GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Green Bay Packers finished their season with a 26-20 loss in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoff game Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. Here are five questions facing the Packers this offseason:
How can the coach/quarterback relationship evolve? Mike McCarthy isn’t going anywhere; he’s under contract through 2018 with a salary reported to be in the $8 million range. Aaron Rodgers isn’t going anywhere; he’s a two-time MVP who has plenty of great years ahead of him, having just turned 32 last month. They need to find a way to make their partnership work better. There appeared to be some tension between them during the regular season, whether in Rodgers’ body language on the sideline or not-so-subtle contradictions in his comments to the media. However, we saw a much happier pairing in the wild-card win over the Redskins last weekend. Perhaps McCarthy's bringing Rodgers into the game-planning process late in the season was a step in the right direction.
What coaching changes will McCarthy make on his staff? McCarthy isn’t going to give up play-calling duties again after taking them back with four games left in the season, so what will he do with Tom Clements? McCarthy gave him a new contract last offseason, when he made him an associate head coach, so Clements is tied to the Packers for at least another year. The Packers will almost certainly go back to splitting the receivers coach and quarterback coach into two jobs, instead of the one Alex Van Pelt holds now.
Will GM Ted Thompson be active in free agency? It sounds preposterous for a general manager who almost never signs unrestricted free agents, but perhaps he will go in search of another offensive weapon. Jordy Nelson is expected to make a full recovery from his ACL reconstruction, but he’ll be 31 in May, and the Packers remain high on Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams. In that case, the Packers' best chance to improve their offense is with a speedy tight end who can stretch the field, unlike the sure-handed but plodding Richard Rodgers. Thompson already re-signed his key free agent, defensive lineman Mike Daniels, and will almost certainly get kicker Mason Crosby signed soon. He’ll have to decide what to do with role players on defense such as B.J. Raji, Mike Neal and Nick Perry.
Will the real Eddie Lacy please stand up? Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Lacy needs to show the Packers whether he is the guy who rushed for 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons or the one who showed up overweight this year, had discipline problems and needed a late-season rally just to reach 758 yards. If Lacy wants a second contract in Green Bay, he’ll have to make some changes before next season.
Is Clay Matthews still an inside linebacker? It probably depends on what Thompson does in free agency and the draft, but ideally, the Packers would move Matthews back to outside linebacker, where he can make more game-changing plays. While on the inside, Matthews has given the defense some stability, especially against the run, but he hasn’t made anywhere near as many impact plays as he did while on the outside. If the Packers think Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan are good enough to handle the inside spots, then maybe they’ll move Matthews regardless of whom else they add.