Monday, September 30, 2013

The 53 - Post Bye Week Potential Roster Move

The 2013 Green Bay Packers limped into their bye week with a record of 1-2.  As I mentioned last week in my review of the Packers/Bengals game, I never thought having a bye after three games of a 16 game (17 week) regular season would be so beneficial but since the Packers were nursing so many injuries, I hope the bye week allowed those players to get healthy.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson cut average wide receiver and below average kick returner Jeremy Ross heading into the bye week, which left the Packers with 52 players on their active roster so there is currently an open spot on The 53.  Since the Packers were off this week, it is really hard to change any of the other rankings besides moving everyone up one spot to account for the departure of Ross (was ranked 42 last week) from The 53 so instead of writing about players currently on The 53, here are five potential ways Thompson can fill the open spot on The 53:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LW 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LW 2)
3. Randall Cobb (WR, LW 3)
4. Morgan Burnett (S, LW 4)
5. Jermichael Finley (TE, LW 9)
6. B.J. Raji (DL, LW 6)
7. Jordy Nelson (WR, LW 5)
8. Sam Shields (CB, LW 11)
9. James Jones (WR, LW 7)
10. T.J. Lang (G, LW 8)
11. Josh Sitton (G, LW 10)
12. Tramon Williams (CB, LW 14)
13. David Bakhtiari (T, LW 12)
14. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LW 13)
15. Brad Jones (MLB, LW 27)
16. Nick Perry (OLB, LW 15)
17. Casey Hayward (CB, LW 16)
18. Datone Jones (DL, LW 17)
19. Tim Masthay (P, LW 18)
20. Eddie Lacy (RB, LW 19)
21. Ryan Pickett (DL, LW 20)
22. Don Barclay (T, LW 21)
23. Micah Hyde (CB, LW 22)
24. Johnny Jolly (DL, LW 23)
25. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LW 24)
26. M.D. Jennings (S, LW 29)
27. Mike Daniels (DL, LW 25)
28. James Starks (RB, LW 26)
29. C.J. Wilson (DL, LW 28)
30. Jerron McMillian (S, LW 30)
31. Mason Crosby (K, LW 31)
32. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LW 32)
33. Jonathan Franklin (RB, LW 45)
34. Brett Goode (LS, LW 33)
35. Jarrett Bush (CB, LW 34)
36. Ryan Taylor (TE, LW 35)
37. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LW 36)
38. Davon House (CB, LW 37)
39. Robert Francois (MLB, LW 38)
40. Chris Banjo (S, LW 39)
41. Andrew Quarless (TE, LW 41)
42. Jeremy Ross (WR, LW 40)
42. John Kuhn (FB, LW 42)
43. Marshall Newhouse (T, LW 43)
44. Greg Van Roten (G, LW 44)
45. Seneca Wallace (QB, LW 46)
46. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LW 47)
47. Andy Mulamba (LB, LW 48)
48. Sam Barrington (LB, LW 49)
49. Brandon Bostick (TE, LW 50)
50. Nate Palmer (LB, LW 51)
51. Josh Boyd (DL, LW 53)
52. Lane Taylor (G, LW 52)
#1) Sign wide receiver Tyrone Walker: I thought Walker should have made The 53 to start the 2013 season but Thompson obviously felt differently since he kept the newly departed Ross ahead of Walker on The 53.  Thompson can right that wrong by adding Walker as a straight replacement for Ross despite the fact that there are a ton of talent pass catchers (tight end Jake Stoneburner, wide receiver Charles Johnson, and wide receiver Myles White) that Thompson could promote from the practice squad.  I would still favor adding Walker instead of any of the pass catchers currently on the practice squad but since Thompson didn't even sign Walker to the practice squad, I obviously have a higher opinion of Walker than Thompson.  Adding Walker or one of the pass catchers currently on the practice squad is the most logical move of the five so I am going to keep the post moving since the other moves will require much more explanation and justification to convince Thompson.

#2) Sign a veteran pass rusher to a one-year, veteran minimum contract: The Packers have struggled to create a pass rush from any of their other outside linebackers besides Clay Matthews.  At some point the Packers need to get production opposite Matthews instead of trying to groom Andy Mulumba, Mike Neal, and Nick Perry as their rush linebacker of the future.  Sure Mulumba, Neal, and Neal could be a long-term solution but so far they do not look like a viable option in 2013.  As a result, the Packers should deviate from their path of continuing to go young and sign one of the veteran defensive ends that could also serve as rush outside linebackers in a 3-4 (Mark Anderson and Andre Carter) or a traditional 3-4 rush outside linebackers (Michael Boley, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Leroy Hill, and Thomas Howard).  I know all of the aforementioned guys have some issues otherwise they would not be free agents, I would favor adding Anderson ahead of the other veteran pass rushers mentioned.  Whether it is Anderson or another one of the guys just mentioned I would just be excited if Thompson finally signed a veteran to fulfill a need instead of continuing to try to fill holes with undrafted rookie free agent.

#3) Bring back former Packer quarterback Brett Favre...just kidding...the Packers should actually bring back former Packer quarterback Matt Flynn: Despite Bus Cook's (Favre's agent) comments about how good Favre looks, I hope he is done playing but with Favre you never know.  In terms of Favre and the Packers, I just hope the Packers can retire Favre's number in a nice ceremony that leads to healing for both sides before Favre enters the Hall of Fame.  Moving onto Flynn, since he left Green Bay via free agency (signed a three-year, $26 million contract with $10 million guaranteed with the Seattle Seahawks before the 2012 season and was traded to the Oakland Raiders before the 2013 season) he has struggled whenever he actually played while the Packers continue to struggle to replace Flynn with a with a viable backup quarterback.  The Packers continue to trot out Seneca Wallace as their only backup quarterback on The 53.  The Packers also have Scott Tolzien on the practice squad and I actually think Tolzien is more worthy of a spot on The 53 than Wallace.  With all due respect to Tolzien and Wallace, Flynn is still a better quarterback than both of them.  Flynn was presumed to be the starter for two years in a row by two different teams but was beaten out by a contender for the starting quarterback job each time (last year by Russell Wilson for the Seahawks and this season by Terrelle Pryor for the Raiders).  Sure Flynn just played in this weekend (went 21 for 32 throwing for 227 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception) for the Raiders in a loss at home to the Redskins but that was only because the got that beat him for the starting quarterback job was out with a concussion.  Despite having a fairly large salary cap number for the next two seasons ($3.875 in 2013 and $7.625 million as a part of a two-year, $11.5 million restructured contract when traded from the Seahawks to the Raiders), ever since Flynn left the Packers he's made a ton of money but his performance on the field has not been commensurate to his compensation.  I could see Flynn re-working his contract to drop his salary cap number in 2014 just to rejoin the Packers.  Since Reggie McKenzie, the general manger for the Raiders is not only a former member of the Packers front office but is also in the midst of a huge rebuilding project, every draft pick helps.  Given their professional relationship I am sure Thompson and McKenzie could come to some type of deal to trade Flynn back to the Packers.  I would presume the trade would be a 7th rounder that turns into a 6th rounder if certain performance conditions were met by Flynn.

