Four Reasons The Green Bay Packers Won’t Keep Six Wide Receivers

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Green Bay Packers Passing Offense
The Green Bay Packers receivers may not have room for one more.

Earlier in the offseason, I examined a couple ways the Green Bay Packers could shuffle around the 53-man roster to make room for six wide receivers. Both Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley are making a strong push to make the final cut, and the possibility is certainly there. Today, however, I’m going to play the Devil’s advocate and present a few reasons why the Packers won’t even decide to keep that extra receiver.

1. Offensively Useless

First and foremost, there simply isn’t room for a sixth wide receiver in the offense. The maximum number of receivers you can have in a given play is five, and it’s highly doubtful Mike McCarthy would line up Borel or Gurley in place of one of the “Top 5.” He’s going to put the best talent on the field, and that’s not going to include numero seis on the depth chart. Plus, according to the “Football Outsiders Almanac 2012,” the Packers offense lined up in a 4+ WR set on just 7% of their snaps.

Some might counter that having a sixth receiver provides good depth if someone were to get injured; however, we have to remember that tight ends also play a factor. Jermichael Finley and perhaps even D.J. Williams make the issue of depth a little moot. On top of that, the practice squad is always there in case of dire emergencies.

2. Special Teams Factor

Since the offense doesn’t really benefit from having a sixth receiver on the squad, the extra player to make the team would need to have a strong special teams role. McCarthy continues to stress that performance on special teams units is a key factor in determining which back-up players make the cut. In fact, that is perhaps the one reason the Packers would cut Donald Driver.

Diondre Borel has, admittedly, been making a push as a kickoff and punt returner, so he actually has a leg up on Gurley in this category. On the other hand, Gurley has shown some prowess on special teams himself. He’s a big guy who hits hard and who has been known to block the occasional punt. But the questions remains: is that enough?

3. More Pressing Concerns

Although I outlined before how the Packers could make room for an extra receiver on the roster, there suddenly seem to be some roster spots that are no longer expendable. It’s no secret that the Packers have been suffering a large amount of injuries this preseason, and the depth at certain positions has really been tested.

Primarily, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy may want to keep an extra body along the offensive line. Derek Sherrod’s injury from last season could put him on the PUP list for the first six weeks this year, and Marshall Newhouse’s concussion on Family Night highlighted just how thin the Packers are at tackle. Herb Taylor failed to impress (that’s putting it lightly), and Andrew Datko is still very early in his development.

Then there’s the sudden injury to Desmond Bishop, who could make it back this season depending on how his hamstring surgery turns out. They may also keep Bishop on the roster for the first week to take advantage of the possible new NFL rule that allows teams to reserve an injured player and bring him back later in the season.

We can also turn to the running back position, where injuries to James Starks, Brandon Saine, Du’ane Bennett, and John Kuhn have made the position extremely thin. Cedric Benson was just signed this week to provide more depth and perhaps more boost, but that position group may no longer be able to spare a roster spot for a sixth wide receiver.

Finally, the talent along the defensive line has shown enough promise that the Packers might just want to keep an extra player for depth and rotation purposes. Keeping a sixth wide receiver seems to be much more of a luxury move than keeping an extra guy at one of these other positions of need.

4. There Will Be Others

Truth be told, neither Borel nor Gurley have, to this point, proven themselves as indispensable. I’m sure the Packers would love to keep them on the practice squad another year until Donald Driver moves on, though they would probably have to pay them extra to keep them away from other teams. Nevertheless, Dale Moss and Curenski Gilleylen might be good enough for the practice squad if the other two would happen to be picked up by other teams. Ted Thompson will also have the 2013 draft to pick up another receiver if he really needs to.

So there it is. I’m not saying the Green Bay Packers won’t decide to keep six wide receivers this year, but in looking at the arguments against the move, it might be difficult for them to do so comfortably. As McCarthy said in June, “My job is to create opportunities for these players to come together and form a team, and it’s maybe not always the most talented team, but it’s the best football team. The most-talented player doesn’t always stay; it’s the best football player that stays.”

Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley are not just fighting the guys in their position group for a roster spot, they are also battling the rest of the roster.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Brent Fullwood

    I think one of the main reasons that Tori Gurley makes the team is because of his size. In two years Finley is gone, and they like having a big guy that can get down the seam. I see Gurley making a push down the stretch here, and making the roster as the 6th guy. He can play special teams as well.

    • Wagszilla

      Finley, barring an injury, will never be gone.
      I don’t like a lot about the guy’s attitude but he’s a monster on the field.

      Look for him to have the best year of his career and help bring the Pack another Lombardi. I have no doubt that he’ll be re-upped at the end of this 2-year deal.

