Green Bay Packers: Ryan Pickett

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After three days of training camp practices, the Green Bay Packers are taking Tuesday off.

It's a small sample size, but before they get back on the field Wednesday morning, here's a look at what we've learned about them so far.

After looking at the offensive side of the ball, it’s time to examine the defense:

Youth movement: It's clear the Packers have moved on from the days of having three, 330-plus pound defensive linemen up front. On most days, the Packers have lined up with Datone Jones, B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels on the defensive line in the base 3-4. In order, those are players who weigh 285, 337 and an even 300. If the Packers want to go a little bigger, they have used the 310-pound Josh Boyd as a base end in place of Jones. That's a far different look than what the Packers had last year with Raji, Johnny Jolly (325) and Ryan Pickett (340).

Not so predictable: Although there are schemes defensive coordinator Dom Capers has not shown (or does not want other teams to know about yet), one thing is clear: the Packers aren't going to simply play 3-4 on first down, nickel on second down and dime on third as had become their pattern at times last season. Already, we have seen linebackers like Clay Matthews line up in spots not traditionally manned by an outside linebacker. The signing of Julius Peppers has given Capers more flexibility with the rest of his outside linebackers.

Serious about Hyde: Capers and coach Mike McCarthy would not have given so many of the starter's reps at free safety to Micah Hyde if they weren't serious about giving him significant snaps at that position even after drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. All signs point to Hyde playing safety in the base and perhaps even the nickel package and then moving to a slot position in the dime package, in which Clinton-Dix would then play free safety.

House
House call answered: Although there's no reason to think veteran cornerback Tramon Williams' job is in jeopardy, the Packers should feel good about the position behind him given Davon House's play, which has carried over from the offseason. The 24-year-old House appears to have improved his cover skills without sacrificing the physical presence he brings to the position at 6-1, 195.

Rookie linebackers: General manager Ted Thompson and his scouting staff always seem to find some hidden gems among the undrafted linebackers. This year looks like another strong class. Out of the group of the following players, it would not be a surprise to see one or two end up on the opening-day roster: Jake Doughty (inside linebacker), Joe Thomas (ILB), Jayrone Elliott (outside linebacker) and Adrian Hubbard (OLB).

Time to step up: B.J. Raji

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
2:00
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson say it every offseason: It is not the rookies who will make the difference for the Green Bay Packers but rather the returning players.

With that in mind, we continue our look at some returning players who need to take their game to another level in 2014.

Raji
Next up, it’s defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

Why he needs to step up: Raji's breakout season of 2010, when he recorded 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks in the regular season and became a household name with his interception return for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game, was supposed to be the launching point for his career. Instead, it has thus far been the high point. Raji has not recorded a sack since Nov. 24, 2011. That's a streak of 35 straight regular-season games. Raji's lack of production, which could be due in part to the decision to play him at defensive end rather than nose tackle in their base defense the past three seasons, forced him to settle for a one-year deal (worth $4 million) in free agency to return to the Packers this season.

What he has to do: Defensive coordinator Dom Capers does not always ask his defensive linemen to jet up the field and get after quarterbacks or stop running backs in the backfield. Rather, he sometimes prefers they occupy blockers to allow the linebackers to make those plays. Still, there are plenty times when players such as Raji are expected to make big plays. That's Raji’s task for 2014.

Outlook: Some scouts who watched Raji play last season questioned his desire to play in such a scheme, but Raji never publicly complained about his role. Nevertheless, the Packers decided this offseason to move Raji back to his natural nose tackle position. That, combined with the relative lack of interest in him during free agency, should make for a more motivated player.

Quotable: "He did play some nose last year, but I think he'll be able to focus more on it," Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "There were times when we played [Ryan] Pickett at nose; times we played him at nose. Now, it’s going to be when we're in nose, it's going to be him. I think he's excited about that. Certain guys get a certain comfort at a position."

