NFC North: Letroy Guion

Packers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:


  • Lest you forgot about Sean Richardson when it came time to talk about playing time at the safety position, the third-year pro reminded everyone of his potential on Monday. With the pads on for the first time, Richardson made a play that has rarely been replicated by a Packers safety since the days of Nick Collins or Charles Woodson. During a team blitz period, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass over the middle to Jordy Nelson but Richardson jumped in and snatched the ball away from Nelson for an interception.
  • For the first padded practice of camp, the temperature on Monday morning when things kicked off at 8:20 a.m. local time was just 56 degrees. An hour into the practice, it was not yet 60 degrees, but the Packers took one of their TV timeout regeneration breaks and followed it with one short period followed by another water break. Still, when asked whether it was fun to put the pads on, veteran guard Josh Sitton said, "I mean, fun is a little strong." The practice lasted 2 hours, 26 minutes – or about 10 minutes longer than the non-padded practices each of the first two days.
  • Nose tackle B.J. Raji got off to a strong start in the first one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He won all three of his reps. Of course, when someone wins, it means someone else looked bad. Twice, Raji beat JC Tretter, who is trying to lock down the starting center job. Raji beat Tretter with his quickness on one turn and then overpowered him on another. Tackle Bryan Bulaga also looked good in his first turns since blowing out his knee last camp. He won all three of his reps, including one at left tackle against Clay Matthews.
  • In other odds and ends from practice: Cornerback Davon House had a strip-sack of Matt Flynn and recovered the fumble during the team blitz period. … If you're looking for an undrafted rookie to watch, keep an eye on inside linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State. He's a bit undersized (6-1, 227) but is around the ball often. … In what could be a bad sign for undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, he was relegated to the scout team that worked against the defense at the start of practice while the majority of the offensive players, including fellow undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo, practiced inside the Hutson Center at the start of the session.
  • Outside linebacker Mike Neal said he could be cleared to practice as soon as Wednesday. He remains on the PUP list with a core muscle injury but is scheduled to be examined on Tuesday. He said he reported to camp lighter than ever, at 263 pounds. He played last season at 275, which is about 25 pounds lighter than he was is first three seasons, when he played defensive end.
  • In addition to Neal, others who remained out were: Nick Perry (foot, knee), Jamari Lattimore (illness), Jeff Janis (illness), Letroy Guion (hamstring), and Jerel Worthy (back). Janis made an appearance at practice for the first time in camp.
  • The Packers do not practice on Tuesday. They return to the field on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. local time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A look at the hot topics from Friday's reporting day at the Green Bay Packers' training camp:
  • Matthews cleared: Although coach Mike McCarthy said he did not have any injury information during his Friday morning news conference, the daily NFL transaction wire revealed some details about the Packers' injury situation. While several players were listed in various injury categories, there was no mention of outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who missed the offseason program while recovering from a second surgery to repair his twice-broken thumb. That would indicate Matthews was cleared for the start of training camp. How much he will practice right away remains unclear. However, two others at his position, Nick Perry and Mike Neal, were placed on the physically unable to perform list, meaning they failed their physicals. Perry missed the entire offseason program with an undisclosed injury, but Neal had been a full participant. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion and defensive end Jerel Worthy were placed on the non-football injury list, and rookie receiver Jeff Janis was placed on the non-football illness list. All count toward the 90-man roster limit.
  • Top line: Given that the Packers will have a starting center who has never played in an NFL game, it was a bit surprising to hear McCarthy say this has a chance to be the best offensive line the Packers have had during his nine-year tenure as head coach. JC Tretter is the favorite to win the starting center job even though he has never played the position before (he was a tackle in college at Cornell) and did not play in any games (preseason or regular season) last season as a rookie. McCarthy also said he was impressed with rookie center Corey Linsley, a fifth-round pick from Ohio State. The Packers return starting guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. At tackle, they will have Bryan Bulaga back at right tackle after he missed all of last season because of a knee injury, and second-year starter David Bakhtiari at left tackle. "I don't do comparables, but I think you have to feel good about the depth that we have in the O-line compared to prior years," McCarthy said.
  • Counting quarterbacks: One of the biggest issues facing McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson is whether they will keep three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster. The past five years, they have opened the season with just two quarterbacks, but this year they appear to have two capable backups for Aaron Rodgers -- Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien. "I know I said in the spring I'm not opposed [and] Ted’s not opposed to keeping three quarterbacks," McCarthy said. "It really depends on the competition at the other positions."
  • Talking to the team: The unofficial opening of training camp is Friday at 5:30 p.m., when McCarthy addresses the team for the first time. McCarthy said he spends plenty of time -- "probably too much time on it, frankly," he said. -- working on his speech. "You know when you have this much time to give a talk, my history has been to, I have to cut, I probably cut 60 percent of the stuff I have," McCarthy said. "You have to tighten it down and get it where you want it. Video is always a little better because [video director] Chris [Kirby] has more time to work on it. So the video will be awesome, and I hope the guy delivering the talk can deliver."
  • New hire: Despite a rash of injuries in recent years, McCarthy holds the team's medical, training, strength and conditioning staffs in high regard. Many of them predate McCarthy's time with the organization. But he also said on Friday that there will be a new addition in that area, although he did not get into specifics. When discussing injury prevention techniques, McCarthy said: "We have a young man coming aboard that we'll announce here in another day or so that will impact our team."
  • What's next: The first practice of camp begins at 8:20 a.m. local time on Saturday.
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a look at what stood out from the Green Bay Packers' minicamp practice on Thursday:

