NFC North: Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- More than two weeks into free agency, the only player the Green Bay Packers have brought in from the outside is a street free agent defensive back whose NFL experience is a total of one week on a practice squad.

So in other words, things are normal in general manager Ted Thompson's world.

Every year Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy come to NFL annual meetings, which takes place shortly after free agency begins, and every year they're asked the same thing about their roster-building philosophy. It was no different this week in Phoenix, where the meetings wrapped up on Wednesday.

"It's kind of like groundhog today," McCarthy said Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast. "I feel like I answer this every year. I'm trying to be creative and answer it differently this year. It's just the way we operate. We do the evaluations. We have a door down in the personnel department just like we do for the draft board for free agency. We just stick to our plan. However it sorts out, that's how it works out."

By now, everyone around the league knows the Packers prefer to sign their own free agents -- like they did with receiver Randall Cobb and tackle Bryan Bulaga earlier this month -- rather than to chase players from other teams.

"That's our No. 1 priority, always has been, to sign our own free agents," McCarthy said. "We go into every offseason, if we have 10 conversations, nine-and-half of them are about our own guys."

Before the Packers on Wednesday signed street free agent safety Kyle Sebetic, who spent a week on the New York Giants practice squad last November, they were the only NFL team that had not added a new player since free agency began on March 10.

"We're still doing our work, our due diligence," Thompson told reporters earlier this week at the NFL meetings. "You never know what's going to [happen]. Things change around the league because teams make decisions to go in a certain direction and then all of a sudden a player might come out of that team that you didn't normally suspect that to be the case. You just try to keep our powder dry and know what we're doing."

The Packers have essentially made three or four significant free-agent signings in Thompson's tenure as GM, which began in 2005. In 2006, he signed defensive back Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Last offseason, he brought in pass-rusher Julius Peppers. Peppers was not even a true unrestricted free agent. He had been cut by the Chicago Bears. Same thing with Letroy Guion, the defensive tackle the Packers signed last offseason to a one-year deal. He had been released by the Minnesota Vikings.

However you want to categorize what the Packers did last season, it wasn't the norm.

On the flip side, when players are drafted by the Packers, they know they have a chance to make it a long-term relationship.

"We tell them coming in how important they are as draft picks, how important they are as free agents," McCarthy said. "It starts with rookie orientation and the impact each and every year that the first-year player impact has on a football team. And then it grows. I think it's a mutual understanding that they want to be Green Bay Packers, and we want to keep them here. I feel good that we're able to continue to do that."

Of course, the Packers have not been able to keep them all. They lost a pair of cornerbacks -- Tramon Williams and Davon House -- in free agency so far this year, and several of their other free agents remained unsigned.

"We're pretty comfortable," Thompson said. "Every year it seems like there are a few guys that you'd like to keep that go elsewhere, and that's just part of the game now. Mike and his staff do a great job working with new guys and we have some guys on our team that we think can fill in. At the same time, I make no bones of the fact in some cases we'd like to keep the guys."

The Green Bay Packers are fully aware that free-agent defensive tackle Letroy Guion still could be subject to discipline from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league's personal conduct policy, but that won't stop them from re-signing him.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday at the NFL annual meetings in Phoenix that Guion remains in their plans. That means something could happen soon now that Guion's criminal case for possession of marijuana and a firearm was resolved with Tuesday's plea agreement.

"I think to a man, everybody would like to see Letroy be a Green Bay Packer," McCarthy said at the NFC coaches breakfast.

The Packers signed Guion last March to a one-year, $1 million contract. At the time, Guion was brought in to back up nose tackle B.J. Raji, but he became the opening-day starter after Raji sustained a season-ending torn biceps tendon late in the preseason.

Guion started every game and posted career highs in tackles (62) and sacks (3.5). The Packers were in the midst of contract talks with Guion's agent, Seth Katz, when Guion was arrested in Florida on Feb. 3.

Those talks were put on hold for the last six weeks even though Guion has been in Green Bay working out, but negotiations were expected to resume following Tuesday's court proceedings.

"He's been an excellent addition to our football team and it would be great to get Letroy back," McCarthy said. "Just from my conversations with him, I know he we wants to be a Green Bay Packer."

However, the Packers may have to act quickly because interest in Guion from other teams could pick up now that his legal situation has been resolved.

Both Guion and Raji remain on the open market as unrestricted free agents.

How happy was Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy to see Ndamukong Suh sign with the Miami Dolphins in free agency?