Previous installments

Part one: Morgan Burnett

Part two: Nick Perry

Part three: Datone Jones

Part four: Jerel Worthy

Part five: Brad Jones

Part six: Davon House
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson say it every offseason: It is not the rookies who will make the difference for the Green Bay Packers but rather the returning players.

With that in mind, over the next couple of weeks, we will take a look at some returning players who need to take their game to another level in 2014.

Worthy
Next up is defensive end Jerel Worthy.

Why he needs to step up: Heading into his third NFL season, Worthy remains a mystery to the Packers. It's time to find out whether the former second-round pick can play. He had a difficult time assimilating to defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme as a rookie and was just starting to figure things out when he blew out his knee in the regular-season finale that season. Reconstructive surgery kept him on the physically unable to perform list until Nov. 23 of last season. Even after he was activated, he appeared in only two regular-season games plus the playoff game and played a total of just 13 defensive snaps.

What he has to do: Other than proving he can stay healthy, which is far from a given considering he also missed all of the offseason practices this year, Worthy must show he can be effective in the Packers' scheme, which asks the defensive linemen to eat up blocks more often than jetting up the field like Worthy was accustomed to doing in college at Michigan State.

Outlook: Time is running out on the 51st overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Packers are deep on the defensive line even after deciding not to re-sign veterans Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, and Worthy's place on the roster is far from guaranteed.

Previous installments

Part one: Morgan Burnett

Part two: Nick Perry

Part three: Datone Jones
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After looking at the Green Bay Packers' offensive depth chart on Monday, it's time to take a look at the defensive side of the ball.

Remember, this is an unofficial assessment, but it is based on observations during organized team activities and minicamp practices combined with interviews with assistant coaches and scouts.

Defensive line: Ends -- Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Khyri Thornton, Jerel Worthy, Carlos Gray, Luther Robinson. Tackles -- B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel.

Notes: Raji, who returned on a one-year, $4 million contract, will move back to nose tackle in the base 3-4 defense. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers plans to pair Jones and Daniels together as the inside rushers in nickel and dime situations. Guion should provide some run-stopping bulk up front that was lost when the Packers chose not to re-sign Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly.

Outside linebackers: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Carl Bradford, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Adrian Hubbard, Jayrone Elliott, Shaun Lewis.

Notes: The Packers plan to move around Peppers, but he played almost exclusively out of a two-point stance during OTAs and minicamp practices that were open. Matthews and Perry did not practice all offseason because of lingering injuries. Bradford, a fourth-round pick, flashed some pass-rush ability, while undrafted rookie Hubbard brings some added size (6-foot-6, 257 pounds) to the position.

Inside linebackers: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Jake Doughty, Joe Thomas.

Notes: Linebackers coach Winston Moss insisted this offseason that Brad Jones remains one of the two starters despite an inconsistent 2013 season, and there was nothing in the offseason practices to suggest Jones' job is in jeopardy. However, the Packers want to get Lattimore more involved, so look for them to carve out a role for him.

Cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Demetri Goodson, Ryan White, Jumal Rolle.

Notes: The importance of Hayward's return from the hamstring injury that limited him to just three games last season was evident during minicamp, when the third-year cornerback picked off a pass in the end zone. The Packers remain high on House, who stepped in for Shields in the playoff game against the 49ers and performed well. Goodson, a sixth-round pick, brings athleticism to the group.

Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo, Charles Clay, Tanner Miller.

Notes: Hyde, who played as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, has looked natural in his conversion to safety and played ahead of Clinton-Dix, the first-round pick, with the defensive starters. Richardson also had a strong offseason.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's time for the Green Bay Packers to get mean.

At least that's what third-year defensive tackle Mike Daniels thinks his side of the ball needs.

Daniels
Coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent months tweaking the defensive scheme this offseason in an effort to make better use of their personnel. But Daniels believes an attitude adjustment will go just as far in reviving a defense that slipped to 25th in the NFL in yards allowed and tied for 24th in points allowed last season.

