Return of the Pack, We Know that They’ll be Back… To the Playoffs

The historic Green Bay Packers have been around since the birth of football. One of the longest running franchises in the NFL, Green Bay has had an historic run throughout the years. Along the way they’ve filled the NFL Hall of Fame with multiple legends like Brett Favre, and Reggie White. The Super Bowl trophy is even named after their legendary coach Vince Lombardi. So when the Packers finished the year at 13-3, it seemed like business as usual for Aaron Rodgers and the Pack Attack. Most of Rodgers’ career has been offense heavy with emphasis in the pass game. But something was different about this 2019 Green Bay team. Not only could they pass the ball, but Aaron Jones continued his dominance as a running back, and this year, the Packers defense showed up to play. Even Rodgers seemed pleasantly surprised after their week 1 win against the Chicago Bears, stating, “We got a defense,” during a post game interview while expressing a proud smile.

This years Packers team was a dangerous unit from the start, as their offense finished 9th in efficiency, and their defense ranking 6th (according to ESPN). Putting the team within the top 10 for both sides of the ball. However great this team seemed to be all year long, there was something noticeably missing in every game. Despite finishing the year with one of the top defenses in the league, Green Bay gave up 1,921 rushing yards, which was the 9th most amongst other teams. We watched the San Fransisco 49ers take advantage of the Packers’ weakness not once, but twice. First in the regular season, and then again in the NFC Conference Championship, spoiling the Packers hopes of taking a trip to the Super Bowl.

As we’re now in the NFL offseason just a few days away from the start of free agency, the Packers, luckily, will have a majority of their main players coming back in 2020, as they’re all still under contract. Even so, they still have 3 main players hitting the free agent market on Monday, those being Bryan Bulaga (RT), Blake Martinez (ILB), and Geronimo Allison (WR). The Packers only have roughly $25 million in cap space this year (according to Spotrac), which means they’ll only be able to re-sign ONE of these guys. This makes the NFL Draft incredibly important for the Packers, as they’re looking to win the Super Bowl in 2020. Before the season starts, these are the transactions the Packers should take in order to go to the Super Bowl.

Decisions, Decisions…

Like I mentioned, the Packers have 3 main guys entering free agency. Those being Bryan Bulaga, Blake Martinez, and Geronimo Allison. Considering the Pack Attack’s front office only has about $25 million to play with, they’ll only be able to sign one of these players. To make the right decision, the front office is going to have to decide which they think is more important, offense or defense. By a simple process of elimination, the front office should make the right decision. Considering Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and the WR history the team has had with him under center, I’d remove Allison from the possibility of a re-sign. Rodgers still has Davante Adams, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Also, there always seems to be a new guy who shows up and performs well for Green Bay too.

That leaves Bulaga, or Martinez. Bryan Bulaga is one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL, and has been for a long time. He’s 31 years old right now, which means Green Bay probably still has 2 years maximum of Bulaga playing at this high of a level. On the other hand, Blake Martinez is a former 4th round pick and has excelled his expectations since taking over as the starting inside linebacker, recording 155 total tackles, 3 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in 2019. He’s only 26, which means he has his best years ahead of him, and can be an impact player for the Packers for years to come.

At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to what the front office believes gives them the best chances of winning. Having said that, I think the Packers will make the decision to re-sign Bryan Bulaga. Giving Aaron Rodgers as much protection as possible will give the Packers the best chance at succeeding. Bulaga is already familiar with Rodgers and the offensive scheme, so bringing in a new veteran could cause some problems for the O-line next year, and depending on a rookie offensive tackle to take over and fill Bulaga’s shoes just isn’t realistic. The veteran tackle is expected to sign a deal that would give hime about $12 million per year (according to CBS Sports), which would bring the Packers cap space from $25 million, to about $13 million. With that money left over, the Packers should be looking to sign cheap, veteran players to add depth to the roster.

What About the Defense?

