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That’s what scouts are asked to find

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That’s what scouts are asked to find



Ryan from Sheboygan Falls, WI

Will the Packers have a better team this coming year?

With the way Gutekunst manages the roster and with LaFleur heading into his second year, I firmly believe so. It doesn’t mean they’ll win more games or advance farther in the playoffs, because health, bounces and breaks can change at any moment, but I do think they’ll be better.

Steve from Cottage Grove, WI

Is the upcoming draft considered “deep” in general? Are there more than 29 players with a “first-round” grade and a steal will be there at 30, or does the talent drop off in the teens someplace?

We’ll have a better idea of that after the combine. The national writers and draft experts use the combine to access a lot of their sources to find some consensus opinions about this or that. Those types of stories trickle out post-combine and are way more meaningful than all the mock drafts that dominate the media landscape.

During the Thompson-McCarthy era, it was draft LT and plug them along the line as needed. Does our current team share that mindset or are they looking for guards to play guard and tackles to play tackle?

Does it matter? They’re looking for good offensive linemen who have the tools to play at this level. That’s what scouts are asked to find. Whether that’s a left tackle like Josh Sitton or T.J. Lang who becomes a Pro Bowl guard, a center like Corey Linsley who’s never played regularly anywhere else, or a three-year starting center in college like Elgton Jenkins who becomes an all-rookie guard, what’s the difference? Job descriptions create limitations. Attributes open doors.

Scott from Greensburg, IN

Generally speaking, which do you believe would be the less steep learning curve – second-year tight end in the same system, or a veteran tight end learning a new system?

A second-year guy almost always has further to go to become an impact player.

Shaun from Sun Prairie, WI

With Aaron Rodgers having a nice showing at the AT&T Pro-Am this past week, what other Packers enjoy golfing? Any other “good” players on the team?

Mason Crosby is quite good.

What is the current rule about initiating a pass beyond the line of scrimmage? In the asterisk game in 1989, the question was if any part of Majkowski’s body was past the line before he released the pass. In the final game of 2013, Cutler clearly stepped beyond the line on his Hail Mary and nothing was called. Against the Texans in the playoffs, Mahomes was almost completely over the line before he released the ball. Has the rule changed that drastically?

I’m not sure of all the permutations of the rule since ’89, but I know the rule now is the passer’s entire body must be over the line for the pass to be illegal. If his back foot or leg is still “touching” the line of scrimmage, even if the rest of his body and throwing arm are beyond, the pass is legal.

Very curious to see what Mike McCarthy can do with Dak Prescott. If I were Dallas I would franchise him and wait a year. His numbers are good but his level of play says Kirk Cousins. Hope McCarthy can get him to the next level.

I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but the entire situation is going to be fascinating to watch.

George from North Mankato, MN

I know it is pointless to talk about free agency until the market gets set for individual positions. That said, what positions do you generally think are better served with free agency vs. the draft? Tight ends seem to need a few years to develop into pro-caliber players where running backs and defensive backs seem to be more game-ready out of college.

I’m definitely a fan of drafting running backs because their careers can be so short, and I agree it can be a tall order for a draft pick at tight end to handle all the responsibilities of the position in the NFL for 50-plus snaps a game right out of the gate. But beyond that, it’s more about the player than the position to me. Some free agents are 26, others are in their 30s. Some draft picks played against NFL-bound players every week, others didn’t.

Ronald from Panabo, Philippines

Insiders, people can say what they want about our receiving corps, but Matt LaFleur has brought a physicality and toughness that I can’t ever remember in Green Bay. Do you think that will continue or will it change to a more finesse group for 2020?

LaFleur established a requirement here that receivers will have to block and help in the running game. I don’t see that changing.

I’ve heard the same four positions of need brought up time and time again: ILB, DL, WR, TE. I’m sure improvement needs to be made in these positions, but from an Insiders point of view, what position isn’t being talked about that needs to be addressed, and how, draft or free agency?

Even if the Packers bring Bryan Bulaga back, they have to build young depth at offensive tackle. I think they have to look hard at running back in the draft, too, because Dexter Williams remains a big unknown and it may be difficult cap-wise a year from now to bring back both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.

Speaking to the sign-every-free-agent and extend-the-contracts-of-all-our-top-players crowd, I see the Vikings are $12 mil over the salary cap. In addition they’ll need $8 mil for rookie contracts this year and potentially need to extend Cousins’ contract. The list of potential cap cuts reads like a Pro Bowl team. We need to trust that Gute knows what he’s doing. The Vikings appeared to go all-in and are about to pay for the gamble.

The Vikings have a handful of veteran defensive players via whom they can create a ton of cap relief by releasing them or restructuring their deals, and some of them aren’t at the age where restructurings seem likely. Stay tuned.

Hi Mike, do you think the franchise tag should stay or go in the next CBA? I think a fan mentioned a week or two ago that the NFL should get rid of it. I disagree. I think they could modify the terms of it (maybe you can apply it only once or it becomes a three-year deal with top pay), but I believe it keeps teams more balanced. Ask Brewer fans if they would’ve loved to have that tag when we got CC Sabathia or the Bucks fans in a couple years with Giannis.

The players would love to ditch it, but I don’t see them surrendering in negotiations what it would take for the owners to give up a leverage tool like the tag. If anything, a modification is more likely, as you suggest.

What are the missing pieces to transform this defense from good to great? The good thing is we are improving every year but are we missing a good DT to stop the run and a MLB to roam side to side? We have a combination of good cover guys and pass rushers but it still isn’t good enough.

Whose is good enough? The 49ers had a top-flight defense by all measures (statistically and the eye test) and gave up touchdown drives of 83, 65 and 42 yards in less than eight minutes with a championship at stake. I’m not trying to be dismissive, just realistic. The way the game is played, everyone’s looking for more on defense, but I think the Packers are at a point the offense needs more attention. Of course the Packers could use the next Kenny Clark and the next Luke Kuechly (even if Blake Martinez comes back). Who couldn’t? But two years ago they overhauled at corner, last year they did the same at outside linebacker and safety, and now they’re drafting at 30 with limited cap flexibility. They’ll do what they can, but the biggest improvement the Packers can make on defense might be to have a better offense in 2020. Maybe my opinion will change as the offseason goes along, but that’s how I see it right now.

Loved your five-tool reference for Mahomes. Spring training is upon us! Rodgers, Mahomes, Wilson, Watson, and Big Ben seem to fit the bill. Oh yeah, what even makes a five-tool QB anyways!? Can one of those tools just be “It”?

That would be the sixth tool, like a sixth sense. Happy Wednesday.

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