Fri, 23 Apr 2021

Inbox: There aren't many like him

Packers
25 Feb 2021, 17:12 GMT+10

One way or another, there will be a football team to develop come April Wes Hodkiewicz

Lee from Brisbane, Australia

Morning II, should Green Bay be having conversations with the Texans about a potential trade between Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson. We could then trade Jordan Love for even more capital as we would have a young QB in the building? I understand it isn't the normal to trade your franchise QB but we're always being told it's a business and the QB (who is compensated accordingly) shouldn't be any different. I love Rodgers but fear he will be gone in a year or two anyway. Watson is a young proven top tier QB.

And here I woke up ready to be pelted with late-night talk show questions.

Gary from Belle Mead, NJ

Wes, was it too soon to throw "beautiful mystery" into a response? How long have you been holding onto that one?

Pretty much since Rodgers said it.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

I never thought I'd say this but I miss the opportunity to watch preseason games last year. The rookies, the UDFAs, bottom-of-the-roster guys and guys you hope can make a nice second-year jump and contribute this year. The preseason is when fans get a chance to see players that might be a year away and what those players might become. You were able to watch practice in camp last year so any names from the bottom of the roster or the PS that fans haven't had a chance to see gonna make it.

Beyond the obvious COVID-19 concerns, the cancellation of the preseason should prove once and for all Rodgers doesn't need to play in the preseason to start fast en route to an MVP season. That being said, I felt bad for the backup QBs, undrafted rookies and longshots who didn't get a chance to prove themselves to the rest of the NFL.

Nic from London, UK

Crazy how times flies, are you ever taken aback when you realize that some players that still feel brand new are already up for their second contract?

It hit me the first time when Micah Hyde became a free agent in 2017. Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby are the only current players who predate me now and there's only four individuals under contract for 2021 (Rodgers, Crosby, David Bakhtiari and Davante Adams) who were on the team when I was still at the newspaper. That's wild.

Joe from Wausau, WI

In 2018 draft, Brian Gutekunst traded out of the 14th pick to 27th, and then traded up to 18th to take Jaire Alexander. In 2019, he selected Rashan Gary with the 12th pick after having fortified the OLB position with the free-agent signings of Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith. In 2020, he traded up from 30th to 26th to take Jordan Love. Can we rule out the possibility that in 2021 he will stay at No. 29 and make what seems like a logical mock draft pick? Or will this be the year he surprises us by not surprising us?

I'm not making any grandiose predictions two months before the NFL Draft, but Gutekunst has the resources to move around in the first round if he so chooses. Until Gutekunst stays put, I'm bracing for potential moves.

Richard from Racine, WI

Good Morning Wes! Do you know the draft positions by each round the Packers will have in the upcoming draft? What is the highest spot in any round Packers will have?

We won't know every spot until the compensatory picks are announced but the Packers currently are slotted in at No. 29, 62 and 92 in the first three rounds.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Wes, what are the Packers' assistant coaches up to at this time of year? How deeply do they get involved in personnel decisions like evaluating college players for the upcoming draft or possible free agents from other teams? Or is it more about schemes and new plays?

The coaches take a few weeks off after the season and then get back to work on offseason projects, building the playbook and of course researching players. One way or another, there will be a football team to develop come April.

Johnny from Madison, WI

Besides Jordy Nelson, who are some players you'd put on your leaderboard of highest talent to ego ratio?

Kenny Clark is probably the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to humility relative to talent. What makes Clark stand out is he's been that way since he walked in the door as a 20-year-old, first-round pick in 2016. It's no surprise the Packers wanted to invest in Clark - not only is he a Pro Bowl talent but he's also the kind of human being you want in your locker room. There aren't many like him.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Wes, thanks for going solo! Do you think we are OK with the TE group and will not really add via free agency or draft picks?

The Packers are in good standing at tight end, especially if Marcedes Lewis returns, but it probably wouldn't hurt to spend a pick to invest into the future of the position - just because of how long it can take to develop tight ends.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Jace Sternberger has become the forgotten man at tight end. A third-round selection, he has fallen short of expectations, even being surpassed on the depth chart by undrafted rookie Dominique Dafney by the end of the season. Besides staying healthy, what must Jace do during the offseason to emerge as a weapon in 2021?

