2013 Green Bay Packers: The Youth Movement is Underway

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Ryan Pickett
Pickett is currently the oldest player on the Packers roster at 33

Since the Green Bay Packers’ 2012 season ended, the team has lost three of their oldest veterans in that of Donald Driver (37, retired), Jeff Saturday (37, retired) and Charles Woodson (36, released).  That makes defensive lineman Ryan Pickett their oldest player at 33 and the only veteran on the current roster with 10 or more years of experience.

It’s impossible to say what the team’s average age will be come the end of this year’s training camp, but it is clear that the team is headed for a youth movement for the next year or two.

The Packers being one of the league’s youngest teams is nothing new to most of us who will recall that from 2006 – 2009, they were the NFL’s youngest.  In 2011, the Packers were third youngest and in 2012 they were fifth youngest roster in the league.  In 2013, the Packers will be strong contenders for the “youngest” label once again.

Here is a list of players , courtesy of ESPN, that were on the roster during the 2012 season.  I don’t expect the team to bring running backs Cedric Benson nor Ryan Grant back in 2013.  That leaves John Kuhn as the only player currently 30 years old or more.  Several players are set to turn 30 this year; AJ Hawk, Aaron Rodgers, Tramon Williams and Greg Jennings.

Jennings is almost certainly not going to return.  There has been some talk that the team could decide to part ways with Hawk.  Aaron Rodgers is as good as set in stone for the Packers and, if Jennings departs, becomes the team’s fourth oldest player.  Williams is expected back but will surely face competition this offseason to keep his starting cornerback slot.

The team could turn to free agency to fill some of the voids left by departed players and in need areas.  It’s hard to say whether they would get after a younger player that they hope will be around for a while or if they might take a chance on another player of Saturday’s caliber to shore up a position that is still a year or two away from being set.

This has been General Manager Ted Thompson’s strategy from day one:  build this team through the draft and infuse young talent each year to try and find a few “diamonds in the rough”.  With that mentality, the Packers have typically stayed fresh with talent at most positions and have also had room under the salary cap to keep those who blossom.  Fortunately, they have also stayed competitive.

From a payroll perspective and under this strategy, the Packers will likely always have a few options that they can turn to in order to fill roster spots.  From an experience standpoint, it creates an interesting dynamic.

Rodgers, who becomes one of the team’s “wiley” veterans now, was vocal about wanting the team to bring Woodson back in 2013.  Woodson’s high price tag (nearly $9 million total between base salary and roster bonus) didn’t match the value the team likely would have seen in return.  Keeping Woodson would have also hampered Green Bay’s ability to extend current players such as Rodgers, Clay Matthews and BJ Raji.

Rodgers wanting to keep Woodson around conjures up memories of some stories that I read back in 2007 when Brett Favre was pleading to management to bring in some more veteran players.  We all know about his clamoring for receiver Randy Moss, for example.  The idea behind Favre’s mentality was that he didn’t want to be the “old man” surrounded by young guys who he didn’t know as well and who (in his opinion) weren’t ready to help the Packers contend then and there.  Rodgers may be experiencing some of this but he is also much younger than Favre was at that time.

It’s more comforting to know that you have a core of solid veterans mixed in with the younger up-and-comer’s that typically allow a team to win while learning.  The Packers will need to find the next batch of core vets.  Right now, that consists of Rodgers, James Jones, Williams, Kuhn, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Matthews, Raji and Desmond Bishop.  Can that core continue to gel the rest of the locker room like Woodson, Jennings and Driver did?  I think so.

With the front office coaching staff largely intact from last year, there is enough continuity at key positions that I expect the Packers to continue to see good production from their young players.   Sam Shields, Randall Cobb, Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian all have a full season or more under their belt and should grow as well.  Also, Nick Perry and Derek Sherrod should hopefully return from injuries that cost them quite a bit of time during their rookie seasons.

Beyond what has already been mentioned are another potential five or six new players who will join this team via the draft or undrafted free agency.  The youth movement is on and we must keep this in mind when setting the expectations  for next season.

Still, I expect the Packers to be in the thick of the conversation about division favorites and teams likely to see postseason action come the start of the 2013 campaign.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.com

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  • Dobber

    Excellent write-up. The NFL is a young man’s league, and teams cannot get hung-up on loyalty issues when making important personnel decisions. Very few players do this when their contracts come up…they look for the money. Why should teams be any different?

    Still, the important thing to remember is that opportunity free agents need to be considered, whether you’re thinking Reggie White or Charles Woodson (or, to a lesser degree, Pickett), every team needs to have those rallying players or group of players to shepherd the remainder of the team and elevate the level of play.

    My concern is that the roster is a little lacking in those kinds of players right now. ARod, CMIII…then who? You can never have enough playmakers. Maybe one or two is hiding on the roster and waiting to break out. I hope TT looks for those kinds of opportunities for a signing this off-season.

  • Tarynfor12

    “Rodgers, who becomes one of the team’s “wiley” veterans now, was vocal about wanting the team to bring Woodson back in 2013″.

    What is and how are you defining ‘vocal’?

    Did he answer a question with,”I’d like to see him back” or was it a more pound the desk “I want him back”!?

    I admit I have missed things later but,I don’t believe Rodgers was pounding or demanding to TT as Favre did about Moss with Woodson.

    I do remember Rodgers saying he knows and understands that the locker room wil be different and he wished it didn’t have to be but gets why it needs to be.

    I don’t think putting the Favre-Moss and Rodgers-Woodson vocality on the same level is right.Especiallt since Rodgers hasn’t come close to demanding th return of Jennings who has a much larger list of qualities to justify the money if it was to happen for one.

