Notable Free Agents: Atari Bigby, S (restricted); Mark Taucher, OT; Michael Montgomery, DE; Colin Cole, DT.
Projected 2009 Cap Space: $18,000,000
Draft Order: 9
Top Needs: OLB, OL, 3-4 defensive linemen.
Offseason Outlook: After hiring Dom Capers to run the defense, the Packers will move to a 3-4 defensive front next season. That means defensive end Aaron Kampman will move to one of the outside linebacker spots, while A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett will be the team’s starting inside ‘backers. The outside linebacker spot opposite of Kampman will be Brady Poppinga’s to lose, although Green Bay will likely bring in competition to push him for the starting position.
The Packers most pressing need this offseason will be finding D-linemen that can fit the 3-4 defensive front – especially at defensive end. Green Bay is in luck too, because after Julius Peppers (who was franchised by Carolina), the next best defensive ends on the market are Chris Canty (Cowboys) and Igor Olshansky (Chargers) – two relatively young linemen that are used to playing in a 3-4. Either way, they have to address both end positions because neither Michael Montgomery nor Colin Cole are expected to be re-signed and there are serious doubts that former first round pick Justin Harrell can be effective in a 3-4.
Even though they project Ryan Pickett to be the starting nose tackle, the Packers might consider drafting Boston College defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who stands 6’1” and weighs 323 pounds. He has excellent strength, can occupy multiple blockers and could easily play nose in a 3-4 scheme. And considering what the needs are for the teams selecting ahead of Green Bay in the draft, Raji should be available at No. 9.
If the Packers decide to go with Pickett at nose, another option for them in the first round is Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, who is athletic enough to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4. He could immediately challenge Poppinga for the starting outside linebacker position opposite Kampman and hopefully give Green Bay’s pass rush (the Pack finished near the bottom of the league in sacks last year) a major boost.
Green Bay might add depth to its secondary this offseason, but don’t expect wholesale changes. GM Ted Thompson is already committed to Al Harris and Charles Woodson at the cornerback positions and Nick Collins emerged as one of the more underrated safeties in the NFL last season.
Offensively, Jason Spitz is expected to move to center full time, which will free up the starting right guard position for former fourth rounder Josh Sitton, who showed promise as a rookie last season before suffering a sprained knee in August.
The Packers want to bring back free agent right tackle Mark Tauscher, but won’t break the bank to do so after he had ACL surgery in February. If they fail to re-sign Tauscher, they could draft an offensive tackle to take his place, although it probably won’t come in the first round with so many holes to fill in the defensive front seven.
The coaching staff is extremely high on youngster Jermichael Finley, who could steal the starting tight end job away from Donald Lee this summer. If the explosive Finley can give Rodgers a solid target in the middle of the field, that should only benefit Donald Driver and Greg Jennings (who should get a new contract soon) on the outside.
Whether fans like it or not, the quarterback position won’t be addressed this offseason. Aaron Rodgers is the starter and will be expected to further his development in his second full season as a starter. And even though he battled injuries last year, Ryan Grant remains the starter at running back and should benefit from having a year under his belt in the zone-blocking scheme the Packers implemented two seasons ago.
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Posted in: NFL
Tags: 2009 NFL Draft, Aaron Kampman, Aaron Rodgers, Al Harris, B.J. Raji Boston College, Charles Woodson, Chris Canty, Dom Capers Packers, Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers, Green Bay Packers 2009 free agents, Green Bay Packers cap space, Green Bay Packers offseason news, Green Bay Packers rumors, Greg Jennings, Igor Olshansky, Jason Spitz Packers, Jermichael Finley Packers, Josh Sitton Packers, Justin Harrell, Mark Tauscher, Nick Collins, Packers switch to 3-4, Ryan Grant