Paul Imig’s March 27 Packers mailbag

Former Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith has taken his talents to Florida. Some Packers fans were left wondering: Why?

Jeff Hanisch/Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Question: What did the packers see in J. Peppers that made them choose him over J. Allen? — Bob Groff, Wausau

Answer: In Julius Peppers, the Packers saw a player that they believe can fit in the "elephant position." That’s a term that is going to be discussed more and more as the season gets closer, but basically it means Peppers is going to be in a hybrid role between defensive end and outside linebacker. In one play, he’ll line up with his hand in the dirt, likely across from a tight end. Then, in another play, he’ll be standing up on the weakside, situated outside of the offensive tackle. This seems like a role better suited for Peppers than Jared Allen, but it will be a great storyline all season to follow after both of them switched allegiances in the NFC North.

Q. We have lost starters: Pickett,Jennings, Jones, Finley, Dietrich-Smith. The Packers have only signed two free agents. How can they sell the idea that we will be better. There won’t be 4 starters in the draft and I’m sick of how they always tell us everybody we have will be so much better. Do you really see us better with this happening? — Scott, Hudsonville MI

A: Of course, the Packers’ hope is that young players like Datone Jones, Nick Perry, Brandon Bostick, JC Tretter and Jarrett Boykin, among others, all show significant improvement and can fill the void left by departed free agents like James Jones and Evan Dietrich-Smith — or that those young players can help fill holes that existed before the loss of any free agents. It does happen every year; relatively unimpressive Year 1 rookies make a big jump in Year 2. Just look at Mike Daniels. The Packers are not as good on paper as the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers, and no realistic amount of free-agent signings by Green Bay would’ve changed that. But it doesn’t mean that the Packers can’t beat those teams in a playoff game if things went well for them. Also, don’t forget that Green Bay will be much better in 2014 than the team was in 2013 as long as Aaron Rodgers doesn’t miss half the season again.

Q. I view the packers biggest needs in the draft are TE, S, and LB, in that order. With Hyde potentially moving to S this moves TE to the top of the list. Do you agree with this assessment or is there another position of need missing. Great job as always. — Scott, Hudsonville MI

A: I generally agree with that assessment, though I still believe safety is the biggest draft need, even with Micah Hyde about to become a multi-position player. The Packers definitely need a young, athletic, playmaking inside linebacker, so that would come in at No. 2 on the list of needs. Then it’d be a toss-up between tight end and wide receiver for the third-biggest need. Bostick deserves a shot at becoming Jermichael Finley-lite, so maybe it’s in the team’s best interest to give him that chance in 2014 (with the re-signed Andrew Quarless as the safety net) and then reassess in next year’s draft if Bostick can’t cut it. Even under the assumption that Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are re-signed before their contracts expire in 2015, the wide receiver position has gotten light. At the moment, Myles White would be No. 4 on the depth chart, and he may not be ready for that role yet.

Q. With all the talk of rebuilding our defense this year, everyone has seemed to have forgotten about our tight end problems. Are we going to draft one (like Ebron from UNC) or is Andrew Quarless moving to the starting position? — Scott, Hudsonville MI

A: As mentioned above, Bostick has a ton of potential and the Packers may want to see what they can get out of him before using a top draft pick on bringing someone else in. And Eric Ebron, by the way, is highly unlikely to still be on the board at No. 21.

Q. Do you envision the packers drafting a safety in round one, and trading back into round one for a linebacker? Something they did a few years ago, Raji, Matthews? — Ryan, Markesan

A: My answer to the first part of the question is yes, I would place a high probability that the Packers draft a safety in the first round. As for trading back into the first round, it’s unlikely, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Ted Thompson (with the 2009 draft as the example). As mentioned above, Green Bay definitely needs a playmaking inside linebacker. If C.J. Mosley happens to drop into the 20s, that’d be a great value pick, even if it required the Packers to trade up and acquire him as the second of two first-round picks. Thompson may be more willing to do that now that the NFL awarded Green Bay a third- and fifth-round compensatory pick. Those compensatory picks can’t be traded, but the Packers might consider trading a couple of their original picks now that they know they have more mid-round selections.