"I'm trying to teach my 6-year-old to do a cartwheel right now," McCarthy told reporters at the NFC coaches breakfast Wednesday at the NFL annual meetings in Phoenix.

And it wasn't just because he was happy that his friend, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, landed this year's premier free agent.

It means the Packers won't have to face the former Detroit Lions defensive tackle twice a year anymore in the NFC North. And since the Packers played the Dolphins in 2014, they won’t see Suh again until 2018.

"I thought it was a win-win," McCarthy said. "It was good to see him leave the division, and it was great to see Joe Philbin improve his football team."

The Lions were the only NFC North team to beat the Packers last season, and it was primarily because Detroit's defensive front, Suh included, dominated the game. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense managed just 223 yards of total offense, a season low, in their 19-7 loss at Ford Field in Week 3.

And then, of course, there was the infamous Suh stomp on former Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith in the 2011 Thanksgiving game. Suh was suspended two games for that incident, and it created bad blood between the two teams.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- More than four years after the idea was first broached, Mike McCarthy finally has his own street.

The village of Ashwaubenon put up the signs on Tuesday, turning what was formally known as Potts Avenue into Mike McCarthy Way.

Thanks to Twitter follower Kyle Cousineau for snapping a photo and allowing us to share it.


Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt first promised the Green Bay Packers coach a street in his honor after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

It wasn't until last summer that city and village officials settled on Potts Avenue as the street to rename. It runs along the south end of the Packers' practice fields, adjacent to the Don Hutson Center, and intersects with another street named for a Packers' Super Bowl-winning coach.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Letroy Guion isn't in the clear just yet, at least not with the NFL.

Despite the resolution of his criminal case on Tuesday, the free-agent defensive end could still face discipline from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell whether he returns to the Green Bay Packers or signs with another team.

"It will be reviewed for potential discipline," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday in an email.

Guion could face a fine and/or suspension under the league's personal conduct policy.

The last Packers' player to face a suspension from the league was linebacker Erik Walden. He could not play in the 2012 season opener after he reached a deferred judgment agreement to resolve a disorderly conduct-domestic abuse charge without pleading guilty.

Guion paid a $5,000 fine plus court costs but as a first-time offender, the charges of felony possession of marijuana and a firearm were dismissed without adjudication of guilt.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The roster is so thin at inside linebacker that at this point it's nearly impossible to come up with a second starter for the Green Bay Packers.

In fact, the defensive depth chart at ESPN.com does not even list one.

And really, who else would you put next to Sam Barrington?

[+] EnlargeSam Barrington
Tom Lynn/AP PhotoHey, Green Bay's Sam Barrington has a question: Who is gonna play next to me at inside linebacker?

Carl Bradford?

Nate Palmer?

Neither has ever played an NFL regular-season game at that spot. In fact, Bradford has never played an NFL game at any spot. The fourth-round pick, who moved from inside linebacker during the final week of the preseason, was inactive for every game last season. Palmer also moved from inside linebacker in the final week of the preseason but went on season-ending injured reserve a week later because of a knee injury.

You could put Clay Matthews there, but Matthews surely would rather go back to outside linebacker on a full-time basis.

With A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones gone -- both were released last month -- and free-agent Jamari Lattimore unsigned, the options are few at this point.

"If you need this number of players at this position, then you figure out ways to acquire those players over time," Packers general manager Ted Thompson told reporters this week at the NFL annual meetings in Phoenix. "I don't think you jump in and try to do it the very next day. You plan it out, and this is not necessarily something that wasn't already planned out."

Surely, Thompson knew late last season, after watching Hawk and Jones get benched, that this was going to be a position of need for 2015. And in typical Thompson fashion, it appears the need will be filled through the draft. He would have liked C.J. Mosley in last year's draft, but the Baltimore Ravens took the Alabama linebacker four spots earlier. And besides, Thompson filled what was a more pressing need at the time with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

If there's angst over the linebacker spot outside the organization, that does not appear to be the feeling from within.

"We have some people that can evaluate players, and we have coaches that coach them, and there we go," Thompson said. "And we've done this before at different positions."

Just last year, Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy remade both the defensive line and the safety spot. They let veteran defensive tackles Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly leave and then played all of last season without B.J. Raji. It could be argued that strategy failed, given their problems against the run, where they ranked dead last in the league halfway through the year and finished 23rd only after moving Matthews inside on early downs.

