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Who will be the next player to emerge?

Ty Montgomery gives Packers a good starting point in the backfield


Jeff from Arlington, VA

If Ty Montgomery is capable of being a feature back, we have to replace Starks. If he isn't, we need to replace Lacy. Do we need a new RB1 or RB2?

Montgomery gives the Packers a good starting point in the backfield. He proved last season he can do everything a traditional running back does – stretch outside, run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield, and I felt he was better than expected in pass protection for a guy who never really had done it before. He'll only get better with a full offseason at the position. The Packers obviously need to add to the position with the departures of Eddie Lacy and James Starks. There's still time. The draft is quickly approaching and free agency isn't over. We can figure out RB1, RB2 and so forth once training camp rolls around.

Brian from Sussex, WI

Missed in the loss of Lacy leaving Montgomery as the only RB on the roster is the fact that Rip, even though a FB, can take on some of the carries as a thumper style RB. Did pretty well at it last year and could be in line for more opportunities this year.

Ripkowski proved he can handle whatever is asked of him. His contributions aren't forgotten. The Packers also have some flexibility with the fullback position with Joe Kerridge returning, as well.

Brent from Portage, WI

ALL those published questions/responses about Montgomery's number change and then it stays the same? BAHAHAHA!

Sometimes the best move is no move at all. I like the idea of Montgomery keeping No. 88. It's unique and speaks to his versatility.

Chad from Troy, MI

I don't know about you, Wes, but I'm pretty content for our team to "lose" free agency. Let the other teams with tons of cap space run away with this time of year, we all know it may be the only highlight they have all season.

Free agency is opportunity – it's an opportunity for those who are re-signed to move into even greater leadership roles and an opportunity for the younger players to step up in place of those who have exited. If you recall, that process produced T.J. Lang, who stepped in at left guard after Daryn Colledge left in free agency. Who will be the next player to emerge?

Rob from Brookeville, MD

Can you look into your crystal ball and give us a run down on the use of at least three high quality TEs? What situations do you see each targeted toward? Your estimate of playing time for each?

There's enough room in this offense for Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers to be effective. We won't have a clear picture of how the Packers plan to use the three tight ends until Mike McCarthy speaks at the owners meetings later this month, but I'd imagine we're going to see them incorporate more multiple tight end packages in 2017. They didn't do much of that last year, but McCarthy has said before how important tight ends are to penetrating the heart of the defense.

Andy from Fremont, MI

Last year Cook, this year Bennett and Kendricks. Are the Packers placing more value on TE than in the past, or just coincidence?

They've always placed a lot of value on the tight end position. That's why McCarthy dedicated so much time to developing the offense around Jermichael Finley during the 2010 offseason. Bennett is a prodigious talent. He gives the Packers a large, explosive target in the middle of the field. The decision to sign Kendricks was a no-brainer in my mind. Like Cook, he has a ton of ability and hasn't had a chance to play with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. Plus, he's a Milwaukee native and doesn't count against the compensatory equation since he was released by the Rams.

Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

Wes, the discussion around not over-paying our own FAs is valid, however, I think the key to a draft and develop team is to re-sign those second contracts before the last year of the existing contract. When TT lets his third-year guys shop around, he loses. I have no problem being very selective in whom is signed to a third contract, but a draft and develop team MUST sign their good players to a second contract. What do you think? Thanks for the hard work - I enjoy this column daily!

The Packers have done a masterful job of working extensions with guys before their rookie contracts have expired when you look at Mike Daniels and David Bakhtiari. Imagine what either of those guys would've commanded if they reached the open market. T.J. Lang also falls into that category when you look at the deal he struck in 2012. The thing is you can't sign them all. Some guys are going to reach the market. That's just how it goes. If you look at Green Bay's track record, however, Thompson and his personnel department have made the tough, yet proper, calls on guys facing third contracts. Is he perfect? No, but his batting average is as high as any GM in the NFL.

Michael from Escanaba, MI

Losses are expected in free agency. However this year we lost more than expected. So Ted hitting the market to address a few things was not all that surprising despite his usual approach. So come draft time do you think Ted will adjust his strategy to trade up and target certain players or stick to the best man available?

