by Mario Granata
What do you do when you have the top scoring offense in the NFL? You say you are not going to call plays anymore. HC Mike McCarthy is the last of a rare breed of individuals in the NFL today, and to better focus on the overall scope of the game, he is relieving himself of those duties. Relax, Mike, you have a 2x NFL MVP, and a guy who has averaged 35 TDs to 6 Ints the past 4 years. Take care of the rest of the roster, and especially this offseason.
The Green Bay Packers were on the threshold of vindication for the ‘Fail Mary’ and many would have like to see a pair of 12s go at it in Super Bowl XLIX, but an overtime bomb, that was caught, did the Packers in. For most teams, the Packers have a lot of room to work with: 33 million dollars to be exact. This is due to a 7 million dollar rollover from 2014, and the Packers have some choices to make if they hope to get back to the mountaintop in 2015.
In many of the ‘On the Clock’ articles would suggest, many of the top contracts on most of the teams could be restructured to make some room for some notable free agents. However, the contracts for QB Aaron Rodgers, LB Clay Matthews and DE/OLB Julius Peppers don’t have much wiggle room.
Of Aaron Rodgers 18 million dollar cap number for 2015, only 1 million of that is his base salary, while the other is tied up in roster bonus and signing bonus. A quarterback that can truly call himself the best of the best, the Packers don’t need to touch his contract right now.
Clay Matthews has proven his versatility and value to the team by playing multiple positions in DC Dom Capers’ scheme. His cap figure is 12 million.
Julius Peppers is the NFL’s version of the modern iron man. Peppers hasn’t missed a game in the past 5 seasons, and has played in a total of 202 of 208 games in his pro career. His cap number sits at 12 million and will cost the Packers 5 million in dead money if they let him go. Smart money would be to keep him where he is, even in the 14 year of his career coming up.
The big name of the Packers offseason is Randall Cobb. With the recent contract that went to Jordy Nelson, to the tune of 4 years, 39 million, Cobb will more than likely want at least that amount. Cobb had similar numbers to Nelson last season and if the Packers want to keep using his many talents, they have the cap room to do so. Plus, Cobb is 5 years younger than Nelson, so a long-term deal could be a smart move, provided he can stay on the field free from injury.
With the Packers surrendering 120 yards per game on the ground last season, signing DT BJ Raji should happen just after they ink Cobb. Green Bay allowed more than 100 yard rushing in 12 games last season, and if they want to stop Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, and Joique Bell this season, they need to have a force in the middle of Capers’ 3-4 alignment. Now, the fact that Raji was on IR last season could work in favor of the Pack, but time will tell if he might be more coveted in another city.
If the Packers can’t resign Raji, look for them to take Letroy Guion at a cheaper price.
As stated on the Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale if a player is selected in the first round, the team that selects him will have a 5th year option on his contract if the team chooses to pick it up. This is what the Minnesota Vikings did in last year’s draft with Teddy Bridgewater. The Packers don’t have any glaring ‘needs’ that they need to address, so if the phone rings with a team who wants to have a player with the 5th year option, Green Bay might trade out.
If they don’t trade out, and they can’t come to terms with Raji or Guion, they might look toward Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma) or Eddie Goldman (FSU).
Phillips 6’5” 329 is an ideal two-gap player who can work with Capers’ scheme and can cause some trouble up front for opponents.
Goldman can make plays from the NT position, not just being a player who will plug the middle, but doesn’t generate much of a pass rush.
Either of these selections would fit with the Packers.
Green Bay might have tipped their hand with the recent release of AJ Hawk. If that is the case, look for ILB Eric Kendricks (UCLA), Benardrick McKinney (Miss St) or Stephone Anthony (Clemson) to be the selection.
Kendricks has some NFL pedigree with his brother Mychal being a linebacker for the Eagles, but might be better suited in a 4-3 due to his size.
McKinney recorded a 40-inch vertical to go along with a 4.66 40-time, and could be the defining factor for Martellus Bennett, Eric Ebron and Kyle Ruldolph in the NFC North.
Anthony blew away the 40 with a 4.56 and seems to be more athletic than instinctive.
With 33 million to work with for the 2015 season, the Packers have their pick to get one big name free agent, or if they want to keep the players that they have, and have the option to trade out of the first round, they have the cash and a stable of players already on the roster to do so. The true test for the Pack in 2015 will be how long McCarthy can hold out not calling plays if the offense starts to have a hiccup here and there. Who’s taking bets on how long it will take for Rodgers to tell him to R-E-L-A-X? I’m guessing Week 5.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale (First Round Breakdown)