North Dakota State's Brock Jensen could be just the quarterback to start with.
The native of nearby Waupaca, Wis., worked out for the Packers this week, his agent Brian Adkins confirmed Friday.
Adkins said scouts have told him they project Jensen could be a mid- to late-round draft pick, although neither Mel Kiper Jr. nor Todd McShay had Jensen in the latest version of their top-10 quarterback prospects.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Jensen led North Dakota State to a third straight FCS title as a senior last season.
He finished with a 47-5 record as a starter, making him the winningest quarterback in FCS history.
"I have no doubt in my mind he could be a player a few years down the road that we're talking about as the quarterback in this draft," Adkins said.
Jensen has two more visits scheduled for next week, with the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, Adkins said.
"Cincinnati has shown the strongest interest," Adkins said. "They sent their quarterbacks coach to his workout and took him out to dinner. But it was great to see Green Bay bring him in."
The Packers typically use their pre-draft visits to look at late-round picks or potential undrafted free agents. Earlier this week, they had Virginia center Luke Bowanko in for a visit.
The Packers have three quarterbacks in the fold -- Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn (who agreed to terms on a new contract this week) -- but would like to add a fourth prospect, coach Mike McCarthy said last month at the NFL annual meetings.
Since 2008, when general manager Ted Thompson drafted Flynn (seventh round) and Brian Brohm (second round), the Packers have drafted only one quarterback (B.J. Coleman, seventh round in 2012).
Thompson's mentor, former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, made a habit of drafting quarterbacks, developing and eventually trading them. In the 1990s, the Packers drafted Ty Detmer (ninth round, 1992), Mark Brunell (fifth round, 1993), Matt Hasselbeck (sixth round, 1998) and Aaron Brooks (fourth round, 1999).
That means the Green Bay Packers -- with the addition of Peppers -- have two of the top-three pass rushers in the division. Since Peppers' first season in the division, only Jared Allen, who left the Minnesota Vikings to sign with the Chicago Bears in free agency this offseason, has more sacks among NFC North players than Clay Matthews and his new teammate, Peppers (see accompanying chart).
The partnership between Matthews and Peppers should be mutually beneficial.
From Matthews' standpoint, he believes it will mean fewer double teams.
"This guy's (6-foot-7), 290 (pounds); I'm 6-4 on a good day and 255," Matthews said during a recent interview with USA Today. "They're going to double the big guy, and that leaves plenty of opportunities for me. I haven't had too many one-on-one opportunities, and when you do, you're expected to win -- at least in our locker room -- the majority of the time, because that's supposed to be a mismatch."
Matthews expects to be fully recovered from his second thumb injury -- the two of which kept him out of six games last season (including the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers).
With Peppers and Matthews, the possibilities for defensive coordinator Dom Capers are many. He could line them up on the same side of the formation, forcing a guard or tight end to block one of them. He could separate them, leaving a dominant pass-rusher on each side. Or he could rush one or both of them from the inside.
"I'm excited about it," Matthews said. "Most people are curious as to how they're going to use him in a 3-4 scheme, but I don't think it matters. I think you line him up on the field in a zero-, one-, three-, five-, seven-, nine-technique -- he's going to get attention, and he's going to get double teams. It's going to create opportunities for one of us on the field to have our one-on-one matchups, and that's where that person needs to win."
Even if Peppers can only repeat his performance from last season, when he posted seven sacks, that would be more than any Packers' defensive lineman posted last season. Mike Daniels was tops with 6.5 sacks.
The Packers want to expand Daniels’ role this season and also hope to get more production from B.J. Raji, who will move back to nose tackle. They also plan to use Nick Perry and Mike Neal the same way they will use Peppers -- as a multi-position player they are calling the elephant spot.
"I think he's going to give teams a lot of trouble, especially with Clay, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Mike Daniels," Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush said this week. "Within also the D-line, they can't just double Clay anymore, so he's going to wreak havoc over there. I played with him in Carolina before I came here to the Packers, so I got to see his ability over there in Carolina. He's definitely a force to be reckoned with. I think with Clay and the whole gang, I think we'll be a championship caliber team."
Mel Kiper's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out on ESPN Insider today, and his projected first-round pick for the Packers at No. 21 overall should help in that process.
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Three safeties went in the first round, but none to the Packers.