1. Veterans gone: For the final practice of the team's mandatory minicamp, coach Mike McCarthy excused all veterans with five or more years of experience. Without the 16 players that fit into that category, it gave the rookies and younger players more reps than they had received at any point previously in the offseason. But it meant this week's mandatory minicamp was essentially one day of football for the full squad because the Packers spent Wednesday at their annual team-building event, which this year was bowling.

"A lot of younger players got a lot of reps today that did not have the opportunity in the other practices," McCarthy said Thursday.

2. Tolzien shines: With Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn among those excused from practice, it gave young quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Chase Rettig the chance to run the offense. For Tolzien, it was his first time getting starter reps since the weeks leading up to his two starts last season against the Giants and Vikings. Tolzien looked especially sharp in the red zone. On consecutive plays, he threw short touchdowns to his former University Wisconsin teammate Jared Abbrederis and tight end Brandon Bostick. The throw to Bostick was a perfectly thrown fade in the left corner of the end zone.

"I think any time that guys are relying on you and you're the first guy in the huddle, that's a big chance for you," Tolzien said. "But at the same time it shouldn't really change how you are. You should prepare like a starter every day."

3. Rettig's reps: Any reps for Rettig would have been more than normal given that the fourth quarterback on the depth chart rarely gets any work during team periods, so Thursday was big for the undrafted rookie from Boston College. There's no guarantee the Packers will take four quarterbacks to camp, but Rettig helped his cause with a few nice throws. He hit tight end Ryan Taylor in stride on a seam route and also connected with receiver Kevin Dorsey and tight end Richard Rodgers.

4. Changing duties: At one point during position drills, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac worked with the offensive linemen. A few yards away, offensive line coach James Campen ran the defensive line drill. That was something new this offseason, but it makes senses that a defensive line coach could give pointers to offensive linemen and vice versa.

5. Bradford's bat down: Rookie outside linebacker Carl Bradford made perhaps the most impressive defensive play of the practice when he batted down a pass attempt by Rettig on a two-point conversion try. The fourth-round pick from Arizona State showed his athletic ability by leaping and swatting the ball away with two hands.

