The Packers will likely spend close to $200 million in the next 12 months to extend quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews. That’s why the team is being very careful with its money this offseason. While GM Ted Thompson would love to keep ascending offensive lineman T.J. Lang and Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings – both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2013 – he may have to let them go. Jennings is obviously more of a priority, but his asking price figures to start at around $12 million a year. That might be too rich for the Packers – especially if Jordy Nelson proves himself capable of being a legitimate No. 1 receiver and Randall Cobb develops into a consistent offensive threat in his second season.
Safety Sean Richardson was one of the most sought-after undrafted rookies. Fourteen teams tried to sign the former Vanderbilt standout, but he chose the Packers. A lack of depth at the position, as well as Green Bay’s reputation for treating UDFAs fairly obviously played a part in his decision. Richardson looks like a first-round pick. He’s big (6’2, 216), fast (4.49) and strong (22 reps). Unfortunately, he didn’t play like a first-round pick in college. Or even a seventh-round pick. These “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” types almost never make it in the National Football League, but there’s no harm in taking a look at him in training camp. His best chance to make the final 53-man roster is to excel on special teams. His size and straight-line speed should serve him very well in this capacity, but some experts question whether he has the requisite toughness.
Thompson didn’t close the door on re-signing Ryan Grant until he was confident that Alex Green would be fully recovered from his ACL surgery by the start of training camp. Head coach Mike McCarthy was so impressed by Green’s development last season that he was prepared to make the rookie a big part of the offense heading into the playoffs. Unfortunately, the torn ACL put an end to those plans. The one good thing that came from the injury was the emergence of Brandon Saine. The former Ohio State star showed soft hands and the ability to pass protect. He also ran harder than he ever did in college. The Packers feel good enough about these three young backs to move on from Grant.
Some cynics suggest Eliot Wolf‘s rapid ascent up the organizational ladder has as much to do with Thompson’s loyalty to Ron Wolf as it does with his ability to judge talent, but there’s a problem with that theory. In the past 12 months, two other teams have tried to hire the 30-year-old. Philadelphia came calling in May 2011 and Oakland made inquiries just a few months ago. In each case, Thompson promoted Wolf in order to keep him. It remains to be seen what happens the next time a team calls. Besides offering him more money and/or the promise of replacing Thompson, there’s really nothing else the Packers can do to keep Wolf. He’s risen as high as he can go in the front office.
Joe Philbin recently admitted to the Miami media that he played only a small role in the development of Rodgers. He wasn’t being modest, he was being truthful. As offensive coordinator, Philbin spent very little time with the reigning league MVP during practices. Don’t expect former quarterbacks coach and new offensive coordinator Tom Clements to be quite as hands off. With unproven vet Graham Harrell, ex-AFLer Nick Hill and seventh-round draft choice B.J. Coleman vying for the backup job, new quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo will need all the help he can get.