If there’s one thing we know for certain about this last season, it’s that the Green Bay Packers played much worse without quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Assuming Rodgers will be back to full health when the 2014 season rolls around, Green Bay should be on a better track to go deep into the playoffs. But in order for Rodgers to continue to be the All-Star quarterback he is, he’ll need his All-Star receivers and tight ends to back him up.
For some players, their future as a Green Bay Packer is uncertain. Two tight ends are facing the possibility of leaving the Packers: Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless.
Finley suffered a neck surgery, and he’s currently a free agent. Even though he played only six games this season, he still put up a respectable 300 yards and three touchdowns.
“Right now he is a Packer and I know he would love to play his entire career there,” Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz, told the New York Post.
Quarless, who is also a free agent, did not play as well as Finley this past season. In his 16 games played, he had 32 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers pale to Finley’s, Quarless was only in his third season, and this was the first he played almost entirely.
Perhaps the most anxiety Packers fans will have comes from James Jones, who is the only free agent among Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin. There may be some worrying about Jones, who turns 30 this offseason, not playing well compared to the younger receivers.
But this past season he accomplished 817 yards and 59 receptions, his best and second best, respectively, during his seven years with Green Bay. It’s true Jones was in a bit of a slump this season after leading the league with 12 touchdowns in 2012, but weren’t all Packers players in a slump for most of the season?
“I would love to come back, A-Rod’s my guy,” Jones said in a Green Bay Press Gazette article in January. “I’ve been here for seven years, it’s not like I’ve only been here for three years and now I’m a free agent. I dang near spent my whole career here, so I would love to finish here.”
And that’s the truly great thing about Green Bay, isn’t it? No other team in the National Football League has as many homegrown players as the Packers. According to an ESPN article, 50 of the Packers’ 53 men on the Week 1 2013 roster did not appear in a regular-season game for another team. The average number is about 36 players per team.
It’s true the Packers have good potential with both younger players and the possibility of the draft, but the team should be careful not to let go of potential it already has.
Jones has been a strong receiver for the Packers the past seven years, especially after Donald Driver retired and Greg Jennings left. Trading him may make room for younger players, but it also means less experience. Finley and Quarless were great targets for Rodgers during the past few years, and Finley, at least, has been consistent. Letting both of them go would prove problematic, as the Packers have not selected a tight end in the past two drafts.
But most importantly, the Packers would be letting go of some of their homegrown men, some who have been around for quite a few seasons. One of the best things about playing for Green Bay is the opportunity to start and finish a career with the same team. The Packers would be unwise to end that opportunity for some players, especially James Jones.
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