"Every game one of our offensive guys gets knocked out, maybe two, so it's about time we returned the favor to other teams instead of just getting pushed around all the time," Daniels said after Tuesday's minicamp practice. "It's just a little bit of a different attitude. A little meaner. A lot meaner. Actually, being mean for once because, quite frankly, we haven't been. I think that's been our biggest problem on defense. So I'm personally going to make that my job to really get the best out of everybody. I don't care if I've got to hit somebody before we get on the field. If that's going to [tick] them off and they take it out on somebody on the other team, then so be it."

If anyone on the Packers' defense played mean last season, it was Daniels with his bull-in-a-china-shop style. After recording two sacks during his rookie season, he increased his total to 6.5 in Year 2 to quickly gain respect of his teammates and those around the league.

"Me, personally, being a leader, I'm looking to make the defense a lot meaner, get after guys a little bit," Daniels said. "A lot of times you look on tape the last couple of years some of our guys get shoved in the back after plays. I've seen it happen to some defensive linemen. Now that I'm older and I'm a little more vocal, that's unacceptable."

Now that two of the defensive line's elder statesmen, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, are gone (both remain unsigned), Daniels is more than happy to take on a leadership role.

"If something has to be said, I'm going to say it," Daniels said. "If somebody has a problem with it, then we're grown men. We play a violent game. We get paid to be violent, so why not? If you deck somebody in the locker room because you had a disagreement, there's not going to be any sensitivity training. It's a barbaric sport, so that's how you're going to have to approach it. I'm tired of getting our face punched in by other teams. I'm not used to that."

There's reason to think at least some players are willing to follow Daniels.

Earlier this month, defensive end Datone Jones said he planned to pattern his game after Daniels this season after trying to be more of a finesse player last year.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When B.J. Raji agreed to return to the Green Bay Packers for a one-year, $4 million contract in March, it looked like a clear indication there was little or no interest in the former first-round draft pick on the free-agent market.

Not so, says the sixth-year veteran.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Raji
AP Photo/Tom DiPaceDefensive tackle B.J. Raji insists that staying in Green Bay is the best place for him this season.
"I talked to three or four other teams," Raji said.

Raji, speaking with reporters last week for the first time since he re-signed with the Packers, declined to name any of the teams that showed interest.

Whether there were any other serious -- or better -- offers has become moot. By signing a one-year deal to return to the team that drafted him ninth overall in 2009, he has put himself in a position to make another run at the free-agent market next offseason.

And he has another 16 games to prove he's worth more than a one-year deal.

Last season, Raji tied his career low with just 36 tackles, according to Packers' team statistics, and failed to record a sack for the second straight season. Since his 6.5 sack season of 2010, Raji has only three sacks.

"You can take that how you want to take it," Raji said. "I just thought this was the best opportunity for me this year."

It took some convincing by coach Mike McCarthy, who shared with Raji his early plans for revamping a defense that slipped to 25th in the NFL last season. One of those changes, McCarthy told Raji, hinged on the 6-foot-2, 337-pounder moving back to nose tackle on a full-time basis in coordinator Dom Capers' base 3-4 defense. That's a spot Raji played with considerable success in 2009 and 2010 before switching spots with defensive end Ryan Pickett.

"Obviously coach McCarthy helped put a few questions that I had to rest," Raji said. "I decided that with our offense and our philosophy on defense moving forward, that this would be the best opportunity for me to win and have success."

At this point, it appears Raji will be the only returning starter on the defensive line. Neither Pickett nor Johnny Jolly has been re-signed.

"I think B.J. likes it here, and I really like B.J.'s attitude right now," Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "He's been a good leader in there. He's one of the older guys now. When he came in here as a rookie, I said, 'You're not going to believe how fast you're going to be the oldest guy in this room.' When you come in here as a rookie or a second-year guy -- me being in this league for 20 years -- guys don't realize how fast they're going to be the oldest guy in the room because everyone's careers are pretty short."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have given away the lockers that formerly belonged to defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett, but another one of their unsigned free agents, tight end Jermichael Finley, still has his place in the team's locker room at Lambeau Field.