It was another tough season for Sternberger, but there's still upside there. It's just catching the balls thrown to him and staying consistent. Regardless of what happens, the Packers will have a lot of competition in that room with Robert Tonyan, Dafney, Sternberger, and the eventual return of Josiah Deguara and John Lovett.

Steve from Ankeny, IA

Hi Wes. For the last year or so, I've been paying attention to all the talk about the cap, and I admit I still know virtually nothing with all the complexity. Just wanted to tip my hat to the guys in the office that work through this every year and somehow make it work. It must be a daunting challenge that never ends.

I wouldn't want to do it, though I bet it's a pretty cool gig once you master all the small details.

Matt from Clarkston, MI

Regarding retired numbers (Packers Infographic): Don Hutson: two-time MVP, three-time NFL champ. Tony Canadeo: third player to rush for 1,000 yards, NFL champ. Bart Starr: five-time NFL champ, MVP, four Pro Bowls. Ray Nitschke: five-time NFL champ. Reggie White: NFL champ, defensive player of the year, 13 Pro Bowls. Brett Favre: NFL champ, 2-1 NFCCs, 11 Pro Bowls, three-time MVP. Aaron Rodgers: NFL champ, 1-4 NFCCs, nine Pro Bowls, three-time MVP. Playing devil's advocate, what else does Rodgers need to guarantee a retired number, knowing that other greats' numbers (Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg) are not retired?

Nothing? I think three MVPs, a Super Bowl win and arguably the best statistical careers of anyone to ever throw a forward pass in the NFL would be enough to ensure nobody else wears No. 12. Maybe that's just me.

Brad from Brookfield, WI

Your thoughts on retaining Tim Boyle?

I'm in favor of it.

Brad from Brookfield, WI

Do you think three QBs will be on the roster for 2021? If so, do the Packers re-sign Tim Boyle and will he still be the No. 2 QB going into camp?

If the modified practice-squad format sticks around, I don't know why a team wouldn't keep three quarterbacks on its active roster moving forward. If Boyle is back in the fold for Year 4, the competition between TBLS and Jordan Love will be great theater in camp.

Stephie from Flowery Branch, GA

Hi Wes, thanks for keeping us going throughout football drought. Reed from York PA reminded me how much I'd like to understand how compensatory picks come to be. Nor did I get how compensatory picks relate to unrestricted free agency from your conversation. Please clarify and enlighten us. Stay warm. Thank you.

The NFL management council developed the compensatory formula after unrestricted free agency was introduced in 1993. It's a complicated process centered on the net-loss formula from free agency the prior year. In simplest terms, the average per year value of a contract tends to determine how high the draft pick will be for a departing player. Thirty-two picks are awarded to teams, though it's not a given every team will receive one. Regardless of how many players a team loses, it can be awarded no more than four compensatory picks.

Aaron from Scottsdale, AZ

Was Cedric Benson a restricted FA in 2012?

Benson initially was an unrestricted free agent because his contract with Cincinnati expired after the 2011 season but that window only lasts so long unless a team sends a tender to an unsigned unrestricted free agent by a specific date. Last year, I believe it was May 5. After that, if a tender is not issued, the free agent no longer counts towards the compensatory formula. Since Benson first signed with Green Bay during training camp, the deadline had long since passed for the Bengals to be eligible for compensation.

Jordan from Virginia Beach, VA

When it comes to compensatory picks, are they rewarded solely based on the outgoing free agents or are free-agent signings taken into account? Example: Aaron Jones signs elsewhere, Green Bay signs J.J. Watt (only using him because he is the biggest name on the market; not lobbying to sign him). Jones leads the NFL in rushing yards and TDs, Watt leads the league in sacks, TFL and adds a few forced turnovers. Do we get a high pick because of Jones or does Watt's season cancel out the lost value?

Again, it is a net-loss formula. If Player A receives $5 million per year elsewhere but the Packers sign Player B for $5 million per year, then Green Bay likely gets nothing). But I wanted to answer this question because "unrestricted free agents" are players whose contracts expired. Watt's contract didn't expire. He was cut by Houston and doesn't count towards the compensatory process whenever he signs. Over the years, the Packers have signed several "street" free agents (Julius Peppers, Letroy Guion, Jared Cook, Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner) who were released and didn't count against the formula.

