Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Building The 53 - How to Handle Players on 2013 Injured Reserve

In case you missed it, yesterday I gave my thoughts on how Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson should handle the 8-man practice squad.  It turns out that later in the day Thompson signed six of the eight guys from the practice squad along with Chase Thomas (LB) and Jeremy Vujnovich (OT).  Thompson did not sign Lanier Coleman (G) and Tyrone Walker (WR) but they are still listed on the roster on  Given that Coleman is 27-years old, I am fine with the fact that Thompson did not sign him but I am shocked that Walker was not signed.  I get that all 10 guys are long-shots for The 53 in 2014 but Walker seemed to have the best odds of the group.

Today I wanted to turn to how Thompson should handle the 15 guys (ranked in the table below) that are currently on injured reserve.  A scan of the other 31 NFL teams shows that the Packers and Houston Texans currently have 15 players on injured reserve, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have 16 players on injured reserve, and the Indianapolis Colts lead the league with 17 players on injured reserve.

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
Sheer numbers do not tell the whole story because as we saw when the Packers were without the services of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, losing high-end players can be debilitating to a team.  That said, there is no denying that having to add 15 new players to The 53 is taxing on the front office and coaching staff.  Of the fifteen players currently on injured reserve, 11 are under contract for at least 2014 while four are set to become free agents.

Let's start with the four players that are set to become free agents: Jermichael Finley (TE), Robert Francois (LB), Johnny Jolly (DL), and Seneca Wallace (QB).  After being released by the Cleveland Browns before the 2012 season, Wallace did not get another look in the NFL till the San Francisco 49ers signed and subsequently cut him during the 2013 preseason.  Given how much Wallace struggled for the Packers this season, the easiest move is to let Wallace become a free agent.  Same for Francois.  Although Francois was a quality special teams guy, the Packers have a ton of other younger, cheaper options ahead of Francois at linebacker.

15 players on injured reserve
1. Jermichael Finley (TE)
2. Bryan Bulaga ()T)
3. Casey Hayward (CB)
4. Johnny Jolly (DL)
5. Jonathan Franklin (RB)
6. DuJuan Harris (RB)
7. Brandon Bostick (TE)
8. Greg Van Roten (C/G)
9. Sam Barrington (LB)

10. Robert Francois (LB)

11. Myles White (WR)
12. James Nixon (CB)
13. Kevin Dorsey (WR)
14. Sederrik Cunningham (WR)
15. Seneca Wallace (QB)
That leaves Finley and Jolly, which will be two of the hardest decisions for Thompson.  Both players are coming off serious spinal cord injuries with Finley's coming Week 5 at home against the Browns and Jolly's coming Week 14 at home against the Atlanta Falcons.  I had a bird's-eye view of Finley's injury and immediately thought that could be his last game in the NFL.  Jolly's injury, although serious, does not appear to be potentially career ending like Finley's injury because it happened to vertebra lower down the spine.  Both players need to be medically cleared by the Packers and given how cautious team doctor Pat McKenzie rightly was with Rodgers, I am not sure it is a given that those guys will be cleared but let's proceed as if both players are medically cleared.

Finley just completed a two-year, $14 million "prove-it" deal.  I would offer Finley another two-year deal but for $10 million total worth $5.5 million in 2014 (fully guaranteed) and $4.5 million (not guaranteed) in 2015.  Why $10 million? Apparently Finley has an insurance policy on his career worth that much money so that seems like the right financial carrot to waive in front of him.  If Finley shows that he is healthy, I would extend him long-term next off-season.  If Finley turns out to be a shell of his former self, the structure of the deal allows Thompson to cut Finley with no salary cap ramifications.

Moving onto Jolly, despite all of his off-the-field issues that resulted in him going to jail and prevented him from playing in the NFL for three years from 2010 to 2012, he looked like the same disruptive force along the defensive line in 2013 like he was in 2009.  I would sign Jolly to a three-year, $10.5 million contract with rolling guarantees in case injury or off-the-field issues hamper Jolly.

With the free agents out of the way that leaves the 11 other players currently on injured reserve that the Packers have under contract in 2014: Sam Barrington (LB), Brandon Bostick (TE), Bryan Bulaga (OT), Sederrik Cunningham (WR), Kevin Dorsey (WR), Johnathan Franklin (RB), Casey Hayward (CB), DuJuan Harris (RB), James Nixon (CB), Greg Van Roten (C/G), and Myles White (WR).

I see no reason to cut any of those 11 guys under contract at this point because if they are healthy, they are at least worth having around in training camp.  Of the 11 guys, I only see two guys as potential starters in 2014: Bulaga at left or right tackle and Hayward at nickel corner.

Of the nine guys left, I am highest on Barrington, Bostick, Franklin, Harris, and Van Roten.  Again if healthy, I see Franklin and Harris as virtual locks to make The 53 in 2014 while the fate of Barrington, Bostick, and Van Roten will be determined partly by their play and partly by others ahead of them on The 53.  That leaves Cunningham, Dorsey, Nixon, and White as long-shots to make The 53 in 2014 while most likely fighting hard to make the practice squad or show enough in preseason games next year to make another NFL roster.

Make sure to check back tomorrow when I breakdown how Thompson should handle the restricted free agents currently on The 53.

No comments:

Post a Comment