6 Positions the Green Bay Packers Must Upgrade Before 2014 Season
After an up-and-down 2013 season, there are a handful of positions the Green Bay Packers need to upgrade before the 2014 campaign.
While the Packers remain one of the better teams in the NFL, there is no denying that they need to introduce some new talent on the roster. For example, no one would argue with you if you said that the safeties for Green Bay were rather underwhelming this past season.
Today we are going to rank the positions that need help from the least to the most and look at how the Packers might be able to best upgrade those needs.
6. Offensive Tackle
The Green Bay Packers were put into a really difficult position when Bryan Bulaga went down with a season-ending injury in the offseason. However, rookie David Bakhtiari stepped in and displayed flashes of starter potential.
However, he and right tackle Don Barclay certainly had their fair share of struggles during the 2013 season. In fact, Barclay was graded as the 54th-best offensive tackle in the league and Bakhtiari was the 60th-best according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
With Bulaga returning next year, it might seem on the surface like the Packers don't need to upgrade this position. However, the Packers could use some depth and a little more production from their offensive tackles.
The best way for them to do this is to spend a mid-round or late-round pick on an offensive tackle that they feel they can develop in the near future. This certainly isn't the biggest need, and it'd be a stretch to say it's even a big need, but it's a position that could use at least a little upgrade this offseason.
5. Outside Linebacker
It may sound a little absurd to say the Green Bay Packers need to upgrade their outside linebackers, but it is absolutely the truth. All you have to do is look at the production from this group of players to see just how much they struggled this year.
Despite only playing his second year, Nick Perry continues to look like a first-round bust. He finished the year with only 28 total tackles and four sacks and really struggled whenever he was forced into coverage.
Another reason the Packers need at least a little upgrade at outside linebacker is because of the depth behind Perry and Clay Matthews. Sure, Mike Neal looked good in his first year at the position, but he's a free agent this year whom Green Bay could decide to not re-sign.
And once you get past Neal, there is Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer, neither of whom are ready for huge roles on defense.
The Packers don't necessarily need to bring in a big-name free agent or a high draft pick to upgrade this position. However, they'll need to add a solid player who can produce from day one in order for the outside linebackers to once again become a dominant unit.
4. Defensive Tackle
The Green Bay Packers really only had two true defensive tackles on their roster for the 2013 season. One was rookie Josh Boyd and the other was Ryan Pickett, who is now a free agent.
While Boyd had some success in extremely limited time during his rookie campaign, it'd be a stretch for him to become the full-time starter next season. That means the Packers need another solution at defensive tackle.
One option would be to re-sign Pickett to a short contract. However, he'll be 35 years old during the 2014 season, and his play took a step back last year, especially against the run.
The problem with upgrading this position in the offseason is that they'll almost certainly need to find a player through the draft. The only quality defensive tackles who are free agents this offseason are Randy Starks and Paul Soliai of the Miami Dolphins, and both players are better suited for a 4-3 defense.
Look for the Packers to use one of their earlier picks to improve the overall production from their defensive tackles.
3. Defensive End
The Green Bay Packers are in a difficult situation with their defensive ends due to the lack of overall production from the unit during the 2013 season.
The Packers have to make decisions on whether to re-sign B.J. Raji, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson. Of those three players, Jolly is really the only one who played well enough to earn a contract next year.
If they let Wilson and Raji walk, the Packers would be left with Jolly, Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels at defensive end. While that group certainly has potential, there are simply too many questions for the Packers to be pleased with them heading into next season.
Once again, this group doesn't need a huge upgrade like an expensive free agent or first-round pick, but it will need a player who can play productive snaps in his first year with the team.
2. Tight End
The current tight ends under contract for the 2014 season are Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner and Brandon Bostick. That trio will not instill fear into any defense in the league.
The Green Bay Packers top two tight ends (Andrew Quarless and Jermichael Finley) are both free agents, and it's possible that the Packers could not re-sign either of them. If that happens, a name to keep an eye on for Green Bay during free agency is Fred Davis of the Washington Redskins. Davis has a very similar skill set to Finley and still has plenty of upside.
However, even if the Packers do bring back Quarless, they will still need to upgrade this position, it just won't be as needed. While Quarless was productive for a handful of games this past season, he's yet to prove he can truly be a team's No. 1 tight end.
Should the Packers decide to stay away from free agents or just re-sign Quarless, don't be surprised if they target a tight end in the early rounds of the draft. They'll need a player who can come in right away and produce, so they should daft one either in the first or second round.
Improving the tight ends could take the Packers offense to a whole new level in 2014.
The fact that the safety position needs the biggest upgrade shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Throughout the 2013 season, the Green Bay Packers failed to get any type of consistent production from any of their safeties. Jerron McMillian started for the injured Morgan Burnett early in the season, but he played so poorly that he was eventually released during the season.
As for Burnett, he was a major disappointment once he was healthy. He failed to ever become the leader of the secondary, and his playmaking skills, with which he had thrived in recent seasons, were completely absent.
The other starting safety, M.D. Jennings, was even worse than Burnett, finishing the season as the 67th-best safety in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Luckily, Jennings is a free agent this season, and it'd be a major surprise if the Packers offer him any type of contract.
In order to upgrade this position, Green Bay either needs to spend an early draft pick on a player who can make an instant impact or spend some serious money in free agency on a quality veteran.