#4) Sign running back Joe McKnight to a one-year, veteran minimum contract: At the end of training camp the Packers gave McKnight a tryout as a running back and kick returner but decided not to sign him to The 53.  Instead the Packers went with a backfield of Johnathan Franklin, John Kuhn, Eddie Lacy, and James Starks.  All four current members of the backfield are hampered by injury so hopefully all four will be healthy following the bye week. Sure the Packers could promote running back Michael Hill from the practice squad no matter the health of the backfield following the bye but I like the versatility that McKnight offers as a running back/kicker returner more than what Hill offers.

#5) Sign a veteran safety to a one-year, veteran minimum contract: Heading into 2013 there was a very good chance that safety Morgan Burnett was going to miss some time after playing every defensive snap last season but I never thought it was going to be this bad.  Burnett has not even been active this season due to (what else) a hamstring injury and there is no guarantee that he will be healthy following the bye week.  After three weeks it looks like M.D. Jennings has separated himself from Chris Banjo and Jerron McMillian as the best healthy safety on the roster but all three have been fairly underwhelming this season, which highlights the lack of depth the Packers have at safety.  Much like my discussion of pass rushers above, the Packers could really use a quality veteran safety instead of continuing with their youth movement at safety.  Keep in mind the Packers finished last year with a quality veteran safety opposite Burnett in Charles Woodson.  During the off-season the Packers cut Woodson presumably, in part, because of their faith in Jennings and McMillian.  Unfortunately for the Packers, Woodson has been the most effective of the safeties discussed so far this season but he is playing for the Raiders instead of the Packers.  There are a ton of veteran free agent safeties (Kenny Phillips, Kerry Rhodes, and James Sanders) worth signing and playing ahead of all the safeties on the roster besides Burnett.  I favor Phillips ahead of Rhodes and Sanders but I don't hold out much hope that the Packers actually add a veteran since they are obsessed with youth over experience.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Cheesehead Chick and I head to South America in a few days for two weeks so this might be my last post till the middle of October.  I will do my best to carve out some time from our vacation to post if something major happens in Cheesehead professional sports.  If I am not able to post I apologize in advance.  No matter how much I post while on vacation, I promise to post tons of advice for Cheesehead sports general managers when Cheesehead Chick and I get back from vacation.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The 53 - Packers lose to Bengals on the road

The Green Bay Packers won the toss and deferred to the second half, which means the Packers kicked off to the Cincinati Bengals to start the game.  The Bengals had an impressive opening drive that resulted in a touchdown.  On the ensuing kickoff, Packers wide receiver Jeremy Ross fumbled the kickoff and the Bengals recovered.  The Bengals capitalized on the turnover to go up 14-0 just six minutes into the game.  The Packers followed that up with 30 unanswered points to go up 30-14.  The Bengals struck back with 20 consecutive points to make the score 34-30 (would have been 21 but rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones blocked an extra point) with just over three minutes remaining in the game.  The Packers failed to score on the ensuing drive so they lost 34-30 to the Bengals to head into their bye week with a record of 1-2.

With the quick rundown of the game out of the way, here are my thoughts along with updated rankings to The 53 following the Packers/Bengals game:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LW 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LW 2)
3. Randall Cobb (WR, LW 3)
4. Morgan Burnett (S, LW 4)
5. Jermichael Finley (TE, LW 9)
6. B.J. Raji (DL, LW 6)
7. Jordy Nelson (WR, LW 5)
8. Sam Shields (CB, LW 11)
9. James Jones (WR, LW 7)
10. T.J. Lang (G, LW 8)
11. Josh Sitton (G, LW 10)
12. Tramon Williams (CB, LW 14)
13. David Bakhtiari (T, LW 12)
14. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LW 13)
15. Brad Jones (MLB, LW 27)
16. Nick Perry (OLB, LW 15)
17. Casey Hayward (CB, LW 16)
18. Datone Jones (DL, LW 17)
19. Tim Masthay (P, LW 18)
20. Eddie Lacy (RB, LW 19)
21. Ryan Pickett (DL, LW 20)
22. Don Barclay (T, LW 21)
23. Micah Hyde (CB, LW 22)
24. Johnny Jolly (DL, LW 23)
25. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LW 24)
26. M.D. Jennings (S, LW 29)
27. Mike Daniels (DL, LW 25)
28. James Starks (RB, LW 26)
29. C.J. Wilson (DL, LW 28)
30. Jerron McMillian (S, LW 30)
31. Mason Crosby (K, LW 31)
32. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LW 32)
33. Jonathan Franklin (RB, LW 45)
34. Brett Goode (LS, LW 33)
35. Jarrett Bush (CB, LW 34)
36. Ryan Taylor (TE, LW 35)
37. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LW 36)
38. Davon House (CB, LW 37)
39. Robert Francois (MLB, LW 38)
40. Chris Banjo (S, LW 39)
41. Andrew Quarless (TE, LW 41)
42. Jeremy Ross (WR, LW 40)
43. John Kuhn (FB, LW 42)
44. Marshall Newhouse (T, LW 43)
45. Greg Van Roten (G, LW 44)
46. Seneca Wallace (QB, LW 46)
47. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LW 47)
48. Andy Mulamba (LB, LW 48)
49. Sam Barrington (LB, LW 49)
50. Brandon Bostick (TE, LW 50)
51. Nate Palmer (LB, LW 51)
52. Josh Boyd (DL, LW 53)
53. Lane Taylor (G, LW 52)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LW 2): After two fairly quiet weeks to open the 2013 season, Matthews put together a huge game with two forced fumbles (an assist from rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones on one of them).  The first forced fumble lead to a recovery and return for a touchdown by safety M.D. Jennings.  Matthews was on the sidelines at the start of the second half with the 10,001 hamstring injury for the Packers in 2013.  The absence of Matthews was felt in the second half as the Packers struggled to contain the Bengals offense.

5. Jermichael Finley (TE, LW 9): I am sure the main game-plan for the Packers was to work Finley over the middle but since he was lost on the first offensive series to a concussion, head coach Mike McCarthy had to modify his game-plan.  We know in-game adjustments are not McCarthy's forte.  Much like safety Morgan Burnett, Finley's stock rose when he was out due to injury.  After dropping a couple balls, backup tight end Andrew Quarless seemed to be benched in favor of Ryan Taylor.  The drop-off from starter (Finley) to backup (Quarless and Taylor) is very pronounced at tight end.  Sure the backups had a couple catches but they do not possess Finley's rare combination of size and speed.  Add in that the Bengals have such slow linebackers and if Finley were healthy, I honestly think he would have had a career day and the Packers would have won by two touchdowns.  That may sound like sour grapes but it just goes to show you how valuable Finley is to this offense despite the Packers having arguably the best quarterback in the NFL and three stud wide receivers.

8. Sam Shields (CB, LW 11): Until this season cornerback Tramon Williams covered the opposing team's best wide receiver.  Starting this season Shields handles that assignment, which shows you how much the Packer value Shields.   Despite giving up a touchdown to Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green late in the 3rd quarter, today's performance by Sheilds against Green (blanket coverage along with an interception) shows that he is a special player.  Despite all the talent the Packers have at cornerback, since Shields is in a contract year, they need to workout a long-term deal with Shields before the end of this season.