That might not mean much -- if anything -- for any of their futures with the Packers.

Bush
Finley
But in Finley's case, it's consistent with the organization's message that they have not given up hope of bringing him back if their doctors give it the OK.

"I mean, we all hope for that, that everybody will be fine," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said recently of Finley's status. "We don't know. We'll see."

Both Finley and Jolly have medical issues. Jolly also had neck surgery, but his injury was not as serious as the one Finley suffered in October, when he momentarily lost movement and feeling and was hospitalized for several days.

"I'll say this about Jermichael and Johnny, first and foremost, I just want them to be healthy," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after last weekend's draft. "And then with that, they're obviously our players and we have strong interest in. We'll see what happens after that. But I'm just being in communication with [team physician] Dr. [Pat] McKenzie and we're watching their health situation."

McCarthy was even more supportive of Finley last week, when he said during an interview on SiriusXM NFL radio: “In my mind he is a Green Bay Packer -- hopefully. He’s going through a tough medical situation. I think we all recognize that it was a serious injury. My understanding is he is doing everything and beyond to get himself ready. We'll continue to watch that."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top; we know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:
  • Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.
  • Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.
  • Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.
  • Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

First up are the negligible needs.

10. Defensive line: Whether you count recently signed pass-rusher Julius Peppers here or as an outside linebacker, it's still a deep position with the return of nose tackle B.J. Raji (who signed a one-year contract), a pair of draft picks last season in first-rounder Datone Jones and fifth-rounder Josh Boyd, and an emerging star in Mike Daniels. If the Packers need short-term help, they could re-sign veterans Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. That said, Thompson has never been one to pass up a big-bodied player so it wouldn't be a total shock to see him take a defensive lineman high in the draft if the right one fell into his lap.

Possible players of interest: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota; Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame; Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State; Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame.

11. Running back: This could be as deep a group as coach Mike McCarthy has had in his nine seasons thanks to reigning offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy plus the return of James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin and John Kuhn. The only issues here would be if Harris' knee injury that kept him out all of last season and Franklin's neck injury that ended his rookie year in November remain problematic.

Possible players of interest: None.

12. Specialists: The Packers are set at all three spots -- kicker, punter and long-snapper. Mason Crosby's bounce-back year means the Packers may not even bring another kicker to training camp. Crosby is signed through 2015. Punter Tim Masthay is signed through 2016 and snapper Brett Goode through 2015. There are no issues with either one.

Possible players of interest: None.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

 
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If there's a common denominator among the Green Bay Packers' free agents that remain unsigned, it's that none played more than 50 percent of the team's snaps last season.

That's in contrast to the six unrestricted free agents the team has re-signed in the last month. Of the six, four were on the field more than half the time last season.

Six of the Packers' unrestricted free agents remain on the market.

In order of playing time from last season, they are:
  • Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (535 snaps, 48.0 percent of the defensive plays)
  • Quarterback Matt Flynn (324, 27.3 percent of the offensive plays)
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (287, 25.7 percent)
  • Tight end Jermichael Finley (252, 21.3 percent)
  • Quarterback Seneca Wallace (58, 5.0 percent)
  • Linebacker Robert Francois (12, 1.1 percent)

Pickett was the only one to appear in every game but he will turn 35 just a month into this coming season, so his time could be over. Flynn is expected to re-sign, and Jolly could too if he recovers from his neck surgery as expected. Francois is still recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon. Finley still has not received medical clearance following his neck surgery, and Wallace will not be re-signed.

Of their own free agents that they re-signed, only two were on the field less than half of the time. They were:
  • Fullback John Kuhn (333 snaps, 28.1 percent of the offensive plays)
  • Running back James Starks (235, 19.8 percent)

Four played well over half the plays. They were:
Also, of the five former Packers' players who signed with other teams, three played more than half the snaps last season.

They were:
The other two were:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers began this offseason with 17 players scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

They have re-signed five of them: outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal, tight end Andrew Quarless, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, cornerback Sam Shields and running back James Starks.

