Question: I've got a question about B.J. Raji (Boston College defensive tackle). I've read some blogs that said he did well in practice in the Senior Bowl, but didn't do much during the game. Thoughts?
Bill: That's exactly what I heard from our guys who were in Mobile. I watched the game and wasn't all that impressed. He's one of the guys I'm looking forward to learning more about when I'm in Indy for the Combine next week. He was a really good player in college who made plays. So, how much weight do you put on one all-star game? That will be what the front-office folks have to figure out.
My question is what is your impression of the new coaches?
Bill: I love the new coaches. Kevin Greene is just so much fun. I'm ready to suit up for him. Darren Perry comes well-regarded from people out in Oakland. I love Mike Trgovac. To get a coordinator to leave a high-paying job to coach a position is quite a coup. I'm not sure about the cornerbacks coach, Joe Whitt Jr. But if he's good enough for Woodson and Harris, then he's good enough for me.
Can you imagine how hard it would be for Whitt to have to rookies.
Bill: That's a good point. I don't think they hire Whitt if the starting cornerbacks are going to be Will Blackmon and Tramon Williams with Pat Lee at nickel. He's the son of a coach, so that always helps. I talked to him briefly. He's a pretty big "energy" guy.
When do you think we will hear about signing any of the restricted free agents?
Bill: Deadline for the restricted guys is Feb. 26. Our Ed Thompson had a really good breakdown of how restricted free agency works the other day. Restricted guys shouldn't be an issue. The Packers don't have any studs among that group who is going to get a lot of attention. Atari Bigby would be the one guy who will get a tender from the Packers (probably second round). He's the only starter in the bunch.
If Thompson makes a "splash" in free agency, do you think it will be more likely on offense or defense? I know we have a lot of holes with D, but Tauscher and Clifton have to be somewhat of question marks.
Bill: Good question. I've done a ton of research on free agents for the magazine that will come out in a couple weeks. It's pretty slim pickings on the right side with guys injured or restricted. The left side is better, but I can't imagine the Panthers will let Jordan Gross go. I think they stick with Clifton for 2009 and try to replace Tauscher, just because Tauscher is hurt. Depends on if one of the tackles falls in the draft. Maybe right tackle in free agency and left tackle in the draft? There are four good left tackles in the draft, and one or two of them should get to No. 9. And there's always Colledge for right tackle.
Do you think Ted Thompson will make a big splash in free agency or do you think he will go after second-tier free agents?
Bill: I really wonder if Peppers would be on his radar for a big splash. Other than him, I would say he'd probably shy away from the big-splash signings. There really aren't going to be many top guns available I don't think by the time the 27th arrives.
This will be one of the more important draft classes for Ted Thompson pending the amount of money we have in the cookie jar. We have so many needs, it seems.
Bill: Yeah, you can't blow No. 9, especially considering our No. 5 (Hawk) hasn't done much.
As for A.J., I'm hoping Dom Capers is the answer there. Coaches are everything for some players ... others not so much.
Bill: Assuming Hawk stays in the middle, Winston Moss will be his position coach. Moss had Hawk the previous two seasons. But you're right that maybe the 3-4 is what he needs. I wonder if he wasn't hurt more than he let on last year.
Around the league, how is the Packers' front office thought of?
Bill: Very well is what I'm finding out. A lot of people think 6-10 should just be thrown away because of injuries and the whole Favre thing just throwing everything off-kilter.
Bill, do you think this season is Justin Harrell's last chance? A shame the kid has had so many injuries.
Bill: It is a shame. He's a nice kid and I really do think he cares. Backs are touchy though ... I'm sure you all know someone who has a back problem. But yeah, I think this is his last chance. He's never been healthy enough to benefit from the offseason program. This is his chance, barring a setback.
In the draft, who's the better choice? Everette Brown (Florida State) or Brian Orakpo (Texas)? Could either help Kampman?
Bill: I think they'd both help Kampman. Who's better? I'll get a better read on that next week when I ask around. I like what I hear about Brown, from that story I did over the weekend. I'm going to do one on Orakpo before the Combine to see what people say. I wanted to see more of him in the BCS title game, but our local Fox affiliate went dark for most of the first half. The beauty of the 3-4 defense is all of those 250-pound college defensive ends who can rush the passer are your OLBs in a 3-4. There are a lot of them. Best group of OLBs in six years is what I've been told.
Let's get back to what positions the Packers actually need. 1) Nose Tackle, 2) Offensive Guard/Center, 3) OLB, 4) Tackle, 5) Tight End? ... 6) Cornerback? I see the pundits have the Packers grabbing a CB with their first pick - something I totally disagree with.
Bill: I tried ranking them the other day and really struggled. I'd say NT and DE are No. 1/2, with OLB and OT just a little bit behind. I know that's what Kiper is saying about a cornerback. It's pretty early to be worried about that two months before the draft.
Bill, how did our two young backup QBs progress during last season? I know Brohm was a bit of a disappointment for some during preseason. Would they use a late pick on another quarterback?
Bill: Brohm is horrible. Maybe he gets better, but I remember his first pass of training camp and turning to someone and saying "the kid can't throw the ball at all." I remember a screen pass that landed short of the RB's feet. And then the next throw, he hit the fence on a 5-yard out. Maybe an offseason of work helps. He didn't throw for 10,000 yards in college by accident. But it looks like he can't throw the ball. He'd throw a couple wounded ducks at every practice. It was amazing. I was standing next to an Arena League coach one day and we were talking about Brohm and he agreed with my assessment and said he couldn't play in his league.
But weren't a lot of the experts saying before the draft that Brohm was very NFL-ready compared to other QBs?
Bill: I know a lot of people predicted Brohm would beat out Rodgers. Back to the question of drafting a QB, that depends. If the Packers like Flynn and aren't ready to give up on Brohm, I'd say no. If they're not afraid to cut their losses with Brohm, then maybe they do use a late-rounder on a QB. Brohm has to show something this offseason.
Bill, it's hard to get a read on things in GB from out here in California (not looking for sympathy, I got sunshine), does the fan base seem pretty content with Aaron Rodgers at this point, or are there still a lot of people bent out of shape over Favre?
Bill: There are a lot of people bent out of shape. Not that all of them hold it against Rodgers, though there are some of those out there. Just today, I got an e-mail from a buy who hates Thompson and McCarthy because of what they "did" to Favre. Frankly, it amazes me. Favre is a legend, but he's an old quarterback who has looked his age at the end of the last four seasons. He's not a 30-year-old MVP anymore.
OK, I shouldn't ask, but do you think Brett retires and stays retired?
Bill: No, you shouldn't ask! No, of course you can ask. My guess is the Jets cut him because they're $12M over the salary cap. And he signs with the Vikings at the end of June (when the minicamps are over so he doesn't have to be bothered with the extra work). If he can play for the Vikings this year, he will, just to try to stick it to Thompson. If I had to bet a dollar, that's what I'd say.
I wonder if the Vikings still want him, though?
Back to the draft. I think the presence of Jared Allen dictates that we pick a stud left tackle if one is available at 9. If we try to get by with a middling left tackle (after Clifton is gone), Allen will be munching on Rodgers every season. I would love to get Carolina's Jordan Gross in free agency, but I'm sure the Panthers will not let him go.
Bill: Yeah, let's get back to something else. left tackle wouldn't surprise me at No. 9. Depends on if one of the good ones is there, or if Thompson really feels like he owes it to Capers and McCarthy to get that difference-maker on defense. I agree that left tackle is a must. Cliffy has his flaws but he's been so good for so long that you take him for granted.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.