6. Changing of the guard: With starting guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton among the veterans excused from practice, Don Barclay and Lane Taylor worked with the No. 1 offensive line. Barclay played left guard, while Taylor lined up on the right side. It showed how committed the Packers are to leaving Derek Sherrod at left tackle. As a rookie in 2011, Sherrod battled Lang for a starting job at guard. Instead, he remained as the backup left tackle.

7. Roll call, part 1: The 16 veterans excused on Thursday were: kicker Mason Crosby, cornerback Jarrett Bush, fullback John Kuhn, cornerback Tramon Williams, linebacker A.J. Hawk, linebacker Clay Matthews, linebacker/defensive end Julius Peppers, linebacker Brad Jones, long snapper Brett Goode, receiver Jordy Nelson, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, Flynn, Rodgers, Lang and Sitton.

8. Roll call, part 2: The following players attended practice but did not participate: receiver Chris Harper, cornerback Jumal Rolle, linebacker Nick Perry, tight end Andrew Quarless and defensive end Jerel Worthy. Running back Johnathan Franklin, who will be waived/injured on Friday because of a career-ending neck injury, was not present.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a look at what stood out from the Green Bay Packers' second open OTA session of the offseason Tuesday:

1. Rookie catch up: Second-round receiver Davante Adams and third-round defensive tackle Khyri Thornton returned after missing last week's OTA sessions to attend the NFL Players Association Rookie Premier event. Adams said he stayed in his playbook during the trip to and from Los Angeles. "When I was out there, I was studying my playbook," Adams said. "When I was on the flight, I was studying my playbook. That's pretty much all it was."

Boykin
2. Boykin, Harper shine: Receivers Jarrett Boykin and Chris Harper had big days during team and 7-on-7 passing periods Tuesday. Both stood out during the team blitz period, catching hot reads from quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Boykin has been working as the No. 3 receiver despite the arrival of Adams and fellow draft picks Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Harper, a fourth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last year, was claimed off waivers last Oct. 18 and is an intriguing prospect with good size (6-foot-1, 228 pounds). "Chris has really improved," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "I mean, I think you saw the first snap there in the team period, I mean, he runs a great post and Aaron hits him right in stride. I mean, that's the kind of explosiveness that he has."

3. Barclay's versatility: Third-year pro Don Barclay is making a case for being the team's most versatile offensive lineman. He worked with the starters at left guard Tuesday, when Josh Sitton appeared to be limited. Last week, Barclay worked at right tackle behind Bryan Bulaga. He also could take reps at center. At this point, Barclay looks like he might be the team's top backup linemen at several positions. "Donny has the ability to potentially play five positions on the offensive line," McCarthy said. "I don't know how many guys you can say that about."

4. Inside pass-rush combination: It looks like defensive coordinator Dom Capers is going to give Datone Jones and Mike Daniels every chance to be his primary interior pass rushers in the sub packages. The Packers hope Jones can make the kind of jump Daniels made last year, when he increased his sack total from 2 to 6.5.

5. Another new guy: With B.J. Raji absent from Tuesday's practice, Letroy Guion took most of the reps at nose tackle with the starters. Guion, the former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman who signed a one-year deal with the Packers this offseason, gives the Packers a taller option at the spot. He has two inches on the 6-2 Raji.

6. To the House: Fourth-year cornerback Davon House, who is coming off an inconsistent season, came up with an interception during a team period, when he picked off a corner route thrown by Flynn that was intended for Kevin Dorsey.

Crosby
7. Kicking competition: There's not another kicker on the roster this year, but it's still worth charting all of Mason Crosby's field goals. He went 7-for-8 during a team period on a windy Tuesday. His only miss was wide right from 47 yards. He also missed from 43 yards, but that kick was whistled dead at the snap and therefore did not count. Last year at this time, Crosby was kicking for his job. This year, he's coming off a career-best season in which he made 89.2 percent of his regular-season field goals.

8. Punt return rotation: Randall Cobb, Micah Hyde, Tramon Williams and Abbrederis took turns catching punts during a special teams period.

