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There's nothing like the NFL Combine

Successful draft-and-develop teams face tough decisions every offseason


Josh from Pullman, WA

What is your favorite thing about the combine?

The atmosphere. The entire NFL is here. You're destined to walk past at least one head coach or general manager on your way down to the Indiana Convention Center each day. I remember Jeff Fisher standing in line behind me at Starbucks waiting to order coffee a few years ago. It's just incredible to see all these high-ranking NFL figures milling about like a Saturday afternoon at Bay Park Square Mall. There's nothing quite like the NFL Scouting Combine.

Andrew from Huxley, IA

Hi Wes, who is John and what did Mike McCarthy mean when he said it was ridiculous?

That mysterious John would be Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, a former personnel executive for the Packers. Schneider was just wrapping up his media availability and was waving from behind the media at McCarthy as he exited the hall. A little fun between two good friends.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

If the best-case scenario occurs for the LB corps next year (e.g. Matthews returns to All-Pro form, Thomas/Martinez/Ryan/Fackrell all make sizable leaps and either Peppers or Perry return with a healthy Pro Bowl year) would that be enough to be a top-five pressure defense, or does there need to be improvement on the D-line in that area as well?

There's quite a few ifs laced throughout your question, but that does seem to be the recipe for success. McCarthy reiterated they'll continue to use Matthews in a multitude of ways. He'll play outside, inside and everywhere in between. It's not 1995 anymore. He plays more than one position. You still need more than one playmaker and I think Perry showed he could be that this past season. We'll have to see what happens with Peppers, but the Packers have been proactive in their efforts to develop more young pass-rushers. If you're Green Bay, I think you have to be happy with what you got out of the defensive line this season. Mike Daniels continues to be disruptive inside and Kenny Clark is only going to get better.

Rodrigo from Monterrey, Mexico

Isn't it too risky to wait until the combine to re-sign our players? And will a free agent come to Titletown?

Negotiation can take many forms. For most NFL teams, the combine is a great opportunity to facilitate interviews with as many of your upcoming free agents as possible. It doesn't mean the Packers are purposely waiting to get deals done here, but it's a chance to sit down with agents to get a better feel of things. While deadlines spur action, deals can go down at any time. Indianapolis is often where deals get done. Will a free agent come to Titletown? Jared Cook did last year and it worked out pretty well for him.

Matty from Durango, CO

Why should TT treat our free agents any differently than those from other teams? Just value them for what they can bring in the future like any other free agent and negotiate accordingly. Or does experience, playbook knowledge, team cohesion matter that much?

Every successful draft-and-develop franchise is going to face difficult decisions every offseason because it will have several players with expiring rookie contracts. If you don't, then that's a problem. I've said it before, but if the Packers had signed David Bakhtiari, Mike Daniels or Randall Cobb off another team's roster, they'd be viewed as "offseason winners."  However, extensions don't get as many headlines because they're not dramatic. We'll see what shakes out next week, but don't underestimate the inherent value of holding onto players who have been developed in your system and playbook.

Jullian from Las Cruces, NM

Today (3/1/17) is a very interesting day for running backs' availability. Some very well-known names (up in age for football players) and some proven running backs with injury history. We need a solid running back without a doubt. I personally would like to see Lacy back. I am aware of his injuries, but all backs get banged up. He gets us tough yards and certainly breaks free often. How do you see this playing out for us?

I'm not sure how the Packers' backfield will shuffle out, but Mike McCarthysounded very interested about the one-two punchEddie Lacy and Ty Montgomery could provide. Lacy has accomplished so much in Green Bay: two 1,000-yard seasons, a Pro Bowl and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was on track for another solid season when the ankle injury flared up. The Packers have been in communication with Lacy. Now, we'll have to wait and see whether it translates to a fifth season in Green Bay.

David from Milwaukee, WI

When was the last draft praised by pundits for its deep ILB talent pool?

2014? C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier were popular names, but Chris Borland and Christian Kirksey also were seen as inside 'backers who provided good value in the middle rounds.

Jamie from Rhinelander, WI

Do you think Charles Woodson will make it in the Packers Hall of Fame? I think he should, and when do you think he will?

Yes. My guess is he'll be in the next four or five years. He's likely to be a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer who solidified his candidacy for Canton during his time in Green Bay.

Trev from Omaha, NE

So Jairus Byrd is going to be a FA again. Should we look to sign him this time? Or was his 4.68 40 time too slow? P.S – I'm pretty sure Ted Thompson knows what he is doing or he wouldn't be the GM.

Nothing against Jairus Byrd. He played his first two years of high-school football at nearby Pulaski High and put himself in position to earn the contract he did in New Orleans. However, it is another cautionary tale about paying up for one of the top unrestricted free agents. My mailbox was pelted with pleas from fans to sign Byrd three years ago when Green Bay needed a safety. Instead, Thompson drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and things worked out OK for the Packers and their safety group.

Johan from Pembroke, ON

Signing Jairus Byrd won't cost a pick. He'll somehow fix all the cornerback woes, right?

