Paul Imig’s Jan. 9 Packers mailbag

A fourth-round pick in 2012, Mike Daniels had 6.5 sacks and 26 QB hurries this season.

Benny Sieu/Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the final edition of Packers Mailbag for the 2013 NFL season. Here are the answers to many of this week’s questions:

A: If I had the surefire answer to that, I think the Packers would be putting me on the payroll immediately. But, based on their regular-season record and postseason success — or lack thereof, Green Bay is trending in the wrong direction since winning Super Bowl XLV. From 15-1 to 11-5 to 8-7-1, records during seasons of which the Packers made it to two consecutive divisional round playoff games before not even making it out of the wild-card round this season. That’s regressing, not progressing.

Avoiding a similar path in the 2014 season will likely come down to many factors. It will sure help if Aaron Rodgers stays healthy, for one. With Eddie Lacy already a star player in the NFL, Green Bay’s offense should continue getting better in the coming years. Defensively, and this is really where my answer lies, I would add at least two veteran-type players in free agency who have a history of being playmakers. That is what this team sorely lacks. There are plenty of serviceable players who fulfill their assignments on the Packers’ defense, but there are not enough playmakers. The safety position is a top priority, so I would make sure to either sign a quality free agent or use the first-round pick to find a way to draft Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. I would upgrade at inside linebacker to find a playmaker and also add some veteran depth at the injury-depleted outside linebacker position. Doing those things won’t guarantee better success, but improved play at safety and linebacker would go a long way.

A: Let’s go through those:

Don Barclay to center? Doubt it. With Bryan Bulaga returning next season and Marshall Newhouse likely departing, Barclay can settle into being a top reserve at both offensive tackle positions. Regardless of whether Evan Dietrich-Smith leaves in free agency, the Packers will continue preparing 2013 fourth-round pick JC Tretter at center, as well as at guard.

Micah Hyde to safety? Very possible. Green Bay’s defensive coaching staff doesn’t believe there’s a big difference between being the nickel / dime back and playing safety. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said at the end of the season that he believes Hyde would be talented enough to make that switch, should the team decide to go that route.

Brad Jones to the waiver wire? Doubt it. Though he didn’t live up to the contract he signed last offseason, I don’t see the Packers letting him go.

Jamari Lattimore to the starting lineup? Doubt it. Though I don’t think the answer is Brad Jones, Lattimore seems best suited in a top reserve role. If Green Bay had plans to have Lattimore as a starter, the chance presented itself this year once Jones returned from injury, but it didn’t happen.

Myles White to returner? Maybe. He sure has the speed for it. I’ll be curious to see how the Packers handle that position next season. The blocking was so poor for most parts of this season, it may not have mattered who was returning kicks.

Winston Moss to defensive coordinator? Nope.

Photos of the Week: 12/29/13-1/5/14

A: Feeding in from the end of the last answer, as I wrote about Wednesday, Mike McCarthy has every intention of keeping Capers around for the 2014 season. McCarthy twice called Capers "an outstanding coach," which don’t sound like firing words to me. It will be up to general manager Ted Thompson to give Capers better talent to work with next season.

A: I disagree with a couple parts of that question. First off, Mike Daniels had 6.5 sacks and 26 QB hurries this season. That qualifies as a very good year. Daniels was a fourth-round pick in 2012, so hardly a bust. On the other hand, Datone Jones will need to show a lot of improvement in Year 2, Jerel Worthy needs to put his wasted 2013 season behind him and Josh Boyd needs to prove he can be used more in the defensive schemes.

The Packers have invested heavily in speed-type defensive linemen in the past two drafts (all four of those players I just listed — Daniels, Jones, Worthy, Boyd — were drafted since 2012). Now, it’s up to them to provide Green Bay’s defense with what they were all individually brought in to do. Copying Daniels’ tenacious work ethic would be a great place to start in helping the defensive line become a better unit.

A: Seeing as we’re discussing defensive linemen, let’s start here with Raji. It’s hard to quantify what Raji does for the defense. With 17 tackles, zero sacks and zero forced fumbles this season, it certainly doesn’t paint a pretty statistical picture for him. But that’s not really his role. Raji could certainly do more, but he seemed to settle into a role of just taking up space and freeing up those behind him to make plays. Now, do I think he’ll be wearing the green and gold next season? No, I do not. At age 27, Raji is going to want to get paid, and it sure seems like another team will end up valuing him at a price tag that’s higher than what he’s worth to his role as a Packer.

As for James Jones, yes, I think he’ll re-sign with Green Bay. At age 30 next season, he’s unlikely to get a major contract elsewhere and he said repeatedly how much he loves the Packers and wants to come back. Several other of the team’s free agents didn’t gush about Green Bay like Jones did (who also mentioned that his wife wants to stay), so, yeah, it’s safe to say that unless another team throws big bucks at him, he’ll be back.

A: Can I cheat and say both? Keeping Sam Shields should be a top priority, but signing Jairus Byrd (a 27-year-old safety who’s been an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection the past two seasons) is exactly the type of move that the Packers need to make.

Because Green Bay is desperate at safety, and because the Packers do have other quality cornerbacks (don’t forget about Casey Hayward) and have proven their ability to develop at that position, it makes me think that adding a safety like Byrd might take precedence if forced to choose one or the other. But losing Shields this offseason — unless the money he gets from another team is just massive — would be a major blow to Green Bay’s defense.

A: Offensively, keep an eye on tight ends Brandon Bostick and Jake Stoneburner, two players who may get a lot of opportunities in 2014 depending on what the Packers do in free agency with Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless. Defensively, the work that Josh Boyd put in this season as a rookie has me believing he can be a difference-maker in Year 2. I’m also a big believer in safety Sean Richardson, who should make great progress now that he’s fully healthy and doesn’t have to worry about his neck injury anymore.

A: The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that Thompson has been sitting back and waiting until the Packers are up late in the first round and expecting a difference-maker to be available. Bulaga (No. 23 overall), Sherrod (No. 32 overall), Perry (No. 28 overall) and Jones (No. 26 overall) were still on the board at that point of the first round for a reason.

So, what would I do if I ran the draft in 2014 for the Packers? I’d realize that very few mid-to-late round picks have been working out recently (2012 fourth-rounder Jerron McMillian is gone, 2012 fifth-round Terrell Manning is gone, etc.) and trade up as high as I could in the first round this year to draft a prospect who could be a difference-maker. A safety like Clinton-Dix or an inside linebacker like C.J. Mosley might slip to Green Bay at No. 21, but it might take trading up 5-10 spots to get one of them.

A: Jared Allen is a 4-3 defensive end. As mentioned above, unless there’s a surprise coming in a couple weeks, Dom Capers and his 3-4 defense will be back next season. A couple years ago, Allen was far from thrilled at the mere possibility that Minnesota could go to a 3-4 defense. So it’s just not a good fit for Allen and the Packers.

** That does it for Mailbag this season. Thanks to everyone for the questions every week. I’ll be back to do this again as the draft gets closer.

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