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The wheels are always turning in the NFL

Replacing established players isn't easy, but it's not impossible


Zachary from Greenbrier, AZ

How many good players do we have?


Chris from Menomonee Falls, WI

If a running back changed positions to wide receiver, would he be able to keep his number in the 20s, 30s or 40s? My understanding is Montgomery can keep 88 because playing running back doesn't affect his status as a pass-catcher.

*Correct. Players who play an eligible position are allowed to keep their number if they played the position for a full season and aren't switching to a non-eligible position. *

Brian from Sussex, WI

Is Wes saying we could see Rip and Kerridge in the backfield together, possibly in a 2 TE set...with Spriggs as an extra blocker? I wouldn't want to be a CB on defense against that set - either tackling Rip coming through the line or covering a TE down the field.

The Packers used roughly 20 full-house sets last year with Ripkowski and Kerridge in the backfield. Kerridge is an intelligent, gritty player. Those guys will always find a way onto the field in this offense. Plus, you know how the Packers like their fullbacks.

Jennifer from La Jolla, CA

Believing that Montgomery gives the Packers a good starting point in the backfield is just the thinking that has given the Pack average rushing stats over the years. Time has come to truly give Rodgers a premier RB and spend some money. A high end balanced passing and ground attack will be tough to beat and defend. When is management going to wake up and address this weakness?

They addressed a weakness in 2013 and it produced the NFL's seventh-ranked rushing offense. They benefitted from it again in 2014 when Eddie Lacy enjoyed his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. Who knows what kind of campaign Lacy puts together if he doesn't sustain the ankle injury in 2016? The Packers don't need to sign the biggest name free agent on the market to have a capable running game. Really, they still forged one last year. It's what allowed them to keep their head above water after disaster struck with injuries to Lacy and Starks.

Johan from Pembroke, ON

Eddie Lacy was the perfect wrecking ball to Aaron Rodgers's aerial attack. 2014 was when things really meshed together and they were practically unstoppable. With the needs on the defense, do you believe a capable running back can be found in the draft that can provide the same energy without having to sacrifice a pick for the defense?

If the Packers choose to go the draft route to replace Lacy, I think they can find a talented back somewhere in this draft, but don't take my word for it. Just look at any of the draftnik boards. There could be as many as 30 who are selected next month. To your first point, I agree the 2014 team was remarkable. That was as balanced of an offense as any I've seen in the NFL over the last 10 years.

Jerome from Midland, MI

Yesterday, a fan mentioned why Jayrone Elliott was brought back and not Jones. With Jones and Peppers gone, Elliott will finally show his talents, be more of a contributor on the defense. MAC Conference has done well for the Packers (C. Jenkins, F. Zombo, McKenzie, G. Jennings, T.J Lang, J. Starks, Q. Rollins) to name a few.

I'm excited to see what Elliott does with this opportunity. He's established himself on special teams and flashed on defense during stretches. Now, he should get a chance to earn a bigger role in the outside linebacker rotation. The depth at the position has limited his opportunities in the past. While the Packers could very well add another veteran or draft pick to the group, I still think there's a more direct path for Elliott to make an impact on defense and really show what he can do.

Andy from Fremont, MI

We haven't seen much opportunity on defense for Dorleant, Goodson, Hawkins, or Waters. Out of that group, who is most likely to earn a larger role this year and help fill the need at CB?

Goodson is rehabbing a significant knee injury. I'm not sure exactly what his timetable is. Dorleant also sustained a knee injury that landed him back on IR. I think he's a smart and athletic guy. Assuming he's cleared for the offseason program, I'm interested to see how he performs in Year 2. Hawkins and Waters are speedy and athletic prospects. While both players are relatively raw, Joe Whitt Jr. has a solid resume when it comes to developing cornerbacks with natural tools. It's an important offseason for those young corners.

Hansen from Waukesha, WI

Regarding great quarterbacking duos such as Montana/Young and Favre/Rodgers, what about another combo of Packers quarterbacks in Arnie Herber and Cecil Isbell back in the 30s and early 40s?

Good memory. I'm kind of embarrassed I didn't think of it myself since I'm a big Cecil Isbell fan. What he accomplished with Hutson in the early 1940s is still incredible. His franchise record for single-season touchdown passes (24 in 1942) stood for 41 years. There's no question in my mind he would be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he hadn't walked away from the game the following year. Herber and Isbell definitely make the list.

Kevin from Omaha, NE


That could work.

James from Chicago, IL

Good morning Wes, out of curiosity I went back and looked at the 2015 free agent signings. I took the top 20 free agent contracts of players who switched teams since March 2015. Five players have been cut by the team who signed them. Seven have average to poor stats (in my opinion). Four players have done OK and four are offensive linemen who are still with their new team, but I have no statistics for them. This is small sample and only for 1 year, but it seems to suggest if you chase free agents you've got a less than average shot at getting your money's worth.

The problem with doling out these massive contracts is they also create unrealistic expectations for players. Everyone expects those players to come in and overwhelmingly improve their position. It doesn't always happen like that. Look at a player like Ted Ginn – he signed a nice free-agent deal with Arizona in 2014 and it didn't work out. He goes back to Carolina and became a diamond in the rough again. We'll see what he does now that he's in New Orleans, but it's yet another example of how the size of a contract alter expectations.

Derrick from Randolph, NJ

This is in response to your answer for Dennis in Edina, MN. While I agree with you that the draft was "OK" I'm not completely sold on your reasoning. Mainly because RG3 also won offensive rookie of the year and he may not even be in the league this season. I would not consider the Redskins' first pick that year "OK". The fact of the matter is there is 1 of 11 players remaining on the roster from the 2013 draft. If you're going to be predominantly draft and develop you have to have a better retention than 9% wouldn't you agree?

