Offseason Needs: Protect the 'King'

The Packers could go in several directions in the draft but one needs stands out among all others. Correspondent Eric Huber explains.

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has proved his critics wrong with the moves he has and hasn't made. He has kept his cool while facing a high amount of adversity and criticism, and has done a masterful job of piecing together a Super Bowl-winning team.

On that glorious Sunday last week at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Thompson had every right to write a page-long brag letter to every Packers fan, but when the opportunity was there for the Van Gogh of the NFL to flex his own title belt, he simply gave a thumb up and smiled.

Yes, there is always a dull moment with the Packers' head honcho, but that's probably because he's like a chess player, thinking about his next move. Do you blame him? He is in charge of perhaps the most storied franchise in NFL history, and at times probably receives about as much hate mail as Christina Aguilera's agent will and did receive after she hacked our nation's anthem on the world's biggest stage.

So what is Thompson's next move?

Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha will be perhaps the most coveted unrestricted free agent whenever free agency opens for business. While the rumor mill has linked his name to the Packers, signing a big-ticket free agent like Asomugha doesn't exactly fit the Thompson blueprint. Besides, I'm convinced he could be past his prime-time-like status; he's no Charles Woodson.

Then there's the possible void left with defensive end Cullen Jenkins apparently headed toward free agency. His asking price may become too steep for the Green Bay pocket book.

What are Thompson's options? Two hot prospects, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers and Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, are built like Mack trucks and could play in a 3-4 scheme. Just imagine one of those two big bodied playmakers next to B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett.

Then again, with Green Bay holding the last pick of the first round, Thompson would have to give up a slew of draft picks and maybe one or two players to move up high enough to get either in the first round. Thompson could play the waiting game and scoop up an unknown who can chuck a Smart Car later in the first round. They could call him Mike Neal, Part 2.

The ultimate chess move, though, would be to play it safe and protect the most valuable asset – Aaron Rodgers. If I'm Thompson, I'm looking for the best offensive lineman to keep my most valuable player from finding himself on the turf and in checkmate.

Think about it. The other three teams in the NFC North have strong defensive front fours. If Thompson wants to continue to build his dynasty, he's going to need Chad Clifton to stick around for another six years, which is about as possible as the Vikings winning a Super Bowl, or so say my closest Green Bay friends. Or, they'll need to find a right tackle should Bryan Bulaga successfully replace Clifton at left tackle.

Either way, the next-best option would be to invest yet another first-round pick on a talented offensive lineman. This is where a Big Ten bulldozing offensive tackle like Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi would come in to play. With Daryn Colledge's status uncertain and Clifton close to losing his legs, a move for a top offensive tackle like Carimi should be at the top of the list of green and gold to-do list.

While at Wisconsin, Carimi showed he can dominate the line of scrimmage and shut down some of the best pass rushing defensive ends this draft will offer. He won the 2010 Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the top interior lineman in the nation, and was a consensus All-American.

Carimi doesn't have top-notch pass blocking skills, and struggled during Senior Bowl week; a good thing for Green Bay. Because he is a beast with a ton of strength and offers versatility to play guard, the Packers need to have him on their radar along with any other offensive linemen who doesn't have anything in common with Allen Barbre.

If Rodgers can stay upright, he has a chance to lead Thompson's masterpiece to dynasty-like levels. If Rodgers doesn't get protected, not only will the Packers be hard-pressed to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but No. 12 may just become the next Steve Young.

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Eric Huber is a contributing writer for E-mail him at

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