However, it worked at safety, where they successfully moved cornerback Micah Hyde and drafted Clinton-Dix in the first round.

"There's always the unknowns," Thompson said. "And there's always, 'We think this, but we're not certain about this,' and I understand that. But that's just part of the personnel business. You have to keep marching forward. You have to keep going, and you can't worry about every little bump in the road. You can't worry yourself to death [and say], 'Oh woe is me, what are we going to do about this, what are we going to do about that?'"

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Davante Adams impressed NFL teams at last year's scouting combine with his vertical jumping ability. He tested at 39.5 inches, which was tied for the third-best vertical among all the receivers.

The Green Bay Packers receiver showed off that leaping ability in another way. In a post on his Instagram account, the 6-foot-1 Adams can be seen throwing down an impressive dunk. He went 360 degrees and through his legs.

See for yourself:

GREEN BAY, Wis. – On Monday, we detailed why a reunion between the Green Bay Packers and receiver Greg Jennings would seem unlikely.

However, Jennings isn't ruling it out -- not that his old team has shown any interest in the days since he was released by the Minnesota Vikings just two years into the five-year, $45 million contract he signed to leave Green Bay in 2013.

"I'm open to everything," Jennings said during an interview with Stephen A. Smith on Sirius XM/Mad Dog Sports Radio on Tuesday. "I would never tear down any one of those bridges, even the ones to Green Bay. If that was an opportunity and it was right, then it would definitely be pursued, but I don't know. We'll see what the future holds."

Some might argue those bridges already were torn down by comments Jennings made shortly after he joined the Vikings. He was critical of both the organization and of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' leadership style.

However, Jennings appeared humbled after two seasons in Minnesota, where he never totaled more than 804 receiving yards in either of his two seasons. He broke that mark in five of his seven seasons with the Packers, including three straight 1,100-plus yard seasons from 2008-10 with Rodgers as his quarterback. He never found the same success with Christian Ponder or Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota.

"I've had my struggles with the quarterbacks, so a quarterback would be nice," Jennings said when asked about what he's looking for in a new team.

At that point, Smith told Jennings he never should have left Rodgers and the Packers, who offered slightly less money than the Vikings to try to keep Jennings.

"In the stage of my career where I was at, I was thinking this was my last deal," Jennings said. "So I've got to max out, and I've got to do something that's benefiting myself and my family. When I look at a guy like Randall [Cobb, who re-signed with the Packers], this is not his last deal. He made a tremendous decision and a great one in my book to stay and then in a few years when he's back up, because he's still young, then he has to make that decision."

Free-agency review: Packers

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
10:00
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Most significant signing: The Green Bay Packers had two major priorities going into the process, and the team re-signed both of them before they could hit the open market. They managed to retain receiver Randall Cobb on a four-year, $40 million contract and right tackle Bryan Bulaga on a five-year, $33.75 million deal. It ensured the Packers would return their entire starting offensive line and their top three receivers from an offense that led the NFL in points last season.

[+] EnlargeRandle Cobb
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesRandall Cobb was an integral part of the Packers' potent offense last season.

Most significant loss: Rarely do the Packers let a homegrown contributor leave in free agency after their first pro contract, but that's exactly what happened with cornerback Davon House, a fourth-round pick in 2011. The Packers made an effort to re-sign him, but they weren't willing to make the financial commitment that the Jacksonville Jaguars were when they gave him a four-year, $24.75 million contract. General manager Ted Thompson wasn't going to put up that much cash for a player who has never been a full-time starter and has never been able to stay completely healthy. Had House returned, he almost certainly would have been a starter.

Biggest surprise: The Packers didn't retain either of their top-two free agent cornerbacks. It was unlikely that they would bring back both House and Tramon Williams, but it would have been a good bet that one of them would return. The Packers were in the mix to keep Williams, but not at the price the Cleveland Browns paid him on Monday, when they signed him to a three-year deal reportedly worth $7 million year season.

What's next: Thompson will likely continue to work down the list of his own free agents who remain unsigned. The top remaining priorities, B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion, both are on the defensive line. However, he also will have to at least explore the possibility of looking at some free-agent cornerbacks after losing both House and Williams.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers' decision not to get into a bidding war to retain Tramon Williams said one of two things:

They believed the uber-durable Williams, who turned 32 on Monday, was in decline.

[+] Enlarge Jermaine Kearse
AP Images/David J. PhillipTramon Williams allowed the winning TD to Seattle's Jermaine Kearse in last season's NFC title game.

