NFL 2019: Here are the three moves the Packers can still make to boost their chances of reaching the Super Bowl
The Packers have been busy this offseason, but a few more moves would help them make it back to the Super Bowl
It might've felt like it came out of nowhere, but the warning signs have been there all along. Looking back on it now, it's easy to identify all of the foreshadowing that took place before it happened. It might've been tough for some fans to stomach as they watched it, but they can't say it hasn't been coming. It was always going to fall apart at some point.
The Packers were always going to lose their throne so long as they continued to operate the way they had been for the past several seasons and their enemies surrounding them continued to steadily improve.
In 2018, the Packers bumbled their way to a 6-9-1 finish, Bears finally overtake them in the NFC North -- despite having fire-breathing dragon Aaron Rodgers under center for a full 16-game season. After years of complacency, the events of the 2018 season set up the most pivotal offseason for the Packers since Rodgers' reign began. At 35, Rodgers doesn't have much time left to win another Super Bowl. And as the past few seasons have proved -- when the Packers went from a legitimate Super Bowl threat to a potential playoff team -- he needs some help., and watched the
It's good news then that Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith to bolster their pass rush with franchise legend Clay Matthews and Nick Perry departing in free agency. They stole strong safety Adrian Amos away from the Bears to shore up the backend of their defense. They signed Billy Turner to provide the offensive line with some help on the interior. In the draft, they doubled down on their efforts to build a menacing defense by using both of their first-round picks on defensive players, adding to their group up front with Rashan Gary and giving Amos a partner in Darnell Savage.. They signed
Most importantly,It could be either their worst or best move of the offseason, and there's no way to know how the coin will land until winter comes. While the Packers brought in a coach who can design an offense that doesn't require Rodgers to go rogue, they also brought in a coach with minimal experience to manage . It could result in a McDaniels-Brady type of pairing. It could also end in utter disaster.
The Packers were busy this offseason and the vast majority of their moves deserve praise ---- but if they're going to reclaim their throne in the north, they shouldn't stop making moves. Work still needs to be done. While the Packers have built a strong roster that at least on paper, appears to be among the best in football, they could still use upgrades or depth at a few key positions.
At this point in the offseason, the vast majority of the remaining free agents (with only one or two notable exceptions) aren't headline worthy. And that's OK. The Packers don't need to be in on Ndamukong Suh, although I would never advocate against any team signing a player of Suh's caliber because frankly, nearly every single team in the league would benefit from signing him. What the Packers need are small tweaks.
With that in mind, as we continue our offseason series here at CBS Sports, let's take a look at the three moves the Packers could still make that would help them get back to the Super Bowl. Given(an effort that really began in 2017), it should come as no surprise that all three of the moves pertain to scoring more points.
1. Sign a veteran receiver
Davante Adams might not be entirely right. , but at the very least, he deserves to be in that discussion with a whole host of other worthy receivers. Over the past three seasons, Adams ranks 10th in receptions, 10th in receiving yards, and second in touchdown catches among all players. In 2018, he finished tied for sixth in catches, seventh in receiving yards, and tied for second in touchdown grabs. He accounted for 30 percent of the Packers' receiving yards.
He just needs more help.
At this point in his career, tight end Jimmy Graham is nothing more than a red zone threat. He's averaging only 10.3 yards per catch over the past two seasons, but has scored 12 touchdowns, all of which came within 20 yards of the end zone. Graham still holds value, but his contributions are limited. The Packers drafted tight end Jace Sternberger in the third round, but they shouldn't expect him to contribute in a major way as a pass catcher given the complexities of the tight end position. It's difficult for all rookies -- and he's a third-round pick -- to make an immediate impact.
The rest of the receiving group has some promise (mainly: Equanimeous St. Brown, Geronimo Allison, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling), but it's not entirely reliable. The Packers might be wise to add a body who isn't a superstar, but can provide Rodgers with some reliability.