15. Brad Jones (MLB, LW 27): I've been very critical of Jones. In fact, before the seasons, I wrote that he has the 4th worst contract on The 53.  My issue with paying middle linebackers is that besides former Packer Desmond Bishop, the Packers have been unable to create big plays from the middle linebacker position.  Jones did his best Bishop impression against the Bengals registering 11 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

26. M.D. Jennings (S, LW 29): With safety Morgan Burnett missing his third consecutive game, the Packers are still trying to get settled at safety.  The emergence of Chris Banjo has given the Packers three safties competing one position next to Burnett once he is healthy.  A fumble return for TD, a sack, and four tackles allowed Jennings to stake his claim to line-up next to Burnett at safety following the bye.

33. Johnathan Franklin (RB, LW 45): The running back position continues to be the definition of "next guy up".  Last week the Packers lost rookie running back Eddie Lacy to a concussion.  Running back James Starks ran very well in place of Lacy last week but got hurt at the end of the first half against the Bengals, which left Franklin as the only healthy and active running back or fullback.  After a lackluster preseason, Franklin performed well until he fumbled on a 4th and 1 that was returned for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 34-30 lead.  That was ultimately the winning scoreline.  Franklin ran for 103 yards (a touchdown but he broke off a 51 yard run) and caught three passes for 23 yards.  Franklin running for over 100-yards against the Bengals gave the Packers consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher for the first time since December of 2007.

42. Jeremy Ross (WR, LW 40): After fumbling on his first touch of the game on a kickoff return, McCarthy stuck with Ross.  Fumbles in general, let alone on special teams, are inexcusable so luckily Ross atoned for his fumble by properly fielding a kickoff out of bounds to give the Packers the ball on their own 40-yard line instead of essentially the goal line.

There were five guys inactive against the Bengals that if healthy would have been active: Morgan Burnett (S), Jarrett Bush (CB), Casey Hayward (CB), John Kuhn (FB), and Eddie Lacy (RB) while Josh Boyd (DL) and Lane Taylor (G) continue to be healthy scratches.  The Packers suffered three more important injuries against the Bengals: Finley (concussion), Starks (knee), and Matthews (hamstring).

Before today I was super salty about the Packers having a bye week so early in the season season for one selfish reason and one practical reason.  Selfishly, Cheesehead Chick and I are going on a two week vacation to South America in early October.  Somehow our bye week fell even before that trip so I am not going to see the Packers until I go to the game on October 20th against the Browns in Green Bay.  That means after the bye week next week, I am going to miss two Packers games (at home against the Detroit Lions and on the road against the Baltimore Ravens).

The practical reason I was salty about the Packers having a bye so early was that I did not think it would help them rehab injuries since it fell so early in the season but with a number of players hobbled, the bye week came just in time.

Check back if the Packers make any roster moves over the next few weeks before they host the Lions at home on October 6th.  If not, check for a bunch of other Cheesehead sports related coverage.

Man City Report - City 4-1 United

The first Manchester Derby with new managers for each side since 1947 will go down as a memorable one.  City, lead by manager Manuel Pellegrini, absolutely dominated the first half with Sergio Aguero opening the score line and Yaya Toure adding a goal as well as City managed 13 shots (2 on goal) while United could only muster 2 shots (0 on goal).  Newly appointed United manager David Moyes clearly did not get United organized at halftime because a few minutes into the second half City already doubled their advantage thanks to another goal by Aguero and a goal Samir Nasri to take a 4-0 lead.  United strike Wayne Rooney notched a free kick goal with a few minutes left in the match to give United a consolation goal.  City's 4-1 win over United at the Etihad Stadium was the first Manchester Derby that did not involve "Sir" Alex Ferguson since the mid-1980's.

Here are my updated player rankings following City's last three matches (tied Stoke 0-0 on the road in the EPL, beat Viktoria Plzen 3-0 on the road in the Champions League, and beat United 4-1 at home in the EPL):

Player Rankings
1. Yaya Toure (M, LW 1)
2. Sergio Aguero (F, LW 3)
3. Vincent Kompany (D, LW 4)
4. David Silva (M, LW 2)
5. Fernandinho (M, LW 5)
6. Jesus Navas (M, LW 10)
7. Matija Nastasic (D, LW 6)
8. Joe Hart (GK, LW 11)
9. Alvaro Negredo (F, LW 7) 
10. Edin Dzeko (F, LW 9)
11. Pablo Zabaleta (D, LW 12) 
12. Samir Nasri (M, LW 13)
13. Aleksandar Kolarov (D, LW 17)
14. Gael Clichy (D, LW 8)
15. James Milner (M, LW 15)
16. Stevan Jovetic (F, LW 16)
17. Javi Garcia (M, LW 18)
18. Joleon Lescott (D, LW 14)
19. Micah Richards (D, LW 19) 
20. Costel Pantilimon (GK, LW 23)
21. Jack Rodwell (M, LW 20)
22. Dedryck Boyata (D, LW 21)
23. John Guidetti (F, LW 24)
24. Richard Wright (GK, LW 25)
25. Alex Nimely (F, LW 26)
26. Erik Johansen (GK, LW 27)
27. Martin Demichelis (D, LW 22)
2. Sergio Aguero (F, LW 3):  Despite scoring a brace against United, Aguero still could not knock Toure out of the top spot.  Trust me,
I thought long and hard about moving Aguero ahead of Toure but with how well Toure continues to patrol the midfield I could not move him out of the top spot.  Both Toure and Aguero are essentially untouchable.  The only argument for putting Aguero ahead of Toure is that Aguero would demand a larger transfer fee since he is five years younger than Toure.  Even factoring that into the equation, Toure continues to be the engine that powers this impressive City side.  Aguero deserves mention for scoring twice against United to show that City was clearly the much better half of Manchester in this incarnation of Manchester Derby.

6. Jersus Navas (M, LW 10): When City purchased Navas this summer that gave City three wingers (Silva, Navas, and Nasri) for just two spots.  Silva is clearly the best of the three, which meant I thought Navas and Nasri would battle weekly for the other spot.  Given his pace and ingenuity, Navas quickly showed that he is worthy of a spot in the starting 11 ahead of Nasri though, which might make him the most cost effective signing of the summer for City.  For some reason, Pellegrini subbed out Navas for Milner with 20 minutes remaining.  Milner should make the best of his opportunities given that he is nominally the 4th best winger on the roster.

8. Joe Hart (GK, LW 11): After conceding three goals on the road to Cardiff City in a 3-2 loss, there were whispers that Hart's spot as the starting goal keeper for England might be in jeopardy.  Hart followed that up with three clean sheets in all competitions heading into the Manchester Derby.  Hart is back in form.  Despite conceding a goal on a quality free kick by United striker Wayne Rooney, Hart should have solidified his spot in goal for City and England based on his current form.

13. Aleksandar Kolarov (D, LW 17): Against United, Kolarov was instrumental in the buildup to the first goal providing a perfect cross for Aguero's spectacular finish. Given the quality that City have at left (Clichy and Kolarov) and right (Zabaleta and Richards) back, health will most likely dictate the outsider defenders in the starting 11.