Interesting fact: Byrd was the first freshman to ever start on defense (at cornerback) in Pulaski's history. However, he no longer plays cornerback.

Dale from Oaktown, IN

On a defensive line note, I was impressed with Brian Price in limited duty last year. Do you think he can contribute?

The Packers kept Price around for a reason. They like the big man's upside. Although he was cut when Mike Pennel returned from suspension, Price immediately re-signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers. He's a big man with some twitch. He'll get another shot to show what he can do this summer.

Mike from McFarland, WI

Has the "free agency" period for lower-level coaching staff ended? If a good coach becomes available at this point, could McCarthy plug them in to the structure or has the train left the station?

The Packers announced their coaching staff earlier this week, but it's not like there's a deadline on when you can hire somebody. Those situations are always fluid. With Jeff Blasko's promotion to assistant offensive line coach, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Packers add another coaching administrator at some point.

Paul from Ottawa, Ontario

There has been lots of talk with regards to FA running backs (although I think AP should not even be on the Pack's radar), but I was wondering where Christine Michael stands. Is there any mutual interest between himself and the Pack? Haven't heard much buzz with regards to himself and free agency.

Michael is one of the 11 unrestricted free agents the Packers have this offseason, seven of which could be deemed starters. I thought Michael had his moments during his short time in Green Bay, but General Manager Ted Thompson has a lot of other players to consider. We'll see where the chips fall with Michael soon enough.

Jeff from Arlington, VA

The Packers tend to stay away from free agents that have shown behavioral issues in the past. Is the concern that they will be uncoachable? Unavailable to play due to another suspension? I would think that living in Green Bay without the distractions would help some of these guys get their lives sorted out.

Thompson, the coaching staff and Green Bay's personnel department consider all those factors when deciding whether to take a chance on a player with a checkered past. As Thompson said a few years ago, it comes down to doing your research and deciding whether a particular player simply stubbed his toe or if there's a bigger issue in play. There's probably something to be said for the slower pace of Green Bay helping filter out some of those distractions, but it's up to the individual to make the most of his second chance if one is presented.

Matt from Shawano, WI

How do option years affect compensatory picks? Basically, when options are declined do the players become street free agents (i.e. Julius Peppers three years ago, Jared Cook last year) or unrestricted free agents that affect compensatory picks?

Even if a team declines an option, the player still counts toward the compensatory equation because he has an expiring contract. You only become a "street" free agent if a team releases you with additional years left on your deal. That's why Adrian Peterson still counts toward the compensatory process.

Jesse from Bismarck, ND

I understand how everyone is so high on Micah Hyde, but what's being left out is that safety is our deepest position. As much as I'd dislike seeing him go, I think our needs at other positions will make our management invest heavier elsewhere. Am I wrong that the gap between Hyde and others below him on the depth chart is negligible comparative to corner and edge?

Hyde is more than just a safety. He's an all-around defensive back. In fact, he probably played his fewest number of snaps on the back end this season since shifting there in 2014. His versatility and durability was valuable for a defense that was continually stressed at cornerback.

Jay from Land O Lakes, FL

For a draft-and-develop approach it is essential to make the most out of every draft choice and find value where others don't see it yet. Doesn't that indicate that the Packers scouts are more critical to our team's success than most? Do we have the best scouts?

They definitely seem to be up there in the hierarchy of the NFL if you look at the number of general managers and personnel executives in the league with ties to the Packers. There probably is a little extra importance on scouting with how much the Packers rely on the draft to replenish their roster each year, but it also speaks volumes about the coaching staff for making all of those pieces fit on a yearly basis.

Mike from Kenosha, WI

Has there ever been a discussion at the league level about conducting the exercises at the combine (and pro days) in full pads? I understand it would be several years before enough data would exist for a year-over-year, apples-to-apples comparison but teams would still be able to contrast prospects for the current year.

I don't think so. The difference in overall times and performance is negligible. If NFL scouts want to see contact, they get a chance to see many of the prospects at the Senior Bowl.

Kris from Los Angeles, CA

How many more Super Bowl appearances do you think Rodgers would have had if he had a 1,000-yard rusher each year he started? They gotta wake up and give the offense true balance. I see there are some really good backs in the draft. They always give him receivers, good line but just average backs in the past.

The Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010 with Brandon Jackson leading the team with 703 rushing yards. The next leading rusher was Rodgers that season. Yet, they came up short in 2013 and 2014 when Lacy surpassed the 1,000-yard threshold. You obviously need to run the football to be successful, but I think it's too simplistic to say Green Bay has been one 1,000-yard rusher away from the Super Bowl.

Joshua from Philadelphia, PA

The three of you are playing 18. Is it straight up or is someone getting some strokes along the way? Who wins?

Not me. I've never see Vic or Spoff golf, but I can confidently say I'd finish 10 strokes behind second place.

James from Madison, WI

Did only bring two mics to the combine or is Biff still being hazed? C'mon, Spoff and Larry... that's not cool.

You have to earn your microphone around here. Maybe by the end of the week I'll prove myself worthy of one…maybe.

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