Sorting out the mess along the offensive line must be the Green Bay Packers’ top priority this offseason.
Untangling the situation at cornerback is not far behind, though.
Now it is true that Green Bay is better off at corner than o-line as of right now. Still, age, injuries and unknowns permeate the group and the Packers must find a way to ensure some stability there, especially for the good of the team’s long-term success.
Currently, Green Bay has nine – that’s right, nine – corners who either are or could be in the fold for next season. Of that group, only 26-year old Tramon Williams has a better than decent chance to be as a starter five years from now (provided the team finally sucks it up and gives him a new contract, which I think it will do soon).
Charles Woodson, obviously, is still playing at an elite level – that little Defensive Player of the Year trophy proves that. With the way he takes care of himself, he should definitely be a starter for at least the next couple of years (maybe longer if the team moves him to safety, which some think will surely happen eventually). That said, he turns 34 in October and the injury risks increase exponentially with each passing year. Plus, as great as his 2009 season was, it’s really hard to imagine Woodson playing any better than that ever again. I’m not trying to put a damper on what he just accomplished and I’m not saying he won’t be very good again next season; rather, I’m saying that, sometimes, you have to recognize the top of the mountain when you’re on it.
Al Harris is even older, set to turn 36 in December. On top of that, he’s coming off a major, major knee injury (even worse than we originally thought, as seen here). Harris is notoriously tough and, like Woodson, does a great job of keeping in shape. I’ve said before he’ll be back next season and I’m sticking to that. Still, no one really knows what Al Harris is going to show up. Remember, he’s never been the fastest corner and if he loses too many more steps, that could be a wrap for him.
If something were to happen to either one of these two, the Packers would still be okay because, again, they have Williams. But what if something were to happen to both guys? Furthermore, who plays opposite Williams when Harris and Woodson are enjoying their respective retirements?
Pat Lee? The guy who’s played exactly five NFL games (all coming in his rookie season) in two years? Sure, Lee has looked decent enough in training camp and the preseason games – and he was a second-round pick in ‘08 – but back and knee injuries have forced him to end each season on injured reserve. Plus, he was drafted for the old bump-and-run scheme. No one knows how he will fit in having to play more zone coverage.
Will Blackmon? If injuries have hampered Lee, they’ve killed Blackmon, causing him to miss 31 of a possible 64 regular season games throughout his four-year career. Again like Lee, Blackmon has shown some definite ability (extra points since he’s shown it during games that actually count) at the position. And it’s true that he can be a deadly punt returner. But this only happens when he stays healthy – and that’s just not something he’s been able to do. This is why I think he should not be offered any sort of tender. You’re already hoping one guy (Lee) can stay healthy. You can’t afford to have that hope for two guys. Remember, teams usually only carry six – in some cases, seven – corners on the roster.
To paraphrase the tried-and-true informercial line: But wait, it gets worse.
How? Jarrett Bush is still on the roster, that’s how. I’m seriously not going to waste much more time talking about how awful he is. Go back and watch the tape – if you stomach will allow it.
Then there’s Brandon Underwood. The team seems to be at least somewhat high on his abilities, but at this point he’s nothing more than a back-end corner – a sixth or seventh guy, at best.
Josh Bell was signed later in the year and did little of anything and Trevor Ford is likely just a career practice squad player.
When you add it all up, you get a picture of a group that is indeed talented and top heavy, but a group that could easily be brought down by an injury or two (as we saw in the Pittsburgh game and the wild card loss to Arizona). The Packers must reinforce this group in the offseason.
Since we’re solutions-oriented here at OBOD, I’ll give you my thoughts on how the Packers should go about doing that:
- Before you do anything else, cut Bush and end this nightmare once and for all.
- Do not bother bringing Blackmon and Bell back. Ford can again be on the practice squad.
- Try like hell to sign San Francisco’s Dre Bly in free agency. As I’ve said before on this site, it’s true that Bly is set to turn 33 in May and can tend to take too many chances. But he also recorded three picks and 13 passes defended last season in a 3-4 scheme. Also, his gambling nature wouldn’t hurt him as much considering he’d be the third or fourth corner, depending on how quickly Harris heals and can shake the rust off. Plus, at his age, you could probably get him for one year at $2 million.
- Use your second round pick on the best corner available, perhaps Rutgers’ Devin McCourty or Florida State’s Patrick Robinson. Don’t worry about the fact that both are under 6-feet tall. Instead, focus on the fact that both can really cover.
By doing this, the corner group would look something like this: Woodson, Harris, Williams, Bly, the second round pick, Lee and Underwood. Bly gives you the short-term insurance needed if something happens to Woodson and/or Harris. Plus, he’d allow the Packers the chance to really observe Lee, the rookie and Underwood in non-pressure situations to determine who is best suited to be the long-term option. If something happens to Bly, you’ve got those same three youngsters and you’d have to think one of them could do the job.
Yes, signing Bly and taking a corner in round two would be to dump even more money/high picks into a position filled with money/high picks. But when you consider how badly the position needs to be upgraded – and how good the defense could be if the reinforcements at corner arrive – it’s not too high a price to pay.
What do you think, fans? What would you do at corner next season? Comment, baby, comment!