Check back for more City coverage over the next few weeks as their 2013-14 Champions League and EPL campaigns kick into high gear over the next month.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The 53 - Packers pound Redskins in 2013 home opener

The Green Bay Packers put on a very impressive performance against the Washington Redskins with Aaron Rodgers throwing for a career high 480 yards (tied his buddy Matt Flynn's team record) and running back James Starks running for 132 yards.  According to various reports that is the first time in NFL history that two teammates have thrown for 450 yards and run for 125 yards in the same game.  Here are my thoughts along with updated rankings to The 53 following the Packers/Redskins game:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LW 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LW 2)
3. Randall Cobb (WR, LW 3)
4. Morgan Burnett (S, LW 4)
5. Jordy Nelson (WR, LW 6)
6. B.J. Raji (DL, LW 5)
7. James Jones (WR, LW 10)
8. T.J. Lang (G, LW 7)
9. Jermichael Finley (TE, LW 8)
10. Josh Sitton (G, LW 9)
11. Sam Shields (CB, LW 11)
12. David Bakhtiari (T, LW 14)
13. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LW 13)
14. Tramon Williams (CB, LW 12)
15. Nick Perry (OLB, LW 15)
16. Casey Hayward (CB, LW 16)
17. Datone Jones (DL, LW 17)
18. Tim Masthay (P, LW 18)
19. Eddie Lacy (RB, LW 19)
20. Ryan Pickett (DL, LW 20)
21. Don Barclay (T, LW 21)
22. Micah Hyde (CB, LW 29)
23. Johnny Jolly (DL, LW 22)
24. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LW 23)
25. Mike Daniels (DL, LW 26)
26. James Starks (RB, LW 30)
27. Brad Jones (MLB, LW 25)
28. C.J. Wilson (DL, LW 24)
29. M.D. Jennings (S, LW 27)
30. Jerron McMillian (S, LW 28)
31. Mason Crosby (K, LW 31)
32. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LW 47)
33. Brett Goode (LS, LW 32)
34. Jarrett Bush (CB, LW 33)
35. Ryan Taylor (TE, LW 34)
36. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LW 35)
37. Davon House (CB, LW 41)
38. Robert Francois (MLB, LW 36)
39. Chris Banjo (S, LW 42)
40. Jeremy Ross (WR, LW LW 37)
41. Andrew Quarless (TE, LW 44)
42. John Kuhn (FB, LW 38)
43. Marshall Newhouse (T, LW 39)
44. Greg Van Roten (G, LW 40)
45. Jonathan Franklin (RB, LW 43)
46. Seneca Wallace (QB, LW 45)
47. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LW 46)
48. Andy Mulamba (LB, LW 48)
49. Sam Barrington (LB, LW 49)
50. Brandon Bostick (TE, LW 52)
51. Nate Palmer (LB, LW 50)
52. Lane Taylor (G, LW 51)
53. Josh Boyd (DL, LW 53)
7. James Jones (WR): After going without a catch against the 49ers in the season opener, Jones caught 11 passes for 178 yards.  When you factor in that Jones is older and currently set to be a free agent this off-season, while wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are under contract through at least next season, Cobb and Nelson are slightly more valuable to the Packers than Jones.  This is obviously splitting hairs because any team in the NFL would love to have any of the wide receiver trio just discussed.  I favor allocating certain dollars to certain positions.  If you treat pass catchers as tight ends and wide receivers, it will be interesting to see what the Packers do this off-season because I am not sure the Packers have enough salary cap room to keep both Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley.

26. James Starks (RB): Not only did Starks gain 132 yards on the ground but he also had 36 receiving yards to gain 168 total yards from scrimmage.  The last time the Packers had a 100-yard rusher was Starks in the first round of the playoffs on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles on their run to wining Super Bowl XLV.  The Packers lost rookie running back Eddy Lacy to a concussion early in the game from a vicious hit by head-hunting safety Brandon Meriweather.  I am not sure whether Lacy could have been as effective on the ground as Starks.  Karma hit Meriweather upside the head later in the game when he lowered his head on Starks similar to how he knocked Lacy out of the game.  That play resulted in Meriweather suffering a concussion and hopefully a suspension because Meriweather's tackling form of leading with the head to create helmet-to-helmet contact is exactly what the NFL is trying to eradicate from the game.  Back to Starks, there is no denying that he put together one of the best rushing performance in a long time in Green Bay but let's also not forget that Rodgers almost threw for 500 yards so the pass helped set-up the run for Starks so I am not willing to make Starks the starter if Lacy is healthy.  Since the Packers have an early bye week this season following their game against the Cincinnati Bengals next week, I would rather the Packers proceed very carefully with Lacy while giving Starks a chance to prove that his performance against the Redskins was not a one game aberration.

32. Mike Neal (DL/OLB): Anyone that regularly reads this blog knows that I am not a huge fan of Mike Neal because I thought the Packers were too wowed by his weight room strength despite the lack of on-field performance. We should all know by now that weight room strength does not always translate to performance on the field, think middle linebacker A.J. Hawk aka Business H.J.  Since Neal is in a contract year, he is doing everything in his power to earn a contract extension.  The Packers asked Neal to slim down this off-season to ease his transition to outside linebacker and Neal dutifully complied despite being a workout freak that prides himself on being the biggest guy in the weight room.  Last season I advocated that the Packers should occasionally lineup in the 4-3.  That was even before the Packers had as much depth as they currently have along the defensive line.  I thought playing some 4-3 would help Nick Perry transition from playing defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the pros.  It looks like that same logic could apply to Neal as well because he has shown some flashes of being able to rush the passer so far this season.  Add in that Neal has been able to drop into coverage occasionally and I am starting to soften my disdain for Neal.  The second quarter interception by Neal off a tipped pass is the first big play I can remember Neal making in a long time, may be ever for the Packers.  If Neal keeps playing this well, I think it makes even more sense to mix in some 4-3 and possibly even limit some of Perry's snaps in favor of Neal.

37. Davon House (CB): A sack off a corner blitz for House from the slot was nice to see given how much he struggled with injuries the last few seasons.  I highlight House's sack because Hayward excelled in that spot last season but has not played yet this season due to one of the 10,000 pulled hamstrings that have plagued the 2013 Green Bay Packers.  Before today, rookie cornerback Micah Hyde picked up where Hayward left off last season.  Now with House doing well in the slot, it looks like the Packers have five legitimate NFL cornerbacks (Williams, Shields, Hayward, Hyde, and House) on the roster once Hayward is healthy.

41. Andrew Quarless (TE): Usually one catch for seven yards is not going to garner an extended discussion in my posts but its how the Packers used Quarless against the Redskins that deserves a mention.  The Packers used Quarless as a fullback, tight end, and even split out as a wide receiver occasionally.  If Quarless can show some blocking prowess as a fullback he might limit fullback John Kuhn's snaps and go a long way towards determining whether this is Kuhn's last season as a cult hero in Green Bay.

Make sure to check back for my full breakdown if Thompson makes any significant roster moves this week, otherwise check back next Monday for my thoughts on the Packers/Bengals game.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Man City Report - 2013-14 Initial Roster Finalized

As I said in my initial post about the 2013-14 campaign for Man City, there was a fair amount of turnover at the club with some big names leaving (manager Roberto Mancini and forward Carlos Tevez) and some even bigger names joining (midfielder Fernandinho, forward Stevan Jovetic, midfielder Jesus Navas, and forward Alvaro Negredo).

Just to tie up loose ends, let's look at the rest of the business done by Man City between my last post and the close of the summer transfer window:
- Loaned: midfielder Gareth Barry to Everton (source), forward Harry Bunn to Sheffield United (source), midfielder Albert Rusnak to Oldham (source), and midfielder Scott Sinclair to West Brom (source).
- Sold: midfielder Abdul Razak to Anzhi Makhachkala (source) and midfielder Denis Suarez to Barcelona (source).
- Bought: defender Martin Demichelis from Atletico Madrid (source).

