Green Bay Packers' Top Remaining Offseason Priorities
After remaining quiet during free agency, the Green Bay Packers' top remaining offseason priorities have come into view. As always with the Ted Thompson-led Packers, retaining their own players and drafting well continue to be the main goals of the team.
While many fans wanted the Packers to spend money to bring in big-name free agents, the Packers sustained their approach and have now freed up a good amount of money. That space can be used to lock up the Packers' own star players.
Here is a look at the Packers' biggest offseason priorities.
Extend Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews is entering the final year of his contract and the Packers need to get a deal in place to lock up their top defensive player. His play during the first four years of his career has been remarkable. While the Packers defense has struggled over the last two seasons, Matthews has been the biggest bright spot.
While injuries have been a question during Matthews' early career, it isn't a big enough concern to warrant much discussion in terms of Matthews getting a large sum of money.
Matthews could be looking at a new contract that could potentially raise his cap number to around $10 million. That would put Matthews as the second-highest paid player on the team, assuming Aaron Rodgers gets a massive new deal.
Extend Aaron Rodgers
While it's not the most pressing priority, it appears time for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers to work out a deal that will make Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that negotiations are underway and the two sides are closing in on getting a deal done.
A four-year extension would ensure Rodgers is in Green Bay through the pinnacle of his career. While there are two years left on Rodgers' current deal, he's earned a pay raise.
There isn't much concern that a deal won't get done, but timing is an issue. Once a deal is completed, the Packers can then move on and use the rest of their cap space to lock up Clay Matthews and figure out how to best utilize their remaining funds.
Improve the Defensive Line
Since Cullen Jenkins departed following the 2010 season, the Packers have had a major hole on the defensive line. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett have held down their positions, but no other player has been able to finalize the trio.
After letting the free-agent market play out, the Packers ended up without an established lineman. The likeliest scenario for the Packers is adding a player in the draft. How the team views Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels will likely determine how soon into the draft the Packers draft a lineman.
This draft class has a lot of talent and depth at the position. If the Packers fall in love with a player, they could be a team to watch with regard to trading up. If they think Worthy (if healthy) or Daniels can be the guy, they may wait until later in the draft.
Figure Out the Running Game
The Packers' issues running the ball have been well documented throughout Aaron Rodgers' tenure as the starting quarterback. Heading into the 2013 season, the Packers have a decent outlook at the position.
DuJuan Harris is fully capable of taking on a much bigger role within the Packers offense next season. He came on incredibly strong down the stretch, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. In the six games he played, including the playoffs, he scored four touchdowns.
While Harris should have a big impact, the Packers could be in the market for another back. Heading into the regular season, the Packers stable of backs should include Harris, Cedric Benson (should be re-signed), Alex Green and a rookie.
In a rookie, the Packers would be better suited getting a speed-back that can add something in the passing game.
Protect Aaron Rodgers
If the Packers are going to commit a huge amount of their future to Aaron Rodgers, they need to make sure that he is protected. At times during 2012, he had decent protection and was able to sit back and pick apart defenses. At other moments, Rodgers was running for life and taking multiple hits.
The left tackle position remains an issue as Marshall Newhouse has failed to take his play to the next level. Derek Sherrod could challenge him at the position if he's able to fully recover from the broken leg he suffered in 2011.
The Packers also need Bryan Bulaga to come back full strength from his hip injury.
At center, Evan Dietrich-Smith was an upgrade from Jeff Saturday, but it seems that the Packers could get even more from the position. Drafting a center could be an option to eventually take over for Dietrich-Smith.