- Release LT Chad Clifton: The writing is on the wall. Even Chad Clifton knew that it was unlikely that he would ever finish his 3 year and had most of the money guaranteed up front (which was helped by the cap-less season before the lockout). Clifton has had issues staying healthy in the twilight of his career and this year was no different with Clifton being out for the majority of the season. Added to that a $5.5 million salary in 2012, ascending player in Bryan Bulaga, 1st round draft choice Derek Sherrod and up and at least a serviceable backup in Marshall Newhouse and the Packers have set themselves well for life after Clifton.
- Renegotiate Charles Woodson and Donald Driver contracts:
- Charles Woodson: Woodson has undeniably lost a step and his high-risk high-reward style of play backfired a couple times last season. Woodson currently leads the Packers roster with a salary of $11.5 million, some of which was a bonus for a NFL defensive player of the year award in 2009. But what Woodson is still capable of is shutting down the new breed of tight end, like Jermichael Finley. For instance, Woodson is still quick enough and physical enough to handle a Jimmy Graham, and I’m not sure who else on the defense could. Unfortunately Woodson will turn 36 next season and at some point he’s going to have to realize that aging veterans start getting marginalized. Hopefully Woodson doesn’t let his fiery attitude get in the way of business.
- Donald Driver: At 37, Driver has exceeded even the greatest expectations by still being in the NFL at all. However, his production dropped drastically with the emergence of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson and has Randall Cobb and James Jones breathing down his neck for more playing time. What Driver has to his benefit is experience, he’s well versed in the offense and isn’t likely to miss an assignment or a read. What hurts him is that he’s not player he used to be and he wouldn’t survive playing on special teams. In my opinion Driver should be retained since consistency at wide receiver (even as the 5th wide receiver) outweighs any benefits a player has on special teams. Furthermore, I’m not convinced that any free agent/undrafted rookie would be better than Driver. Are Cobb and Jones better than Driver? Probably. Are Tori Gurely or Diondre Biorel better? I doubt it.
- Let QB Matt Flynn, RB Ryan Grant and CB Pat Lee walk
- Matt Flynn: No chance of anything happening with Matt Flynn, for those who are hoping that Thompson franchises Flynn and then trades him away, the current franchise tag numbers for quarterbacks is looking to be somewhere in the ball park of $14-15 million and the Packers have around $7 million to play with right now, but keep in mind that some of that is going to have to go to resigning players and signing free agents. Keep in mind other teams know that the Packers wouldn’t be able to keep Flynn for the year and unless there is a bidding war, the Packers might not get all that much more for him in a trade.
- Ryan Grant: of all players, running backs fare the worst as they age and Grant is about to hit the dreaded 30. He’s a consistent player and still probably has some tread left on the tires, but teams find good running backs literally everywhere
- Pat Lee: For a 2nd round draft pick, Pat Lee has basically been a shadow; he’s not so bad that he’s been kicked off the team (though chances he’s near the bottom of every 53 man roster) and he’s never really been all that good to get noticed, save maybe filling in for Sam Shields during the Super Bowl. At this point, Lee is a pretty good special teams player, but is injury prone and maybe more importantly mistake prone (such as his kickoff return for a safety or getting ejected both against the Lions). He’s had time to develop and hasn’t really done anything either way, so time to give someone else a shot.
- Resign C Scott Wells, CB Jarrett Bush
- Scott Wells: Wells is probably the Packers priority resigning this offseason (now that Finley is out of the way); there really isn’t anyone on the roster capable of taking over at center and strangely the Packers don’t have anyone waiting in the wings to replace Wells either. Wells is a little bit on the older side but was one of the more consistent linemen this year and seeing a 2-3 year deal somewhere in the upper-mid range for centers would be appropriate. Wells on the other hand seems to think that he’s a top 5-10 center and I’m pretty sure the Packers think otherwise; will the Packers use the franchise tag? My feeling is no, but Wells has a better chance to get tagged than any other player in my mind.
- Jarrett Bush: Oh Jarrett Bush, how did you get fans to finally love you? Once maybe the most hated player on the roster, Bush has finally shown his true worth; yes, he’s a liability at cornerback and everyone cringes when he’s on the field, but he’s an ace special teamer and the Packers need everyone of those guys they can get their hands on with the current state of the squad. I’m not really sure what sort of contract would be good for a pure special teams player, typically not much money is put in, but then again Bush did attract attention last time he hit free agency so the Packers might have to pay more to keep him.
- Resign NT Howard Green, OLB Erik Walden, if possible at the right price
- Howard Green: I still think Green has something left in the tank; don’t expect him to blow by blockers or sack the quarterback, but if he can still take on double teams and hold point, then he’s a serviceable backup nose tackle. Especially with BJ Raji and Ryan Pickett moving between NT and DE, a good backup NT would help if the Packers decide to go with Raji and Pickett at DE on base packages. Green however is getting up there in age (though DTs tend to have fairly long shelf lives) and he isn’t a playmaker, but it’s unlikely that the Packers would draft another NT high in the draft and no one on the team has the body type to be the backup NT.
- Erik Walden: I still think Walden is at least a decent backup, and should be paid as such. Keep in mind that the Packers always need more players capable of playing special teams (especially with Donald Driver being a 4-5th wide receiver and not playing special teams) and having special teams players who can also step in when needed is useful. Obviously the Packers shouldn’t overspend for him, but a 2-3 year deal around 2-3 million yearly isn’t a huge risk.
- Sign free agent Tommie Harris: Let’s be realistic here, Thompson isn’t going to go out and sign a Calais Campbell or a Mario Williams (not that I know where Williams would play anyways), but what about Tommie Harris? Harris was one of the up and coming DTs playing for the Bears before falling off, so the Packers know all about him. He obviously has the speed and skills to rush the passer, but also has enough strength to hold up against the run. Aaron Rodgers has publically said that Harris is a great guy so I’m sure he’d fit in well in the locker room. Best of all Harris has a year of experience as 3-4 DE at San Diego and probably could be signed for a relatively cheap price.
- Draft with the usual BPA approach: Come on, it’s Ted Thompson, were you expecting him to start emulating the Washington Redskins all of a sudden?
- Move Bryan Bulaga to LT: My feeling is that Bulaga is the safest bet at LT right now, and safe is what you want when it comes to LT. Is Newhouse really that good to warrant Bulaga staying at RT? It almost seems a little paradoxical that the Packers would be willing to move Daryn Colledge, a decent guard to left tackle (and we all know how that turned out) and then have a the entire line shift to compensate, but aren’t willing to move a tackle from one side to the other.
- Open competition for ILB and nickel corner: My feeling is that DJ Smith has earned a legitimate chance to compete for one of the starting ILB positions; I don’t think he’ll win over Desmond Bishop or AJ Hawk, but Hawk had a pretty terrible season and needs to be pushed one way or the other and Smith gets more experience which will help him down the road. As for nickel corner, Sam Shield also needs to be pushed, while he wasn’t any worse than any other player on the defense, he needs to prove to the Packers that 2010 wasn’t a fluke.
10. Start working on new contracts for OLB Clay Matthews III and QB Aaron Rodgers: You got to start somewhere and no team can afford to lose their franchise/Super Bowl champion/NFL MVP/discount double check quarterback or your star player on defense. The quicker the Packers extend both Rodgers and Matthews III the better because they aren’t getting any cheaper.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.