With all the transfer business in the books till 2014, Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini can turn his attention to his current squad.  Feel free to comment if you disagree with my rankings or thoughts on the players highlighted below:

Initial Player Rankings
1. Yaya Toure (M)
2. David Silva (M)
3. Sergio Aguero (F)
4. Vincent Kompany (D)
5. Fernandinho (M)
6. Matija Nastasic (D)
7. Alvaro Negredo (F)
8. Gael Clichy (D)
9. Edin Dzeko (F)
10. Jesus Navas (M)
11. Joe Hart (GK)
12. Pablo Zabaleta (D)
13. Samir Nasri (M)
14. Joleon Lescott (D)
15. James Milner (M)
16. Stevan Jovetic (F)
17. Aleksandar Kolarov (D)
18. Javi Garcia (M)
19. Micah Richards (D) 
20. Jack Rodwell (M)
21. Dedryck Boyata
22. Martin Demichelis (D)
23. Costel Pantilimon (GK)
24. John Guidetti (F)
25. Richard Wright (GK)
26. Alex Nimely (F)
27. Erik Johansen (GK)
1. Yaya Toure (M): With Fernandinho in the fold, some wondered if the Toure and Fernandinho could co-exist because they have such similar styles of play.  Three matches is not a large enough sample size to make any grand statements but so far so good.  How the two play together once Man City starts their Champions League campaign will go a long way towards determining whether their similar styles of play make them a long-term solution in central midfield for Man City.  It is going to be hard to knock Toure out of the top spot because he is one of best box-to-box midfielders in the world and he strikes a mean free kick too.  In case you missed it, check out Toure's fabulous free kick from the weekened to seal Man City's victory over Hull.

7. Alvaro Negredo (F): Of all of City's summer captures, Fernandinho is having more of an impact box-to-box but in the final third, Negredo has been doing his best Dzeko impression from last season with two goals in three appearances as a substitute so far this season.  Negredo's two goals ties him with Toure for the team lead in goals.  Based on early returns, Negrado looks to be the super-sub of the 2013-14 season that will get an occasional start in the EPL if Man City makes a deep run in the Champions League.  Last season Man City finished last in Group D, which was comprised of Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, and Ajax.  This year Man City is again in Group D but looks to have a better draw: Bayern Munich (defending champion), CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen.  Qualification for the knockout stage is no guarantee but the fact that players like Negredo currently can't crack the Starting XI speaks to the quality of Man City's current squad.

12. Pablo Zabaleta (D): I am an unabashed fan of all things Zabaleta but he did let the man he was supposed to be marking, Frazier Campbell, score two goals on headers en route to Cardiff City's shocking home victory over Man City.  Zabaleta took issue with man marking as opposed to zonal marking, which Man City employed under their previous manager Roberto Mancini.  Whether Man City employs man or zonal marking on corners going forward, they need to be more precise because conceding multiple goals off set-pieces is unacceptable.

22. Martin Demichelis (D): Joined Atletico Madrid this summer from Malaga on a free transfer in July and Atletico Madrid smartly flipped Demichelis for $6.5 million because despite being one of richest clubs in the world, Man City had very little depth at central defender with Kompany out  a month.  Unfortunately it looks like Demichelis will be out longer than Kompany because Demichelis suffered an injury in training that is supposed to keep him out four to six weeks.  Fortunately Nastasic returned from injury earlier than expected and Lescott is in decent form so hopefully that pair will holdup as Kompany and Demichelis heal.  That means that Atletico Madrid pocketed a cool $6.5 million for holding a free transfer for just over a month.  When I first started following Man City, $6.5 million would have been the entire summer transfer budget, now that is just an insurance deductible on central defender that might never see first team action.  Wow have things changed on the blue side of Manchester.

27. Erik Johansen (GK): If Man City had their druthers, they would have kept Wright instead of Johansen as their 3rd goalkeeper for their Champions League squad but UEFA rules preclude clubs from having more than four English players that were developed by another club.  With Hart, Lescott, Milner, and Rodwell developed by other clubs; Wright lost his Champions League roster spot to Johansen.  Since EPL rules are less stringent, Wright is the 3rd goalkeeper for Man City's EPL squad.

Man City springs back into action with two nervy road matches.  First, Man City faces Stoke on September 14th and then they open their Champions League campaign against Viktoria Plzen on September 17th.  How both of those matches go will have a big impact on my rankings.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The 53 - Packers lose to 49ers in 2013 opener

Last year the Green Bay Packers opened the season with a home loss to the San Francisco 49ers and closed the season with a playoff road loss to the 49ers as well.  Unfortunately 2013 started just the way 2012 ended for the Packers with a road loss to the 49ers.  Here are my thoughts along with updated rankings to The 53 following the Packers/49ers season opener:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, 2)
3. Randall Cobb (WR, 6)
4. Morgan Burnett (S, 7)
5. B.J. Raji (DL, 4)
6. Jordy Nelson (WR, 11)
7. T.J. Lang (G, 8)
8. Jermichael Finley (TE, 5)
9. Josh Sitton (G, 3)
10. James Jones (WR, 9)
11. Sam Shields (CB, 10)
12. Tramon Williams (CB, 12)
13. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, 13)
14. David Bakhtiari (T, 17)
15. Nick Perry (OLB, 15)
16. Casey Hayward (CB, 14)
17. Datone Jones (DL, 18)
18. Tim Masthay (P, 19)
19. Eddie Lacy (RB, 16)
20. Ryan Pickett (DL, 20)
21. Don Barclay (T, 21)
22. Johnny Jolly (DL, 32)
23. A.J. Hawk (MLB, 22)
24. C.J. Wilson (DL, 23)
25. Brad Jones (MLB, 24)
26. Mike Daniels (DL, 26)
27. M.D. Jennings (S, 25)
28. Jerron McMillian (S, 27)
29. Micah Hyde (CB, 28)
30. James Starks (RB, 43)
31. Mason Crosby (K, 38)
32. Brett Goode (LS, 29)
33. Jarrett Bush (CB, 30)
34. Ryan Taylor (TE, 31)
35. Jarrett Boykin (WR, 33)
36. Robert Francois (MLB, 34)
37. Jeremy Ross (WR, 35)
38. John Kuhn (FB, 37)
39. Marshall Newhouse (T, 36)
40. Greg Van Roten (G, 39)
41. Davon House (CB, 40)
42. Chris Banjo (S, 51)
43. Jonathan Franklin (RB, 41)
44. Andrew Quarless (TE, 42)
45. Seneca Wallace (QB, 44)
46. Jamari Lattimore (LB, 46)
47. Mike Neal (OLB, 47)
48. Andy Mulumba (LB, 53)
49. Sam Barrington (LB, 49)
50. Nate Palmer (LB, 50)
51. Lane Taylor (G, 52)
52. Brandon Bostick (TE, 48)
53. Josh Boyd (DL, 45)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB): Bill Barnwell of, one of my favorite football writers, usually reviews bad coaching decisions in a weekly article called "Thank You For Not Coaching".  I presume that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy's decision to accept a penalty that gave the 49ers a 3rd and 6 instead of a 4th and 1 at the 5 yard line with the score tied 7-7 early in the second quarter will end up in that column.  I am not sure Barnwell's thoughts yet but here are my thoughts.  Following McCarthy accepting a penalty to set-up 3rd and 6 instead of 4th and 1, Matthews committed a personal foul tackling 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick out of bounds.  A scuffle ensued. Somehow 49ers offensive lineman Joe Staley got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Matthews was not ejected despite the fact that Matthews punched (a weak attempt but a punch nonetheless) Staley.  As we know now, the officials erred in replaying the down because of the off-setting penalties occurred after the play was over so it really should have been 4th and 2 from the Packers' 6 yard-line.  Obviously if McCarthy declines the penalty none of this ever happens because the 49ers face a 4th and 1 on the Packers' 5 yard line.  Odds are the 49ers go for it and most likely pickup the first down but if the Packers stopped the 49ers in that spot, they give themselves a huge boost in confidence instead of giving the 49ers two chances to go six yards.  Obviously McCarthy is a quality NFL head coach but some of his in-game decisions continue to perplex me.

