Offseason Forecast: Green Bay Packers


With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series continues with the Green Bay Packers.

What's Changing

With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» Cardinals | Niners | Rams | Seahawks
The Packers are not an organization that embraces change for change's sake. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers isn't going anywhere, at least this season. General manager Ted Thompson's "draft and develop" system isn't going to start taking big swings for the fences in free agency. The Packers are about pruning the roster and choosing what homegrown players to invest in.

Biggest Free Agents

» WR Greg Jennings: Jennings was one of those homegrown Packers to get a second contract, but he's not going to get a third. Green Bay is plenty deep at wideout with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones. The Packers have salary-cap space, but don't expect them to use the franchise tag on Jennings.

» LB Brad Jones: Jones did a nice job converting to inside linebacker and helps on special teams. He's a versatile piece that shouldn't be too expensive to bring back.

» LB Erik Walden: He's played too many snaps for the Packers over the last few years.

Other key free agents: Cedric Benson, Evan Dietrich-Smith (RFA), and Sam Shields (RFA), and Ryan Grant.

What they need

The Packers need to improve their pass rush, running game, and overall team toughness. That will be accomplished primarily through the draft and development (sense a theme here?). The offensive line is sure to be a focus as well. Otherwise, Thompson figures to look to the future. They have a lot of candidates for long-term contract extensions from linebacker Clay Matthews to quarterback Aaron Rodgers to nose tackle B.J. Raji.

Take a look at the best photos from the Green Bay Packers’ 2012 season.

It's not that Thompson is completely averse to free agency; think Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett. It's possible the Packers could go bargain hunting for help, especially at running back and in the defensive front seven.

Offseason crystal ball

Thompson knows that contracts for Matthews and Rodgers are imperative and they won't get any cheaper with time. Don't be surprised to see megadeals for both players before the 2013 season starts. The team also needs to tender Dietrich-Smith and Shields at relatively high numbers because they are both starters.

Tight end Jermichael Finley and linebacker A.J. Hawk are both candidates for release if the Packers were truly penny-pinching, but dropping Hawk wouldn't save that much money. Coach Mike McCarthy indicated after the season that Finley should remain on the team. Fullback John Kuhn is a more likely cut.

This isn't a team that has title windows or rebuilds. It's built to contend every season. Four consecutive playoff appearances, with one title mixed in, shows the approach is working.