Major decisions on the horizon for the Green Bay Packers
After the Green Bay Packers season came to an abrupt end in San Francisco Saturday night in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the focus of the franchise must now shift toward the 2013-2014 season.
General Manager Ted Thompson will have some incredibly important decisions to make in regards to player personnel and the coaching staff, but he must also do a little soul-searching as it pertains to his draft-and-develop philosophy. With many veterans not expected to be back in 2013, one wonders if perhaps a greater focus on free agency would benefit a team that has relied on a substantial number of rookies and untested second year players in the past.
You can see the contract status of each player on the Packers roster by CLICKING HERE.
The biggest decisions Thompson must make are in regards to the existing roster. Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are not likely to be back next season for different reasons. Jennings is a free agent, and will be seeking a high-dollar, multi-year deal despite a season littered with injuries. Driver, who turns 38 in February, fell below rookies Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross on the depth chart. He caught just eight passes for 77 yards and had to plead his way to be active for the divisional round playoff game by volunteering to play special teams.
Jennings and Driver are not the only pass catchers who are in jeopardy of not returning. Tight end Jermichael Finley rebounded in the second half of the season and posted a career high in receptions with 61. The rub with Finley's contract is that he is due a roster bonus of $4.45 million in March, and a salary of $8.25 million in 2013.
On defense the Packers are at a crossroads with two veterans. Linebacker A.J. Hawk and cornerback Charles Woodson. Hawk posted a career high with 120 combined tackles and is under contract through the 2015 season. Hawk is solid, but not spectacular, will count $5.45 million against the cap in 2013, and is due over $17 million for the duration of his contract.
Woodson's case is interesting. The 14-year veteran has yet to mutter a word about retiring, and is still an impact player when healthy. Woodson is scheduled to earn about $10 million in 2013, but after two broken collarbones, there may have to be a mutual restructuring of his contract for the future hall-of-famer to be back with the Packers.
There are several other free agents the Packers must make a decision on. Included in that group are LB's Brad Jones and Erik Walden, RB Cedric Benson, and TE Tom Crabtree. Non free agent questions surround players such as RB James Starks, C Jeff Saturday, and K Mason Crosby.
There are three main reasons the players identified above are in jeopardy of not returning to the team next season. The three reasons are, Aaron Rogers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji.
Rodgers' contract expires after the 2014 season, and his next deal could make him the highest paid player in NFL history. Matthews has made the pro bowl each of his four seasons in the league and is also due a major pay-day. Matthews made $1.98 million in 2012. Raji is a cornerstone nose tackle who is coming off his best season in the league. His payday will not be in the same stratosphere as Rodgers or Matthews, but consider Raji earned $5.46 million in 2012, and you realize his next contract will not come cheap.
It's your move Ted.