It is the of week 5 and the Packers are currently 4-1 and are expected to be contending for the NFC title. The only loss on their record is a primetime Sunday Night Football road loss to the 2016 NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. The Packer’s last win is a road win over the Dallas Cowboys in a come from behind victory stormed by Aaron Rodgers.
During week 5, the only road block to NFC North title for the Packers occurs. Aaron Rodgers suffers a significant injury causing him to miss multiple weeks. The Packers go from a contender in the NFC to a third place finish in the NFC North standings. Aaron Rodgers makes one more start against the Panthers during week 15, but he was clearly not himself as he put up a 3 interception performance. Rodgers was almost immediately put on the injured reserve after the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs.
So the Packer’s missed the playoffs because their MVP Quarterback was injured most of the season, why should anyone in Green Bay be worried? Aaron Rodgers clearly covered up holes in the roster with his abilities. The Packers gave up 51 total sacks, which was the 5th highest in the NFL. Rodgers was responsible for 22 of those sacks, so you cannot put the blame on second string quarterback, Brett Hundley. The offensive line was average in run offense as they Packers finished 17th in rushing yards.
Jordy Nelson who will be 33 to start the 2018 put up only 53 receptions in 2017 had a down year and could possibly be released due to his $9.25 million base salary in 2018.Randall Cobb who will be 28 in 2018 has had a decline in value to the Packers since the 2015 season. After leading the team in receptions, the Packers did sign Davante Adams to a four year extension and will only be 25 for the start of the 2018. Can the Packers really depend on Adams and Cobb to carry the work load for the next few years?
Then there is the defense for the Packers which has a few solid pieces. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix appears to be a draft hit for the Packers, but Clay Matthews is owed $10.4 million in 2018 and is on the wrong side of 30. Mike Daniels is an exceptional player on the defensive line, but the Packers finished 22nd in total defense in the NFL.
Rodgers only has two more years left on his deal and has expressed his frustrations as recently as last week about the departure of Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. The Packers need to hit some home runs in free agency and the draft in 2018. Besides Adams and Clinton-Dix, the Packers have not hit many key players in the draft or free agency in recent years.
Julius Peppers was productive, but not cost efficient from 2014-2016 and Damarious Randall has not turned into the shutdown corner the Packers had hoped for when they drafted him 30th overall. Then, there was the embarrassment of a signing in Martellus Bennett who was waived on November 9th.
Ted Thompson was relieved of his general manager duties to an advisor role in the Packers office. Russ Ball will take over as director of football operations and will inherit some tough decisions and bad draft classes the last 4 years under Thompson. Ball needs to determine if keeping aging veterans around who will be out of the league or the tail end of their career by the time Rodgers is up for a new contract is worth the risk. Hitting on the 2018 is crucial as you hope those players are difference makers by 2020 as you prepare to give Rodgers a monster deal at age 36.
The Packers will probably be contenders in 2018 as long as Rodgers is healthy. Ball has to really think about the Packer’s future the next two years as Rodgers cannot do it all on his own and the aging veterans around him will not be able to be as productive as Rodgers ages. A stronger and younger roster is needed around the amazing Rodgers or the Packers could find themselves in a bad cap and poor roster situation in two years which can be detrimental to a franchise.