The Packers had a deep draft class in 2013, which set the table for this offseason. It's difficult to get a good read on what Thompson will do in any given year as it relates to the draft. There have been years where he's traded up to get guys. There have been years when he's traded back. The only thing that's consistent is he typically doesn't stay put. We'll have to see what approach he favors this year.

Ben from Hattiesburg, MS

With Lacy and Murray signed elsewhere, do you foresee a situation where Adrian Peterson would sign with the Packers?

I'm not ruling out anything. I was as surprised as all of you when the Packers brought in Martellus Bennett last week. Again, don't confuse silence with inactivity. You don't need to rev the engine to get the wheels to turn. The wheels are always turning at 1265 even if you don't always hear the engine revving.

Chris from Victor, ID

Wes, it would be pretty sweet to carry a bunch of cap space into a season where you have Davante Adams, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett and three offensive lineman playing to earn new contracts. Not to mention a QB who could probably use a market-based refactor.

You have to see the forest through the trees. That's how you stay competitive and relevant. I can't tell you how many general managers stepped to the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine and talked about how they want to develop a consistently winning culture. As difficult as it is to win, it's even more challenging to sustain success.

Michael from Burke, VA

Bill Belichick has a degree in economics. Wrapping up my undergrad in economics right now, and I must say that it has given me the perspective to appreciate what the Packers, Patriots, and other perennial playoff teams have been able to achieve. Wes, you are the Rock to my Spoff. Keep it up young blood!

Those economics degrees are pretty versatile. I can think of several baseball executives who majored in economics who have risen through the MLB ranks, too. Hopefully, it serves you well. To your point, I believe there's something to be said for how the Patriots, Packers and Steelers have conducted themselves over the last two decades and how it relates to their success on the field.

Micah from Appleton, WI

Seeing the list of free agents leaving has me wondering if this may be part of a longer-term strategy by TT. This draft appears to be good at RB and corner, so we stock up there, and get some good compensatory picks in next year's draft. The players we select this draft will be second year pros by then. Could we be looking at a "2018 strategy" where we kind of let 2017 land where it lands, but put most of our hopes into next year?

The competition never ends. The Packers have built their program to compete for a title every year. They've done that by also keeping an eye on the future. The compensatory process is a part of the equation. As it stands right now, the unrestricted free agents they've lost should contribute to four very solid picks in 2018 (I was told that's where it's capped, by the way). I guarantee the Packers want to win a Super Bowl in 2017…and 2018, too.

Andy from Tomahawk, WI

Wes, we all know Vic's stance on soccer. Where do you stand? The USA is hosting the gold cup this summer with the final in Levi's Stadium! Exciting stuff!

I've always been a fan. I was a soccer player growing up. I was more into the men's national team when Jay Demerit (a Bay Port High School grad) was playing for them, but I'm still a casual fan.

Matt from Riverview, FL

It's puzzling sometimes the different perspectives people have. I keep hearing about all the holes in the Packers defense that need to be plugged, but the reality is this game is a margin of inches all the time. That said, the free agency moves are all understandable. How much consideration do you think Ted Thompson is giving to the fact that Ha Ha and Corey Linsley's contracts are due next year?

I couldn't tell you what Thompson is thinking, but this is a game of chess, not checkers. If you're going to be successful, you have to think ahead. Every decision made today has repercussions for tomorrow.

Paul from Hartland, WI

Has a team ever considered or utilized an OL by committee approach? D-lines sub players in and out of games to stay fresh but the OL never does, that I've seen. I understand continuity is important on OL, but having fresh legs to turn to late in the game when you need to pound the rock and stave off defensive players that have been able to rest throughout the game would, in theory, be a huge advantage.

I haven't heard of any NFL teams doing this. As you mentioned, I think the communication and continuity you gain by having the same five offensive linemen outweighs whatever perceived advantage there might be of giving a guy a breather. I don't know about the rest of the NFL, but the Packers' o-line tends to be extremely well-conditioned. The consistency of an o-line is so important for the quarterback.