Four of them signed with other teams: center Evan Dietrich-Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), receiver James Jones (Oakland Raiders), tackle Marshall Newhouse (Cincinnati Bengals) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (Raiders).

That leaves eight still on the market. Here's an update on where things stand the Packers’ remaining free agents:

Kahlil Bell, RB: With Starks back on a two-year, $3.165 million deal, it’s unlikely Bell, a late-season pickup last year, will be re-signed. The Packers already have five halfbacks with NFL experience on the roster -- Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill and Starks -- plus practice-squad member Orwin Smith.

Jermichael Finley, TE: There's no guarantee Finley will receive medical clearance to resume his career following last season's neck injury. Finley reportedly failed a physical during a free-agent visit to the Seattle Seahawks, and the Packers say they are still monitoring his condition. At this point, Finley's career remains on hold.

Matt Flynn, QB: It's all but a lock that the player who kept last season alive while Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with his broken collarbone will return. Coach Mike McCarthy wants Flynn back and would like to keep three quarterbacks on the roster this season. Expect Flynn to be re-signed soon.

Robert Francois, LB: The special-teams player is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. If healed, he could be re-signed for a minimum contract later in free agency.

Johnny Jolly, DT: Like Finley, Jolly underwent neck fusion surgery. But Jolly's injury was not as severe as Finley’s and the fusion took place lower in his neck, which makes it safer for him to resume his career. McCarthy said he liked how Jolly played last season, so expect the Packers to bring back Jolly at some point.

John Kuhn, FB: The Packers remain in talks with the fan favorite who completed a three-year, $7 million contract last season. Kuhn is a valuable special teams player and has been their best pass protector out of the backfield the past several seasons. But it's not a given he will return. And if he does, it likely will be for less money than he received three years ago.

Ryan Pickett, DT: The plan to move Raji back to nose tackle might make Pickett expendable. Or perhaps his age (34) has already done that. McCarthy was non-committal when asked about Pickett's status last week at the NFL annual meetings.

Seneca Wallace, QB: McCarthy would like to bring four quarterbacks to training camp, but don't expect the 33-year-old Wallace to be one of them. He couldn't stay healthy when the Packers needed him after Rodgers' injury. Instead, they would like to add another young, developmental prospect.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers signed Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion in free agency to bolster their defensive line, not necessarily to replace certain players.

That was the takeaway from comments coach Mike McCarthy made at the NFL annual meetings this week when asked about the possibility that free-agent defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett could return to Green Bay.

Both remain on the open market.

However, their situations are different.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Jolly
AP Photo/Tom LynnJohnny Jolly recently was cleared to resume normal offseason workouts after neck surgery in January.
Jolly's is mostly a medical one. He had neck surgery in January to repair a bulging disc that bothered him late last season. Doctors fused together his C-5 and C-6 vertebrae using bone from his hip. He recently was cleared to resume normal offseason workouts.

McCarthy said the Packers remain interested in bringing back the 31-year-old, who returned to football last season after sitting out for three years while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and also spending time in prison.

"Yeah, if it definitely works out, I mean we're monitoring that," McCarthy said. "I think Johnny did a nice job last year. You have to be very pleased for where he started and where he finished. I think he gave us every inch of what he had and then some. I was very pleased with Johnny's contribution last year."

Jolly played last season for the veteran’s minimum of $715,000.

Pickett, 34, made $6.2 million in base salary and bonuses last season in the final year of a four-year, $24.925 million deal. Although he played in all 16 games for the second straight season and missed only four games during his most recent contract, his production dropped off last season, when he recorded only 19 tackles, his fewest since his rookie season of 2001.

"We'll watch what's going on with Ryan," McCarthy said.

There might not be room on the roster for both Jolly and Pickett. Even though McCarthy said Peppers will work mostly with the linebackers, he still has a deep defensive line group. The Packers return Josh Boyd, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones and Jerel Worthy -- all four of which are still on their rookie contracts. They also plan to return Mike Neal back to the defensive line, at least on a part-time basis, after playing almost exclusively at outside linebacker last season. Nick Perry and Peppers also could split time between the two spots in what McCarthy calls the elephant position.

