From Larry R in Appleton, WI
There seem to be an unusually high number of free agents this year due to the changing rules over the last 24 months. None of these can be signed until after the draft (probably). Because of this timing, teams that normally would have signed their own free agents and grabbed one or two new players, now will be tempted to go to the draft first. Those teams may draft for need to protect against the chance that they will not be able to sign the free agent they really want. In fact, the Packers might also be influenced by this and draft a new receiver without knowing how much resigning James Jones would cost them. More likely though TT will, as always, draft the best available player….definitely the best strategy this year when you are at number 32.
Whenever the new CBA is finalized, teams are going to be doing a lot of scrambling to lock in their own free agents first and then seeing what is leftover out there. Not a good deal for the free agents because all the teams will have loaded up during the draft to fill their greatest needs. Who will the Packers scramble to sign first? My vote is for Jones, Crosby, Kuhn, and Jackson. Jenkins would be nice but I am afraid he has peaked.
The following is the list of Packer free agents:
- WR James Jones
- DE Cullen Jenkins
- G Daryn Colledge
- C/G Jason Spitz
- S Atari Bigby
- S Anthony Smith
- FB Korey Hall
- TE/LB Spencer Havner
- CB Josh Bell
- LB Matt Wilhelm
- RB Brandon Jackson
- FB John Kuhn
- K Mason Crosby
- WR Brett Swain
Second Year Impact
Coaches frequently comment that the greatest player improvement comes between year 1 and year 2. What kind of improvement should we look for from each of these players and how do they go about acheiving it in the off season? More importantly, who if anyone will step forward enough to be a starter or better yet an impact player?
Here is a list of last year’s rookies looking to make an impact in 2011:
Bryan Bulaga – A very solid rookie year. More consistency and run blocking for the entire line needs emphasis. Already a starter and an impact player.
Josh Gordy – Surprised if he makes the roster
Nick McDonald – Should improve enough to make the roster.
Dimitri Nance – A tough road to have a chance to make the team. Gone.
Andrew Quarless – Got a ton of playing time and we have not really seen the big play potential that his physical skills suggest that he has. Perhaps a noticeable improvement but still only a second string tight end that might take some snaps away from Crabtree.
Sam Shields – Wow what a rookie year. More playing time and workouts with the coaching staff, Williams and Woodson should make Shields even more valuable. Packers are in a great position here now when all we have to do is look for our fourth CB. I expect his play to continue to improve and yes he will make some spectacular plays. If he is good enough to prompt more discussion of Woodson moving to Safety…..that says a lot.
James Starks – Might well be our starting RB next year. Simply needs more time to pick up the blocking and pass catching skills. Real improvement and yes he may have an impact. He will just have to get the ball often enough. Not likely to happen actually.
CJ Wilson – Likely to get more playing time.
Frank Zombo – Made some great contributions in 2010 and who knows what he can bring in 2011.
Morgan Burnett – Should be a great competition for a starting safety position. More experience will clearly help.
Mike Neal – Resign Jenkins? Neal definitely showed flashes in 2010. Not resigning Jenkins would be a huge opportunity for Neal!
Marshall Newhouse – Might have a long shot chance at a starting role.
Tom Crabtree – Strictly speaking Crabtree is not really finishing his rookie season but it is the first season he has had significant playing time and he has been labeled the Packers best blocking tight end in some comments.
Who is most likely to step up big time? My guess is Starks will get more and more playing time and he will make very good use of it. Shields will be better than ever and keep getting better with more playing time and end up giving the Packers will have the best defensive backfield in the business in 2011. Mike Neal will be in a great position to get a fast start and have a great year. Very good possibility that there will be a new starter on both the offensive and the defensive line. Sometimes you wish they could expand the roster beyond 80. Now how are the 2011 rookies going to fit in? They cannot all be on the practice squad!