Which free agent do you most want the Packers to re-sign?
Posted February 17th, 2014 @ 03:02am
I know, it's infuriating. No, not the fact that I've been silent for a few weeks. Okay, that might be a bit infuriating too. I'm talking about the month of March. March means free agency. The month when Ted hibernates.
You know the drill. Teams like the Redskins and Jets will make headlines by adding veterans and you'll say to yourself, or to anyone who's listening, 'Come on Ted. Do something. Show us you have a pulse. Draft and develop can only take you so far. And when some of those draft picks stink like limburger cheese, and then you get more than your share of injuries, well, it makes for a quick January.'
You think, maybe this year will be different. After all, the team entered the 2013 season figuring it would have to pay big money to pending free agents BJ Raji and Jermichael Finley. But now it looks like they'll let both guys test the waters and it's likely both will be wearing different uniforms in 2014. That frees up a lot of money--much of which will hopefully be earmarked for Sam Shields, the team's most important free agent.
Most of the other free agents are complementary guys, most of whom could be replaced without much fanfare. The guys I'd like to see the team hold on to: Shields, Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal and John Kuhn. Of the others, James Jones and Andrew Quarless would be nice to keep around--it depends whether either catches another team's eye. Jones missed out on a payday three years ago. His 2012 campaign may be fresh enough in one team's mind to deliver a richer contract than the Packers want to offer.
So here's what's going to happen next month. On the eve of free agency you'll go to bed with visions of safeties Jairus Byrd or Donte Whitner in green and gold dancing in your head. Then within a few days, those guys will be playing in greener pastures and there will be an unconfirmed Ted Thompson sighting at a Chipotle. Other than that, we'll get crickets coming from 1265 Lombardi Avenue.
Save the frustration. Save the belly aching. March is for teams like the Dolphins to overpay guys like Mike Wallace. Or for the Vikings to grab a couple of ex-Packers. It's not when championship teams are built.
Would I like the Pack to dabble a bit? Sure. This is a team on the short list of Super Bowl contenders. A couple of veteran pieces could make a world of difference. But it's not how Thompson is wired. The team will need to pay guys like Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, as well as a few of their current free agents; that will be the team's priority heading into the draft.
So remember. March will be maddening. Guys will leave the team and Ted won't immediately replace them. Then will come April and all of the draft hype. The actual draft has been pushed back to May, so for a couple of months and change you'll have no idea what the '14 roster will look like, but you will see a ton of old faces in other new places.
Relax. Take a breath. No matter what happens this spring, if #12 is vertical for 16 games next season, the Packers will be in the hunt. March madness is for most of the other 31 teams. For Packer fans, under Ted's watch, it will likely always be March silence.
Posted January 17th, 2014 @ 03:01am
For those of you who are somewhat new to this blog (stumbling upon it in the last year), you might have been asking yourself, 'what's up with the head cheese?' Here's the thing, every year after the Pack's last game, I take a little mental break. Let a week or so pass before I pick things up. It's also the time of the year that I travel a lot for work, so, no more excuses.
By Monday I'll post my thoughts on the Packers' free agents, but for now I want to weigh in on what I think we're in for this weekend, with two games providing endless storylines and a whole lot of anticipation.
Let's start with Brady vs. Manning XIV in Denver. To me, the Patriots have been the Packers of the AFC, dealing with more than their share of devastating injuries. No they didn't lose Brady, but all three levels of their defense lost their best player, the offense lost it's top playmaker and they've had to dig deeper into the depth chart at some positions than the hole being dug in downtown Minneapolis right now.
That they've reached this spot is not monumental. The AFC was down this year, thanks to the dips by teams like the Steelers and the Super Bowl champion Ravens. It was hard for most of us to believe that teams like the Chiefs, Bengals and Colts were going to be January warriors. That left the Broncos and Patriots. And here they are.
This edition of Belichick's group has morphed in recent weeks into a power running team. When Stevan Ridley fumbled away his chance and Shane Vereen couldn't stay healthy, they turned to LaGarrette Blount the last games of the season. All he did was gain more than 280 yards rushing in those two games and score four times. We saw what he did against the Colts. The Broncos enter this game knowing they have to stop the run. If they don't, Peyton stands on the sidelines and he can't yell 'Omaha!' from the sidelines.
That said, look for the Patriots to exploit the Broncos' defense through the air. The loss of cornerback Chris Harris cannot be overstated. Champ Bailey is running on fumes and Quentin Jammer is no longer Quentin Jammer. Brady will find mismatches and he will exploit them. Without a playmaking tight end, the Pats' passing game is no longer electric. But Brady and his coordinator Josh McDaniels are savvy enough to find a way to move the ball through the air.
Needless to say, the Broncos' hopes of delivering Peyton to his third Super Bowl rest on the arm and the nerves of Manning himself. I think his playoff record has been a bit overstated, I mean, he put his team in position last year and his secondary went brain dead. But make no mistake, Manning will feel the pressure of expectations.
He knows his time is running out. He'll meet with doctors in a couple of months to see how his neck looks. Then the team will decide if it will pay him another $20 million to return in 2014. There's no question, they'd be thrilled to write those checks, but if the prognosis is not good, this could be the end of the line for maybe the greatest QB ever.