9. Roll call: Add cornerback Jumal Rolle to the list of those who did not practice. McCarthy does not give injury updates during OTAs, and Rolle was not available for comment. Others who did not practice due to injuries were: running back Johnathan Franklin, linebacker Clay Matthews, linebacker Nick Perry, tight end Andrew Quarless and tight end Brandon Bostick. Those five also missed last week's sessions.

10. Roll call, part II: Rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, defensive end Jerel Worthy and Raji were not in attendance. Lyerla's agent, Vinnie Porter, said the Packers were aware of Lyerla's absence in advance and excused him even though that was not necessary because it is a voluntary workout. McCarthy said he expected Lyerla back Wednesday. Worthy's grandmother died last week after she was accidentally shot.

The Packers' next open OTA session is next Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. local time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the bulk of the free-agent work done, it's a good time to recheck the Green Bay Packers' depth chart leading up to the May 8-10 NFL draft.

On Thursday, we broke down the way things look on offense.

Next up is the defense:

Defensive end: Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Jerel Worthy.

[+] EnlargeDatone Jones
AP Photo/Morry GashThe Packers are counting on defensive end Datone Jones to rebound in his second season.
Analysis: The Packers have high hopes for Jones despite a disappointing rookie season in which the former first-round pick was slowed by an ankle injury and recorded just 3.5 sacks (two of which came in one game). "I feel he's one of those second-year players who [can] take a huge jump," coach Mike McCarthy said of Jones earlier this offseason. "That will be my expectations for him." Boyd, a fifth-round pick, actually saw more playing time late last season than Jones. Worthy played in only two games a year after he blew out his knee.

Defensive tackle: B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion.

Analysis: Moving Raji back to nose tackle on a full-time basis should help his production, which declined sharply over the last three years following a move to defensive end. Daniels was perhaps the team's most improved player last season, which should lead to an even bigger role this season. Guion, who was cut the Minnesota Vikings, will have to battle for a roster spot.

Elephant: Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal.

Analysis: Elephant is a catch-all term for the multiple positions this trio will play. They will be part outside linebacker, part defensive end and part defensive tackle. The addition of Peppers, who was signed last month after being released by the Chicago Bears, should boost the pass rush. Expect Perry to play more on the right side this season, where he was far more impactful last season. These players will actually be tutored by linebackers coach Winston Moss.

Inside linebacker: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Victor Aiyewa.

Analysis: Hawk had perhaps his best season last year, but Jones was a disappointment after signing a three-year, $11.75 million contract and could be on shaky ground for a starting job. Lattimore, a restricted free agent who has yet to sign his tender, got some playing time last year while Jones was hurt and could push for the starting job. So could Barrington, a promising rookie who missed the second half of the season because of a hamstring injury.

Outside linebacker: Clay Matthews, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Chase Thomas.

Analysis: Neal and Perry played almost exclusively at outside linebacker last season, so there's a good chance they'll be a big part of this group again. But behind Matthews are a couple of second-year players, Mulumba and Palmer, who played more than anyone expected last year as a rookies. Mulumba, an undrafted free agent, played better than Palmer, a sixth-round pick. Thomas was signed early in the offseason off the street after spending most of last season on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad.

Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo.

Analysis: Easily the thinnest position on the roster, there's still likely to be several additions here, probably via the draft. However, McCarthy said cornerback Micah Hyde will get some work at safety. Whether he's a candidate to start next to Burnett (a strong safety), however, remains to be seen. Burnett needs to bounce back from a disappointing season, but there's little reason to think his job is in jeopardy. Richardson returned late last season from a serious neck injury and showed promise. Banjo played more early in the season than he did late last year.

Cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Jarrett Bush, Davon House, James Nixon, Jumel Rolle, Antonio Dennard.

