Season Finale? Who Cares? Here's Pack's Offseason To-Do List.Posted:Dec 29th, 2017 2:19 pm
This is my eighth year writing this blog and for the first time I won't be previewing a Packer game. The season finale in Detroit has literally nothing on the line, so instead, I'll dive into the big issues the Packers face heading into the offseason.
One word on Sunday's game: with the Packers locked into third place in the North and a shot at avoiding a losing season the only real thing on the line, look for extra playing time for most of the healthy young players on the roster. That means a long look at guys like Reggie Gilbert, Lenzy Pipkins and Michael Clark--all of whom flashed against the Vikings.
Here's my Packers to-do list heading into what promises to be an active offseason:
1. Move on from Capers: Not breaking any ground here. If it was up to the fans, he'd be long gone by now. Mike McCarthy has been exceedingly loyal to the longtime DC, but it's time for a new voice, preferably from outside the organization. If this is going to happen, it should happen within 48 hours of the last game. If it happens, will his replacement change schemes? If so, it could impact who stays, who goes and who gets moved around. Bottom line, the unit's failures on third down and the red zone were alarming in 2017. I don't put the blame on Thompson's players. I think there's plenty of talent on this side of the ball. Yes, they need re-enforcements at OLB and CB, but the success of Hayward and Hyde elsewhere is an indication that Thompson is stocking the defensive cupboard adequately.
2. Sign Davante Adams: He has demonstrated that he's the Pack's biggest playmaker behind Rodgers and deserves to paid like the top ten WR that he is. The two brutal concussions he suffered this season are an obvious concern, but with Nelson and Cobb's future up in the air, Adams needs to be locked in. He would be the biggest WR prize on the free agent market and Thompson needs to take care of him, stat.
3. Figure out the right side of offensive line: It's in flux, with Bryan Bulaga's late season ACL injury and Jahri Evans' advanced age. There's no guarantee Bulaga will be ready for the season (the same holds true for his replacement, Jason Spriggs). Is there another potential right tackle on the roster? Justin McCray? Patrick Murphy? As for right guard, despite Evans' solid season, he'll be 36 next season and Expect either McCray or Lucas Patrick to take over there.
4. What to do with Nelson and Cobb? Both are signed through 2018 and both count more than 12 million dollars against the cap next season. Once Adams is signed, we'd be looking at $35 million in cap space devoted to the top three WRs. If either is released, the Pack would take on about $3 million in dead cap money--that's not horrible. I would think they would try to redo both guys' deals to reduce the cap number, but my hunch is that Nelson will be more amenable to that idea. It wouldn't shock me to see them cut Cobb loose. He's still a solid player, but in no way worth $12 million a year.
5. What to do with Ty Montgomery? It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Pack cut ties with him. His switch to running back was a non-starter, unable to stay on the field. With two promising rookies ahead of him on the depth chart, maybe they move him back to wide receiver to replace Cobb. He has a small salary, so it wouldn't hurt to hang on to him, but not as a running back.
6. Sign free agents Linsley and Burnett: Of the Pack's 11 unrestricted free agents, there are only three must signs, in my opinion: Adams, Linsley and Burnett. Linsley proved himself in 2018, staying healthy for the first time (and with no JC Tretter waiting in the wings). He has earned a new deal. The Burnett decision is a bit murkier, with the Packers having nice depth at the position. He remains the QB of the defense and the unit is stronger when he's out there. His ability to step in and play some linebacker was much needed and he played well there. Josh Jones may be an eventual replacement, but as long as Burnett doesn't demand a huge deal, the Packers defense needs his steadying presence for a few more years.
The other free agents could all be gone. In order, I'd be interested in trying to keep House, Rodgers, Brooks, Evans, Dial and Goode. It's time to move on from Janis and Goodson.
7. Give Rodgers a new deal: With two years left on his contract, this is the offseason to make Rodgers the highest paid player in the NFL. It will likely be structured to do the least damage to the cap long term, but this is an obvious move and one that will likely happen pretty quickly.
8. Bring in a veteran backup QB: I'm probably living in fantasy land here, since Hundley has one year left on his deal and likely won't be traded, since his performance in 2017 was beyond shaky. Obviously, we hope and expect Rodgers to stay healthy in 2018, but I'd rather see a proven, veteran QB at the wheel, should Rodgers go down. Imagine if the Packers had a guy like Josh McCown or Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. I think they'd be playing for something on Sunday.
9. Move Clay inside: Assuming the Packers' defense doesn't undergo a major scheme shift, it's time for Matthews to be an inside linebacker and play alongside Blake Martinez. He could be moved outside on obvious passing downs, but he can't be counted on to be a pass rushing stud down after down anymore. The Pack needs to identify a pass rusher in free agency to complement Nick Perry. Youngsters Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel and Gilbert will get more opportunities, but the team needs a major upgrade at OLB.
10. Try to find another FA tight end: We were all excited by the additions of Marcellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks but it turned out to be a failure, with Bennett quitting on the team and Kendricks showing a penchant for drops. With Rodgers a free agent, the team may be starting over here. There are plenty of productive tight ends out there. Thompson and his staff need to restock this position with a veteran or two, and then draft one in the spring.
Note: The season finale of "Packer Preview" airs this Sunday at 7am on KFAN. You'll also find it at iHeart Radio if you don't feel like waking up that early on New Year's Eve day. We'll go into further detail on the Pack's offseason and take an early look at next year's schedule.