Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Building The 53 - Roster Moves to 75

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson made a series of moves over the last two days to trim the roster to 75 players by 3 pm CDT on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 in order to comply with NFL rules.  Here is a breakdown of the moves made by Thompson:
- Released (7): Charles Clay (S), Antonio Dennard (CB), Chris Harper (WR), Korey Jones (LB), Ina Liaina (FB), Chase Rettig (WB), and Gerrard Sheppard (WR).
 - Placed on injured reserve (6): Jared Abbrederis (WR), Don Barclay (OT), Rajon Neal (RB), B.J. Raji (DT), Joe Thomas (LB), and Andrew Tiller (G) thus ending their 2014 season.
- Injury Settlement (1): Colt Lyerla (TE).

Much like last year when the Packers went from 90 to 75, none of the players cut were a huge surprise.  I thought Harper was a long-shot to make The 53 but thought he would at least make it past the first round of cuts.  The former 4th round draft pick has been a bit of enigma since joining the Packers last season.  Harper's size makes him an interesting prospect but his shaky hands cost him a spots on The 53 given how many other options the Packers have at wide receiver.

Of the six players placed on injured reserve, Barclay and Raji hurt (no pun intended) the most.  Sure Raji was underwhelming last season but expectations are high this year because he moves back to defensive tackle where he previously thrived.  Plus this year Raji is playing on a one-year, $4 million "prove it" contract after he turned down a long-term deal worth $8 million annually in the middle of last season.  Raji tore his bicep, which cost him the entire 2014 season.  I see Raji either playing for the veteran minimum next year for the Packers or elsewhere if he wants more money.

Losing Barclay to a torn ACL is arguably just as big of a loss as Raji given that Barclay is the preferred backup at every position along the offensive line.  That loss is exacerbated by the fact that unproven starting center JC Tretter is set to miss multiple weeks too so the Packers are forced to slide one of their guards to center or start rookie Corey Linsley.  Barclay is set to be a restricted free agent this off-season so if he recovers well throughout the season that will determine what offer the Packers should extend to Barclay.  My guess right now is that the Packers extend Barclay the lowest possible restricted free agent offer and hope teams pass so they can get him on the cheap for one more year.

The only other notable player put on injured reserve is Abbrederis.  The Packers are deep at wide receiver though so although losing Abbrederis is a bummer, it is not a huge deal because he was going to have to fight to make The 53 anyhow.  If I had to guess right now, I think the Packers will keep five wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, and Jeff Janis.  I mention that because Boykin and Cobb are set to become free agents after this season so the Packers will need to sort out what guys to pay.  If Abbrederis recovers well and looks to be able to fill the slot receiver role that could mean Boykin and/or Cobb get a low ball offer or play elsewhere next season.

Last but certainly not least, the Packers reached an injury settlement with undrafted rookie free agent tight end Colt Lyerla.  Never has more been written about an undrafted rookie free agent but it was a perfect storm of sorts given the fact that the Packers are trying to replace tight end Jermicahel Finely and that Lyerla has a chance to be the second coming of Rob Gronkownski, his presence in Green Bay has resulted in tons of coverage.  The Packers waived Lyerla with an injury exemption so once he passed through waivers, they could have placed him on injured reserve for all of 2014 and had his services for 2015.  Given all of Lyerla's off-the-field troubles, it seems like that was the logical move to keep him in a routine and out of trouble.  Apparently the Packers did not think that much of Lyerla because according to the reported terms of his injury settlement with the team, after week eight of the regular season, Lyerla can sign with another NFL team.  Lyerla cannot resign with the Packers till week 14 of the regular season because of the NFL rules that govern injury settlements.  If I was in charge, I would have just kept Lyerla on injured reserve all season in hopes of keeping an eye on him in 2014 with an eye towards adding him to The 53 in 2015 but clearly the Packers have a different view.

The decisions above were the easy one.  Thompson still needs to trim 22 more players from the roster by August 30th at 4 pm CDT.  That means that there are a number of players that need to play well tomorrow night against the Chiefs to make The 53.

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