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Q. What do you think the Packers will do at the safety position? — Chad, Colgate, WI

A: Draft a safety in the early rounds and start that player from Day 1. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are the two top names, but there are other quality safeties like Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward and Washington State’s Deone Bucannon who would be good additions for Green Bay.

Q. When is Capers going to call his defense alignment to the strength of the player instead of his stupid 3-4 defense that doesn’t play to his players strengths? — Jeff Schumann, DeForest

A: Well, the 2014 season should look different for the Packers’ defense. Coach Mike McCarthy has spent a lot of time this offseason with Capers going through the defense, and the aforementioned use of the elephant position, plus changes like giving Hyde more responsibilities, should better play to each player’s strengths. Letting Nick Perry rush from the right side, where he’s much better and much more comfortable, would be another sign that Green Bay is committed to playing to its players strengths more.

Q. Have the Packers given consideration to moving Nick Perry to Middle linebacker and trying him there. He seems he could be a force in that position, and a strong upgrade over Brad Jones. — Sheldon, Waupaca

A: Not a chance. Nick Perry, listed at 265 pounds, is already on the large side for outside linebackers. Inside linebacker, taking the examples of A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore, weigh between 237-242 pounds. Look for Perry to be used in the elephant position like Peppers.

Q. Sure would like to see Matt Flynn, Johnny Jolly & John Kuhn playing at Lambeau again next season. Any chance any or all will return? — Jay Janssen, Phillips

A: John Kuhn will likely be back at some point. Matt Flynn is probably waiting to see if any team is willing to give him a shot to compete, but assuming that doesn’t happen, both he and the Packers are better off together. Johnny Jolly’s recovery from neck surgery will be a huge factor in if (or when) Green Bay re-signs him.

Q. I think the Pack made a mistake with letting James Jones go via free agency. They have churned through a lot of wide receivers the last 2 years. As we all saw last year, injuries at WR can be common. What do you think they game plan is for the wide receiver position? — Tom K, La Crosse, WI

A: The plan is that Boykin needs to be ready to become the team’s dependable No. 3 receiver. Yes, if the Packers go through another season with multiple injuries at wide receiver, they could be in trouble. But I would expect Green Bay to draft a wide receiver, one who would become No. 4 on the depth chart, with players like Myles White and Kevin Dorsey then falling behind him.

Q. From Evan C, Green Bay: Why is it a guy like Dietrich-Smith would want to leave GB for a team like Tampa. Did the packers not offer him enough money? Seems like being here gives a lot better chance than in Tampa.

A: Evan Dietrich-Smith seemed to have a good idea that the Packers weren’t all that interested in bringing him back. As he cleaned out his locker at the end of the season, he was the only unrestricted free agent who talked about it being a business decision, rather than saying the customary "I’d love to be back" lines. He definitely got more money from Tampa Bay than what Green Bay would offer. But more importantly in the Packers’ decision to let him go was that they seem to feel they can do better at center than Dietrich-Smith. However, this means Rodgers will be working with his fourth starting center in four years. No quarterback, especially not an elite one, wants to deal with that.

Q. Most likely to be addressed additionally by Free agency before draft, center or safety? — Justin, Knoxville

A: Center. There are still some centers available in free agency, whereas all of the quality safeties have been signed. Safety seems like such a logical position for the Packers to use a high draft pick on this year. That’s not the case at center, where they have the young Tretter and Don Barclay who could battle for that role if a veteran isn’t brought in.

Q. We would like know why the Packers traded Charles Woodson the Oakland Raiders he should’ve stayed with the Packers instead I bet he would rather retire as a Packer anyway .? — Elizabeth Whitcroft, Milwaukee Wis.

A: Well, the Packers released Charles Woodson in February 2013, they didn’t trade him. Woodson would’ve preferred to stay in Green Bay, but the Packers wanted to move on. Even though Woodson was no longer the player that people remember him as, it’s still a decision that backfired a bit on Green Bay in 2013. Woodson did use the opportunity in free agency last year to re-join the team that drafted him in Oakland, and he’s now re-signed to stay with the Raiders in 2014.

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