They felt confident that Casey Hayward, who heretofore has been limited to a part-time role as a slot defensive back, can make the jump to full-time outside cornerback.

Or perhaps it was both.

The Packers remained interested in retaining Williams, but indications were they were offering only a two-year deal that averaged in the neighborhood of $4 million to $5 million per season. Although the exact breakdown of the three-year contract Williams signed Monday with the Cleveland Browns was not yet available, one report said it averaged $7 million per season.

The Packers admired Williams' durability; he played in 140 of a possible 141 games (including playoffs) since he first made their roster in 2007. But they were fully aware that he might never return to his 2010 form, when he intercepted nine passes (including in the postseason). That season led to the four-year, $33 million contract extension that ran out this month and made Williams an unrestricted free agent.

The numbers supported the argument that Williams got beat too often last season. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he allowed 10 touchdowns in 18 games, including the game-winner by Seattle's Jermaine Kearse in overtime of the NFC Championship Game. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 106.5 when targeting Williams last season, according to PFF. That number had never been higher than 85 in Williams' first seven seasons. He also allowed completions on 63.6 percent of the passes thrown his way, which also was the highest percentage of his career.

But after losing cornerback Davon House to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, the Packers felt they could still win with Williams in the short term.

However, they also wanted all along to get Hayward on the field more. Now they will have that chance.

After missing all but three games of the 2013 season because of hamstring injuries, Hayward was active for every game last season yet appeared on only 33.3 percent of the defensive snaps because coordinator Dom Capers and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt used him primarily in the dime package, which features six defensive backs. Nevertheless, Hayward tied Williams for the team lead with three interceptions.

They still need depth at cornerback, and it will have to come via the draft or a low-cost free agent.

Behind Sam Shields and Hayward, the Packers' cornerback depth chart includes nickel defensive back Micah Hyde, who also could be a candidate to replace Williams, and three unknowns: Demetri Goodson, Jean Fanor and Tay Glover Wright. Goodson was a sixth-round pick last year but didn't play a snap. He played only on special teams in the six games for which he was active. Fanor and Glover-Wright were practice squad players last season.

The Packers probably erred in keeping Goodson over Jumal Rolle, who left the Packers' practice squad a month into last season to sign with the Houston Texans. Rolle had three interceptions in 10 games with the Texans last season.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In some ways, the NFL is a forgive-and-forget business. Players, coaches and league executives get second and third chances all the time, which made it understandable that there was a hankering among some fans for the Green Bay Packers to bring back Greg Jennings.

The former Packers receiver was cut by the Minnesota Vikings over the weekend after just two years in purple.

Here's why a reunion wouldn't work:

[+] EnlargeGreg Jennings
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsFormer Packers receiver Greg Jennings was released by Minnesota over the weekend.

It's not that Jennings left the Packers for more money -- although he ended up with only $18 million over two years with the Vikings and not the $45 million he would have received over the full five years of the deal -- it was what happened after he left that would make a reconciliation with the Packers difficult, if not impossible.

In the summer after he signed with the Vikings, Jennings did a series of interviews with Minneapolis media outlets in which he painted a negative picture of the Packers and, more specifically, of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

In a radio interview, he said he was "brainwashed" when he played for the Packers when it came to how other teams in the NFC North were supposed to be perceived.

"Being over in Green Bay, you're brainwashed to think anyone in the division is tiers below," Jennings said on KFAN radio. "It's like everything that you know in Green Bay is like the best, the best, the best, the best, the best." And it's like total brainwashing. And I think you don't open your eyes to see what other teams have to offer unless you are in that position, and I was afforded this position."

That followed a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in which Jennings spoke critically of Rodgers' leadership style, saying: "Don't get me wrong, '12' is a great person. But when you hear all positives, all positives, all positives all the time, it's hard for you to sit down when one of your teammates says 'Man, come on, you've got to hold yourself accountable for this.' It's hard for someone to see that now because all they've heard is I'm doing it the right way, I'm perfect. In actuality, we all have flaws."

Jennings' half-hearted apology didn't sit well with Rodgers, who responded by saying he was confident in his leadership style.

And then there was the bizarre Twitter rant by Jennings' sister during a game in the 2012 season in which she was critical of Rodgers for not throwing the ball to her brother.

People can change. Former Packers running back Ahman Green was as difficult a player for the media to deal with during his first stint with the Packers, but was pleasant as could be when he returned to finish his career in Green Bay after a failed stint with the Houston Texans.