    • http://None Bearmeat

      If Finley plays even close to his potential this year, TT will resign him to a top 5-7 TE deal.

      Gurley could make it on special teams – but he would mostly make it because TT/MM wouldn’t want to expose him to being “Raided” at cutdown day.

  • marpag

    Pretty good comments, CT. For the record, I’ve been saying all along that the Packers should only keep five, and that we should bid fond farewell to Driver… not only because the younger players are good, but especially because they are cheaper. But since you’re playing devil’s advocate today, let me do that, too.

    The Packers may keep SIX if they believe that they can’t afford to retain Jennings after this year. The only real way to protect a guy like Borel/Gurley is to put him on the roster. Given the fact that Driver quite possibly will be gone next year too, the loss of Jennings, Driver and Borel/Gurley could be a problem.

    Is it crazy to think that the Packers might be resigned to letting Jennings walk? Probably. Then again, maybe not.

    Right now, ask yourself this question: “If we have only enough money to extend ARod and ONE of the following (Matthews, Raji, Jennings), who would it be? I’d say Matthews.

    If we can only extend Rodgers and TWO of the others, who would they be? I’d say, “Matthews first, then Raji.” The reason being that if you take Matthews or Raji out of the defense, you’re in a big pile of doo-doo. If you take Jennings out of the offense, it can still be pretty good, just not AS good.

    I don’t think any of us can really say what the financial realities are at 1265. Is the Packers cap picture bad enough that they are seriously worried about not retaining Jennings? If so, they may keep six receivers this year. They may already be planning to allocate “Jennings money” to ARod, CM3 and Raji.

    • BubbaOne

      …and maybe TT could do a tag and trade for Jennings netting… maybe a 2nd and 5th.
      Also is GJ’s injuries last year and this year indicative of what may continue as he approaches age 30?

    • Oppy

      Good points.

      The only place I differ, and I know I don’t have a lot of company on this stance, is that I’m not sold on BJ Raji being the necessary cog most people think he is.

      Last year he did not have a great year, and he’s still not not proven he can play the NT position nearly as well as Pickett can.. And Pickett is not a spring chick by any means.

      I hope I’m wrong, but I’m starting to wonder if Raji will ever truly be the NT the Packers seemingly thought he would be. Perhaps he is miscast for that role. He would probably be a dominant 3 technique in a 4-3 defense where he was shooting gaps.

      I don’t think he’s bad, I think he’s a good player, but I’m just saying I don’t think he’s proven to be the core player the Packers want him to be yet. Hope he comes out this year and proves me wrong. If he looks more like 2011 Raji than 2010 Raji this coming season, I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to make him a long-term contract offer.

      • marpag

        Yeah, I hear you on that one, Oppy. I’m a bit worried about Raji, too. (And you’re right, he’d probably be a stud as a gap-shooting 4-3 tackle.)

        In my mind, though, the difference is the relative strength of each position group. Without Jennings, the Packers would still have a perfectly legit corp of receivers. Nelson, in my opinion, was an average-plus #1 last year, and he’s looking even better this year. Cobb is getting great reviews this camp regarding his increased play-making ability. Jones, despite his detractors, would still be a rock-solid #3. Add to that the fact the GB has a real weapon at the TE position and I wouldn’t be too worried about pass catchers, even without Jennings.

        Now switch over to the D-line group. Even if we believe that Raji just isn’t going to be dominant – and the jury is still out on that – who else is there? Picket, maybe, but he’s never been dominant either, and as you correctly pointed out, Pick is probably on his last legs, anyway. If Pick and Raji are both gone in the next two years, what do you have left at that position group?

        I certainly hope that Jennings remains a Packer, and I think that the odds are in favor of that. But I also think that Jennings is probably a bit lower down on the Packers’ priority list than many of us imagine.

        As MM said a few days ago, you’re not necessarily looking for the best players, you’re looking for the group that will come together to form the best team.

        • Oppy

          Oh, i’d say Pickett has been a dominant 3-4 NT when he’s taken snaps there.

          He’s not a pass rusher, he’s a true 3-4 nose. He anchors the point, will take the double team and refuse to budge, control his gaps get off the block and make the tackle.

          If you don’t have gap integrity up the middle, it doesn’t matter what OLBs you have, you won’t be able to play sound D out of the 3-4

          • marpag

            Fair enough. I’d be willing to say that he’s a “pretty good” 3-4 nose. But “dominant?” I’m not willing to go that far.

            Looking around the league, there are a pretty good number of 3-4 tackles that I would take over Pickett for sure.

  • Ed Schoenfeld

    First, these articles and discussions are one of the main reasons I like this site. There are not many places you can find a community aware enough to understand that it is not just about picking the best 53 for this season, but also about making sure you are competitive 3 years from now, as Chad and marpag point out.

