The 8 Toughest Decisions the Green Bay Packers Will Have to Make This Offseason
The Green Bay Packers have a handful of difficult decisions to make this offseason. Well, eight difficult decisions to make exactly.
While the 2013 season certainly wasn't everything that it should have been, Green Bay still needs to be proud of what it was able to accomplish despite so much adversity. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Randall Cobb and outside linebacker Clay Matthews all injured for a good portion of the year, the Packers still managed to win the NFC North and make the playoffs.
Is there room for improvement heading into the 2014 season? Absolutely, and hopefully the Packers can make the right moves in order to become a better football team.
Here are the eight toughest decisions the Packers need to make this offseason. These decisions are a mix of what to do in free agency, in the NFL draft and with a handful of their own players under contract.
Should They Sign a Big-Name Free Agent?
The biggest difficult decision the Green Bay Packers face this year is whether or not to bring in a big-name free agent. General manager Ted Thompson certainly hasn't gone down this road in the past, but he may be forced to due to the many holes in Green Bay's roster.
The most obvious player that the Packers could target would be safety Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills used the franchise tag on Byrd last year and could do it again, but it'd cost them just over $8 million.
If Byrd doesn't re-sign with Buffalo and decides to test the free-agent market, it's hard to imagine the Packers not being interested. He would fix their biggest issue from the 2013 season and would provide an instant playmaker in the secondary.
However, Green Bay would almost certainly need to shell out some serious cash in order to bring him in. It would be difficult for the team to figure out, but it may be necessary for Green Bay to do in order to take that next step forward.
The last time the Packers really went out in free agency and spent money was when they signed former cornerback Charles Woodson. Signing Byrd could have a similar effect on the Packers defense in the foreseeable future.
Do They Restructure the Contracts of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb?
One way the Green Bay Packers could move some money around in the 2014 offseason would be to restructure the contracts of a handful of players. The two biggest names that could potentially receive new contracts are wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.
Both players are two of the better weapons for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and both players become unrestricted free agents in 2015. The reality of the situation is that Green Bay simply can't afford for both players to hit free agency, so they need to figure out how to make that not happen.
One way would be to restructure the contracts for both players. Another way would be to figure out just one player's contract and potentially use the franchise tag next year on the other. While that would be a rather expensive way to figure it out, the Packers may need to do that depending on how much money they have to spend this offseason.
The difficult part of this decision isn't whether or not the Packers need to restructure contracts; it's whether or not one or both of their star wide receivers should get new deals.
What Do They Do If Jermichael Finley Is Healthy?
This is a gigantic if, but if tight end Jermichael Finley is 100 percent healthy this offseason, what do the Green Bay Packers do?
Before his injury, Finley was having an outstanding season. He recorded 25 receptions, 300 yards and three touchdowns in just six games this season. However, the best part of his season was the fact that he only had one dropped pass in those six games.
Finley appeared to be more focused throughout the offseason and into the start of the season, which was great to see. However, unless Finley is completely healthy and willing to take a discounted contract to stay in Green Bay, it'd be hard to see the Packers deciding to re-sign him heading into the 2014 season.
Which Player Should They Target in the 1st Round of the Draft?
The Green Bay Packers and GM Ted Thompson have always been about drafting the best player available instead of drafting for need. This has been especially true in the early rounds of the draft.
Unfortunately, Green Bay may have too many holes in its roster to take this approach in the 2014 draft.
The biggest position of need right now is safety, and the consensus No. 1 safety in this year's draft is Alabama's Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix. However, it's certainly possible that Clinton-Dix won't be available with the 21st pick in the draft. That means Green Bay will either need to trade up to draft him or reach for another safety, such as Calvin Pryor from Louisville.
The tough decision for the Packers to make regarding the draft is which player they should target in the first round. If that player turns out to be Clinton-Dix, then Green Bay needs to do whatever it takes to add him to the roster.
Do They Re-Sign B.J. Raji?
The Green Bay Packers tried to re-sign defensive end B.J. Raji to a long-term contract during the 2013 season, but he turned it down. Then Raji went out and had the third-worst season for a 3-4 defensive end in the league, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Now the Packers are probably thankful that Raji didn't accept their earlier offer, because they'd be overpaying for his services. However, at a discounted rate, Raji would still have plenty of value for a Green Bay team that desperately needs help along the defensive line.
The big question is whether or not Raji will get a better contract on the open market than the Packers would be willing to give. If it looks like Raji wants more than the original $8 million per year that the Packers offered, then Green Bay simply can't afford to re-sign him.
However, should Raji be willing to make a deal to stay in Green Bay, then the Packers would have to be willing to re-sign him.
Does Matt Flynn Deserve to Stay in Green Bay?
There is no doubting that quarterback Matt Flynn played a huge part in the Green Bay Packers' making the playoffs this year.
However, you could also argue that Flynn was just as bad as he was good for the majority of his replacement time on the field. Now the Packers need to decide whether or not they need Flynn on the roster heading into the 2014 season.
They already have Aaron Rodgers and Scott Tolzien signed through next year, so re-signing Flynn would give them three quarterbacks on the roster. After this year's disaster at the quarterback position, having three quarterbacks on the roster makes quite a bit of sense.
However, having Flynn on the roster rather than a rookie quarterback the Packers could develop might be a mistake. Sure, Flynn understands the offense and has been productive in Green Bay, but he also has extremely limited upside.
With Tolzien already on the roster and a part of the future in Green Bay, it simply doesn't make sense for the Packers to re-sign Flynn.
Is There Enough Talent at the Running Back Position?
The current running backs on the Green Bay Packers roster for the 2014 season are Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris.
With James Starks and John Kuhn, players who had productive 2013 campaigns, both free agents this offseason, the Packers need to decide whether or not the trio of Lacy, Franklin and Harris is good enough to move forward with.
The Packers are obviously set with a starting running back after Lacy's rookie season. However, they simply can't know whether Franklin or Harris is ready to be Lacy's backup. That would ultimately mean that there isn't enough talent at running back.
If both Starks and Kuhn can be re-signed at a good value, then it absolutely makes sense for the Packers to bring them back. However, Green Bay also can't afford to spend a large amount of money on either player, so if they ask for too much, then the Packers will have to have enough talent with just Lacy, Franklin and Harris.
How Do the Packers Improve the Coaching Staff?
The Green Bay Packers coaching staff took quite a bit of criticism this past season. Most of it was pointed toward defensive coordinator Dom Capers, but the rest of the staff also had some issues that were called out.
Two members of the staff who were always praised were quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo and outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. Unfortunately, McAdoo is now the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, and Greene has decided to step away from coaching.
Replacing both Greene and McAdoo is going to be a difficult thing to do, but that's only the start of this difficult situation. The reality is that the Packers desperately need to improve their coaching staff.
Whether that means a change at defensive coordinator or bringing in some fresh blood, we're not really sure. However, the Packers simply can't move forward with their current staff and be pleased heading into the 2014 season.
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