That brings us back to the possibility of a reunion with Jennings. The Packers' offense might have been at its best in 2011, when it had Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley catching passes.

Last season, the passing game was mostly Cobb and Nelson with a little Davante Adams, Andrew Quarless, and Richard Rodgers sprinkled in. But that offense had chemistry and continuity. It led the NFL in scoring, which led coach Mike McCarthy to say after the season that "I've never had an offense this good."

It didn't need Jennings to qualify as such last year.

McCarthy laughed off Jennings' comments in the summer of 2013, saying "You know, when you put on that purple, something happens to you," but he and general manager Ted Thompson are as mindful as anyone about the culture in their locker room. Putting Jennings back into it would probably do more to disturb that than foster it.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers are still trying to re-sign free-agent cornerback Tramon Williams, according to a source familiar with their thinking.

Williams visited the New Orleans Saints Tuesday and Wednesday but left without completing a deal, according to ESPN NFL Nation Saints reporter Mike Triplett.

The Saints remain in play for Williams' services, according to Triplett's source, but they are also making a push to sign former New England Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner.

That could help push Williams back to the Packers.

The Packers would like to retain Williams, especially after losing cornerback Davon House to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but may be only willing to offer him a two-year deal that could average between $4 million and $5 million per season.

Williams has been ultra-dependable, playing in 140 of a possible 141 games in his Packers career, which dates to 2007. However, he will turn 32 later this month.

At the NFL scouting combine, Williams' agent, Rodney Williams, said age shouldn't be considered in his client's case.

"Everybody looks at that number 32, and it's based strictly on whether you're going to start breaking down and missing games," Rodney Williams said last month at the combine. "You're talking about a guy who's played in 140 out of 141 games, so if there's any player on that team that's going to show up every day, it's Tramon Williams, so I think that's going to be the exception to that age number that some people are putting out."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers re-signed Scott Tolzien with the hope that he will be Aaron Rodgers' top backup this season, but his one-year contract does not restrict them to that if he fails to measure up in the preseason.

Tolzien
The total value of the contract is $1.2 million, but it contains just $100,000 in guaranteed money.

That would make it easy for the Packers to release him before the start of the season if they found a better option. Tolzien spent all of last season as the No. 3 quarterback behind Rodgers and Matt Flynn, who has not been re-signed.

Here's the breakdown of the contract, according to ESPN Stats & Information salary data:

2015
Cash value: $1.2 million
Salary-cap charge: $1.2 million
Signing bonus: $100,000
Roster bonus: $10,000
Workout bonus: $100,000
Base salary: $990,000
GREEN BAY, Wis. – On Tuesday, we broke down the details of the four-year, $40 million contract Randall Cobb signed to return to the Green Bay Packers.

The year-by-year, dollar-by-dollar details can be found here.

Now that the deal is in the ESPN Stats & Information database, we know where Cobb ranks among the highest-paid receivers in the league.

At this point, he's tied for eighth. That could change over the next couple of days, based on other roster moves.

Here's the list of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL, based on average per year:
*-Franchise tag
#-Expected to be released
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The new NFL year not only meant the start of free agency but also a pay day for several Green Bay Packers players already under contract.

Rodgers
Three players have bonuses tied to the start of the league year in their contracts.

One was due on Tuesday.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers received a $9.5 million roster bonus as part of the five-year, $110 million contract extension he signed on April 26, 2013. Rodgers received the same bonus on the first day of the league year in 2014.

The rest of Rodgers' roster bonuses over the remaining length of his contract, which runs through 2019, are tied to the number of games he's active in each season.

Two other bonuses are due later in the week.

The Packers owe outside linebacker Mike Neal a $1 million bonus on the third day of the league year and cornerback Sam Shields a $2.5 million bonus on the fifth day of the league year.

The only way to avoid paying those bonuses would be to release those players before the bonuses are due.

The Packers won't release Shields; that's a given. He signed a four-year, $39 million contract last March.

But would they possibly release Neal, who signed a two-year, $8 million contract last March?

It can't be ruled out.

If the Packers cut Neal before Thursday, they would save $3 million in salary-cap space. Neal played in every game last season but was pushed out of a starting job by the addition of pass-rusher Julius Peppers, who the Packers are bringing back for another season. Still, the Packers liked the four-man rotation of Peppers, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Neal at outside linebacker last season.

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