Dennis from De Pere, WI

Do Jack Vainisi and especially Bob Harlan also belong up on the wall in Lambeau for their contributions to the team? Who else am I missing?

That's above my paygrade but they are two of the most influential people in this franchise's illustrious history. I am happy to see Vainisi starting to get the credit he so richly deserves. As someone who is now 33, it is crazy thinking about what Vainisi accomplished in an extraordinary life cut way too short.

Matt from Cedar Rapids, IA

In the conversation of QB making WR great, I really liked the response with Davante Adams' games with Brett Hundley at QB. It seems that in these situations, backup QBs often throw check downs to RBs and TEs instead of pushing the ball down field. Adams found ways to get himself open and provide an easy down field target, which doesn't seem to happen often in these situations (which again speaks to his greatness). Do you see it the same with backup QBs around the league?

It's that sink-or-swim moment for backups, but I think those moments show a receiver's greatness. That's what impressed me the most about what Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin accomplished in Arizona prior to Kurt Warner's resurgence in the late-2000s. When a guy produces without a premier quarterback, that speaks volume about the receiver.

Andrew from Wheaton, IL

What's the Packers' aversion to the franchise tag? The last time we used it was 2010 on Ryan Pickett. It seems like there are a couple of good options for the Packers to tag this year; what's the likelihood that it actually gets used?

The Packers traditionally have had room to work out extensions without needing to tag anyone. Plus, it isn't exactly great for morale since it separates a player from the free market. And before some of you hit me with the "You're making millions, shut up and play for the tag" garbage, please remember most players, especially running backs, only get one shot at a life-changing deal.

Theresa from Sioux City, IA

Hi Wes and Mike - you make my breakfast taste better :) I always read your column while noshing my cereal - I saw an MSN article where Jamaal Williams stated he wanted to stay a Packer and that touched my heart. As fans, we never want to lose ANYONE. I know the NFL is a business but to us fans, these guys get to be almost like family; we cheer for them, we call out their names from our couches - we don't want to see any of them go. So players ever accept a little less money in order to stay?

If a player is choosing between comparable offers, then re-signing for a little less with the original team could make sense. But again, Williams and Jones worked their tails off for four years for the Packers. Listen, from a media standpoint, I'd love to have both back. They're good players and awesome to deal with. But like I said with Corey Linsley, Jones and Williams deserve whatever comes to them in the next month or so.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

From all reports on several different media outlets that I've read, the Packers made a large offer to Aaron Jones, but the guaranteed total was too low. It's then reported that soon after that offer, Jones switched agents. Is there anything between the lines to see or hope for based on the agent switch? I hope it signals Aaron wants to stay in Green Bay and finish what the team fell short of in 2019 and 2020.

I wouldn't read too much into that. Players often will switch agents prior to the start of free agency because they're no longer financially tied to their previous representation once their contract expires. It's like a pitstop for players.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

How many players can a team designate as post-June 1 cuts each year?

It follows the same bylaws as the Packers' organization with Spoffords. Only one is permitted.

Phil from Portland, OR

Wes, I have an important question to ask you. When you say you finished your wife's Christmas present over your break, I sure hope you mean last year's gift, and not this year's. If you are completing gifts in February, I fear you may set a standard that none of the rest of us would be able match.

No, it was indeed for Christmas 2020. I do a calendar every year where each date has a photo of our son from that same day a year ago. It's a pretty big project - especially when the Packers make the NFC title game in back-to-back seasons.

Bob from Wellington, CO

Wes, what is your favorite thing to do in Suamico? (Hint: My mother's maiden name is Vickery).

I'm not a giant outdoorsman but I enjoy the peacefulness and woods. Suamico has plenty of both...oh, and Barley's Deerfield Diner.

Robert from Verona, WI

If the Packers don't sign Williams to a new contract, who takes over his dancing responsibilities?

Williams would leave big shoes to fill, but from what I hear, Spoff has a nice pair of blue suede shoes.

Mario from Kettleman City, CA

I have read every Insider Inbox (for free) since the "Fail Mary" Game. Thanks!

No, thank you Mario! Have a good Wednesday, people.

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