The Packers also re-signed nose tackle B.J. Raji and brought in Guion, who played for the Minnesota Vikings.

"Let's not forget about Letroy," McCarthy said. "I thought he was an excellent acquisition that we haven't even brought up. I thought he's played very well the last three times we played the Vikings. So he's been an excellent addition to our defensive front."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Even after signing or re-signing seven players since the start of free agency, the Green Bay Packers still have enough salary-cap space to do more.

According to the latest figures from ESPN Stats & Information, which includes all the contracts the Packers have done in free agency to date, the Packers still had more than $15 million in salary-cap space. To be exact, they were $15,742,829 under their adjusted salary cap of $141,821,209 (which includes room they carried over from 2013).

Only six teams had more cap room left than the Packers, as of Monday. They were: the Cleveland Browns ($37.1 million), New York Jets ($30.4 million), Jacksonville Jaguars ($25.7 million), Cincinnati Bengals ($27.1 million), Miami Dolphins ($19.2 million) and Philadelphia Eagles ($16.3 million).

The Packers will need around $5 million in cap space for their rookie salary pool.

They still have a few of their own free agents they could sign -- including fullback John Kuhn and perhaps defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett -- but general manager Ted Thompson also knows he must leave room to extend the contracts of receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Both are entering the final year of their current deals.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Sometimes, NFL players outperform their contracts.

Without tearing up those deals, there is a way for players who fit that description to earn more money. It’s called the NFL's performance-based pay distribution in which each team can allot a total of $3.46 million in additional play to its players.

It typically benefits players in their first NFL contracts or minimum-salaried free-agent signings who become key contributors.

For example, Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick with a base salary of $405,000 last year, will receive an additional $256,882.22 in performance-based pay, according to documents obtained by ESPN.com. Bakhtiari started every game last season as a rookie. He received the largest pay increases among Packers' players. According to the NFL, those payments will be made on April 1, 2016.

The smallest distribution to a Packers' player went to backup tackle Derek Sherrod, who will receive $2,154.55. He was active for seven games but only took six snaps on offense all season.

Here’s a list of the top-10 and bottom-10 performance-based bonuses on the Packers’ roster:

Top 10
Bottom 10

Free-agency review: Packers

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Peppers
Most significant signing: Re-signing perhaps their top three defensive free agents -- cornerback Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal -- was important, but that didn't necessarily make the Green Bay Packers' 25th-ranked defense better. They hope the addition of defensive end Julius Peppers does that. Peppers had seven sacks in a down season last year for the Chicago Bears, yet that was more than any of the Packers' defensive linemen had last season. Even at age 34, expect Peppers to be motivated to bounce back and energized playing for a team he considers a Super Bowl contender.

Most significant loss: When Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, it ensured that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take snaps for a fourth starting center in as many seasons. It also broke up an offensive line group that started all but two games together last season. The most likely internal replacement is second-year pro JC Tretter, but he was a college tackle at Cornell who did not play a single snap last year as a rookie.

Jones
Jones
Biggest surprise: Apparently 24 touchdown catches over the last three seasons doesn't count for much on the free-agent market. How else to explain why it took a week for anyone to sign former Packers receiver James Jones, who finally landed a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders on Monday? Maybe it's that Jones will turn 30 on March 31. While Jones caught only three touchdowns last season, he had 14 in 2012 and seven in 2011. Last season, he caught 59 passes for a career-best 817 yards despite missing nearly three full games.

What’s next? Even after Jones signed, the Packers still have 10 of their own free agents still unsigned. Among them are quarterback Matt Flynn, fullback John Kuhn, tight end Jermichael Finley (visited the Seattle Seahawks), tackle Marshall Newhouse (scheduled to visit the Cincinnati Bengals) plus defensive tackles Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett.

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