John Dorsey was promoted to director of football operations earlier this week. His next promotion should be to general manager. You’ll hear the names Russ Ball, Eliot Wolf, Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider mentioned as possible successors to Ted Thompson, but nobody is more qualified for the top job than Dorsey. The 51-year-old played linebacker for the Packers from 1984 to 1988 and has spent 20 of the past 21 years working in the team’s front office. He has built a strong reputation as a talent evaluator. He’s also been very loyal to the organization. Since returning from a one-year stint with Seattle in 1999, Dorsey has turned down at least three opportunities to interview for GM openings with other teams. If he wants to be Thompson’s eventual successor, the job should be his. He’s earned it and he’d be great at it.
Based on their recent performances, newly signed defensive linemen Daniel Muir and Phillip Merling may not even make the final 53-man roster. The former was released by the worst team in football last season and the latter has recorded a grand total of 7 tackles and 0 sacks in the past 15 games. That said, I like both moves. There’s absolutely no downside to bringing in young veterans. At best, Muir and Merling will blossom under assistant coach Mike Trgovac’s tutelage. At worst, they’ll push young players like C.J. Wilson, Mike Neal and Jarius Wynn to get better. Plus, it’s costing the Packers absolutely nothing. Both players signed one-year contracts that included no guaranteed money.
No player will be more intriguing to watch this season than Sam Shields. After taking the league by storm as a rookie in 2010, the former college wide receiver regressed last season. How far did he fall? Far enough that Jarrett Bush replaced him on early downs in the divisional playoff game against the Giants. Not only was Shields timid (that’s putting it nicely) in run support, but he struggled to defend receivers he should’ve been able to cover in his sleep. He gave up 9 passes of 20 yards or more and 4.5 touchdowns. Most of his problems were due to sloppy technique and a propensity to peek into the backfield. The good news is that those two things are easily correctable. The Packers still have faith in Shields, but unlike last season, they figure to have a legitimate option to replace him in 2012. Second-round draft pick Casey Hayward of Vanderbilt has the intelligence and the instincts to play right away.
Second-year center Sampson Genus received quite a bit of publicity during the rookie orientation camp held earlier this month. The former South Florida star is one of three young players expected to battle for the backup center job. There’s a lot to like about Genus, but he has two things working against him – he’s small (6’0) and slow (5.58). For comparison’s sake, the average center in the NFL stands 6’3 and the top 10 center prospects in April’s draft averaged a 5.28 40. (Heck, NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen ran a 6.1 in a suit and dress shoes). The guess here is that journeyman Evan Dietrich-Smith will spend at least one more season as the backup center. As for Genus, he’ll likely have to beat out undrafted rookie Tommie Draheim of San Diego State for a spot on the practice squad.
Outside linebacker Nick Perry should’ve been born two years earlier. The first-round pick (No. 28 overall) from USC agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth $7.5 million a few weeks ago. The deal included a $4 million signing bonus. Not bad money – until you compare it to what the 28th pick in the 2010 draft received. Jared Odrick signed a five-year contract worth $13.1 million with the Dolphins ($7.2 million bonus). Here are the numbers for the other 7 draft choices: defensive end Jerel Worthy (4 years/$3.9M/$1.3SB); Casey Hayward (4/$3.3M/$847K); defensive end Mike Daniels (4/$2.4M/$300K); safety Jerron McMillian (4/$2.4M/$300K); linebacker Terrell Manning (4/$2.3M/$171K); offensive tackle Andrew Datko (4/$2.14M/$46K) and quarterback B.J. Coleman (4/$2.14M/$46K).
Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay and Brett Goode might be the best young trio in the NFL. Crosby, 27, is coming off his finest season. The former Colorado star hit 24 of 28 field goals and finished third in the league with 49 touchbacks. Masthay, 25, set team records for gross (45.6 yards) and net punting average (38.6) in 2011. Goode, 27, hasn’t had more than a handful of bad snaps since joining the Packers four years ago. The fact that many loyal fans don’t know his name is a testament to just how good he’s been. Crosby signed a long-term deal last summer. Look for Masthay and Goode – both underpaid at $540K and $676K respectively – to be extended within the next six months.