Breaking Down What Packers' Offseason Moves Mean for the NFL Draft
The Green Bay Packers haven't made many moves this offseason, with most of their news coming from losing players or missing out on players to other teams. As usual with the Packers, most of their offseason focus will be on the draft.
They have historically used the draft to build their team and placed an emphasis on retaining their own players. Much of the cap space the Packers have created this offseason will go toward paying their top three players, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, who are all set for big-time extensions in the near future.
While the Packers have remained very quiet during free agency, their lack of movement has shed some light on how they approach the draft.
Missing out on Steven Jackson
While the Packers' interest in Steven Jackson seemed uncharacteristic, it would have likely been a great addition for Green Bay. After missing out on Jackson, the Packers have already been linked to former New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Assuming the Packers opt not to spend money on an aging back in free agency, they will turn to the draft.
One option for the Packers is Eddie Lacy in the first round. The best running back in the draft class, Lacy's power running style could work in Green Bay. Last season at Alabama, Lacy averaged 6.5 yards per carry on his way to 1,322 total rushing yards.
If the Packers aren't comfortable using their first pick on a running back, there are other options later in the draft. The diminutive Giovani Bernard is a fit in the second round, while Kenjon Barner, Christine Michael or La'Veon Bell could be options in the middle rounds.
No Chris Canty
The Packers brought in Chris Canty for a visit, but injury concerns ended their pursuit of the veteran defensive lineman.
Since Cullen Jenkins left the team following the 2010 season, the Packers haven't been able to successfully find a player capable of having a consistent impact. In the 2011 draft, the Packers brought in Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels. Both players showed flashes of being playmakers during their rookie seasons, but neither was able to do so consistently.
Depending on the severity of Worthy's injury, the Packers may feel a need to use a high draft pick to bring in a defensive lineman. There is plenty of depth at the position in the first round should the Packers go that route.
Where the Packers pick a lineman will largely depend on where they see value and with what level of urgency they view the need at the position.
Greg Jennings' Departure
The Packers do have the depth at wide receiver to replace Jennings with little problem, but James Jones entering the final year of his contract makes things a little more precarious. Jones, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson give the team an incredible trio of wide receivers that is hard to match around the league.
Beyond those three, the Packers have Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross in the mix. They showed some ability last season, but remain largely unproven.
That could lead general manager Ted Thompson to add another weapon for Aaron Rodgers. He's had no problem finding talent in the draft, usually in the mid-rounds. Players the Packers could grab in the second or third rounds include Markus Wheaton, Da'Rick Rogers and Stedman Bailey.
Charles Woodson Released
The Packers made a tough decision to release Charles Woodson. The veteran safety gave everything he had to Green Bay and was an integral part of the Packers bringing back the Lombardi Trophy to its rightful home.
Now the Packers must turn their attention toward replacing Woodson. This is tricky because of what Woodson offered during his tenure with the team, especially during the last few seasons. He played a mixture of positions including safety and cornerback.
Casey Hayward offers some of the skills that Woodson possessed, especially around the slot. The second-year player will be asked to increase his production and make more plays around the line of scrimmage while also providing solid coverage skills.
In the draft, the Packers bigger priority will be adding a safety to pair with Morgan Burnett. M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian were unable to claim the job last season. Jonathan Cyprien is a great option for the Packers in the first round. He would give the Packers a playmaking safety who is capable of laying the wood on the opposing offense.
A.J. Hawk's Restructured Contract
A.J. Hawk restructured his contract to give the Packers more cap space and keep his roster spot. The reduced cap hit should ensure that Hawk is in Green Bay next season. With Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith coming back from injury, the Packers should be in decent shape in regard to the inside linebacker position.
The Packers also re-signed Robert Francois, who expects to compete during training camp. That should indicate that the Packers feel fairly comfortable with the mix of players they have at the position. Brad Jones remains unsigned, but could also be back for the right price.
This doesn't mean the Packers won't grab an inside linebacker during the draft. It simply gives them the flexibility to add an inside linebacker whenever they would receive good value.