Packer Report publisher Bill Huber chatted with subscribers on Tuesday night. Here are some of the highlights from our one-hour conversation. Our next chat will be at 7 p.m. (CDT) on Monday, March 23. Come join us!
Do you think Ted Thompson is done in free agency?
Bill: Has he started? ha ha! No, I don't think so. I still think he's got to find a defensive end. There's not much left but someone like Kevin Carter would be an OK addition. He's like 100 years old and all but he can still play.
What is the latest that your hearing on Vonnie Holliday?
Bill: Nothing. I talked to his agent on Sunday and he said he hadn't heard from them since the Packers contacted him when the Dolphins cut Holliday last week. I'm surprised. Maybe Dom Capers, who coached at Miami in 2006 and 2007, is against it? I don't really understand it. He's a decent player and a good guy who would love to come here. Maybe Thompson is waiting to see if he can get him for less money in a week or so.
So, it's Raji or Orakpo or bust?
Bill: Yeah, that's a good question. Raji for sure. It's a big drop-off from him to the next-best nose tackle (Ron Brace). And it's a big step down from Brace to the guy after that. At least if you don't get Orakpo, there are other talented players at that position. They're 1 and 2 on my list, though. Orakpo was a stud on a powerhouse team. He's just one big, tough-looking dude.
I think Malcolm Jenkins will disappoint. We can at least say our corners are above average. I'm really scared of moving to the 3-4 without the right bodies.
Bill: I agree. Maybe Mel Kiper and some of those other guys know more than I do in their mock drafts in having the Packers pick Jenkins. But you're right. They need some guys who are tailor made for the system.
I was wondering, does Ted Thompson have to make sure about how much money each player makes on the team and not let it become a problem in the locker room?
Bill: I think every GM has to be worried about that. Otherwise, you'll have a parade of people looking for money knocking on the door.
Do you see Tramon Williams holding out?
Bill: I think he's wasting his time. As an exclusive-rights free agent, he has no bargaining power. I know the Packers caved in for Ryan Grant last year, but that was Grant and there were strange circumstances because of the Favre fallout. Tramon Williams, while a key player, isn't nearly as valuable as Grant, and while he was pretty good last year, he also gave up a ton of big plays. The Packers have to slam the door on such situations, so I don't think Williams is going to accomplish anything. It won't be anything personal, but from a business standpoint, they can't cave in.
We need an all-defense draft day, I think.
Bill: I'd get a good interior offensive lineman and maybe a back who can catch. Otherwise, yeah, defense, defense, defense. The more you draft, the better the odds of finding someone who can help right away.
Have you seen Kenny Pettway? Is he just a guy? And is Johnny Jolly going to miss time because of the drug thing?
Bill: Pettway was pretty good on special teams, which is why they brought him in. On defense, he didn't do anything when they gave him some chances to rush the passer. If I had to guess, I'd say Jolly's jail time (if he gets some) would be conveniently scheduled for the offseason. The NFL season is only August-January, so maybe the judge works around it. What kind of moron do you have to be to be caught with drugs (allegedly) if you're an NFL player who still hasn't gotten a big payday? Jolly will be a free agent after 2009. He's going to cost himself some money, especially if he misses time while in the slammer.
Too bad. It seemed like he has some upside.
Bill: Yeah, I thought he might be a good fit as at least a reserve end if not a decent starter. Maybe he gets probation and won't miss time. They need him, obviously, since they're so thin up front.
Any hope for A.J. Hawk in the new scheme?
Bill: Well, Thompson and McCarthy said it should help, though what else are they going to say? Hawk was so solid those first two years. When he hurt his groin early in 2008, there was some talk he'd be out for several weeks. He never missed a game, but that "several weeks" talk makes you wonder if he was seriously hurt, which took a toll on his play. He certainly wasn't very good, that's for sure.
Bad is being polite. In re-watching the games, he's real soft at the point of attack and not an aggressive tackler.
Bill: Yeah, I can't argue with you on that. Maybe he was slowed by the injury, and that took away some confidence, which led to the things you mentioned. And moving to the middle probably didn't help in that regard. What got me is he just couldn't run. Teams just kept isolating him in the passing game, and he was just lost. It will be interesting in camp. Will Nick Barnett be healthy? Will Hawk bounce back? And can Desmond Bishop challenge one of them?