And unless he can win two more games, he'd stare at a trophy case full of awards, but his brother would always wear more rings. I think Manning will play well on Sunday, well enough to win, but I think the Patriots are the grittier team, the tougher team up front on both sides of the ball. Brady's won 10 of these 13 meetings. I think he gets it done again.
Patriots 30 Broncos 27
If the Packers couldn't get here, this was the NFC's dream matchup (OK, non-Packers will naturally disagree; I get that). The title game in the NFC is the polar opposite of the AFC's. Instead of 'Hall of Fame quarterbacks meet once again,' we get: 'elite, hard-nosed defenses square off for the third time.' The Seahawks have gotten the better of this rivalry this season, dominating the Niners both times they played at Century Link.
Something tells me this one will be a little different. The Hawks' air of invincibility at home evaporated with a week 16 loss to Arizona. Their offense has been sputtering along for the last month or so, with Russell Wilson looking less comfortable out their than we're accustomed to seeing. Much of that can be pinned on an offensive line that has him running for his life. And when it comes to playmakers in the passing game, Seattle comes up short, considering Percy Harvin can't be counted on to be that wildcard.
Both teams will try to pound it on the ground and let their defenses strut their stuff. This is a big spot for Colin Kaepernick, who understands what it's like to play there and needs to play a whole lot better than his last two outings there. This time he has a healthy Michael Crabtree to go along with other physical receivers in Boldin and Davis. Seattle can take one or two of those guys away, but not all three. Can Kaepernick find the mismatches? That's what this game will come down to.
My brain is leaning towards San Francisco this game, despite the mega home field advantage. The Niners are healthier than they've been all season and it feels like they're going to be that rare team that loses the Super Bowl and returns the next year.
49ers 20 Seahawks 19
My preseason prediction was Seattle over Denver, so it hurts to go against that, but it feels like the road teams step up and deliver on what should be a historically great championship weekend. Anyone agree?
I'll have much more on the title games, along with my partner Trent Tucker on "In the Zone," Saturday morning at 8 on KFAN and kfan.com.
Posted January 6th, 2014 @ 02:01am
Let's face it. The better team won at Lambeau. As usual in games like these, it's easy to point to one play (the Micah Hyde potential pick), but the 49ers were the superior team on this day and during this season and they are moving on.
It's disappointing, because we didn't see enough of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb this season. We wanted more. It felt like the kind of team that could get stronger as the playoffs wore on and be a dangerous road team. Instead, the 49ers defense and the legs of Colin Kaepernick were just a bit too tough. The Pack converted on just three of eleven third downs; San Fran was six for twelve. The third down conversion that sealed it featured a Jarrett Bush mental lapse (stop me if you've heard this before) and Kaepernick danced down the left sideline, allowing Phil Dawson to exhale. His team was now in range for him on this unpredictable day.
As for Kaepernick, once again his legs were the difference. A near 100 yard rushing day for him was the difference. Until the Pack can figure him out, they'll be in Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin 1990's purgatory.
Three plays later, facing a third and three and the clock winding down, everyone knew Gore was getting it, yet the defense couldn't stop him. That play was a microcosm of too many fourth down situations this season.
But you can't criticize Dom Capers and his defense for this performance. Not from where I'm sitting. He's down Matthews to start and then loses Sam Shields and Mike Neal on the first series. Andy Mulumba and Davon House were also in and out with injuries. Yet his unit kept the team in the game, dead even with five minutes to go. Yes, there were some letdowns on the final five-minute drive, but the defense did enough on this day to win.
This loss is really on the offense. Settling for a game tying field goal late when they had first and goal sealed their fate. The Niners have the league's best red zone defense and they demonstrated why on the Pack's final drive. First, they had to burn a timeout. That was a bad omen.
They opened with a run by Cobb that fooled no one for no gain; second and goal from the nine. Next, with Bakhtiari out with a concussion and Marshall Newhouse playing left tackle, Rodgers was getting a little jumpy. He got flushed out of the pocket, rolled to his right and threw it out of the end zone. Third and goal from the nine, plenty of time, but no one open and Rodgers is forced to scramble for a few yards. Holding is declined and in came Crosby. The Pack never came close to punching it in.
After the 49ers settled for field goals early in the game, the Pack had to settle late and it gave the Niners all the chance they needed to answer and punch their ticket to the divisional round. The Pack owned the Niners in the mid-90s. They're getting even this decade. Maybe next year it's our turn for the Young to T.O. miracle to go our way. This year it wasn't in the cards.
A couple of things to grumble about. James Jones, why were you out there? Didn't look like you wanted to be. Couldn't hold on to anything. Micah Hyde, you were a revelation this season. Your play at corner and return skills were sorely needed. But, oh man, you get that pick and the Pack is moving on. Not to mention you would have helped me nail my prediction of a late Kapernick mistake sealing it. So close.
There's work to be done, but as it stands right now the Pack will enter next season favored to win their fourth straight division title. We'll expect them to last a couple weekends longer at least. Some significant roster changes on defense and a little more luck with injuries should give them a shot.