Sitting right now in free agency are veteran receivers like Michael Crabtree, Pierre Garcon, Jermaine Kearse, and even Dez Bryant. Jordy Nelson is also available, but he's basically just an older version of Graham at this stage of his career, so the Packers would be wise to avoid a feel-good reunion.
Crabtree is probably the most reliable of the remaining free agents. Though he hasn't eclipsed the 1,000-yard threshold since the 2016 season, he did average more than 600 yards and 5.5 touchdowns per season with the Ravens and their terrible passing game over the past two seasons. He could be a solid possession receiver.
Garcon and Bryant are both intriguing options that probably hold more upside than Crabtree, although they're both riskier prospects given their recent injury woes. But they're unlikely to cost much given their age and declining level of play.
With roughly $9 million in available cap space, the Packers could bring in one of those three receivers on a cheap, veteran minimum type of contract, and see how they perform throughout the summer before deciding if they should keep them around on the regular-season roster.
2. Add offensive line depth
Even though Rodgers played in all 16 games last season, he didn't survive the season unscathed. He didn't even make it through the first game completely healthy.
In the season opener against the Bears, before he returned to lead his team to a come-from-behind win,when the pocket around him collapsed and he went down for an awkward-looking sack. Rodgers recently revealed that .
The offensive line shouldn't be blamed for that injury in the sense that all offensive lines allow sacks (especially to the Bears) and it's not their fault Rodgers went down awkwardly. It's just football. Injuries happen. However, it does highlight just how important Rodgers' health is to the Packers and the importance of protecting him.
With that in mind, the Packers would be wise to bolster their offensive line by adding some depth. A year ago, they tied for the third-most allowed sacks in football and ranked 21st in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders' metrics.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari is a stud. Left guard Lane Taylor graded out as an average player last season, according to Pro Football Focus. At center, the Packers have incumbent starter Corey Linsley and his likely successor in second-round rookie Elgton Jenkins. They're all set there. The Packers signed Turner to presumably start at right guard.
It's at right tackle where depth is probably needed. Bryan Bulaga, 30, is a good option when he's healthy, but he's played in only 19 games over the past two seasons. So, having a quality backup to Bulaga takes on even more importance. As it stands, Jason Spriggs is probably their third-best tackle. Turner could slide to the outside if he's needed, but that would create an opening on the interior of the offensive line. The point being, it'd only take one injury for the Packers' offensive line to unravel and the Packers have a key offensive lineman who gets hurt a lot.
Donald Penn, the , could be an option. He's probably the best remaining tackle in free agency. Though Penn would come with some concerns of his own (he's 36), he wouldn't be a bad option behind Bulaga. Together, Bulaga and Penn could probably get through the season and provide Rodgers with adequate protection on the right side of the line.
3. Hold a legitimate kicking competition
It's kinda flown under the radar a bit due in part to Mason Crosby has connected on only 80.4 percent of his field goals in addition to missing four extra points. Last season, the Packers ranked 23rd in field goal percentage and 19th in extra point percentage. They could use an upgrade., but the Packers also have a bit of a kicking problem. Over the past two seasons, longtime kicker
Unfortunately, barring a shocking trade for Robbie Gould or the signing of a veteran like Matt Bryant, it's not easy finding a better kicker. Just look at how difficult of a time the Bears are having as they search for a more reliable leg. Finding elite kickers is difficult, because there aren't many of them.
That said, the Packers should have a legitimate kicking competition this summer. If Sam Ficken, who is the only other kicker on the roster, performs better than Crosby, they should give Ficken the job. Crosby hasn't been at his best for a while now. He'll turn 35 in September. It's not like the Packers would be pulling a Bears by walking away from one of the game's best kickers. They'd be walking away from an aging veteran who hasn't been good enough for the past couple seasons. And if Crosby outperforms his competition, he should hang onto the job.
Like the Bears, the Packers should be having a serious competition at kicker and they should let the best kicker win.
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