    I would love to read the link where Rodgers was Favre-eske in his vocalizing for Woodson.

  • Ron LC

    The whole move to youth is fueled by the “Cap.” Basically, you can get 4 low-end roster spots for the price of 1. In addition, TT is now being forced to plan on funding AR’s new contract, $25 mil? (That’s not unreasonalbe considering Flaco is asking for $20 mil. That alone eats up approximately $12 to $15 mil in “Cap” space. Add to that CM3 and Raji and you can see they’ll need to reduce the base salaries even futher than they have. The day of long-term players like DD are done. The people who know how to manage the low-end players will be the ultimate winners in this game. The highly paid guys MUST be PLAYMAKERS. Loyalty be dammed. I guess that is what TT seems to do best, regardless of what the so-called “Sports Experts” say.

    The football world is changinlg in so many ways that if a team is saddled with a GM who can’t see the future they are in trouble. I’m confident TT is one of those guys. Even though I go crazy about some of the things he does. I’ll take him over most anyone else.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      I agree Ron.

      The only thing that I might take issue with is the assertion that “[t]he highly paid guys MUST be PLAYMAKERS.” It all depends on how you define “playmaker” and “highly paid.”

      I agree with you 100% if you mean that the guys that command most of the teams money must really put out and bring something special to the table, but would tend to disagree if you mean that the money needs to be tied up on guys that make splashy plays at the skill positions. To me, it is a tightrope walk between a few core players who are excellent at their jobs and a supporting cast of guys that can get the job done for a reasonable price.

      To me, that means shedding salary of guys that are getting it done, but at an unnecessary premium, such as Hawk and Kuhn. They are both good players, but are commanding far too much salary, given the fact that they are largely interchangeable parts.

  • Lars1

    The Favre-Rodgers connection in the story is way overblown and a reach as mentioned above. Otherwise good write-up.

    Rodgers is already the longest tenured Packer. Jennings is gone and cross your fingers AJ Hawk will be too after June 1.

    There’s always a youth movement in Green Bay.

    • Stroh

      There is no Favre-Rodgers connection. Favre knew he was nearing the end and always had a fetish about playing w/ Moss and vice versa. So Favre tried to coerce Thompson into getting him at any cost. Thompson was interested, but only up to a point. Favre clearly didn’t think Thompson tried hard enough.

      Rodgers wanting Woodson for his leadership, is Rodgers saying basically the PC thing to say. He knows Woodson and for that matter Jennings had played their last games in GB.

      Just really isn’t comparison that needed to be made, since there isn’t a connection or comparison of the 2 situations.

  • Stroh

    I don’t think its a youth movement per so… Just another year of Thompson letting older players, highly paid players leave for the younger cheaper versions. They do need to clear cap space, hence the Woodson release. But everyone knew Jennings was not going to be back, and once the offseason started and we had realized that Woodson was being paid 10M it wasn’t difficult to see what was happening. Its not really different than any other year really.

    Driver shouldn’t have been on the team last year and now if what I read is correct he is still on the cap as dead money this year, he definitely shouldn’t have been. Everyone knew Saturday was a stopgap one year signing.

    IMO this is just like any other year in Packerland w/ Thompson. He’s making the decisions to keep the Packers in favorable salary cap situation.

    As Lars said, every year in GB is a youth movement and this year is no different.

  • Buddy

    I agree Stroh,build thru the draft and when the players value goes thru the roof replace them and start all over. I think Hawk and Finley could also be gone and free up cap space.

  • FITZCORE1252

    All I ever heard #12 say about the Wood deal was on his radio show. He said he didn’t think removing core players makes a team better, and he felt Wood was a “core player”, valid points IMO, but Wood had to go regardless, just not getting adequate return on that hefty #. Hardly the tissy Bert threw about Moss.

    GBP 4 LIFE

  • http://allgbp.com/category/authors/jason-perone/ Jason Perone

    Well, at least you’re all reading our stuff. . so that’s the good thing!:)

    The Favre mention wasn’t meant to be a direct comparison although I didn’t go out of my way to explain that. I guess I just assume you’re all smart enough to know that already. That’s not a back track either. I just was using it as an example of a vet wanting to keep vets around. I know Rodgers had spoken in support of keeping Woodson around but again, wasn’t meant as a direct comparison.

  • Wagszilla

    If the youth movement is underway, 2012 was hardly inspiring.

    Pickett was the best guy on the field from the D-Line every week.

    Hopefully they make The Jump (TM) next season but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Jim

    Perpetual change is Thompsons montra – Draft or sign a player – keep for a few years then release when contract up. He did same thing in Seattle. Problem with this is that it never lets the talent or team develope to its full potential. Built Seattle to a Super Bowl team then went down from there. Competitive but never a Super Bowl Contentor.

  • Duckman

    Very good article. The strategy of bringing in new younger players will keep the Packer’s in contention for many years. The one area where the Pack needs new blood is defensive coordinator. Dom Capers has to go!!!

  • http://yardbarker Bob Thomas

    All I know is that the Pack better get some solid running backs or we will return to an almost all passing team.1 factor as to why opposing QB’s can pich=k us apart is that we need another pas rusher.I think we could fill these 2 positions through free agaency.

  • SDPackfan

    Excellent article. I applaud TT cutting Woodson — too much money for too little production at this stage. Driver was kept a year too long though for understandable reasons. And good riddance to Saturday a truly terrible free agent signing. Jennings can still play but at his age and given his salar demand I think TT is wise to let him go.

    However, I seriously question whether replacing all these vets with just draft picks and undrafted free agents is the way to go. Are there no veteran free agents who could help the team next year, in 2013, rather than years down the road?