The NFL offseason is one of the most exciting offseasons for any professional sport; unless you’re a Green Bay Packers fan. The Green Bay Packers style of ‘draft and develop’ keeps the team relatively quiet throughout the offseason up until the draft comes around. Teams across the league desperately throw money at players who they hope can raise their team from mediocrity to relevance. For as much as Packers fans may hate the lack of activity in free agency, General Manager Ted Thompson has somewhat mastered the art of the NFL draft and built this franchise with homegrown talent and in turn has made the Green Bay Packers into a perennial contender. Considering the Packers usual offseason approach, I decided to take a few shots in the dark, literally, and make four bold predictions for the remainder of the calendar offseason.
Four Bold Predictions: #1 The Green Bay Packers trade up in the draft to get Linebacker Reggie Ragland from the University of Alabama.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has already made it clear on his intentions to move Linebacker Clay Matthews back to his usual outside position. This move puts Clay Matthews back in his favorite position of being able to pressure the opposing teams Quarterback with Julius Peppers playing the opposite outside-linebacker position. However, this move also leaves a glaring hole in the Green Bay Packers typical 3-4 defense. The release of inside-linebacker Nate Palmer has left a glaring hole at the inside-backer position. The only traditional inside-linebackers left on Green Bay’s depth chart are Jake Ryan, Joe Thomas and a returning Sam Barrington. Jake Ryan looked to be the favorite to land a starting role in the 2016 season after a good rookie season in 2015, especially seeing as he only played about half the season. Jake Ryan finished up the season with 61 tackles (including postseason). The only blemish to his game was when he was forced to drop into coverage, but as a rookie; Jake Ryan showed promise for the future. As for the other true inside-linebacker in Joe Thomas, he looks like a raw talent and would certainly be a liability as a three-down starter paired with second year player Jake Ryan. Sam Barrington missed the entirety of the 2015 season and no guarantees that he will be back and ready to fill a starter role. Its a consensus among Packers fan; the Green Bay Packers need an inside-linebacker to be paired with Jake Ryan. This bold prediction seems like the obvious choice to alleviate the needs of the defense, however; Ted Thompson is known for letting the draft board come to him on draft night and staying idle until they’re on the clock and taking the best talent available. But let me remind you, back in 2009 the Green Bay Packers traded up to get OLB Clay Matthews and that paid off long term for this franchise. Could that be the case again in this years draft and Ted Thompson trades up in order to draft ILB Reggie Ragland? It would certainly fill the inside-linebacker need on the defense with the 6’2′”, 258lbs University of Alabama star.
Four Bold Predictions: #2 Jeff Janis gets the reps at the #3 Wide Receiver position over Davante Adams.
Last season featured a wide receiver carousel for the Green Bay Packers after Jordy Nelson suffered a torn ACL in a preseason game. For the remainder of the season, James Jones was asked to fill the void after a late offseason signing. The receivers started out hot last season, James Jones looked to be his same old 2012 self, Randall Cobb looked to be himself, the Packers found ways to incorporate rookie Ty Montgomery into the offense and Davante Adams was looking to follow up an impressive rookie season. As it turns out, the absence of Jordy Nelson was bigger than any Packers fan was willing to admit. The group of wide receivers as a whole lacked speed and explosiveness and Aaron Rodgers was without a go-to wide-out the entire 2015 season. On top of the poor play, injuries started to plague the skill position and early in the NFC Divisional Playoff game against Arizona, Randall Cobb went out with an injury and at that time, the Green Bay Packers were without a single starting wide receiver from the NFC Championship team a year ago. What looked like a dismal setting for another playoff exit found light in a Division II wide receiver in Jeff Janis and a homegrown Wisconsin talent in Jared Abbrederis. The game was surprisingly close and ended up going to overtime after two desperation heaves from Quarterback Aaron Rodgers to WR Jeff Janis. The first came on a 4th and 20 from their own endzone as Jeff Janis found a way to get open in double coverage and snagged a 60-yard dart thrown by his QB. The last play of the game was a hail mary to Jeff Janis and as he strolled into the endzone, he leaped up and caught a miraculous pass in double coverage yet again. Sadly the Packers lost that game essentially right as overtime began. But the lasting impression was that Jeff Janis could potentially become another threat for Aaron Rodgers. Jeff Janis sizes up at 6’3″ and 219lbs and runs a 4.42 40-yard dash. Just imagine having Jordy Nelson and Jeff Janis to stretch the field alongside Randall Cobb in the slot and Jared Cook at the Tight End position. Now this bold prediction is based off that idealistic lineup, and for the record I still support Davante Adams after a down sophomore campaign, but I can see Jeff Janis beating him out for reps at the #3 WR position.
Four Bold Predictions: #3 The Green Bay Packers sign free-agent Running back Ronnie Hillman.
The Denver Broncos re-signed running back C.J. Anderson and look to have no intentions at bringing back Ronnie Hillman. Hillman rushed for 863 yards and had 7 TDs last season. Hillman is only 24 years old and looks like he could be an efficient starter for a team. Yes the Packers re-signed James Starks and after publicly calling out Eddie Lacy, he appears to be losing weight and becoming more and more motivated to prove that he is this teams #1 option. With that being said, I don’t think its out of the question for the Green Bay Packers to pick up Ronnie Hillman. Ted Thompson is a huge fan of roster competition, and who knows, Hillman could be Starks replacement after this season seeing as he is a year younger than Eddie Lacy. If Hillman were to be signed, he could prove to be a reliable option in the back field and more than likely be a consistent special teams player. Seeing as Hillman is still on the market, the price wouldn’t be nearly too high and Thompson could likely get him for relatively cheap. Picking up a proven running back to add depth to your backfield and special teams on the cheap end is never a bad football move.
Four Bold Predictions: #4 The Green Bay Packers will release Cornerback Demetri Goodson.
The Green Bay Packers invested a first and second round pick in their secondary during last seasons NFL Draft by taking Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins respectively. Both of these rookie corners played exceptionally well, Damarious Randall had a combined 58 tackles (53 total, 5 assisted) and logged 14 pass deflections and 3 interceptions; one of which he took 43-yards to the house against the Oakland Raiders. Quinten Rollins had more of a reserved role but still had 31 tackles (28 total, 3 assisted) he had 6 pass deflections and 2 interceptions and just like his fellow corner, one of the interceptions he took back 45 yards for the touchdown against the St. Louis Rams. Not to mention that Sam Shields is still around, and when healthy is a productive starter and Randall is an exception compliment to Shields. This offseason, cornerback Casey Hayward signed with the San Diego Chargers on a well deserved deal. So that leaves Shields, Randall, Rollins and an undrafted rookie in LaDarius Gunter last year. Gunter saw little to no playing time last season but he has remarkable measurements at 6’2″ and 201lbs and looks like another prospect that both Dom Capers and Ted Thompson are farming for the future. With all four of these cornerbacks on the roster, the 6th round draft pick of the 2014 draft Demetri Goodson from Baylor University is an after thought. When Demetri Goodson has been given a chance on the field, he has done nothing but disappoint. Also worth noting, Goodson will be suspended the first four NFL games of the 2016 season due to failing a drug test for PEDs. Goodson is the latest example of Ted Thompson holding onto a disappointing draft pick in the hopes that it wasn’t a wasted pick. With the state of the Green Bay Packers secondary and the 2016 NFL draft right around the corner, its unlikely that Demetri Goodson makes the roster this offseason and should be cut sooner than that.
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-Alec Yanke is a writer for the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks at Cream City Central.