4. Morgan Burnett (S):  Despite not playing against the 49ers, Burnett moved up three spots thanks to the horrible performances of the safety tandem of M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian.  Even with Charles Woodson on the roster last season, Burnett was clearly the best safety on the team.  Although Jennings and McMillian showed flashes last year, they could never put together consistent performances.  When the Packers cut Woodson, I was shocked that the Packers did not bring in another veteran at safety given the uneven play of Jennings and McMillian.  Hopefully once Burnett returns that will elevate the play of the other safeties, otherwise general manager Ted Thompson is going to rue not only cutting Woodson but failing to replace him with a veteran.

9. Josh Sitton (G): The 49ers have arguably the best defensive line in the NFL but that still does not excuse the three penalties (one for illegal hands to the face and two for holding) that Sitton committed.  This off-season the Packers flipped Sitton to left guard and T.J. Lang to right guard, which still makes no sense to me since both guys were so comfortable in the positions they finished at in 2012.  Despite flipping sides, on paper the Sitton/Lang combo still forms the best pair of guards in Green Bay since Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, now we just need to see it in live action.

37. Jeremy Ross (WR): The Packers handed Ross the return job on a platter but after week one they might be looking for another return man.  In the preseason the Packers gave rookie running back Johnathan Franklin a shot at returning kickoffs but Franklin was underwhelming.  If the Packers think Franklin can hold onto the ball, they might as well give him another shot because Ross averaged just over 13 yards on kickoff returns, which is the definition of underwhelming so Franklin can't do much worse. 

42. Chris Banjo (S): Less than a month ago the Packers brought Banjo in as essentially a camp body with an outside chance to make the practice squad.  Not only did Banjo make The 53, but if Burnett is out against the Washington Redskins next week, the Packers should consider giving Banjo some snaps on defense in place of Jennings or McMillian given how much both struggled last week.

48. Andy Mulumba (LB): Every NFL team has a 53-man roster but a silly NFL rules prevents every player form being active for each game.  Two of the seven inactive players (Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward), when healthy, will always be active.  The other inactive players (Sam Barrington, Brandon Bostick, Josh Boyd, Nate Palmer, and Lane Taylor) will have to show something during practice each week to be active.  I highlight Mulamba because he was active this week but will battle with Barrington and Palmer on a weekly basis to be active gameday.

Make sure to check back for my full breakdown if Thompson makes any significant roster moves this week, otherwise check back next Monday for my thoughts on the Packers/Redskins game.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The 53 - Initial Player Rankings for 2013 GBP

I wanted to rank The 53 before the Green Bay Packers play the San Francisco 49ers on the road to open their 2013 season so that I am on the record with my initial thoughts about The 53.  Just as a refresher, these rankings take into account age, skill, contract, and positional depth.  Going forward, I plan to post updated rankings of The 53 by noon the day after each game.  Not only will I rank the players 1 through 53 but I will write about players whose rankings change drastically from the previous week.  Without further adu, here are my thoughts on a few players from The 53:

The Initial 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB)
3. Josh Sitton (G)
4. B.J. Raji (DL)
5. Jermichael Finley (TE)
6. Randall Cobb (WR)
7. Morgan Burnett (S)
8. T.J. Lang (G)
9. James Jones (WR)
10. Sam Shields (CB)
11. Jordy Nelson (WR)
12. Tramon Williams (CB)
13. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C)
14. Casey Hayward (CB)
15. Nick Perry (OLB)
16. Eddie Lacy (RB)
17. David Bakhtiari (T)
18. Datone Jones (DL)
19. Tim Masthay (P)
20. Ryan Pickett (DL)
21. Don Barclay (T)
22. A.J. Hawk (MLB)
23. C.J. Wilson (DL)
24. Brad Jones (MLB)
25. M.D. Jennings (S)
26. Mike Daniels (DL)
27. Jerron McMillian (S)
28. Micah Hyde (CB)
29. Brett Goode (LS)
30. Jarrett Bush (CB)
31. Ryan Taylor (TE)
32. Johnny Jolly (DL)
33. Jarrett Boykin (WR)
34. Robert Francois (MLB)
35. Jeremy Ross (WR)
36. Marshall Newhouse (T)
37. John Kuhn (FB)
38. Mason Crosby (K)
39. Greg Van Roten (G)
40. Davon House (CB)
41. Jonathan Franklin (RB)
42. Andrew Quarless (TE)
43. James Starks (RB)
44. Seneca Wallace (QB)
45. Josh Boyd (DL)
46. Jamari Lattimore (LB)
47. Mike Neal (OLB)
48. Brandon Bostick (TE)
49. Sam Barrington (LB)
50. Nate Palmer (LB)
51. Chris Banjo (S)
52. Lane Taylor (G)
53. Andy Mulamba (LB)
15. Nick Perry (OLB): After rewarding fellow outside linebacker and USC alumni Clay Matthews with a lucrative contract extension during the off-season, the Packers have high hopes that Perry can be the long-term solution opposite Matthews.  As a rookie, Perry showed flashes of being a quality pass rusher despite having to transition from playing defensive end in a 4-3 in college to outside linebacker in a 3-4 for the Packers.  Unfortunately an injury cut Perry's rookie campaign short but as long as Perry can stay healthy, I see him having a big year just by virtue of how much attention Matthews will command.

17. David Bakhtiari (T): Going into training camp the Packers decided to flip each side of the offensive line moving right tackle Bryan Bulaga to left tackle, right guard Josh Sitton to left guard, left guard T.J. Lang to right guard, and left tackle Marshall Newhouse to right tackle.  Unfortunately the Packers lost Bulaga for the year to a knee injury so the offensive line went influx again.  The Packers gave the rookie Bakhtiari a chance to win the job and he has never looked back.  This summer Bakhtiari worked out with Clay Matthews, which could be a big factor in why he has performed well so far.  That said, practice and preseason is much different than the regular season, so it will be interesting to see how Bakhtiari responds against the formidable 49ers defense.

32. Johnny Jolly (DL): Heading into training camp Jolly seemed like a long-shot to make the roster after missing three NFL seasons due to a drug suspension.  I am not sure why expectations were so low for Jolly though, when clean and healthy, let's not forget that Jolly was one of the most disruptive defensive lineman for the Packers in the 2000's.  I am much more worried about Jolly off the field than on the field.  I am worried about Jolly getting into trouble off the field so much that if I were the Packers, I would assign him a "dork escort" that went with everywhere with Jolly in hopes of keeping him out of trouble off the field. Assuming Jolly is fine off the field, I expect big things from him on the field.