Jane from Plover, WI

I hate seeing Lang go, but I don't blame the Packers for not paying what it would take to keep him. My question is, Tretter has played fairly well no matter where he was inserted into the line, and would likely get better with regular playing time, so why not pay him and insert him into Lang's spot?

I think everyone, including JC, knew his best position was at center. He'll get that opportunity in Cleveland.

Jim from Des Peres, MO

I was glad to see that TT resigned Tripp. He seemed to be around the ball a lot on special-teams plays. Do you see it that way?

He has a good frame for special teams and seems to have upside as an inside backer. I think it was a good call to bring both Tripp and Jayrone Elliott back.

Dennis from Edina, MN

Why don't you comment about the terrible 2013 draft? It was another TT fiasco. Stop sugar coating these Packer articles.

The Packers unearthed an all-pro tackle in the fourth round (10th offensive tackle taken), the 2013 NFC offensive rookie of the year in the second, a do-everything defensive back who earned a nice payday in the fifth and a capable center in the fourth. I think the Packers did OK.

Josh from River Falls, WI

As we near the end of the free agency frenzy, I figure this might be a good time to pose this question. I am a young and strongly biased Packer fan, but even so, if I were a free agent with a deal open from the Packers, I don't care the money from other teams, I'm playing for the Pack. The legacy, fan base, and pure spirit of this team is more important to me than any amount of money. What is your point of view, and do you know of any other instances of something like this happening?

I appreciate what you're saying Josh and your fandom is noted. It's still a business, though. I had to make my own tough call last year. I loved my previous job and still have many colleagues there I consider close friends, but I made the decision I felt was best for me and my family. I'm sure many of you have found yourselves in a similar predicament. There are so many factors you must consider.

Dan from Golden, CO

Unlike most, I'm not on the "draft a CB 1st round" train. I think getting a speedy pass rusher is far more important. With that, who were a few pass rushers at the combine that really stood out with speed and athleticism who may be available when the Packers pick?

T.J. Watt had a nice week in Indianapolis. I thought Takk McKinley was impressive both in drills and at the podium, though he has a shoulder issue that's going to require surgery and could keep him out of the offseason program. Alabama's Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson have early-round pedigrees, but each have had off-the-field incidents. As far as mid-round options, Vince Biegel also did some good things at the combine.

Stan from Tempe, AZ

What seems lost on all fans under the age of 35 is that the Pack have played the last quarter of a century with back to back Hall of Fame QBs. Besides Montana/Young's glorious but shorter tenure, can you think of any other team that has gone this long with truly great quarterbacking?

Off the top of my head, all I can think of is Bledsoe and Brady. If you guys can think of more, feel free to pass them along.

Adam from Racine, WI

Hello Mike, Why did you say Jones' departure didn't surprise you in the slightest?

I'm obviously not Mike, but I feel capable of tackling your follow-up question. I think Spoff was alluding to the fact Jones may be better suited for a 4-3 scheme, which he originally played in during his days at UCLA. He put everything he had into the switch to a 3-4 outside linebacker, but there's also something to be said for finding a more natural fit. Jones was a consummate pro during his time with the Packers. I wish him nothing but the best.

Bill from Ringle, WI

Wes, are the dollars players receive from performance-based pay distribution added to their base salary or to bring them up to league average for the position?

It's extra compensation geared toward rewarding young, typically undrafted, players who play extensively. It doesn't count toward the salary cap.

Allan from Orting, WA

It seems the Packers fan base are a bunch of future or former GMs that completely understand the ins and outs of keeping a competitive team together. I appreciate what you guys do in answering all these fear-laden questions.

*It's not just Packers fans. Most feel they have a road map for their team's improvement.  *

Garrett from New Berlin, WI

Wes, I'm glad to see Mike go on a nice two-week vacation. As far as work/life balance, since you guys work way more than 40 hours per week during the season, do your offseason hours fluctuate to accommodate?

Yeah. I come into the office at 8:45 a.m. instead of 8:30.

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