Two more came off the board in Round 2, but neither was a Packers pick.
That's not to say they went into last year's draft wholly convinced that they didn't need help at the position. But when it came time to exercise each of his selections, there wasn't a safety sitting there that intrigued general manager Ted Thompson enough to make that call.
Thompson liked a few of the safeties in the draft, but the ones he was sold on were either already off the board or would have been a reach at the time of his pick.
So here are the Packers, nearly a year later, and Thompson still has not put pen to paper on a contract for a new safety of any consequence. (And no, street free agent Chris Banjo does not count.)
That has to change next month, when Thompson will take nine selections into the May 8-10 NFL draft, doesn't it?
If Thompson fails to land one of the top, say, five or six safeties in this draft -- be it Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Calvin Pryor of Louisville, both of who are locks to go in the first round; or possible second- and third-round picks like Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois, Deone Bucannon of Washington State or Terrence Brooks of Florida State -- then he will be handcuffing defensive coordinator Dom Capers in much the same fashion he did last season.
Last summer, Capers and coach Mike McCarthy opened the competition at free safety to a pair of second-year players, Jerron McMillian (a 2012 fourth-round round pick) and M.D. Jennings (an undrafted free agent the same year). It was a close competition, more so because neither one stood out, and when strong safety Morgan Burnett was unavailable for the season opener because of a hamstring injury, that duo started Week 1 at the two safety spots.
The Packers thought so little of their performances that they cut McMillian late last season and did not even bother this offseason to offer Jennings a restricted free agent tender, which would not have cost them any guaranteed money.
"Obviously we didn't get the production that we wanted from that [free safety] position," safeties coach Darren Perry said this offseason.
To be sure, the Packers need Burnett to show that Thompson wasn't misguided when he signed him to a four-year, $24.75 million contract last summer.
"I think he's fully capable of doing it," McCarthy said this offseason. "Morgan's going to do everything he can. He needs to be more assertive in play-making opportunities."
In order for Burnett to flourish, he can't be worried about the player lined up next to him. That player was supposed to be Nick Collins, the three-time Pro Bowl safety whose career was cut short in 2011 by a neck injury. At age 30, he still would have been in the prime of his career last season.
If the Packers don't find another Collins, they must at least come close.
Since the team's resurgence in the early 1990s, they have enjoyed a strong group of safeties -- from LeRoy Butler to Darren Sharper to Collins; all were Pro Bowl selections during their time in Green Bay.
The dynamic of the position has changed in recent years. Whereas Butler was a fierce hitter, today's safeties are judged just as much on speed and ball skills as anything else. What NFL teams need now are safeties than can cover chunks of yardage in milliseconds and knock passes away or, better yet, intercept them. The Packers were the only team in the NFL last season that didn't get a single interception from a safety.
"The intimidator isn't necessarily needed anymore," ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said. "The big hitters, you don't need that."
Kiper doesn't believe Clinton-Dix will be around when the Packers come up at No. 21 in the first round, but Pryor very well could be available.
Even if Pryor is gone or Thompson passes on him, he will have other options, says Kiper.
"Jimmy Ward from Northern Illinois you could make an argument is the best cover safety in the draft," Kiper said. "He's coming off the [foot] injury but he had a very good career, has great ball skills, real good hands for the interception. And Ward is a decent tackler, but he doesn't have tremendous size [5-foot-11, 193 pounds].
"The days of that big, intimidating safety are just about over. Terrence Brooks from Florida State would fill that void at that point as a safety that could come in and help you right away."
No matter what Thompson does in the draft, Capers and McCarthy plan to work cornerback Micah Hyde at safety this offseason. Perhaps the fifth-round pick out of Iowa last year will be the full-time answer; he certainly showed enough as a rookie to warrant more than the 39.4 percent playing time he got last year. But if the Packers think Hyde can allow them to concentrate on other areas of need in the draft, they'd better be right.
But when training camp begins in July -- and more importantly when the regular season kicks off in September -- Matthews does not expect there to be any issues.
In an interview with USA Today's Tom Pelissero, Matthews said he expects his thumb to be a non-issue going forward.
But when training camp opens?
"I'll be ready," Matthews said.
