For the Green Bay Packers the playoffs’ ended on a sour note. However, the team showed a ton of heart battling through a myriad of injuries just to make the playoffs. Heading into the offseason, the Packers have a few needs to fill in order to remain on top of the NFC North Division.
On the offensive side of the ball, free agent Full Back John Kuhn should be a priority signing. Kuhn has proven to be a valuable asset in the passing game, not to mention his value as a blocker in both the running game and the passing game (note his block on Julius Peppers on the winning touchdown in the week 17 win over Chicago). Tight-end Jermichael Finley’s return will hinge on his recovery from neck surgery to his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae. Both Finley and the Packers seem to think he will be medically cleared to return to action and both sides will be able to agree to a new deal. The training camp injury to left tackle Bryan Bulaga was softened by the outstanding play by rookie David Bakhtiari. With Bulaga set to return, there may be some shuffling on the offensive line.
Defensively, injuries ravaged the Packers with four players being lost for all or part of the season. The defense also lost All Pro Outside Linebacker Clay Mathews for five games total with a right thumb injury. Defensive Lineman BJ Raji is an unrestricted free agent and may be allowed to move on to another team. Raji was offered an $8 million extension prior to last season, but he turned it down. Unfortunately for Raji, his production dropped in 2013 greatly reducing the big money deal he was hoping for. A return to Green Bay is not out of the question, but it may require Raji taking less money than was offered a year ago.
Cornerback Sam Shields is coming off his best season and may end up getting the franchise tag placed on him if a long term deal can’t be negotiated. Defensive End Mike Neal is a good candidate to be re-signed based on his solid play last year. In an effort to improve the pass rush, former first round pick Nick Perry is being considered for a position switch to the “Elephant” defensive position made famous by former All Pro Charles Hayley.
An interesting subplot in the offseason is the free agency of wide receiver James Jones. Jones saw his touchdowns drop from 14 in 2012 to just three last year, but part of that may be due to the fact that Aaron Rodgers missed eight games last year with a shoulder injury. Three other factors may also play into Jones moving on to another team: the depth at the wide receiver position, the Packers history of finding wide receivers in the draft, and the development of Jarrett Boykin.
Since his arrival in 2005, General Manager Ted Thompson has traditionally retooled the team through the draft. Thompson has shown a knack for finding impact players in the later rounds. This year, however, with a staggering 16 players set to become free agents, the Packers may be players in the free agent market.
When you play in a city nicknamed “Titletown,” rebuilding is not an option. The Packers are adept at reloading, a skill that should keep them in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy, season after season.
Written by: Scott Murphy
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