    One of the ‘features’ of the final cut down this year is going to an interesting chess game with what I call ‘phantom’ roster spots. We have 2 players (Sherrod and QUarless) who will likely be on the PUP list, three (Walden, Neal and Hargrove) who will start the season serving suspensions, and at least one (Bishop) who may be a candidate for the ‘Marquis’ player IR designation.

    Meanwhile we are restructuring the defense, thin on depth at OL (especially the interior), and (like marpag pointed out) have a potential longer term issue with sustaining our advantage at WR. We also need to account for other teams raiding our practice squad candidates in Week One, as the league seems to have figured out that our PS is probably worth keeping on the top 53 for a lot of teams.

    I can see going into the season something like the following:

    3QB, 3RB, 1FB, 4TE, 6WR, 8OL, 6DL, 9LB, 10DB, K, P, LS. You switch Bishop (Marquis IR) for Walden (1-game suspension) after week One. Keep all 3 Qb because Coleman is showing as a good prospect and could easily be raided. The DL cuts will be hardest as there are 7 or 8 guys (other than Neal and Hargrove) who deserve to be on an NFL roster, but that is also where they have the two suspended players for mid-season ‘depth.’ OL seems to be the place we could sneak a few prospects onto the PS without losing them.

    Not making any predictions yet, but this type of scenario has to be something TT and McCarthy are thinking about.

  • Mr. Bacon

    Good points, however I would say be weary of Special teams.

    If you have a receiver who is just learning at maybe route running, but has insane speed, you might keep him for a emergency. In the meantime you might want to consider him a Gunner during Kickoffs and Punt Returns.

  • Kevin

    To me the biggest reason it won’t happen is #3: more pressing concerns. We can’t afford to be looking at someone who might become our #5 receiver next year if Jennings doesn’t get resigned or when Driver leaves. Its simply not important enough, as opposed to an extra RB, DL or OL who would get on the field this year.

    • marpag

      I agree with you, Kevin, despite my “devil’s advocate” comments above. And that’s why I think we should cut Driver now, save his cap money and the roster spot, and go with five WRs: Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, Jones and (Borel/Gurley).

  • Big T

    Lets not worry about Jennings he will be a packer for life. He is a decent man without ego issues and most importantly is not a greedy bastard like so many NFL players are. Driver would probably take another pay cut to stay. It is not a salary cap issue, it is a sheer number issue at this point. Green Bay is very fortunate to fill their roster with all around great people not just great athletes…

  • Norwis66

    If Bishops hamstring is torn all the way through, he’s done, and it may well be for more than just this year, so If that’s the case that IR spot will be saved for a more critical spot. Someone else we need WILL get injured. I believe Gurley and Borel will be playing elsewhere this year. Miami and Oakland come to mind. We might even be able to squeeze out a late draft choice from Miami and Philbin who reportedly has no one who can even hold onto the ball. Borel and Gurley will not make the practice squad off waivers, and they probably don’t make it down the list to either Miami or Oakland hence the possibility of a trade. I believe that Moss and either Gilleylen or Smithson will be the 2nd guy for the practice squad.

  • http://MSN Patrick Mahoney

    I think TTMM are making a mistake bringing in Benson instead of signing Ryan Grant.

    • Mr. Bacon

      Perhaps. However none of the other 31 teams have picked up Ryan Grant, despite injuries pilling up. There could be something going around the league that teams are staying away from him. I doubt it character issues, but maybe his ankle is not really healed.

  • Mojo

    Considering all the suspended, PUP and the potential new IR 8 week guy, the Packers can start the year with 6 WRs. Then as the season evolves, they pick and chose whether to keep let’s say a guy coming off suspension or one of the WRs. A lot of factors could come into play during the season in deciding who to keep. But with 2 d-lineman alone not eligible until at least week 5, the Pack can keep just six now and then mix & match later.

    I was also wondering, does James Jones play on special teams anymore? I he does it seems a tad odd that a WR a little higher up on the WR food-chain plays ST while the one further down (DD) doesn’t.

  • http://googlechrome madtowne

    I hope we learned our lesson last year.We need more horses on the D-Line.It all
    starts up front with pressure on the QB.
    Look at what the G-Men did to us. A 2 man
    front with exotic blitz packages doesn’t
    control the line of scrimmage. More D-Line
    less Linebackers!

  • Blugold22

    personally i don’t think they need one more. with what they have the potential is limitless! Driver is a vet and knows the game more than most, if Finley plays better than last year he’ll be good, Jennings and Nelson are Pro Bowl caliber players every year, and finally Cobb will learn from those 4 how the system and i think he’ll have a great year too

  • Johnny Joice

    I do not like the statement about human beings referred to a BODIES .