outside linebacker units in the NFL. With position coach Jason Rebrovich still leading that group, I expect a seamless transition at "edge."

Eric from Woodbury, MN

I read an article about the lack of QB success in the 2021 draft (Trevor Lawrence, then four huge misses in 2-15) and it got me thinking about the Jordan Love pick a little more. If we passed on Love, we have no way of knowing how the team would have taken shape, but we do know what QB prospects we could have taken. 2021 would not have yielded anyone on Love's caliber. 2022 only has Brock Purdy. 2023, we probably aren't in a spot to get C.J. Stroud. The value of the Love pick is incredible when you look at 2021-2023.

It's always better to have a quarterback than search for a quarterback. It's such a tricky bullseye for NFL brass to hit with any degree of accuracy.

Scott from Saint Cloud, FL

Any chance the front office will let us in on who they're looking at to be our veteran backup QB?

Based on what Gutekunst said at the combine, I'd be surprised if a fourth QB was anyone other than a rookie. The Packers want to get back into the game of developing QBs like they did during Ron Wolf's heyday. Personally, I believe that's the right approach. Not only does it save you money, but it also provides teams with additional prospects at the game's most valuable position.

Andy from Darien, CT

Math isn't allowed in II, but are gambling analogies in bounds? Rather than the much-debated "all-in" tactics some teams have pursued, it seems Gutekunst is putting a craps "betting across" strategy in play. He is moving on from beloved but likely shorter-term players to an impactful, younger squad who can grow together and compete for many seasons to come. The goal being to minimize the risk of any given playoff run (crap shoot?) by getting this core unit in over repeated seasons. Your thoughts?

I'm really bad at craps but sounds good to me.

Jim from Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Wes, did you watch any NCAA basketball this past weekend? If BG really wants multi-talented players, I wonder if he has considered D.J. Burns Jr. at NC State. At 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, he's an agile basketball player and has the size of a lineman. Reportedly, he is a multi-instrumentalist, playing the stand-up bass, tuba, piano, and saxophone. I would enjoy seeing what D.J. could do in a green and gold uniform on the grid iron.

Hey, Demetrius Harris carved out a nice NFL career after playing forward at UW-Milwaukee. College basketball is Spoff's game, but I actually watched quite a bit last weekend, including the last two Wisconsin tilts. I'm excited for Burns and NC State, too. Those storylines fuel March Madness.

Steve from Flagstaff, AZ

Welcome back Wes. If you were a betting man, and I know gambling is illegal, what is your Final Four prediction? This should be a fun tourney! And writing this before Wisconsin takes on Illinois in the Big Ten Championship. Hopefully the Badgers are peaking again at the right time.

It appears they are, but I'm gonna go with UConn, North Carolina, Iowa State and Marquette (if Tyler Kolek returns).

TK from Grafton, WI

Do any of your II "regulars" ever go through a slump? Like an agonizingly long time between questions that see the light of day?

It's not you, it's us.

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