The Green Bay Packers are in the middle of a championship push, but that doesn't mean speculation can't start on what the NFC North champions' roster will look like in 2013.
Big decisions await GM Ted Thompson. The team has some important roster decisions to make this offseason as the Packers face re-signing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews amongst others. The team still has a strong long term outlook, but the moves Thompson makes at the end of this season will have a significant impact on how long the Packers can continue their recent string of success.
Needless to say, the 2013 Packers will look very different from the 2012 version.
With all the drama surrounding Jermichael Finley this season, many were thinking it was possible Finley wouldn't serve the other half of his two-year deal in Green Bay.
This article by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel all but seals Finley's fate. He will be elsewhere in 2013. Despite Finley playing a solid game against the Chicago Bears in the immediate aftermath of this piece.
There are two reasons Finley won't be back in Green Bay next season: his hands and his mouth. Finley's penchant for dropping the ball has become so well known that Twitter explodes with sarcastic comments whenever he successfully reels a ball in, even if it's for a loss. The Green Bay Packers were hoping he'd be an all-world tight end, but you can't do that if you can't hang onto the ball.
Finley's mouth has also gotten him in trouble. From ill-conceived remarks from his agent about Aaron Rodgers to him publicly saying he's not happy, Finley is becoming more well known for off the field stuff than things on the field.
That doesn't fly in Thompson's view.
With all the pending free agents for the Green Bay Packers, the one player many thought the team needed to keep (aside from Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews) was Greg Jennings. You don't just replace a player of his caliber overnight.
Well, thanks to the continued stellar play of Jordy Nelson and the emergence of both Randall Cobb and James Jones, Jennings has suddenly become expendable. Throw in injury problems the past two seasons and the Packers no longer miss a beat on offense when Jennings isn't on the field.
This isn't to say that Jennings suddenly has become a mediocre receiver. Rather the Packers are so deep at receiver that the Packers can maintain their standard of excellence on offense and afford to let Jennings get a much larger contract elsewhere.
Throw in the fact that Greg Jennings said he thinks he is all but gone from Green Bay after this year according to SI.com and this is an easy call.
Michael McCarthy may be sticking with Mason Crosby for the remainder of the 2012 season, but that promises nothing in regards to 2013.
It's already unfathomable that the Green Bay Packers are even finishing this year with Crosby as their kicker, but it'd be even more crazy if they at the VERY least didn't bring in another kicker to compete with Crosby in the preseason.
It shouldn't and probably won't even get that far. Barring some heroics in the Super Bowl, Crosby is as good as gone and the Packers will either sign a free agent kicker or draft one in the later rounds in April.
Many were surprised that the Green Bay Packers brought back Donald Driver this season, but after the receiver took a pay cut and acknowledged he'd likely see reduced playing time, "Quickie" was back for what is very likely his last season in Titletown, USA and perhaps his final NFL season period.
It's a shame the way Driver's season has gone, but part of it is because of the emergence of Randall Cobb and James Jones—two receivers Driver very likely had a hand in helping develop into the stars they are becoming.
Even though he hasn't been on the field, Driver's presence can be felt in the locker room. Even though he won't be part of it next year, his legacy will last for a long time in Green Bay.
It was likely to be a one year experiment anyway, but when Cedric Benson went down earlier in the season with a foot injury, it was likely the last time Benson saw the field as a Green Bay Packer.
It was shaping up to be a good story, too. Benson, signed off the street by the Packers in training camp, was beginning to infuse life into a Packers running game that had been dormant for years. Benson also was endearing himself in the Packers locker room, which was a pleasant surprise given Benson's off-field troubles throughout his career.
Thanks to the improvement of Alex Green, the Packers won't bring Benson back next season. And also, thanks in part to his age. He did a lot of good while he was in Green Bay, but the Packers appear to be looking toward greener and younger pastures at running back.
This was a tough one. Charles Woodson is one of the most beloved Green Bay Packer defenders in franchise history and was the locker room leader.
That said, Woodson's on-field performance was beginning to diminish. The Packers hoped that by moving him to safety, they'd be able to more effectively use his playmaking ability. Sadly, while he still made impact plays from time to time, Woodson began to look like he had lost a step before being lost to a broken collarbone. It was visible in 2011 as well as this season.
You also have to consider the very strong play of the Packers' young secondary. Casey Hayward has played so well that you can't even tell Woodson is missing in the secondary. If Jerron McMillian can continue to improve, the Packers should be set at corner and safety for the foreseeable future.
Woodson very well could retire before Thompson could trade or cut him. This is the second time in three seasons Woodson has broken his collarbone so perhaps he will hang up the cleats this year before he suffers any more injuries.