Is Mike McCarthy on the hot seat if they repeat a four- to seven-win season?
Bill: Well, I would think so. But part of me thinks McCarthy got some assurances about 2010, because changing schemes on defense isn't going to be easy. Then again, if the Packers go 6-10 and they're not playing hard and there's some bickering, then all bets are off.
Unless Capers is a miracle worker, defensive series will be fridge breaks for me.
Bill: Ha, ha! I like that. They're putting a lot of faith in Capers, that's for sure. But, just based on track record, he's a big step up over Bob Sanders. So, while maybe not a miracle worker, maybe he's the difference in a couple of games. The offense is going to score points. The defense just has to be OK. Maybe Capers is good enough to get the defense to OK.
Will the Packers miss Jarrett Bush if he signs with another team?
Bill: A lot of fans don't think highly of Bush, but if he can just harness the mental errors (ie. penalties), then he's really an asset on special teams. Is it worth keeping a guy just for special teams? I don't think so. Then again, last year's defensive staff thought Bush might be a pretty good safety with some work.
Have you heard anything on getting a contract extension for Greg Jennings?
Bill: No, I haven't. I think all of that stuff is on hold until after the draft, because Thompson is on the road practically every day this time of year.
Have you heard what schools he has gone to yet?
Bill: No, I don't. About all I know is there was someone from the Packers at Georgia Tech on Monday, and the Packers were at Oklahoma and Western Michigan on Tuesday and will be at Kentucky and New Mexico State on Wednesday. What I hear from people is that the Packers are everywhere this time of year ... probably more than any other team. If there's talent on display, there's someone from the Packers there.
Do you see the Packers staying at the spot they are at in the draft?
Bill: Just guessing, I'd say there's no chance they move up, and a 50-50 chance they stay at No. 9 or move back. I know this will be unpopular with the fans, but they can save a lot of money even trading back five places. The economy, I think, is going to have a lot of teams trying to get out of those early picks. I was looking at last year's draft, and the No. 9 pick got five years, $24 million with $17 million guaranteed. Going back six spots, the Chiefs gave Branden Albert just $9 million guaranteed. That's a big savings.
Wow must be nice to have that kind of money right from college and not have proven anything yet in the pros.
Bill: Exactly, which is just one point of contention with the collective bargaining agreement problems looming after this season. The teams want to rewrite those rules, and the players, obviously, want the status quo.
What is the latest you heard on Mark Tauscher
Bill: Nothing in a few weeks. His agent has gone incognito. I've heard about the Vikings, who need a right tackle and, of course, have some history in taking players from Green Bay. I still think Tauscher returns, but when you see the free agent money thrown around at lesser guys, I wonder if the Packers would give a guy coming off of a torn ACL something like $5 million a year. Tauscher wasn't exactly great last year when healthy, anyway. Not that he was bad, but he didn't seem as good as he was in 2007.
If the Packers let him go, who would take his spot then?
Bill: That's the big question. Daryn Colledge, I guess. Tony Moll didn't do anything to make me think he's a starter. I know they like Breno Giacomini, but do you want to throw him right into the lineup? There are some good tackles in the draft. As much as they need defense, maybe they get one in the first or second round. It's amazing, coming off of a trip to the NFC title game in 2007, to think how many areas the Packers need to find players in this draft. DE, NT, OT, OLB and even CB ... they could use a player or two at all five of those positions.
What do think chances are the Pack selects Tyson Jackson?
Bill: We were talking earlier about staying at No. 9 or possibly trading down. If Raji is there at 9, I'd go there. I think Raji will be gone, though, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade down and get Jackson a little later in the first round. They have so many holes to fill that an extra early-round pick would be nice. Jackson, a 300-pound defensive end who's ready-made for the 3-4, sure would fill a position of need. He's a heck of a good player. He's not going to get 10 sacks or put up flashy numbers, but he's just what you want at that position.
Do you think with Justin Harrell switching to DE that will help him with his back and other injury problems?
Bill: I'm not sure anything other than a lifetime supply of aspirin can help Harrell. Seriously, I don't know what to make out of him. I think he wants to play and he wants to be good, but you probably know someone with a bad back. It's no picnic.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine 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. Bill also is giving Twitter a try. Find him at twitter.com/packerreport