41. Jonathan Franklin (RB): The Packers traded up in the 4th round to draft Franklin despite drafting running back Eddie Lacy in the 2nd round.  Franklin had a lackluster training camp.  One training camp does not make a career so luckily for Franklin, the Packers had enough invested in him that since he is healthy, he was a lock to make The 53.  Despite struggling in the preseason, at some point early in the season I expect to see the Packers give Franklin reps on offense despite the fact that he is most likely fourth on the depth chart behind Lacy, Starks, and Kuhn at this point.  Even before Franklin plays consistently on offense, I expect the Packers to give Franklin a chance to return kickoffs.

44. Seneca Wallace (QB): The Packers held a three-way competition between B.J. Coleman, Graham Harrell, and Vince Young for the backup quarterback job behind Aaron Rodgers.  Two days after keeping Coleman ahead of Harrell and Young, general manager Ted Thompson moved in yet another direction cutting Coleman and signing quarterback Seneca Wallace.  All the backup quarterbacks had rough patches in the preseason but in terms of on the field performance I still favor Young ahead of Wallace but there were reports that Young is not the most helpful backup while Wallace has made a lucrative ten year NFL career of being a professional backup so I understand the decision.  Still I am somewhat surprised that the Packers have been unable to develop a quality backup quarterback since Matt Flynn left Green Bay after the 2011 season.  Keep in mind that Coleman and Harrell attended McCarthy's "vaunted" off-season quarterback camp last off-season, which doesn't look like it helped either quarterback very much since Wallace is the backup instead of McCarthy's prize pupils.

Enjoy the start of the 2013 NFL season for the Packers.  Make sure to check back on Monday for my thoughts on the game via my updated rankings.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The 53 - Five Best Contracts for 2013 GBP

In case you missed it, yesterday I looked at the five worst contracts on The 53, which I had a hard time doing because Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson is very fiscally responsible.  For that same reason, I had a hard time winnowing down the list to just five for the best contracts.  This list doesn't even factor in rookie contracts since they are exempt given that they are so advantageous for NFL teams.  There are almost a dozen contracts that I could characterize as honorable mention so let's get to the five best contracts on The 53:

5. Expiring One Year Deals: As I discussed yesterday, the Packers have a number of quality starters set to become free agents this off-season.  Four players not on their original rookie contract that look like absolute steals in 2013 are: Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, $1.3 million), Robert Francois (MLB, $750,000), James Jones (WR, $3.75 million), and Sam Shields (CB, $2 million).  Technically some of the contracts are off-shots of rookie contracts but I included them to illustrate the point that the Packers have a number of players that are playing for the largest payday of their lifetime this off-season so as long as they stay healthy they will have every financial motivation to play their best this season.  If I had to make a predictions today, I think it is much more likely that Dietrich-Smith and Jones will resign with the Packers than Francois or Shields.

4. Morgan Burnett (S, $3.2 million, 11th highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers rewarded Burnett with a lucrative five-year, $26 million contract ($8.25 million guaranteed) after being one of only two players to play every defensive snap for their team in 2012.  People always talk about how if running backs have too many touches, they are more likely to get hurt the following year that running backs that had less touches.  As far as I know, there has never been a similar study on defensive players.  Given the fact that Burnett player every defensive snap in 2012, the odds of him playing anywhere close to as many defensive snaps in 2013 are low, let's just hope he doesn't suffer a serious injury as a result of playing all those snaps in 2012.  Although Burnett only carries the 23rd highest salary cap charge for safeties in the NFL, his cap charges increases next season ($4.9 million) but luckily Burnett's salary cap charge doesn't spike too much the following year ($5.2 million).  Burnett will not even be 30 before the end of his current contract, which is a good thing, because his 2016 ($6.1 million) and 2017 ($7 million) cap numbers are extremely high for a safety.

3. Jordy Nelson (WR, $4 million, 9th highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers and Nelson agreed to a four-year, $14 million extension ($5 million signing bonus) after the 2010 season.  I thought Nelson was a lock for a long-term extension going into last season but he starts 2013 a little banged up so I wonder if the Packers will delay getting Nelson signed to an extension.  Nelson only has the 32nd highest cap hold for wide receivers in the NFL this seasons, which is way too low for a wide receiver of Nelson's caliber even factoring in his current injury issues.  Add in that Nelson's salary cap number actually goes down roughly $100,000 next season to $3.9 million and the Packers can take a wait-and-see approach with Nelson for the first part of 2013, especially since two of their other receivers Jones and Randall Cobb are in line for lucrative extensions in the near future.

2. Clay Matthews (OLB, $6.7 million, 4th highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers and Matthews agreed to a five-year, $66 million contract extension ($20.5 million signing bonus) to make him the highest paid linebacker (by average annual salary) even though they tacked the new contract onto the end of his rookie contract that was set to expire at the end of 2013.  That means the Packers owe Matthews just under $70 million for the next six seasons.  Call this season the honeymoon season because Matthews carries a cap charge of at least $11 million through the life of the contract with the biggest year being $15.2 million in 2017.  In 2013 Matthews holds merely the 13th highest salary cap charge at outside linebacker.  Since the Packers drafted Matthews in 2009 he has consistently been one of the league leaders in sacks.  If Matthews keeps this up, I see the Packers adding guaranteed money and years onto the contract he signed in off-season sooner rather than later.

1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, $12 million, 1st highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers had Rodgers under contract through 2014 as part of the six-year, $65 million ($20 million guaranteed) deal they agreed to in 2008.  The Packers added five years and $110 million dollars ($40 million guaranteed) on the end of the 2008 deal so they owe Rodgers a little less than $131 million for the next seven years, which means the Packers have Rodgers under contract through 2019.  If the Packers had to cut Rodgers before 2016 they would have a ton of salary cap ramifications: $54 million in dead money if they cut him this season, $47 million in dead money if they cut him in 2014, $30 million in dead money if they cut him in 2015, $14 million in dead money if cut in 2016, and $7 million in dead money if they cut him in 2017.  The Packers do not have any guaranteed money left on the contract after 2017 because they extended Rodgers while he still had two years left on his current contract.  If healthy, there is no way in the world anyone besides Aaron Rodgers is starting at quarterback through at least 2016 so I am not worried about the Packers having to deal with any dead money on their salary cap because of the Rodgers contract. Despite being arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, Rodgers has only the 11th highest salary cap number for quarterbacks this season.  The Packers should enjoy having Rodgers on the cheap this year though because his salary cap number jumps to $17.9 million next seasons, which would be second highest salary cap number for quarterbacks this season behind only Eli Manning ($20.9 million).  Rodgers is going to carry a large annual salary cap charge from 2014 on, but the fact that the Packers were able to front load the guaranteed money allows them more flexibility than the "lifetime" 10-year, $101.5 million contract that Brett Favre signed with the Packers that was renegotiated almost every year to help create cap room.  If Rodgers plays out this contract that means the Packers will have only had Favre or Rodgers as their true starting quarterbacks for 27 years from 1992 through 2019.

