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Wishes for free agency and the draft

The saddest season of all is the one without hope


Michael from Australia

Derrick from Randolph, NJ looks at success in draft-and-develop teams as retaining players from the draft when their contracts expire, but isn't it how the compensatory picks are awarded, giving you more players to draft to replace the ones you couldn't afford to pay?

I would measure draft-and-develop success according to sustained winning, a young roster and a flat and healthy salary cap. If you've sustained winning with a young roster and a payroll spread evenly over the years, as the Packers have, you've likely executed a draft-and-develop philosophy successfully. Compensatory picks are a tool for doing all of that.


Spencer from Salt Lake City, UT

Put your fan hat on here. Who would you want the Packers to target in (a.) free agency and (b.) the draft?

In what's left of free agency, I'd like the Packers to identify some role players, such as a 15-snaps defensive lineman to fit into the rotation, a linebacker/special teams player, nickel back, an interior offensive lineman, etc. Those are affordable players who can give your roster depth and allow you to draft freely. In the draft, running back and pass rusher are two positions I'd like to see targeted. I don't advocate reaching to draft for those positions, only for being sensitive to what I believe is a need to address them.

David from Orlando, FL

What do you think of mock drafts? I read them for laughs. All of them love to pick by team needs. Do you think this adds to the fans' angst at this time of year?

I like them. I think they're fun and the fans should regard them as such. Speculation is what makes the draft the event it is. What I like about mock drafts is good ones identify team needs and try to marry those needs to players that fit where they would be picked. I think those kinds of mock drafts are informative. If they get reachy, I stop reading.

Nathan from New York, NY

Vic, why is the draft about value while free agency is about perceived need? If teams don't know what their needs are going to be, wouldn't it make sense to use free agency to sign good football players (provided the player isn't too expensive)?

Free agents are proven professional football players. You know exactly what they can and can't do on the NFL level. You should have no difficulty projecting how they might address a specific role you'd assign them. The draft is a crystal ball business. As it pertains to the future, everything is a forecast. The draft is the great unknown. Pick the most talented players and then hope for the best.

Rick from Madison, WI

I'm a bit annoyed at T.J. complaining he didn't get a better offer from the Packers. How much money does a guy need? If the team meant so much to him, I'm sure he and his family could somehow get by. I'm disappointed in the money game here. Enough already. Many of us are trying to get by day to day. Here's a guy making millions! What the market bears? Ego? Bunch of baloney, Mr. Lang. And here I thought you were a regular guy.

I think it's unrealistic to expect these men to accept less compensation to play for us. For whom was T.J. Lang playing when he painfully hobbled from the field in Atlanta in the NFC title game? Was he not giving the Packers every ounce of his will to win? Was he not jeopardizing his football career in what would be the final game of his Packers contract? My heart hurt for him that day. His job security was at risk. The memory of that moment is explanation of why these guys need to get all they can in a career that is always one play away from the end. I'll always remember Lang as a tough, dedicated football player who played hurt and played well. It was an honor to have covered him.

WR Davante Adams had a productive 2016 campaign, catching 75 passes for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns (tied for 2nd league-wide). He appeared in all 16 games. Photos by Evan Siegle and Matt Becker,

Jeff from Eau Claire, WI

If performance-based pay doesn't go towards the salary cap, why don't teams use this much more often?

Incentives fall into one of two categories: LTBE (likely to be earned) and NLTBE (not likely to be earned). You're describing NLTBE, and it's often used as a mechanism for pushing cap money into the following year. If the player reaches that incentive, the money he earned is charged to the following year's cap, which means the team has mortgaged a portion of its future. Just remember this: You pay it, you cap it.

Jason from Waupun, WI

Has anyone else noticed that most of the overly critical comments about the Packers organization and management specifically tend to refer to the team as we? We need to sign this guy or why didn't we sign that guy? When will these people learn we are not part of the team for a reason?

I don't have a problem with the we thing. It's a game of the heart.

Greg from Danbury, CT

Vic, with all the changes you've seen in the game and in the business of football, I submit the most drastic change is still years away from being considered more than halfway implemented: women in football. Not on the field, but on the coaching staff, scouts, executives and even reporters. I'd love to see someone like Erin Andrews get off the sideline and into the booth, for instance. What does a (big) change look like to you, Vic?

Most of that has already happened, right? I remember the first time I covered a game to which the postgame locker room was open to female reporters. When the doors were opened and we walked in, all of the players were standing at their lockers wearing full-length white robes. We all burst into laughter. Oh, yeah, I've seen changes during my 45 years covering football. In my mind, the most dramatic of all breakthroughs involving women in football is still well off in the distance: a woman head coach. I believe it'll happen.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Vic, did you miss being at the combine and watching the prospects in person? Also, I haven't heard anything on Tony Pauline for a while. Are you still in touch?

I got a text from Tony from the combine. I got one from him from the Senior Bowl, too. They made me feel a little sad. We're still in touch. I still depend on his evaluations.

Andy from Clive, IA

How are you, Vic? Do you have a few names of big running backs that might be available in the third/fourth round?

Tony likes D'Onta Foreman of Texas and De'Veon Smith of Michigan, and thinks James Conner of Pitt could last into the late rounds. Foreman, 6-0, 233, is said to possess top athletic ability and offers a lot of upside. Smith, 5-11, 223, is a pure between-the-tackles pounder. Conner, 6-1, 233, beat Clemson as a runner and as a pass receiver.

Ben from Denver, CO

I don't understand how you can defend the 2013 draft and call it a success. Four years later, we have one out of 11 players from that draft. One! When all you do is draft and develop until you're blue in the face, but you don't even keep those guys, and then start over with the next draft, how do you expect to improve? All you do is get younger and less experienced. Awesome!

I'm going to use them all here: It's a young man's game. It's a game of replacement. When you get younger, you get better.

Team Photographer Evan Siegle shares some of his favorite images of the 2016 season

Greg from Saint Helens, OR

Our 2013 draft class has been highly valued by many GMs around the league. The market speaks louder and clearer than fans on this point. Next year's compensatory picks will either reward Ted Thompson's eye for talent or validate him for not breaking the bank to retain mediocre talent.

Every team loses players. It's a fact of the salary cap era; you have to be willing to allow players to leave. It's a team's ability to replace those players that ultimately determines how it is judged. During my time covering the Packers, the team has steadfastly challenged itself to find replacements. It's how the Packers have maintained a healthy salary cap and it's how they've sustained winning.

Craig from Blaine, MN

Everyone talks trading up in the draft. Personally, I think Ted Thompson is going to trade down for more picks. Would the Packers fan base explode at such a crazy thought?

If you're targeting a running back, trading back isn't a crazy thought.

Alen from Tilburg, The Netherlands

How reliable is the amount of tackles as a measurement?

When you apply it to scheme, it'll tell you something. For example, if your scheme is to use your defensive linemen to keep blockers off your linebackers, then a linebacker should be your leading tackler; it would suggest the scheme is working. If it's a safety who isn't always up in the box, that would suggest something else.

Scott from Ramsey, MN

Vic, hope you are doing well. Is draft and develop part of the Packers' long-term DNA, or is it something that might change with future presidents and GMs down the road?

It can change and one day it might, and Packers fans might find themselves wishing it hadn't. The saddest season of all is the one without hope.

Dalton from Dubuque, IA

How exactly do you see the Packers making an improvement in the defensive secondary, after a year full of our corners getting demolished in man coverage?

Rush the passer.

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