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Inbox: You never stop that push for progress

Preston Smith is the quintessential Green Bay Packer

QB Sean Clifford, QB Jordan Love
QB Sean Clifford, QB Jordan Love

Matt from Fitchburg, WI

Can we have one Inbox without "3-4" and "4-3?"


Tom from Grafton, WI

I remember in 2009 when the Packers switched to a 3-4, we were struggling with special teams and either (or both) Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy said the switch would require more LBs on the roster, which would help with some lighter, more agile bodies on special teams. So, does switching back to a 4-3 do the opposite, or has the game changed so much since then, with GB running sub-packages more frequently, that we carry fewer linemen, hence having enough of the right types of players for special teams?

Bingo. Shortly after that switch, three-receiver offenses and nickel defenses started their takeover of the NFL. Like Brian Gutekunst told reporters in Indianapolis, I expect the switch to 4-3 to have minimal effect on the construct of the 53. The Packers carried five "off-ball" linebackers on their roster for most of last season following Kristian Welch's promotion from the practice squad.

John from Stevens Point, WI

The Packers' young WRs had a pretty good first year. Who do you expect to make the biggest jump in Year 2, and why?

I love everything about Dontayvion Wicks, but Jayden Reed had a record-breaking rookie season. Reed finished with 64 catches for 793 yards and eight touchdowns, fashioning arguably the best season by a Packers receiver not named Davante Adams since Jordy Nelson won NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2016. Reed's arrow is pointing squarely to the stratosphere.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

Congrats to Preston Smith. His best ability is availability, as he is an ironman. I have no doubt he has played through many painful issues during his career. My career highlight of him is his sack of Russell Wilson late in the Packers' playoff win against the Seahawks. The sack forced the Seahawks to punt, and they never saw the ball again.

Gifted, durable, and intelligent, Smith is the quintessential Green Bay Packer. He goes about his business in a straightforward manner without ever drawing attention to himself. While that can cause his contributions to sometimes get overlooked, Smith is an effective, disciplined pass-rusher who sets as good an edge against the run as anyone in the NFL. He's played 3,930 defensive snaps over his five seasons with Green Bay, missing just one game due to injury. Smith's process of taking care of his body also reminds me a lot of Marcedes Lewis. Those guys live in the cold tub and sauna.

Adrian from Oregon City, OR

Happy to see reports Preston Smith will be back with a restructured contract. He's the steady veteran leadership you don't want to let go too soon. Will Smith, Rashan Gary and Lukas Van Ness be able to play more to their strengths as defensive ends, rather than stand-up linebackers? Will the 4-3 be stouter against the run?

I've spoken ad nauseum on Van Ness's outlook, but the basis of your question is why I'm glad the NFL has popularized the term "edge rusher" in lieu of "defensive end" or "outside linebacker." It's the same ingredients, just a slightly different recipe.

David from Goldsboro, NC

A couple of years ago, with two weeks left in the season, BG snatched Bo Melton off Seattle's practice squad. We all know what happened when Melton got his shot. Melton must have been on BG's draft board and selected before he could take him. Is there a way to monitor players on other teams' practice squads during the season? Can teams receive updates from agents? Or is BG just shooting his shot?

Pro personnel departments pay close attention to the practice squad of each NFL team. The Packers did the same thing in 2018 when they plucked Allen Lazard away from Jacksonville during the final week of the season. While Ben Sims never ended up on a practice squad, the Baylor tight end was another good example of this. Green Bay had a lot of interest in him as an undrafted free agent, but Sims chose to sign with Minnesota after the Packers drafted both Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft. When the Vikings cut him, Green Bay came calling.

Tom from Tapiola, MI

In response to the two-week on/off RB by committee: I don't think the best backs are built that way mentally. As positive as Aaron Jones always remains, it seemed like it was killing him not to be out there with his brother warriors for even one game. And once Jones was healthy, the consistency and momentum from positive, meted-out reps each game helped produce those back-to-back 100-plus yard games into and through the postseason, eh?

It's difficult enough keeping players like Jones off the field when they're injured. Good luck telling them they can't play when healthy. If you guys would've seen what I saw from Eddie Lacy to stay on the field in 2013 or even Aaron Rodgers playing through a broken leg in 2018. Competitors want to compete.

Michael from Baraboo, WI

If you had a crystal ball and could predict which positional player the Packers will take with their first pick, what position would it be and why?

Safety. It's not only the apparent need – that position has only increased in value with how many "safeties" are playing nickel cornerback these days (e.g. Brian Branch and Antoine Winfield Jr.). That provides a massive bang for a team's buck.

Ken from Boynton Beach, FL

Hey guys, after reading the past few or so Inboxes, I get a strong feeling the consensus is leaning towards getting a veteran safety in free agency and a big, agile RB in the draft? Do you think this is in the ballpark of thinking from the readers so far? A "YUP" or "NOPE" answer will do.


Alex from Bethany, CT

Loved the article by Cliff about Sam Seale being honored with the Bob Harlan Leadership Award – sounds well-deserved for all his contributions to the Packers' success. It got me thinking about whether the Packers' scouts live in Green Bay or work remotely. I imagine they spend so much time on the road that they could be based anywhere. Is this the case?

First, Cliff's article on Seale is fantastic. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, please do. The Packers' college scouts are based all across the country. Gutekunst and his top executives travel plenty, as well, but use Green Bay as their home base.

Barry from De Pere, WI

Anticipating the clamor you two will endure during free agency, I wonder if bringing in highly paid veterans affects locker room chemistry (e.g. who's getting paid, and how much)? Do Gutey, et al, see this as a factor in addition to the prime consideration (value)? Thanks!