After re-signing Bryan Bulaga, the Packers are in a tricky position. Not only do they still need to find a way to stop the run, but they need to replace their star linebacker as well. I think it would be very important for the Packers to find some veteran help on defense with the $13 million left over. With that money, I think the Packers should consider signing Ndamukong Suh. I know there’s some bad blood with Packers fans and Suh due to some dirty moves on Suh’s part. However, Ndamukong played a HUGE role in stopping the run in Tampa Bay (the Buccaneers finished as the number 1 rush defense in 2019). Suh isn’t what he used to be, and won’t be able to rush the QB like he did in Detroit. But his ability to stop the run makes him a valuable asset that Green Bay would need in order to make a run at the Super Bowl. His dominant presence would boost the Packers rush defense drastically. Suh is 33 years old right now, which means his best years are definitely behind him, but he has signed a $5 million deal in both 2018 and 2019, making him affordable for the Packers this year.

Draft Time

The Pack Attack has the 30th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Green Bay has a total of 10 picks this year too, giving them a great chance to find the right guys to join the team. Because the Packers 1st round pick is near last, they’re not going to be able to draft the top guys available and will be looking at players projected late first, early second. Now after bringing back Bulaga, and possibly signing Suh, the biggest need for the team is ILB, after departing away from Blake Martinez. Even though that may be the case, I think the smartest choice for the Packers would be to draft a defensive tackle like Justin Madubuike. The 6’3″, 304 lbs lineman is projected to go in the 1st or 2nd round, and could be a guy the Packers look to acquire. I actually think he’s one of the better DT’s in the draft, as he recorded 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 11.5 tackles for a loss during his junior year at Texas A&M. I think choosing Madubuike would be great for this Packers team, as he could have the chance to learn behind Ndamukong Suh for a year before taking over as the starter. I think this would be best case scenario for the Green Bay Packers first pick.

As for the 2nd round and 3rd rounds, the Packers could find their replacement at ILB. The two guys that stick out to me the most for the Packers, are Anfernee Jennings (ILB/OLB, Alabama) and Troy Dye (ILB, Oregon). Both players are projected to be 3rd or 4th round picks (according to Walterfootball.com), which would make them great possible additions to the Packers front seven. Both players have their strengths and weaknesses, as Jennings specializes in blitzing and stopping the run, but lacks in coverage schemes. The Alabama alumni could be a great player to mix into the linebacker rotation until he’s ready to take over as the starter. As for Troy Dye, he stands at 6’4″ and has been a great all around player for the Ducks. But scouts question his awareness and ability to read plays. He’s also a bit light for the linebacker position, which means he could be bullied by offensive lineman until he bulks up more. Either way, I think Jennings or Dye would be huge acquisitions for this Packers defense and their future success.

After addressing the main issues on defense, I’d like to see Green Bay make a play for one of the wide receivers in this years draft. It’s a very deep class lead by Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, and I think the Packers could take advantage by drafting WR during day three. The possible players I see the Packers choosing are Jalen Reagor (TCU), Gabriel Davis (Central Florida), or Chase Claypool (Notre Dame). Anyone of these guys would be a great addition to the offense as the team will need someone to step up and fill Geronimo Allison’s shoes. It never hurts to give Aaron Rodgers another target to throw to. In addition to that, Jimmy Graham is no longer on the roster, and as of right now, the starting tight end is Mercedes Lewis. I don’t think finding a TE is high on the Packers priority list, but there’s a few guys available in the draft Green Bay could acquire. None of these guys are expected to become the next big star TE in the NFL, but drafting a guy like Cole Kmet (Notre Dame), Adam Trautman (Dayton), or Colby Parkinson (Stanford) would go a long way in adding depth and youth to this Packers offense.

NFL Kickoff

With the front office possibly looking to keep the offense intact and re-signing Bulaga, along with the WR and TE acquired in the draft, expect this Packers offense to start right where they left off. Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, and he will make the plays the Packers need to win games. He still has Davante Adams to throw to, and Aaron Jones doesn’t seem like he’s going to slow down anytime soon. The loss of Blake Martinez is going to hurt, but if the Packers can focus on acquiring players to stop the run, I think their defense will be better than it was in 2019. They have a real chance at signing Ndamukong Suh, who adds tremendous power on that defensive front, and if they follow that up by drafting Justin Madubuike, then Green Bay will have that position covered for the future too. If the Packers follow a game plan similar to this, they’re going to be a great football team, and an extremely tough opponent to play against. All I can say, is look out for the Pack.

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