Monday, February 7, 2011

What Happens Next

The Packers will have a busy offseason.

We’ve seen how Super Bowl winners and losers both get plundered for spare parts after they win their championships.

Jonathan Vilma and Jammal Brown were lured away from the ’09 Saints. Bryant McFadden and Larry Foote left the ’08 Steelers. Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby all eventually departed Arizona. The Packers will have to deal with eager suitors for Cullen Jenkins and James Jones, among many others.

Re-signing Jenkins should be the priority for this club in the offseason, depending on how effective they think Johnny Jolly can be. It’ll be interesting to see how much money they’re willing to give Jones, as well as how much he’ll be offered by clubs that saw his big plays against Atlanta and his big drops against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

There’s no indication that Donald Driver will hang up his cleats, but if he does (or his $5 million salary is deemed too high for a No. 3 WR) and Jones leaves, the Packers will be forced to take a receiver high in the draft.

Also on draft day, the Packers will have decisions to make on their offensive line. Chad Clifton coming back for another year would help, but the Packers will have to figure out if Bryan Bulaga can be their long-term LT. We also need to find a permanent fixture at RT if that’s the case. A dedicated return specialist might be in the mix, along with competition at kicker.

Daryn Colledge, long regarded as the weak link on the offensive line, should face fierce competition in training camp from a T.J. Lang fully recovered from wrist surgery last offseason.

The Packers will have an abundance of players in training camp, including a barbershop quartet of OLBs (Walden, Zombo, Poppinga, Jones) and a bouquet of strong safeties (Bigby, Peprah, Burnett, Smith). I’m excited to see what Frank Zombo looks like in his second season of transitioning from defensive end to OLB. Additionally, this might be the year that Thompson spends a high pick on a complement to CMIII (Casey Matthews, anyone?)

A.J. Hawk’s $10 million-for-this-year contract will need to be restructured. If a salary cap is reinstated, the Packers will be spending a ton of their money at ILB (Chillar, Barnett and Bishop all have fairly recent new contracts) and may consider trading one of them away.

There’s also the question of front office and coaching turnover. Safeties coach Darren Perry will be getting interviews this offseason, and D-line coach Mike Trgovac’s name has also come up in talking about vacant coordinator positions. Dom Capers isn’t going anywhere, despite all the media blather about him, but linebackers coach Winston Moss has been ‘assistant head coach’ for some years now and probably deserves his time in the sun. Director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie might be ready for bigger things as well, and QB coach Tom Clements was a hot interview last offseason. It’ll be up to Thompson, McCarthy and Mark Murphy to make the right hires to replace any of these gentlemen who leave.

Not to mention, the NFL and the NFLPA still have to hammer out an agreement so there can be football at all in 2011.

A lot of teams have a hangover the year after the Super Bowl. That competitive spirit can dry up; the goal has been accomplished, and for awhile, you’re kings of the world. The team can lose some of its chemistry in the next year. This isn’t an uncommon failing; nobody’s repeated in the Super Bowl since the ’04 Patriots.

I don’t think this will be a problem for the Packers. I’ve been thinking about this since before the NFC Championship, in a dreaming, what-if kind of way, and I really don’t think that’ll happen to us. The Packers are unique. Not just in coaching and team chemistry, not just in Aaron Rodgers’ competitive spirit and desire to win, but in the players that are coming back from injury next year. Finley, Grant, Barnett, Neal and all the rest will want to get a Super Bowl ring of their own. That spirit will take the team a long way.

But you know what? These are concerns for another day. A week, a month, three months from now… that’ll be the time to talk about this. That’ll be the time to speak of money and contracts, of departures and coordinators.

For now, the Green Bay Packers have won the most cherished prize in sports. For now, Packer Nation can celebrate. We won the Super Bowl. That’s not something that will ever go away.

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