Analysis: This is among the Packers' deepest positions thanks to the return of Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract, and Hayward, who is expected to be healthy after a hamstring injury limited him to just three games last season. Williams closed the season playing perhaps as well as he did during the Super Bowl season of 2010, which is why they kept him despite a $7.5 million salary. Bush had his best season in coverage last year, while House was a disappointment. Nixon's speed makes him an intriguing prospect. Rolle was promoted from the practice squad late last season, while Dennard joined the practice squad late last season.
The Green Bay Packers have four picks in the first 100 selections of the upcoming NFL draft -- something they haven't had since 2008, when they drafted receiver Jordy Nelson (36th), quarterback Brian Brohm (56th), cornerback Pat Lee (60th) and tight end Jermichael Finley (91st).

If draft analyst Mel Kiper were in charge of the Packers' draft room, he'd find plenty of defensive help along with an intriguing tight end prospect. In an ESPN Insider exclusive, Kiper put a different twist on the mock draft. Rather than predicting who he thinks the Packers will pick, he detailed who he would pick if he were in charge.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's never too early to start looking ahead to the next class of free agents. That's part of what Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of player finance Russ Ball have been doing while also dealing with their more immediate concerns.

Although they're not done assembling their roster for 2014, for every move the Packers make now, they must also consider how it will impact their ability to re-sign their players who will be free agents next offseason.

It's not as lengthy a list as it was this offseason, when the Packers had 17 unrestricted free agents and two restricted free agents, but next year's group is no less important with receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson at the top of the list of players entering the final year of their contracts.

There's a good chance one or both of them will have their contracts extended before the start of this season. Thompson and Ball no doubt kept enough salary-cap space available -- $16,168,766 to be exact as of the beginning of this week, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- with that in mind.

Here's a look at the players entering the final season of their current contracts:

Offense
Defense

*Scheduled to be a restricted free agent

Also, it's likely tackle Derek Sherrod will be a free agent next offseason. He was part of the 2011 draft class in which all first-round picks signed four-year deals with a club option for a fifth year. It's unlikely the Packers will exercise that option, a decision they must make next month, given that the pay for that option year is expected to be around $9 million for offensive linemen.
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. -- The seven players the Green Bay Packers signed or re-signed since the start of free agency received a total of $24.175 million in guaranteed money.

However, more than 80 percent of that went to two players -- cornerback Sam Shields ($12.5 million) and defensive end Julius Peppers ($7.5 million).

All of the guaranteed money came in the form of signing bonuses. For salary-cap purposes, that means each player's bonus will be prorated over the life of the contract. For example, Shields' bonus will count for $3.125 million on the salary cap during each of the contract's four years.

Let's review the highlights of each deal the Packers have done:

Sam Shields, CB
  • Details: Four years, $39 million, including a $12.5 million signing bonus.
  • 2014 cash value: $15 million.
  • 2014 salary-cap charge: $5,562,500.
  • Full breakdown available here.
Julius Peppers, DE
  • Details: Three years, $26 million, including a $7.5 million signing bonus.
  • 2014 cash value: $8.5 million.
  • 2014 salary-cap charge: $3.5 million
  • Full breakdown available here.
B.J. Raji, DT
  • Details: One year, $4 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus.
  • 2014 cash value: $4 million.
  • 2014 salary-cap charge: $4 million
  • Full breakdown available here.
Mike Neal, OLB/DE
  • Details: Two years, $8 million including a $2.5 million signing bonus.
  • 2014 cash value: $5 million.
  • 2014 salary-cap charge: $3.75 million.
  • Full breakdown available here.
James Starks, RB
  • Details: Two years, $3.165 million including a $750,000 signing bonus.
  • 2014 cash value: $1,732,813.
  • 2014 salary-cap charge: $1,370,313.
  • Full breakdown available here.
Andrew Quarless, TE
  • Details: Two years, $3 million including a $350,000 signing bonus.
  • 2014 cash value: $1.425 million.
  • 2014 salary-cap charge: $1.25 million.
  • Full breakdown available here.
Letroy Guion, DT
  • Details: One year, $985,000 including a $100,000 signing bonus.
  • 2014 cash value: $985,000.
  • 2014 salary-cap charge: $985,000.
  • Full breakdown available here.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Vikings made their final round of cuts Aug. 31, trimming their roster to 53, they had a nine-man group of defensive linemen that looked like this:

Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, Sharrif Floyd, Everson Griffen, Chase Baker and George Johnson.