A special thanks to sportrac for their detailed NFL salary numbers, which made this post possible.

As the contracts discussed above show, the Packers have been in good financial shape under Thompson save for a few slight overpays, which is why they won Super Bowl XLV and have been a perennial playoff team for the last half dozen years besides 2008.

Check back tomorrow when I give my initial rankings of The 53.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The 53 - Five Worst Contracts for 2013 GBP

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson finalized the first incarnation of The 53 on Saturday.  I say first incarnation because just two days later Thompson shook up The 53 when he cut backup quarterback B.J. Coleman and signed quarterback Seneca Wallace.

All NFL teams need to be under the $123 million salary cap, up from $120.6 million in 2012, by 3 pm today.  Despite giving out two of the largest contracts in NFL history during the off-season to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, the Packers were still more than $9 million below the salary cap when you factor in the $900,000 minimum salary benefit so complying with the salary cap was never going to be a problem for the Packers.  Keep in mind that number only accounts for the 51 most expensive players on the current roster.  That cap number will go up a fair amount when you add in everyone on the 53-man roster, PUP list, injured reserve, the practice squad, injury settlements, and other dead cap charges.

Although it looks like the Packers have a fair amount of salary cap room, they will need to use it wisely because they have a number of quality starters (Evan Dietrich-Smith (C), Jermichael Finley (TE), James Jones (WR), Ryan Pickett (DL), B.J. Raji (DL), Sam Shields (CB), and C.J. Wilson (DL)) that are set to become free agents this off-season.

Last year I dealt with the five worst and five best contract together.  Since these posts get long, I decided to split them up this year.  I will look at the five best contracts tomorrow but first let's look at the five worst contracts on The 53:

5. Jarrett Bush (CB, $1.8 million, 19th highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers tried Bush at cornerback and safety a number of times over the past few seasons.  Sure Bush had a crucial interception in Super Bowl XLV but otherwise he has struggled playing in the base defense.  The same cannot be said for special teams because Bush excels on special teams.  There is no doubt that Bush is one of the hardest workers on the team, unfortunately that hard work has only payed dividends on special teams as opposed to defense, which makes his salary a tad expensive for my taste.  Often times teams say you can't put a price on certain things like special teams play but apparently three-year, $5.25 million is that price, which means Bush carries the 53rd highest salary cap number for cornerbacks in 2013.  Bush has two years left on that deal.  If the younger cornerbacks (Casey Hayward, Davon House, and Micah Hyde) can get close to Bush's level on special teams, he might be playing elsewhere in 2014.

4. Brad Jones (MLB, $2.5 million, 14th highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers handed out a bunch of smart extensions this off-season to Morgan Burnett (S), Matthews, and Rodgers.  Unfortunately the three-year, $11.75 million contract they gave Jones was not a smart extension.  The Packers had so many talented linebackers on the roster that they had to cut linebackers with tons of potential like Terrell Manning so the cupboard is far from bare at linebacker.  Traditionally the Packers let other teams overpay players after their rookie contract unless they are potential franchise cornerstones.  Sure Jones only has the 46th highest salary cap number for middle linebackers in 2013 but his cap number jumps to $4 million in 2014 and a ridiculous $4.75 million in 2015.  Jones struggled in pass coverage last season, he as to improve in that phase of the game this season otherwise he might be in danger of getting cut this off-season if any of the younger linebackers (Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington) show they can be an every down middle linebacker.

3. Jermichael Finley (TE, $8.75 million, 2nd highest cap charge on The 53): Following the 2011 season the Packers and Finley agreed to a two-year, $14 million "prove it" contract.  After paying Finley $5.25 million last season, his salary cap number jumped $3.5 million to $8.75 for this season, which means Finley carries the second highest salary cap number for tight ends in the NFL behind Zach Miller.  Sure Finley is a physical freak, which makes him a match-up nightmare, but his inability to block and catch passes consistently have been his achilles heels.  Look for Finley to concentrate on blocking and catching since he is a contract year because if he adds those two elements to his game, I could actually see the Packers paying top dollar to retain Finley.

2. A.J. Hawk (MLB, $5.2 million, 8th highest cap charge on The 53): Even after agreeing to cut $7.25 million off the last three years of the five-year, $33.75 million contract that Hawk signed after the 2010 season, he still has the 22nd highest salary cap number for middle linebackers in 2013.  I've often referred to Hawk as the Business HJ because he gets the job done but there is nothing special about it, which is why a salary cap number of over $5 million a year through 2015 is too much for a pedestrian middle linebacker like Hawk.

1. Tramon Williams (CB, $8.5 million, 3rd highest cap charge on The 53): When the Packers signed Williams to a five-year, $38 million extension it looked like they got a steal but Williams suffered shoulder injury that limited his ability to play physical at the line of scrimmage the last two seasons, which makes him overpaid since he carries the 8th highest salary cap number of all cornerbacks in the NFL.  Trust me, Williams is a much better player than Hawk but I am not sure Williams is worth $3.2 million more even thought he plays a premium position like coernerback.  The Packers are going to have an interesting decision to make on Williams this off-season because Williams will is due $9.5 million in 2014 in the last year of his contract and the Packers have a ton of young talent at cornerback on the roster.

A special thanks to sportrac for their detailed NFL salary numbers, which made this post possible.

Check back tomorrow when I look at the five best contracts on The 53.

The 53 - 2013 Green Bay Packers Initial Practice Squad

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson finalized the first incarnation of The 53 by 5 PM CDT on Saturday, August 31, 2013.  The next move for Thompson was to sift through all the other players cut to put together the initial 8-man practice squad.

As a preview of how The 53 article is going look each week, whenever I rank players, I am going to call them out in a box to the right and write about the most notable from the group.  Here are my thoughts on a couple of the players on the initial 8-man practice squad for the 2013 Green Bay Packers:

Practice Squad
1. Scott Tolzien (QB)
2. Jake Stoneburner (TE)
3. Charles Johnson (WR)
4. James Nixon (CB)
5. Myles White (WR)
6. Bryan Collins (G)
7. Aaron Adams (T)
8. Michael Hill (RB)
1. Scott Tolzien (QB): Once Tolzien was cut by the San Francisco 49ers, I advocated for the Packers to give him a look.  I don't even care that the Packers play the 49ers to open the season, I thought the Packers should give Tolzien a look based on his talent alone.  Low and behold, Thompson agreed with me and signed Tolzien to the practice squad.  Even before Thompson could finalize the initial practice squad he cut backup quarterback B.J. Coleman and replaced him with veteran quarterback Seneca Wallace on The 53. I ranked Tolzien first because I actually think Tolzien is a better quarterback than any of the other contenders for the backup quarterback job behind Rodgers so I expect to see Tolzien on The 53 at some point this season.

6. Bryan Collins (G): The Packers hoped that they could sneak offensive lineman Patrick Lewis through waivers and onto the practice squad but Lewis was one of six players claimed by the Cleveland Browns so the Packers signed Collins instead.  I have a special place in my heart because I have family from Cleveland and now their general manager is Michael Lombardi, one of my favorite B.S. Report guests.  As long as work comports, I plan on attending the Packers/Browns regular season game at Lambeau Field this year.  It will be interesting to see whether Lewis is still on the 53-man roster for the Browns when the two teams meet.

Check back later today when I dissect the five worst contracts on The 53.