Friday, February 7, 2014
MVP replacements: Green Bay Packers
By Rob Demovsky
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.
So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.
The Green Bay Packers don’t have to wonder what would happen if they lost their best players; it happened to them in 2013.
They were forced to play without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for nearly eight full games after he fractured his collarbone on Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears and without outside linebacker Clay Matthews for six games (including the playoffs) after breaking his right thumb on two different occasions.
It not only reiterated Rodgers’ value but also exposed their inability to develop a capable backup. The Packers don’t have to worry about a long-term replacement for Rodgers yet. He only recently turned 30 and is signed through the 2019 season after agreeing to a $110 million contract extension last April. Rodgers has said he intends to play through the end of that contract and possibly even a few more years.
The only other quarterback currently under contract is Scott Tolzien, who played in three games (including two starts) during Rodgers’ absence. Tolzien, the former University of Wisconsin starter who spent two years as a backup with the 49ers, showed some impressive arm strength but either didn’t have a good enough command of the offense or made too many mistakes. He was unable to lead the Packers to a victory.
The Packers would like to see what Tolzien can do with an offseason in coach Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school, but there’s no more clarity to the backup situation now than there was a year ago, when the Packers were hopeful Graham Harrell or B.J. Coleman would excel in that role. When it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, they brought veteran Vince Young to training camp and that didn’t work, either.
There’s also the possibility that free agent Matt Flynn, who went 2-2-1 in place of Rodgers last season, will be re-signed. Flynn, who began his career with the Packers in 2008, was signed to only a one-year deal when he returned last season.
As for Matthews, that he still led the Packers with 7.5 sacks despite playing in a career-low 11 regular-season games says plenty about what they have -- or don’t have -- behind him at outside linebacker.
Potential pick: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo’s strong showing over the All-Star evaluation periods brought some intrigue from scouts. On tape, he still has plenty of room for development, but he has the mechanics, quick release and enough athleticism to work with. Garoppolo could bring strong returns in the fourth-round range to provide the Packers with a serviceable backup with enough upside to potentially groom as Rodgers’ replacement down the line.
-- Kevin Weidl