6 Questions the Green Bay Packers Must Answer This Offseason
For the first time in a few years, uncertainty awaits the Green Bay Packers entering the offseason.
The Packers fell out of the playoffs in the divisional round for the second year in a row, and the team faces many crucial decisions in regards to the roster.
What GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy do in the coming months will greatly affect whether the Packers remain in the NFL's upper echelon or fall back into the pack.
The team is at a crossroads, so what questions must the Packers answer if they want to be in contention for a trip to New Jersey for Super Bowl XLVIII?
Here's a look at the big ones.
Are They Committed to Dom Capers?
During his end-of-season press conference, McCarthy basically declared that Capers would return for a fifth season as defensive coordinator, but then backtracked and left the door open for Capers to be fired.
While it grows increasingly likely Capers will return, the question is: How much commitment do the Packers truly have towards him?
His contract was allegedly up after this season, and after a defensive meltdown against the 49ers, it seems unlikely he will get much more than maybe a two-year contract.
Would Capers sign a deal with one year guaranteed and the second year as a team option? That's unknown at this point.
It will be interesting to see how much movement the Packers make to try and improve a defense that was statistically better this year, but yet again imploded in the playoffs.
What to Do with Jermichael Finley?
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There is no more polarizing player on the Packers roster than Finley. After he started the season with the same drop issues he had in 2011, plus questionable comments being attributed to either him or his agent, Finley finished the year strong.
Earlier in the season, it seemed a near certainty Finley would not return in 2013, but thanks to a strong finish, it's very possible he will return to the Packers for the second year of his two-year contract.
If the Packers lose wide receiver Greg Jennings (more on him later), then keeping Finley would be a good idea.
He has a long way to go before endearing himself to the Packers' passionate fanbase, but his play to end the year showed that Finley may finally be on the way to realizing the potential that he showed early in his career.
Should Charles Woodson Be Released?
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Last year, if you had said the Packers' secondary would not miss a beat and actually play well with the loss of Woodson for an extended period of time, you would have been labeled insane.
Instead, that's exactly what happened in 2012. The emergence of rookie Casey Hayward, plus the improvement of Sam Shields as well as Morgan Burnett, has the Packers facing a tough decision in regards to Woodson.
Should he choose not to retire, could the Packers actually release the emotional leader of their locker room? Thompson's refusal to let sentiment interfere with his roster decisions shows it's a definite possibility. Woodson missed games with a broken collarbone and has definitely lost a step.
That and the play of the young secondary could spell the end of Woodson's time as a Packer.
Is Greg Jennings Worth Big Bucks?
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At one point, Jennings was right alongside Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews as a "must re-sign" Packer who was approaching free agency.
Instead, thanks to the emergence of Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, it looks like the Packers may be able to afford the departure of Jennings and not miss a beat on offense.
With Jennings likely looking for a big contract elsewhere, it seems unlikely the Packers will bring him back.
That said, opposing defenses play the Packers differently if Jennings is on the field. He doesn't possess the most freakish athletic skills, but Jennings is a rare breed who can make the tough yards after the catch.
Whether the Packers bring him back or not, Jennings will go down as one of the best receivers in franchise history.
Are They Committed to Running the Ball?
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The Packers made a statement during training camp last summer when they signed running back Cedric Benson off the street.
They sent the message that despite their record-setting aerial attack in 2011, they would be committed to a more balanced offense in 2012 in order to take some pressure off of Rodgers.
When Benson went down for the year with a foot injury, DuJuan Harris emerged as the featured back for the Packers.
The question the team must answer this offseason is whether they're truly interested in developing a stout running game. If they are, Harris may not be a three-down back for the entire season, which means the Packers will have to draft one.
How early the Packers take a running back will show how serious they are about establishing a running game.
Kick Crosby to the Curb?
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The fact that Crosby had a bad season in 2012 is not exactly breaking news.
McCarthy took a lot of heat for not bringing in a kicker during the season to compete with Crosby, whose confidence seemed to vanish for a majority of the season.
Luckily, his cold streak never came back to bite the Packers, and the blowout loss to the 49ers never gave Crosby a chance to blow the game.
Crosby did regain some accuracy late in the season, but bringing in another kicker to compete with him should be on the "to-do" list for McCarthy this offseason.
They probably won't luck out again with another Crosby cold streak.