From 1 to 89: Money Seasons

Morgan Burnett got his money, now Jermichael Finley and Mike Neal are playing for big deals as they play their final seasons under contract.

As we've done in past years, we're counting down the Green Bay Packers' roster, from No. 89 to No. 1.

These rankings are not simply based on skill. Players are ranked on their importance to the team. Skill, a player's position, the depth of his position group, the odds he contributes, salary and draft history all play a part in how a player is ranked. More than the ranking itself, hopefully you will learn a little something about each of the 89 players in the process.

No. 10: Finally for Finley?

Jermichael Finley is entering his final season under contract. After being mostly a tease during his first five seasons in the league, Finley needs to put together his first 16-game season of consistent production if he wants the big payday and job security he's sought for the last couple years.

The Packers need Finley, too. Their passing game would be incredibly watered down if Finley endures a five-game stretch like last season, when he caught just 10 passes for 84 yards and no touchdowns with three drops.

Finley rebounded in a big way

during the final seven games of the season by finishing fourth among tight ends in catches, second in yards and first in catch percentage. Now, it's up to the "Big Fella," as Aaron Rodgers calls him, to put it all together and put up the production that everyone in the organization believes is possible.

"He's gotten a little bit stronger," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. "To me, he looks every bit as fast if not faster than he did was last year at this time. Mentally, he's done a great job of preparing himself. I thought we came into this offseason a little more confident than we did last year. We still have a long ways to go. We still have things we need to improve on before the season begins."

No. 11: Burnett cashes in

While the inconsistent Finley works toward a long-term contract, Morgan Burnett got that security on Monday night with a four-year extension, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Burnett, a quiet and reserved third-round pick in 2010, started his career alongside veteran Nick Collins. In 2011, after Collins' career-ending neck injury, Burnett played with another veteran, Charlie Peprah. Last season, the plan was for Burnett to work in tandem with Charles Woodson. Woodson's broken collarbone turned out to be a positive over the long haul as it forced Burnett into a leadership position.

"Just trying to improve physically and mentally, understanding the defense more from Year 3 trying to get better in Year 4," Burnett said. "Going into this year being a leader in this secondary with my checks and my calls, I want to be loud and decisive because a safety, you're considered the quarterback of the defense. That's my job description and I want to do my job to the best of my abilities. It doesn't mean I have to get outside of my element. Just keep doing what I'm doing and try to find a way to take advantage of these practices to get better."

Burnett is just 24 years old. The next step in his career is to make more plays in coverag . He has six interceptions for his career, including two last year.

No. 12: Neal, the real deal?

After serving a four-game suspension to start last season, Mike Neal had played in just nine of a possible 36 regular-season games. A second-round pick in 2010, Neal had just one sack to his credit.

Finally, Neal made good on some of his potential last season. He missed just one game due to injury. In the 11 games, Neal tallied 4.5 sacks. For comparison, Cullen Jenkins averaged 4.1 sacks during his seven seasons.

Of the 31 3-4 defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of the defensive snaps, Neal ranked third in's pass-rush productivity metric with a combined 20 pressures out of 191 pass-rushing snaps.

All of which has the defensive coaches expanding Neal's role. He'll continue lining up as an interior rusher in pass-rushing situations, but he'll also play some outside linebacker in other packages. It's a lot to put on a player who still hasn't come close to contributing for all 16 games. If it works, Neal will help the defense and help himself — this is Neal's final season under contract.

No. 13: Rookie runner

Eddie Lacy wasn't the Packers' first draft pick but he might have the biggest impact on the team.

Alex Green's 464 rushing yards was the Packers' lowest team-leading figure since Darick Holmes ran for 386 yards in six games in 1998. Before that, it was Michael Haddix's 311 yards in 1990. Or, to put it another way, the Packers' team-leading figures of Brandon Jackson's 703 yards in 2010, James Starks' 578 yards in 2011 and Green's 464 add up to 1,745 yards. That's merely 353 yards less than Adrian Peterson in 2012.

If Lacy produces, everything changes. The play-action game re-opens for business. Defenses can't just attack Rodgers. And maybe most importantly, they will have an all-weather offense to take into December and January.

Lacy averaged 6.77 yards per carry during his college career. That led the nation's active ball-carriers. He did that while facing a steady diet of eight-in-the-box defenses. He'll see fewer defenders with Rodgers pulling the trigger at quarterback.

"He's a unique runner for his size and strength," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. "He's got the ability to break tackles but the same ability to make them miss in open space. He's got good burst for a big guy and he can get in and out of cuts and accelerate and pull away from people. He's talented."

No. 14: Rookie rusher

It's far too early to call Jerel Worthy a bust, but last year's second-round pick did next to nothing despite being given ample opportunities to rush the passer. With five quarterback hits, based on the coaches' stats, Worthy had one less than Mike Daniels despite getting almost twice as many pass-rushing snaps. He had as many quarterback hits as run-stuffing Ryan Pickett.

Nonetheless, with an ACL torn in Week 17, chances are Worthy will miss most, if not all, of this season.

Thus, first-round Datone Jones should play a critical role this season, whether it's rushing the passer or providing another athlete to corral athletic passers. He had 6.5 sacks as a senior at UCLA and quickly impressed in Green Bay.

"I'm very confident that guys like Datone Jones are going to look even better in pads," Rodgers said. "He's had a great spring, he's been everything we were hoping for, I think, and that's an exciting guy."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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