For the first time, he revealed exactly what happened following his second injury, which occurred on Dec. 22 when he sacked Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Matthews had returned from the first break, called a Bennett's fracture, six weeks earlier against the Philadelphia Eagles -- a game he called "by far my worst professional game, but there was a legitimate excuse" -- and after wearing a club cast that left him ineffective for that game, he opted for a much smaller cast.
All was well until his thumb hit the helmet of teammate Mike Neal on the way to sacking Roethlisberger.
Rather than opting for the same surgery that he had when he first broke his thumb on Oct. 6 against the Detroit Lions, he went with something different.
"It's called a tendon transfer," Matthews said. "I broke it [the first time], and they did a closed-pin reduction. [The thumb] was dislocated, so they put it back in there. The bones line up, but it was a real small piece of the bone. So, everything was fine. I was coming out, I was working hard, and I was in a cast.
"And unfortunately, on a sack of Roethlisberger, the tip of my thumb [hit] my teammate's helmet. All that pressure went down the cast, broke it again. So then, to make it tighter, we took part of the tendon, turned it around, drilled some holes and they almost tied a knot through. It's stronger than [the left one]. Now it's super tight."
The Packers kept Matthews on the active roster for the playoffs, hoping he could return if they made a Super Bowl run.
Matthews estimated that his thumb is "about 75, 80% of where it needs to be."
"It's getting there," he said. "By the time the season rolls around, it'll be fine. I'm optimistic about it. I mean, I've never heard of a career-ending thumb injury, but no one had heard of a Bennett's fracture when I had done that."
Coach Mike McCarthy first hinted at such shortly after the season, when he said: "You don't ever stay the same. I'll set the vision for the defense. Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out."
But here we are in mid-April, and not even the players know the full extent of those changes yet.
"I'm not sure," linebacker Brad Jones said this week before he hit the road as part of the team's five-day Tailgate Tour through northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Jones and his teammates will get the first significant dose of those changes next week, when the Packers' offseason program kicks off on Tuesday.
Jones and the rest of the linebackers already know their position group will be expanded. With the departure of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who resigned shortly after last season, both the inside and outside linebackers will come together under assistant coach Winston Moss, who previously coached only the inside linebackers.
"I think with coach Moss coaching the whole pack there, I think it will be some good stuff honestly," said Jones, who started all but four games last season. "Honestly, I don't know the exact changes, but I'm excited. I'm definitely excited."
Last offseason, Jones signed a three-year, $11.75 million contract that included a $3 million signing bonus. A year later, he could be fighting for his starting job after an inconsistent season.
"I think every year is a competition, every year you have to go back out and prove yourself like you did the year before," Jones said. "I don't think anything changes."
Their decision to take Alex Smith instead said as much.
Knowing what they know now, there's little or no doubt the 49ers would have selected Rodgers No. 1.
How many current quarterbacks, with the benefit of hindsight, would be worthy of the top overall pick in the draft?
That's a question ESPN.com's Mike Sando posed to ESPN analyst Bill Polian, ESPN.com scout Matt Williamson and an anonymous NFL general manager.
They came up with seven.
Rodgers, of course, was among them. He was listed second behind Peyton Manning and just ahead of Tom Brady.
Here's what Sando wrote about Rodgers:
"The order between Rodgers, Brady and Brees seems inconsequential. All three have consistently produced at a high level statistically. All three have carried their teams. All three have won a championship. Rodgers ranks second in Total QBR (77.2) and third in passer rating (103.1) among quarterbacks with at least five postseason starts since 2008, his first season as a starter. He ranks among the top two in both categories in the regular season over the same period."
The rest of the those on the list -- and a few that are close -- can be found in this ESPN Insider post.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Green Bay Packers do nothing else at the quarterback position this offseason, at least they know they have someone who has proven he can win games as a backup.
That is a better situation than they were in a year ago, when they had no clue whether Graham Harrell or B.J. Coleman could function with a meaningful NFL game on the line.
By re-signing veteran quarterback Matt Flynn on Tuesday, the Packers renewed an insurance policy that paid off last season after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. Flynn came back on Nov. 12 after failing to win starting jobs with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders (and following a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills).
Just 12 days later, he rallied the Packers to a comeback tie against the Minnesota Vikings and went 2-2 in his next four starts to keep the Packers in playoff contention before Rodgers returned to win the regular-season finale -- and NFC North title -- against the Chicago Bears.
