GreenBay Packer Nation

YOU Be The GM: 3 Defensive Decisions for Packernation

There is little question that the Packers’ defense carried the team this year. With an offense struggling to find any identity and scoring an average of a full touchdown a game less than they did last year, the Packers’ only hope was to find a dominant defensive identity and they did that…thanks to key players, some of whom are slated to hit the free agent market at the end of the contract year. 

Which plates to keep spinning?

In looking at the free agent list for 2016, several players stand out. What I want to know is which ones Packernation would keep. Put yourself in the position of GM and look at a list of 18 free agents…tough decisions swiftly follow. The Combine is here this week and things are already gearing up for the building of the 2016 Packers team. But it is as much about who you subtract as who you add and the salary cap is always a bugaboo. Of these three “spinning plates” on the defense…which ones would you pay to keep up? Which are expendable? Read down the list and use the poll to have your opinion counted and we will have a good idea of what Packernation thinks of these guys. I am only choosing three for right now.

BJ Raji

Raji rested all of the 2014 season (with injury) after signing a one year “prove it” deal. He got another chance in 2015 and I, for one, was very happy to see it. The NT position is the linchpin of the 3-4 defense. There is a particular body-type and center of gravity you are looking for that is required to make the 3-4 defense work. I think it is the most underrated defensive position in football, and BJ Raji fits the bill for a 3-4 NT. Low and big but athletic for his size, Raji is much quicker than a guy of 340 pounds should be. At the beginning of last year, the NT position would have been a question mark and perhaps a disaster without Raji. But while BJ played 15 of 16 games in 2015, he only recorded 22 tackles (though 16 were solo) and a half of one sack and with the play of Mike Pennel last season, it seems that Raji may be expendable. But his cap hit is under 2 M and what if Pennel gets injured? The defensive line, again, is critical.

What say you, Packernation? Should he stay or should he go?

Casey Heyward

Sam Shields did not have a stellar season. After signing on for 40 million, Sam stands to benefit from being the last veteran presence in the Packers’ defensive backfield, but his play was less exciting than the Packers’ young corners and sustaining a shoulder injury and concussion has to make one wonder whether the Pack needs to keep every CB they can.

But Heyward, while doing a good job overall and, in my opinion, coming on at the end of the season, is only really trustworthy in the slot. He could quickly become a liability on the outside and that is precisely why the Packers still need Sam Shields. But is it worth keeping a guy who is exclusively a slot corner and only had 55 tackles? You be the judge:

Nick Perry

A first round draft choice (28th overall) in 2012, Perry has never really become a force. Part of this is due to the signing of Julius Peppers who saw a lot of what might have been some of Perry’s playing time. But it is precisely Perry’s play that prompted the Packers not to pick up his fifth year option. Perry tried to play his way back into the fold and at times was impressive. The Packers’ 3-4 defense requires a bevy of linebackers, and their use of the various sub-packages also make it nice to have guys like Nick Perry around, healthy, and fresh.

Perry recorded 3.5 sacks as a situational pass-rusher in 2015. But is that what the Packers drafted him in the first round for? Was his play good enough to think that he could take Peppers’ place when he goes or if (heaven forbid) he retires this offseason? What if Perry signs a contract and then his play suffers? Can the Packers afford to pay for first rounders who don’t play up to their potential? Can they afford to admit they made a mistake with Perry? You make the call:

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Well, the Packers’ 2016 team is already coming together…in the minds of the Packer brass at least. Who will stay and who will go was largely determined during the games of the 2015 season and that is, in fact, history. There will be additions but there will also be subtractions and it is at times good to get inside the head of the GM by mocking up the decisions they must make. I don’t envy Ted Thompson this list of 18 free agents that he has to deal with, and the negotiations still will play a big part in whether the team can keep this or that player. But for now, we will wait.

“In Ted we trust”???

Go Pack!