After a season ending blowout against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship, it was clear the Packers needed to reevaluate their roster.
Green Bay got rid of a list of big name players, most notably: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Jared Cook, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde, T.J. Lang, J.C. Tretter, and Julius Peppers.
Despite the legacy of players like Lang and Lacy, Ted Thompson has made it clear for many years that he is willing to get rid of expensive players who are on the decline in productivity to build for the future.
It will be hard to get over losing the Pro-Bowler Lang, as Lang was one of the best guards in the league last season. However, two years ago, Green Bay let Josh Sitton walk which turned out to be a beneficial move.
While many of these players were some of the faces of the franchise for years, letting them go was completely justifiable. Eddie Lacy has been overweight, unproductive and inefficient ever since his rookie season. Shields may never be able to finish another season in the NFL due to his concussion issue. Peppers just turned 37 and has a limited number of years left in the league. Finally, Cook was let go after Martellus Bennett was signed due to financial costs.
So how did Green Bay fill the void of all these players?
Lacy, Starks and Christine Michael are all no longer with the team, which meant that running back was a clear necessity in the draft. Green Bay waited until the fourth round to take a back, but ended up taking three: Jamaal Williams of BYU, Aaron Jones of UTEP, and Devante Mays from Utah State. Williams is a 215 lb bruising tailback who the Packers will rely on for goal line situations and downhill running. Mays is another power back at 230 lbs, but will have to work to get carries over the other two rookies and Ty Montgomery. Jones, on the other hand, has potential to be a three down back due to his speed and receiving capabilities. Green Bay is hoping that these backs can replace the power running of Lacy and the versatility of Starks.
After being Rodgers’ go-to man in the playoffs, Jared Cook was let go after just one season. Green Bay signed both Lance Kendricks and Bennett which should give the team a good combo of pass catching and blocking. Bennett took over for Rob Gronkowski in New England last season, and ended up being top ten in the league in both yards and touchdowns for tight ends. While teams have had issues with Bennett’s personality over the years, the Packers front office clearly didn’t think it would be any sort of problem for the team. Kendricks had a career year last year with 500 receiving yards, and will give the Packers a solid red zone option, along with a more skilled run blocker. Overall, these two players should fill the void of Jared Cook and will likely improve upon what was a slow start in the regular season for the Packers passing game.
Obviously, the secondary was a huge issue for Green Bay last season, as they ranked second to last in the league in passing defense. By picking up former Packer Davon House and adding Kevin King and Josh Jones to the mix, the Packers secondary will likely look a lot different than it did last season. Don’t be surprised to see Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall starting the season out on the bench, as their lack of production last year merits a switch in the lineup. Jones could fill the role Micah Hyde played, a do-it-all safety who is both physical and quick. House is a seasoned veteran and King could be a star player in the future, so Green Bay’s pass defense should be an improvement next season.
Finally, the Packers reloaded on the Defensive Line. The Packers depth up front on defense has been very thin the past few years, and this off-season Green Bay got rid of Mike Pennel, Julius Peppers, and Datone Jones. By re-signing Nick Perry and adding Ricky Jean-Francois along with the rookie Montravious Adams from Auburn, the Packers D-Line gained both experience and potential for the future. Vince Biegel could also serve as a replacement for Peppers, however he likely won’t have the same impact as the veteran for a few years. Overall, if Kenny Clark can continue to improve and Adams turns out to be a solid player, the Packers D-Line could actually be a strong-point for the team this season.
Offensive Line is an area that likely won’t be as solid this season as it was last year. Outside of Dallas and Oakland, Green Bay probably had the best group of lineman in the league. All five guys managed to stay healthy most of the season which makes a huge difference for a position that relies so much on one another. However, with Lang and Tretter gone, the Packers will need a new guard to step up. Green Bay didn’t make any moves in free agency to acquire a lineman, and waited until the 6th round to take Kofi Amichia, who likely won’t be starting at guard any time soon as he played Center in college. Don Barclay will probably move into the starting role, but it will be interesting to see how the Packers line adjusts to the new lineup.
Overall, Green Bay improved in a number of areas such as their secondary and the defensive line. They guaranteed potential by picking up a string of running backs, but their offensive line could be an issue this season, as the Packers try to fill the void of a Pro-Bowler in T.J. Lang.
Photo Courtesy of: Michael Wade, Icon Sportsware