Jolly Follows the Purple Brick Road out of Green Bay
If the Green Bay Packers had any serious plans for Johnny Jolly in 2011, they might as well throw them in the nearest garbage.
With Jolly's arrest on Friday, the chances of his reinstatement to the NFL for next season went from probable to nearly inconceivable.
In fact, Jolly has a considerably better chance of seeing the inside of jail cell than he does a football field over the next calendar year.
A second arrest for the crime (possessing codeine) you were already suspended for will do that, but this isn't to bash Jolly—we all know how badly he's screwed up over the past 18 or so months.
This column is solely about the Packers. So what does Jolly's arrest mean for Green Bay moving forward?
Obviously, the initial consequence is that the Packers will once again be without Jolly's services for next season.
While the Packers won the Super Bowl without him, Jolly dominated at times in 2009 and was a big part of their second-ranked rushing defense that season.
However, the team never needed him back in 2010 and that remains the case for next year as well.
Now, some will say, "Since Jolly isn't coming back, we have to re-sign Cullen Jenkins."
On the surface, that seems like a logical assessment. If you really think about it, however, there's not much substance behind it.
That's because losing Jenkins to free agency never had anything to do with Jolly or his future.
Surely, getting Jolly back would have helped ease part of loss, but it was never a driving factor for whether or not Jenkins would be re-signed.
To think that a guy who hasn't played football since Jan. 10, 2010 would be the Packers' answer to losing one of the better players on the team just doesn't add up.
Jenkins will probably be playing elsewhere next season because he's 30 years old and will command a hefty price tag. That rang true before Jolly's arrest, and it's no different now that he's out of the Packers' plans.
GM Ted Thompson drafted Mike Neal high last season for that reason—he knew the days with Jenkins anchoring one side of the defensive line were coming to an end.
Neal showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, and the Packers' future at defensive end was and remains tied much more to him than it ever did to Jolly.
While the depth at that position is an issue pre-draft, Jolly was simply never the magical answer to the probable departure of Jenkins when free agency finally begins.
It's always tempting to try and connect the dots after something like this, but you have to be careful drawing conclusions without looking at the whole picture.
Could the Packers Move Up in the First Round?
Thompson has only moved up in the draft three times during his time as Packers general manager—in '08 to get Jeremy Thompson in the fourth round, in '09 to steal Clay Matthews at the end of the first and last year's draft to get Morgan Burnett in the third.
Overall, however, trading up in the draft goes against what Thompson typically wants to do.
In most cases, you're forced to give up several picks to trade up, and Thompson likes having a good number of selections to increase the chances of hitting on a prospect.
In theory, that makes sense. If you're confident in your talent evaluations—and Thompson most certainly is—bringing in more prospects you like, regardless of where you draft them, increases the probability of finding good football players.
Even without a new draft class this year, the Packers would probably have been forced to cut a handful of quality players to make the 53-man limit. Remember, 15 players are also returning from the injured reserve.
With that in mind, this year's draft would seem like the perfect opportunity to move up. If a portion of the Packers draft will have a hard time making the team, why not?
That thinking process leaves out many of the obstacles in the way of making that happen.
First, the Packers would have to identify a player they want.
That guy could be Von Miller, J.J. Watt or some other prospect, but we really have no idea.
For the sake of argument, and to keep in sync with Kevin Seifert's analysis, let's assume that player is Miller.
As Seifert states, Miller is a probable top-10 pick come April's draft. He modestly assigns Miller to the seventh pick (he's probably top five), or where the Packers would have to trade up to in order to draft Miller.
According the draft value chart, that seventh overall pick is worth 1,500 points. The Packers 32nd pick is worth just 590.
Seifert goes on to say that the Packers would need to trade the rest of their draft picks in 2011 and they still wouldn't match the 1,500 points to make it an even deal value-wise.
And because their is currently no CBA, the Packers would be unable to include players in any potential deal to move up.
Finally, the team in possession of the seventh pick would need an interest in moving out of that selection—something that a new CBA could make tricky. With a rookie wage scale almost certainly coming, there will be little monetary incentive to move down for a team in the top 10.
When you add in all these factors, the scenario of Green Bay moving up to get a player such as Miller is probably nothing more than a dream. Dreamers can dream, however.
A more likely scenario—if the Packers wanted to move up—would be for Green Bay to find a way into the late teens (No. 18 pick is worth 900 points) or early 20's (22 is worth 780).
Even then, the Packers would have to seriously fall in love with a prospect that they know won't make it to pick 32, because making up the 200-300 points would likely cost them their second-rounder (worth 270).
While it might make sense for the Packers to move up in this year's draft, the value numbers suggest that Thompson will stick to his guns at 32 and possibly even trade back if he can improve his positioning in later rounds.
But if we've learned anything over the past season of Packers football, it's to trust the plan that Thompson has in place.
If Green Bay does in fact hold steady at No. 32, he'll still find a good football player at that spot. And if he uncharacteristically wants to bet the house on a player higher in the draft, he might find a great one.
Don't get your hopes up for the latter scenario, but take comfort in the fact that Thompson will be the one pulling the trigger either way come late-April.