So you're saying the 2013 draft would've been a resounding success if the Packers re-signed six or seven of those picks to one-year deals for the league minimum since they retained half of them? The fact Bakhtiari signed a long-term extension with Green Bay, and other NFL teams deemed Hyde, Tretter and Lacy worthy of lucrative contracts I believe strengthens the argument it was a good draft class. All four of those aforementioned players also contributed to a pretty decent run over the past four seasons. The wheels are always turning in the NFL.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

I would be more concerned if there were no market for our players as they enter free agency. Show me a given year where our free agent losses really stung, and I suspect I can show you a very good draft class four years earlier. Losing players to free agency can also be viewed as a product of successful drafting in an era where you simply cannot afford to resign everybody. Sign the stars (QB, LT, CB, pass rusher) and recycle the rest.

Again, you can't sign everybody. What I don't get is how one could surmise it was a bad draft class when a portion of those players leave as unrestricted free agents. If anything, doesn't it reinforce how much the NFL valued them? You tell me.

John from Green Bay, WI

Why, do you theorize, is it largely accepted that a team losing in the March Madness tournament can have a season deemed a success, and a professional team losing in the playoffs are disappointments? The high turnover in college? I would argue the NFL now has a graduating class as well. What's the difference in general attitude?

The definition of success in NCAA basketball varies so much because of the 350 teams playing Division I. For many, it's enough to just make the big dance. Others are expected to make the Sweet Sixteen. With a few exceptions, the bar is set squarely on the Super Bowl in the NFL and it's difficult to continually play to that standard with the parity of the league.

Ben from Horicon, WI

You need a guy or two on your team to flush the quarterback out of the pocket for any DE to hit the QB. Packers need a Gilbert Brown or B.J. Raji.

Be patient with Kenny Clark. Nothing is guaranteed, but I think you're going to like the player he develops into. I was impressed by how much natural strength and leverage he showed for a defensive tackle who turned 21 in October.

Brian from Champaign, IL

Offensive line play is also less tiring than D-Line play, because you're "acting" as opposed to "reacting" and chasing. Pass protection is tiring, but the O-Line seems well equipped to keep that up for long periods and use all the tricks to gain as much leverage as possible.

The burden of proof is always on the defense. Jet-rushing and chasing running backs can make for exhausting work. There also isn't a split second to spare if you're a pass-rusher. That's why it's so imperative for them to stay fresh and effective. Offensive linemen need to be athletic and well-conditioned to last 70-plus plays, but they also aren't expending as much energy with explosive, energy-zapping movements.

Tom from Rochester, NY

Hi Wes. Love the job you guys do here. Since most of the people here know more than TT, I thought I would ask one question of them. In a draft so deep in talent why do so many of these geniuses want TT to trade up? Doesn't it make more sense to acquire more picks and get more talent than to give away picks for one player? I say bring in 10 players from this draft and see which ones have what it takes.

There's two ways to look at it. You can either reap the rewards of what's perceived as a deep draft class in the later rounds or you can pinpoint a prospect you identify as the cream of the crop early on.

Theplogos from Athens, Greece

Vic always says you can't have enough big bodies but the Pack lost a Pro-Bowl guard and a valuable all around replacement. Do you think it is possible to replace these guys (especially T.J. Lang) with a player who at his best is limited and a raw and unproven guy? Do you also think that another unproven player can replace Hyde? We tried this tactic last year and it didn't go very well. On paper, right now this team looks a lot worse than last year.

You won't be able to replace Lang's leadership overnight, but I think we saw in 2014 how a rookie (Corey Linsley) could step in, play well and make a position his own despite limited experience. I don't know how the Packers will go about filling Lang's starting spot, but they've done it before. The same logic applies to Hyde, who stepped into the spotlight in 2013 when Casey Hayward was lost for the season due to a recurring hamstring issue. Replacing established players isn't easy, but it's not impossible.

John from Austin, TX

The tailgate cam on is showing construction outside the Oneida gate, is this a more permanent building to replace the Tundra zone tent?

Ding, ding, ding. Yeah, that's theJohnsonville Tailgate Village.

Debby from McCordsville, IN

Why did you let so many good players go? You're bringing in mediocre players! This is ridiculous! Open up the wallet and either keep the current players or get decent ones!

Wait, what did I do?

Davy from Chetek, WI

Wes, have you ever given your position on the oxford comma? Your readers would love to know which side you're on. You can be on the right side, the ambivalent side, or the wrong side.

The Press-Gazette didn't use the Oxford comma, so I don't usually utilize it unless I'm listing something. I'm not opposed to those that do, however.

Luke from Lake Delton, WI

Insiders, we all know the NFL is a business. But, in free agency, given the fact that these players make more money than 95% of fans could ever hope to make just because they're good at a sport, it would be so awesome to see one... Just ONE player not take the big contract and stay at home just because they love it. Thoughts?

Would it be awesome? Sure. Would it be smart? No. The NFL window is so short in the grand scheme of things. As my grandfather used to tell me, you have to make hay while the sun is still shining.

Eric from Ames, IA

Mark my words: the Packers are going to draft Christian McCaffrey. This is so they can employ an offensive scheme dubbed the California-T: a two-TE formation with Rodgers in the shot gun, flanked by the speedy Stanford Bros, and Jordy out wide ready to burn the defense long. Playmakers of every size, attacking every level of the defense with power and finesse, with the opportunity to run, pass, or scramble in any direction. Unstoppable.

You heard it here first. We'll circle back in another five weeks, Eric.

Chad from Port Edwards, WI

What am I missing? I read on here all the time about how many hours you guys put in, but can only think of, how long does it really take to write a few articles here and there? I'm not trying to degrade or anything, just trying to gauge what your day looks like.

You think you know ... but you have no idea.

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