NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa
Continuity and consistency are two of the most valuable traits any professional organization can have, and the NFL is certainly no different. The Green Bay Packers have exemplified these two words to a tee and then some.
The Packers have been one of the most successful NFL franchises by remaining consistent in their unique roster building mold. To this date, the Packers have the least amount of players on their roster who have ever played in regular season games for other franchises throughout the entire league.
GM Ted Thompson will live and die by his draft and develop strategy, as even most casual NFL fans understand. Draft well, retain your own (only if it’s financially wise to do so) and never get into bidding wars with other teams – that is Thompson’s way. Thompson clearly isn’t a fan of trades as well, acquiring only 6 players during his tenure via this route.
This leads to a consistent youth movement. An astounding 44% of the current roster have never played in a regular season game. Since Ted Thompson arrived in 2006, the Packers have fielded one of the ten youngest teams in the league every season. During Thompson’s reign, the Packers have had the youngest team in the NFC North every season except for 2014 (Vikings) and lead the entire NFL in this category four times.
Of course for every rule, there’s always an exception. That exception was Julius Peppers. Peppers was signed last offseason to a 3 year $26M contract away from the rival Bears which surprised most of the league. Peppers was the first significant Free Agent brought in since Charles Woodson in 2006 (Jeff Saturday, Charlie Peprah, Brandon Chillar next in line).
One could consider Woodson an exception as well, however since Woodson was brought in during the roster turnover from the Ron Wolf days, I view this as more of an outlier move.
This offseason has been no different to the blueprint laid out in previous years. The most important piece – WR Randall Cobb – was inked to a 4 year $40M deal three days prior to the start of free agency. Had Cobb tested the Free Agency waters, it is a good bet he wouldn’t be a Packer this year. Cooler heads prevailed however, and the Packers got their man back.
The Packers dished out another significant contract to one of their own, OT Bryan Bulaga, to the likes of a 5 year $33.75M pact. Fan favorite FB John Kuhn, as well as defensive tackles BJ Raji and Letroy Guion will also be back for another campaign.
Among the roster turnover included starting cornerback Tramon Williams, who signed a 3 year deal worth $21M in Cleveland and AJ Hawk who will be suiting up for Cincinnati next season on a 2 year deal. CB Davon House (JAX), WR Jarrett Boykin (CAR), RB DuJuan Harris (MIN), LB Brad Jones (PHI) & LB Jamari Lattimore (NYJ) all will be elsewhere in 2015 as well.
Overall, I’d say Green Bay once again had one of the more solid drafts in the league. They started off taking safety Damarious Randall from Arizona State. Randall is an interesting prospect, as he probably will be a cornerback in the NFL. I expect Randall to push Casey Hayward for a starting role, ultimately ending up in the slot for nickel and dime packages.
The Packers followed the Randall selection with one of the most athletic players in the draft, former basketball player Quinten Rollins. Rollins is raw and ultimately is a younger, more talented Davon House. Stanford WR Ty Montgomery was selected in the third round. If you read my articles in season, you would know I’m not Montgomery’s biggest fan. That being said, he can line up in a variety of roles and adds special teams value.
On day 3, the Packers took some interesting players. UCLA QB Brett Hundley caught the headlines, but it was ILB Jake Ryan (Michigan) in the fourth round who caught my eye. Ryan due to the lack of depth at the position has a chance to come in and play right away, and due to his coverage ability has a chance to see some early success.
FB Aaron Ripkowski (Oklahoma), DL Christian Ringo (Louisiana – Lafayette) and TE Kennard Backman (UAB) rounded out the draft class.
As for UDFA’s go, all the talk is around RB John Crockett from North Dakota State University. Crockett was insanely productive last season rushing for almost 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns while showing receiving ability as well. He has a chance to push Raijon Neal (2014 UDFA, Tennessee) for the third running back slot.
Overall it was a predictable, solid offseason for Green Bay. Priority #1 was to retain Randall Cobb, which was a success. I expect the NFC North to be an improved division top to bottom next season with the emergence of Minnesota, but Green Bay should remain kings of the division – and a prime Super Bowl contender.
Next on Eyes on the Competition – Cincinnati