It's something GMs consider – I know Ted Thompson did – but I wouldn't categorize it as strongly as the "prime" determining factor whether to sign a top free agent. GMs simply have to be confident in both the player and the person they're bringing in. If a veteran comes in with the right attitude, they'll earn the respect of the locker room soon enough. Preston Smith is a great example of that.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

With regard to seventh-round comp picks, I think teams tend to use them on players that project to go undrafted they don't think they can sign. Rather than trying to sign them post-draft, they lock them up with a free pick. Any truth to that? On a personal note, in the '80s I had a chance to meet Bart and Cherry Starr at a restaurant in Green Bay. Two of the nicest people I've ever met. My childhood hero didn't disappoint. Memories do make us rich.

It happens a lot. Safety Anthony Johnson Jr. told us last year he already knew "where I was going to go" as an undrafted free agent. However, the Packers drafted him 242nd overall and the rest was history. That's how the seventh round goes.

Thomas from Madison, WI

With the speculation of Brian Gutekunst taking a QB in the later rounds of the draft, do you envision a reality where we keep three passers on the 53? Has that ever been a thing since Matt LaFleur took over? It seems like loading up some additional dudes at LB/S would be more prudent given the switch in defensive scheme, no? Or maybe OL since we love our jars. I get the idea of developing QBs, but with Jordan Love and Sean Clifford seeming to be pretty solid, what's the draw? Is it for potential trades or competition?

OK, you have like 18 questions going on here. The Packers have kept three quarterbacks on the 53 as recently as 2020 and could go that route again, especially with the return of the "emergency" QB on the gameday roster. For that reason alone, Gutekunst suggested that as a possibility last offseason. You never stop that push for progress. What's more, stocking the QB shelf goes back to what I said after Green Bay drafted Love – it's an investment. Having a deep pool of QB talent not only drives the competition behind the starter but also opens the door to trading one for a future pick down the line. The increased flexibility with the practice squad enables teams to "call up" an extra linebacker or safety to the gameday roster, as well.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

Do you think the NFLPA rankings help FAs decide which teams to play for if they have multiple offers in the same pay range? Or do players just follow the money? I would think a top three ranking, playing for a historic team in a city that glorifies its players, and a young and upcoming team would be a great selling point to any FA.

Perhaps, but I've never asked a player that question. Green Bay did quite well in the NFLPA rankings, which was great to see.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Gutey hinted that he may well draft a quarterback on Day 3 of the draft. Knowing he wants competition in every room, would it be unprecedented for him to also draft another kicker in the latter rounds if the right guy fell to a value pick?

Selecting a kicker in back-to-back drafts wouldn't be unprecedented for Green Bay, but it hasn't happened since the Packers took Texas-Arlington's Skip Butler (1970) and Texas Tech's Ken Vinyard (1969). Leaguewide, the most recent instance of that was when Buffalo took Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round in 2013 after drafting John Potter in the seventh in 2012.

Dave from Germantown, TN

Do NFL teams take out insurance on some of their major players' contracts to allow them to recover some of the contract money if the player has a career-ending injury? If so, does the insurance premium or recovery impact the salary cap?

There has been a growing trend of NFL teams utilizing temporary total disability (TTD) policies to hedge against injury to top players, but I couldn't give you a blow-by-blow of how those protections work and how it affects a team's bottom line.

Jeff from Waterford, WI

What is the strength of the Packers' schedule for upcoming season?

By percentages, the Packers have one of the NFL's toughest strength of schedules (.526). Green Bay is set to play six returning playoff teams, including Detroit twice.

Dave from Sparta, WI

Trey Lance has quietly gone from a No. 3 pick overall to a backup behind a franchise QB without a real chance to be QB1. I would think a No. 3 pick would get a second chance at a starting job somewhere. Were the 49ers wrong picking him so soon?

The strange thing about Trey Lance is we still haven't really seen him play. Due to injury and other circumstances, Lance has only made four NFL starts and thrown 102 regular-season passes. Was San Francisco wrong for taking him? I suppose that answer is yes. But is Lance a bust? That's yet to be determined.

Chase from Carmichael, CA

It seems like there would be more value in trading back to draft a HOF QB with the No. 200 pick.

Three quarterbacks have been drafted 200th overall in NFL history and the Packers selected two of them (Bart Starr in 1956 and Dennis Sproul in 1978). The third? Former Wisconsin QB Brooks Bollinger by the New York Jets in 2003.

David from Winona, MN

Is this the year the Packers take a first-round wide receiver, just to keep us on our toes?

Like Maggie once told Danny, "Aw God, that's all I need!"

Joe from Wausau, WI

What is the role of the Packers' coaches in evaluating draft prospects that the scouts have reported on? Does it change at all with so many new faces on the defensive coaching staff?

Coaches do their own homework and are part of the process, but Gutekunst and his scouts still drive the draft bus. Like Gutekunst mentioned in Indy, he'll have plenty of conversations with Jeff Hafley leading up to April 25.

Jeff from Ripon, WI

What happens to a player's salary if he is cut? Does he get all of the money of his contract?

Only if it's guaranteed.

Doug from Lilly, PA

Does the NFL have cap "compliance" people who monitor each team's salary cap status, or does each team "self-report" on the state of their own salary cap?

The NFL and NFLPA have access to those exact numbers. A billion-dollar industry is not built on the "honor system."

Darren from Wakefield, MI

Maybe Saturdays could just be "Yup" and "Nope" day. Should make it quicker to write and more time to cut the lawn.

Works for me. I'll see ya when I see ya.

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