While others have been predicting the final roster for weeks, we’ve patiently waited until today to take our best shot. And while things could certainly change between now and Saturday, here’s the way we see it:
Quarterbacks (2) – This is easy. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn on the active roster and Graham Harrell goes to the practice squad. The former Texas Tech standout lacks a strong arm, but he showed vast improvement over the course of the summer and deserves a chance to further develop under coach Mike McCarthy and assistant Tom Clements.
Running backs (2) – Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson are locks. Kregg Lumpkin should be No. 3 if GM Ted Thompson decides to keep a third player at this position. We wouldn’t. Fullback John Kuhn could get the team through a game in an emergency and Quinn Porter – or somebody else – can be stashed on the practice squad for long-term security.
Fullbacks (2) – Kuhn and Korey Hall fit the offense and contribute on special teams. Quinn Johnson does neither. Keeping two fullbacks isn’t a problem – especially when you consider that any of the tight ends could fill in at this position if needed.
Tight ends (5) – Jermichael Finley is a lock, but choosing among Donald Lee, Andrew Quarless, Spencer Havner and Tom Crabtree won’t be easy. Each player adds something different to the mix. We’d keep five and go with only four wide receivers since all of the backup tight ends are better players than Brett Swain.
Wide receivers (5) – Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson might be the best group of wide receivers in the league. None of the contenders for the No. 5 spot have stepped up this summer, and with Finley’s ability to split out wide, the Packers could definitely get by with only four players at this position. The only way we’d keep a fifth is if Jason Chery does enough in his audition as a returner on Thursday night to force his way onto the roster.
Offensive linemen (10) – Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Mark Tauscher, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga are locks. Marshall Newhouse has improved throughout the summer and deserves to make the team. Releasing him would be as big a mistake as letting Jamon Meredith go a year ago. The final two spots should go to Jason Spitz and Evan Dietrich-Smith, but we’d look to trade Spitz and keep the younger and healthier Dietrich-Smith. There’s no room and no need for Breno Giacomini and Allen Barbre.
Defensive linemen (6) – Ryan Pickett, Cullen Jenkins, B.J. Raji and Mike Neal are locks and arguably the only players truly deserving of a spot on the final 53. Justin Harrell is the next best defensive end and will probably make the team, but he didn’t finish strong. Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson, Ronald Talley and Anthony Toribio are just guys. Give Wynn a slight edge for the sixth and final spot, but you’d like to think GM Ted Thompson can acquire a better prospect after final cuts.
Linebackers (8) – Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop are locks and Brady Poppinga looks to be safe for another season. The coaches seem to really like Frank Zombo and he’ll probably stick, but we’d keep only seven players at this position. Since Chillar can play outside in an emergency, why not put Zombo on the practice squad and hold on to a better player at another position? If the Packers decide to keep an eighth linebacker, that person should come from outside the organization.
Defensive backs (10) – Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Brandon Underwood (if healthy) and Derrick Martin are locks and Sam Shields is close to it. Pat Lee has had a disappointing summer, but he’s a former second-round pick who’ll probably get one more season to prove his worth. Will Blackmon hasn’t shown much on defense, but he’s the best returner on the team and should be safe if his knee is OK. Jarrett Bush, Charlie Peprah or a safety acquired after final cuts will be the 10th defensive back. We’d be willing to carry **Al Harris on the active roster if there was a chance he could be ready to play early in the season.
Specialists (3) – Kicker Mason Crosby and long snapper Brett Goode are locks. Punters Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan have been dead even throughout the summer, but Masthay may have pulled ahead at the end.
*Players in bold are projected to be part of the 53-man roster
**Harris was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list on Tuesday, so we removed him from the 53-man roster and replaced him with WR/KR Jason Chery.