Whatever Flynn's shortcomings were (likely a lack of arm strength and an unfamiliarity with new offenses) when he got his chances in Seattle and Oakland, he has proven to be comfortable and effective in Green Bay, where he began his career in 2008 and still holds a share of the team’s single-game passing yards record (480 against the Detroit Lions in the 2011 regular-season finale, a mark Rodgers tied in Week 2 last season against the Washington Redskins).
Perhaps the Packers won't need Flynn or they will decide Scott Tolzien is a better option after he goes through coach Mike McCarthy's offseason program for the first time. But for now, they don't have to worry about the unknown that came with Coleman, who never caught on with another team; or Harrell, who, coincidentally on Tuesday, was hired as an assistant coach at Washington State, according to media reports.
He reached an agreement on a new contract with the Packers on Tuesday, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The deal came on the heels of a scheduled visit to the New York Giants, which was called off Tuesday.
Flynn, who began his career with Green Bay and served as Rodgers' backup from 2008 to 2011, returned to the team last season on Nov. 12 after backup quarterback Seneca Wallace sustained a groin injury the week after Rodgers went down.
Less than two weeks later, Flynn took over for Scott Tolzien and rallied the Packers from a 16-point deficit to tie the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 24. He started the next four games and went 2-2 before Rodgers returned for the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears -- a game the Packers won to clinch the NFC North title.
Flynn completed 61.4 percent of his passes for the Packers last season while throwing for 1,146 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He had returned to the Packers on a one-year, minimum-salary contract. Terms of his new deal were not released.
He left the Packers in free agency after the 2011 season and signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks
Unlike some veteran kickers, including his NFC North counterpart in Chicago, who have voiced their displeasure over the possible change that would call for PATs to essentially become 38-yard field goals, the long-time Green Bay Packers kicker doesn't sound too bothered by it.
Crosby said the offensive linemen who block on PATs might have a bigger problem with it.
"We've got some guys who are a little outspoken so maybe Josh Sitton and T.J. [Lang] and those guys might say something if it gets a little rough going back and forth," Crosby said. "You score inside the 10, you have to go back to the 20."
For now, the longer extra point is only on experimental basis after teams agreed last month to a two-game trial in the first two weeks of the preseason.
"The extra points, I think we're going to try that out in the preseason and see how it goes," Crosby said. "If we keep making all the extra points, who knows what they decide on? For us, we'll just start practicing that kick. It's just kind of a change of distance, a change of look. But we'll just practice it like we do any other extra point and go out and execute it if that rule gets changed."
Crosby is coming off the best season of his seven-year NFL career. He followed his worst season by making 33 of 37 regular-season field goals, including all eight from 30-39 yards. For his career, he has made 78.7 percent of his field goals, including 86.6 percent from 30-39 yards.
So said Packers president Mark Murphy on Tuesday, just before he and several current and former players boarded a bus to begin the team's annual Tailgate Tour.
No doubt Murphy will be asked it again on the five-day trip that includes stops in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
"There's not a lot to report," Murphy said Tuesday morning. "We do have on-going communications with him, and I think relations are good. We're hopeful to have him come back soon.
"We wanted to have him come back to a game last year, and his team kept winning and winning, so it kind of made it tough to find a time where it worked."
Perhaps Favre’s return could take place this coming season, considering he reportedly will not return to his role as offensive coordinator at Oak Grove High School, which won the Mississippi 6A title last fall.
Last week, the New York Daily News reported the New York Giants have "reached out" to Flynn.
Things have apparently gone a step further.
On Monday, NFL Network reported that Flynn will work out for the Giants on Tuesday along with quarterback Josh Freeman.
Flynn left the Packers after the 2011 season to sign a three-year, $26 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks. But Flynn couldn't beat out then-rookie Russell Wilson and a year later was traded to the Oakland Raiders, where he again failed to win the starting job.
He re-signed with the Packers last fall and played in five games, helping the Packers to a 2-2-1 record in those games while Aaron Rodgers was sidelined because of a broken collarbone.
The Packers have only two quarterbacks on their current roster, Rodgers and Scott Tolzien. Coach Mike McCarthy said last month at the NFL meetings that he wants Flynn to return to compete with Tolzien for the backup job.
In New York, Flynn could be reunited with new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who was the Packers quarterbacks coach last season.
Flynn's agent, Bill Johnson, did not return a message left at his office on Monday.