4 Players the Green Bay Packers Will Miss the Most in 2013
It's the circle of life in the NFL: teams lose beloved players and face the unenviable task of replacing them.
For the Green Bay Packers, this hit home pretty hard this offseason. The team let go of its locker room leader and watched one of their best receivers sign with a division rival. As if that wasn't bad enough, Green Bay's all-time leading receiver retired and leaves a big hole in the hearts of both his teammates and fans.
The Packers now move on to try and replace these players. After standing pat in free agency, which is the norm for Green Bay under GM Ted Thompson, they will try to replace these departed veterans with the next generation through the NFL draft. It's worked wonders for Thompson so far in his tenure, but fans remain uneasy about losing so many "big name" contributors.
Here are the four players the Packers will miss the most in 2013.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it's not for the reason one may expect.
Jennings was a big part of the Packers' offense from 2006 through the team's Super Bowl XLV triumph after the 2010 season. He missed half of 2012 with injury and was overshadowed by Jordy Nelson in 2011.
This may sound like Green Bay won't miss Jennings, but that's not the case at all.
Jennings was the Packers' downfield, home run threat at wide receiver. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones are very good receivers, but they don't present the same physical deep threat that Jennings did.
The Packers may not have needed Jennings as far as statistics, but just his physical presence on the field will be greatly missed because of what it allowed the other receivers to do. While defenses focused on No. 85, Nelson, Cobb and/or Jones were usually open elsewhere.
Will they have the same luxury in 2013? Time will tell.
Benson may not have been as long-tenured in Green Bay as the others on this list, but the Packers are going to miss him nonetheless.
After he signed with Green Bay late in the summer, Benson finally got the Packers' rushing attack going in a way they haven't had since Ryan Grant in 2009. He was averaging only 3.5 yards per carry before he went down for the season with a foot injury, but he was gaining momentum each week and the Packers didn't really need 125-plus yards a game from Benson anyways.
Instead, he was a player that defenses had to respect and that in turn took some pressure off of Aaron Rodgers on every play. Who knows what could have happened with Benson if he had not gotten hurt.
Benson remains a free agent so a return to the Packers is a possibility, but that probably won't happen until after the NFL draft is over. Green Bay needs the running back position to be stable in the long term.
That said, they'll still miss what Benson brings to the table.
The Packers won't miss Driver because of his numbers, but they will miss him for another reason: leadership.
In short, Driver's final season in Green Bay was an embarrassment and that's not because of his performance on the field. He spent so much time on the bench that he volunteered to play special teams.
That's sad for the team's all-time leading receiver, but it also speaks volumes about the leadership he brought to the locker room: everyone can do the dirty work regardless of if they're a seventh-round pick or one of the team's all-time greats.
The fans will miss him probably the most, but Driver's impact on the Packers' young receivers like Cobb cannot be underestimated. The wide receiver position is a selfish one by nature, but Driver never made it about himself like so many others do. Maybe that's why the unit has had so much success in recent years. Not because of Driver himself, but because of that mindset.
He'll be missed for sure.
Much like Driver, the loss of Woodson hurts the Packers' leadership more than it does the on-field product.
Woodson was the heart of the Green Bay defense and the leader of the locker room. When he spoke, people listened. Any Packers fan who says they don't get emotional listen to Woodson's speech after the Packers won the NFC Championship in Chicago is either lying or has no soul.
He saw his play decline the last couple years and his move to safety for 2012 signified that. Woodson also broke his collarbone for the second time in three years and it was clear he had lost a step in coverage. He still had to be respected by opposing offenses based on his past, however.
Still, Woodson had a Hall of Fame-worthy career and you can't just replace someone like that overnight.
Woodson has yet to sign with a team, but a return to Green Bay seems highly unlikely.