Williams

Griffen
The group was highlighted, as usual, by two productive pass rushers, but four of its nine players were over 30. The group lacked bulk up the middle and depth at the end of the group, and the Vikings were waiting on a breakout year from Griffen that never really came.

Six months later, after a sweeping set of changes precipitated by a new coaching staff, the Vikings' top eight defensive linemen currently look like this:

Robison, Floyd, Griffen, Evans, Linval Joseph, Corey Wootton, Tom Johnson and Baker, with a draft pick or two possibly coming.

Five players in that group will be 27 or younger by the start of the season. Robison and Evans will be the oldest at 31, and in Joseph, the Vikings have their first true road grader since Pat Williams.

It's a striking overhaul to a position that had been the Vikings' hallmark for years under Allen and Kevin Williams. This group still could be the identity of Mike Zimmer's defense, but it figures to be younger, nastier and tougher up the middle, befitting a defense that's designed to be structurally sound and stout against the run.

In some ways, this had been coming since last spring, when the Vikings drafted Floyd, decided not to pursue a contract extension for Allen and asked Williams to void the 2014 season on his contract while taking a $2.5 million pay cut in 2013. Both Allen and Williams sensed it at the end of the season, giving a handful of valedictory speeches in December press conferences and talking about how their relationship would continue once they were done playing together.

Allen and the Vikings decided to part ways before the start of free agency, and while general manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings would keep the door open for Willliams, it seemed obvious the Vikings had other plans. Williams said Wednesday he hadn't heard from the Vikings in a week, and the team signed Johnson to add depth at the three-technique tackle position the same day. And then, to make the inevitable somewhat official, he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Thursday night he was even more sure his time with the Vikings was over.

It's a coldly efficient way for one of the Vikings' great defensive players to see his time with the team end, but it's the order of the NFL in 2014. The Vikings have swept through their defensive line remodel with little attachment to their past, and they've come out from at least the first phase of it with a markedly different look to the group. The ultimate success of their plan will depend on young players -- most notably Griffen and Floyd -- turning their potential into legitimate production, but at some point, the Vikings had to detach from their past and attempt going in this direction.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Shortly before free agency opened, the Green Bay Packers had the sixth-most salary-cap space in the NFL.

Since then, they have re-signed cornerback Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal, tight end Andrew Quarless, tendered restricted free-agent linebacker Jamari Lattimore and added free-agent defensive linemen Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion.

They began the month with nearly $34.2 million in cap space and even after all that activity, they still have about half of that remaining.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers had $20,627,413 in available cap space as of the start of the second week of free agency. However, that did not include Raji’s one-year, $4 million contract. It also did not include the new two-year deal that running back James Starks has agreed to but has yet to be announced by the team.

According to NFL Players Association salary information, counting the Packers' top-51 players under contract -- which is all that must be counted for cap purposes at this time of the year -- the Packers still had $17,024,449 in salary-cap space as of the start of business on Wednesday. That also did not include Starks' contract.

The Packers will need around $5 million for their rookie salary pool but even accounting for that, general manager Ted Thompson still has room to maneuver.

Among the things he has to consider is having enough space to extend the contracts of receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, both of whom are entering the final years of their contracts. Their situation likely played a role in Thompson's decision not to re-sign receiver James Jones, who signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the Oakland Raiders on Monday.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Minnesota Vikings were going to have the kind of defensive line Mike Zimmer wanted -- one that could stand up against the run, occupy blockers and give linebackers the room to run free -- they needed the kind of junkyard dog lineman they haven't had since Pat Williams. They needed a big, hulking presence who tips the scales at more than 300 pounds and can take on two blockers at a time. They needed someone who would be hard to move at the point of attack.

