Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Building The 53 - How to Handle Players on 8-Man Practice Squad

I know the 2013 season is barely in the books for the Green Bay Packers following their 23-20 home playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers but Packers general manager Ted Thompson already has to starting planning The 53 for 2014.  Thompson currently has 76 players spread across The 53, 8-man practice squad, and 15 players on injured reserve under control until at least early March.  Although all 76 players do not have a contract with the Packers in 2014, I will do my best to advise Thompson on what players should stay and what players should go.  When you add in the draft and Thompson actually dabbling in the free agency if he wants the Packers to be a Super Bowl contender in 2014, there are a ton of decisions to make to put together The 53 for 2014.  In the past I wrote one long post about how Thompson should approach the off-season (2011, 2012, and 2013) but given all the moving parts, I am going to breakdown my advice into seven-parts.

Advice for Ted Thompson
How to Handle Players on 8-Man Practice Squad
How to Handle Players on Injured Reserve
How to Handle 2014 RFA's on The 53
How to Handle 2014 UFA's on The 53
Potential Salary Cap Casualties on The 53
First Look at the 2014 NFL Draft
Locks for The 53 for 2014
Thompson did not extend any players before the end of the regular season, which means the Packers will carry over roughly $9.8 million of cap space from 2013 to their 2014 salary cap.  The Packers have 48 players under contract for 2014 for a little more than $100 million.  Initial reports are that the salary cap will be roughly $127.5 million in 2014.  That sounds like the Packers will have a ton of salary cap space but they have 20 players that are set to either become restricted (3 players) or unrestricted (17 players) free agents in early March unless the Packers sign them to a contract extension, which makes every decision about The 53 for 2013 crucial.

8-man practice squad
1. Tyrone Walker (WR)
2. Garth Gerhart (C/OG)
3. Andrew Tiller (OG)
4. Antonio Dennard (CB)
5. Alex Gillett (WR)
6. Orwin Smith (RB)
7. Aaron Adams (OT)
8. Lanier Coleman (OG)
Without further adu, here are my thoughts on the final 8-man practice squad.  I am sure Thompson is going to sign all of the guys on the practice squad to future contracts.  That is essentially a cheap way to keep those players for the off-season on the cheap.

The guys with the best chance to make The 53 next season are Walker, Gerhart, and Tiller.  I am a huge fan of Walker's game so assuming he can contribute on special teams, I could see him as a cost-effective 5th wide receiver for the Packers in 2014.  The Packers have quality players at guard (T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton) and center (Evan Diretrich-Smith and JC Tretter) currently on The 53 but starting center EDS is set to become a free agent.  As I will discuss later this week when I breakdown how to handle the unrestricted free agents on The 53, I expect Thompson to re-sign EDS, but expect him to hedge with Gerhart and Tiller.  Although Gerhart is slightly undersized, I like his upside a little more than Tiller.

I know a discussion of the practice squad is not very sexy but make sure to check back tomorrow for my thoughts on how Thompson should handle the 15 players currently on injured reserve.

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