Joseph
They needed someone like Linval Joseph.

The Vikings' first external signing of the free-agency period was made to fill a sizable need in the middle of their line -- and not just because Joseph checks in at 6-foot-4 and 323 pounds. After gambling on the undersized Letroy Guion's ability to succeed Williams at the position, the Vikings' run defense had gone from formidable to mediocre at best. Gone were the days of the Williams Wall, when Pat and Kevin Williams made the Vikings nearly impenetrable and forced teams to try their luck against the team's effective pass rush. The Vikings needed a tackle like Joseph to help them move back in that direction -- especially with the style of defense Zimmer wants to play.

The move, which will cost the Vikings a handsome $31.5 million over the next five years, helps them remake the defense in Zimmer's image. Before his linemen think about shooting gaps, they're instructed to engage offensive linemen and keep them from getting to the linebackers. It's not all that different than what linemen are asked to do in a 3-4 scheme (though the Vikings are sticking with a 4-3), and since Pat Williams left, the Vikings haven't had anyone who could affect an offensive front like Joseph could. Joseph has managed to post nine sacks in the past three years, even while fulfilling his responsibilities as a run defender, so the guess here is the Vikings were fairly high on him.

Now, they'll have three high-paid players (Joseph, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison) and a first-round pick (Sharrif Floyd) set to start on their line. It's not impossible that Kevin Williams could come back as a rotational player, but as we've discussed, he'd find a markedly different scheme than what he's used to in Minnesota if he does return.

The Joseph signing made it clear how high a priority the Vikings placed on fixing the first line of Zimmer's defense. It's not a top-of-the-page headline-grabber, but if Joseph does his job, it's a sensible move that fills a critical need on the Vikings' defense.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings continued to remake their defensive line on Thursday afternoon, releasing defensive tackle Letroy Guion and clearing another $4 million of cap room by shedding the final year of the 26-year-old's deal. That move, along with the release of wide receiver Greg Childs, gives the Vikings more than $41 million in cap room heading into the start of free agency next week.

Allen
If they wanted to, they could certainly use some of it to re-sign veteran defensive linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. But as new coach Mike Zimmer molds the team's defense to fit his scheme, Allen and Williams could find there is not much familiarity in a return to their old team.

Zimmer's defenses traditionally have emphasized run discipline, particularly on the defensive line, over big sack numbers. Both Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson posted double-digit sacks in 2012, but no other Bengals defensive lineman reached double-digit sacks in Zimmer's seven seasons as defensive coordinator. Zimmer said again on Thursday that the Vikings will emphasize run defense in their linemen's techniques and assignments, and added Allen would have to decide whether he would buy into the scheme the coach is planning to run.

"He’s the one that would have to decide that he wants to come back and fit into what we do and how we do it," Zimmer said. "He has to decide how much money that needs to be due for him to buy into doing that. And we’re the ones that have to decide how much we want to pay him for that, too."

Allen has often talked about how he's paid primarily to rush the passer, and said last season -- as he was in danger of seeing his streak of double-digit sack seasons end at seven -- that posting 10-plus sacks means "the world" to him. It sounded like Zimmer was saying, in so many words, that Allen wouldn't be able to count on that happening if he returned to Minnesota. The Vikings will certainly take sacks when they can get them under Zimmer, but they won't be sending their linemen upfield past blockers, especially when an incorrect guess about an offense's play call can leave a defensive end out of position to play the run.

It has already seemed unlikely to me that Allen would be back in Minnesota, simply because other teams could offer him a chance to do what he's done best over the years and put him closer to a championship. The fact that he -- and to a lesser extent, Williams -- would have to adjust his role with the Vikings might make the chances of a return even slimmer.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider