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Frank Cignetti Jr. has never worked with Aaron Rodgers, but with all his connections to the Green Bay Packers and their offense, the team’s new quarterbacks coach probably feels like he has.

The longtime assistant spent the past two seasons coaching the New York Giants’ quarterbacks under Ben McAdoo, the former Packers assistant who coached Rodgers in 2012 and 2013. McAdoo’s version of the West coast offense was rooted in Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s system.

Cignetti, 52, goes even further back with McCarthy than McAdoo, who served under the Packers coach from 2006 until he left for the Giants in 2014. They were graduate assistants together in 1989 at the University of Pittsburgh and were reunited in New Orleans, where Cignetti coached quarterbacks in 2000 and 2001 in an offense that McCarthy coordinated.

It doesn’t matter, however, how familiar Cignetti is with the offense that Rodgers runs if he and the quarterback don’t hit it off. And after the way Rodgers reacted to losing his last position coach, Alex Van Pelt, who parted ways with the Packers last month, that might be more difficult than first thought. Rodgers said last week on ESPN Radio’s Golic and Wingo show that he “thought that was an interesting change, really without consulting me. There’s a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach, and that was an interesting decision.”

Van Pelt was the only one of Rodgers’ first four quarterback coaches who played in the NFL. That was something Rodgers was vocal about wanting after Tom Clements was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012, but instead McCarthy hired McAdoo for that job. Van Pelt, a nine-year NFL veteran, mostly as a backup quarterback for the Bills, replaced McAdoo and formed a bond with Rodgers.

Cignetti’s work with Rodgers won’t begin until the offseason program starts in April, but it will be an important spring and summer for the 34-year-old quarterback.

“I don’t think it’s difficult at all,” Cignetti said last month of coaching Rodgers. “Because one, coaching’s teaching. And getting in that quarterback classroom, you build a relationship and you understand that, hey, we’re an extension of each other. And it’s so exciting to go out on that field whether it’s the practice field or game field and see these guys execute and make plays, I’m really looking forward to it.”

The corps of coaches around Rodgers has been overhauled. Joe Philbin has returned as offensive coordinator, a move that should make Rodgers happy considering how productive the offense was during his previous stint in that job, which included Rodgers’ first MVP season of 2011. In addition to Cignetti and Philbin, new assistant Jim Hostler, with the title of pass-game coordinator, will work closely with the quarterbacks and the receivers — even if it’s not yet exactly clear how the revamped coaching staff will work.

“My vision of it is really how Mike wants me to fit in to helping him put the game plan together, helping him coordinate the perimeter,” Hostler said. “Those are thoughts that I have that we have sort of thrown around. But how that all fits with Joe and all that will be done through the process. I think what Mike was interested in when he looked at me in this capacity was, one, I’ve coached the quarterbacks for him; two, I’ve been in the system with him although systems change and evolve; three, I think he understands that I’ve coached in other rooms, I’ve been in every room, I’ve coordinated. So those are things that will help me to do whatever they need me to do to help them.”

Like Cignetti, Hostler has previous experience with McCarthy. He was the quarterback coach in San Francisco in 2005, when McCarthy was the 49ers offensive coordinator.

Although the offense has evolved since then, the core of it remains intact.

“Very similar,” Cignetti said. “I look back when we were together in 2000 in New Orleans, the foundation of the system is in place from back in 2000. Now, through time, things change. So the last two years in New York, a lot of it was similar to what we’re doing here, but both sides also grow and change. Very familiar.”

Before he left, Van Pelt said he expected a big year in 2018 from Rodgers after the lost season this past year because of the broken collarbone. The last time Rodgers broke his collarbone (in 2013), he came back the next season to win his second MVP.

The task of helping Rodgers do that again now belongs to Cignetti.

“I love to coach,” he said, “and I believe part of being a successful coach is building trust and relationships.”

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Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams said everything is fine between him and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis after the two spoke face-to-face this week for the first time since Adams accused Davis of “head hunting” for a blindside hit that gave him a concussion.Adams said Thursday that Davis sought him out on Monday, when the NFC players arrived in Orlando for the Pro Bowl, and apologized for the hit, which occurred late in the Panthers’ 31-24 victory at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 17.

“He came and hollered at me the first day,” Adams told ESPN. “It happened about a little over a month ago now so we kind of settled it. I’m trying to let bygones be bygones.

“Obviously you don’t forget things like that, but at the same time we’re teammates out here and you want to be civil and still have a good time so that’s what it’s about.”

The day after the play happened, Adams, via Twitter, accused Davis of “head hunting” because he led with his helmet. Adams posted a series of tweets critical of the hit and Davis, who responded to one of the tweets and apologized.

“In no way was I trying to hurt you,” Davis tweeted. “My first instinct was turn and make a block. In all sincerity I do apologize. I truly respect you as a player and I made a mistake!”

That was the second concussion that Adams had suffered in 2017.

Davis was suspended two games by the NFL for the hit. He told ESPN on Thursday that he wanted to apologize to Adams in person. “That was one of the things that I was most looking forward to, having that opportunity to sit down face-to-face with him and kind of explain my side of that situation, officially apologize to him face-to-face,” Davis said. “It wasn’t anything malicious and I said that to him in the message, but just I just really wanted to reiterate what I said to him in that message on social media.”

Davis said it was received well and that Adams accepted his apology.

“He said he understood,” Davis said. “He said that he was emotional when it happened. He was mad. But we’ve talked it out. We’re in a good place right now.”

Having won the Walter Payton Man of the Year, Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year and Bart Starr Award in his past, Davis has enjoyed a sterling reputation across the league when it comes to character.

He acknowledged that it’s been a challenge, however, conforming to new league rules as they pertain to hard hitting and avoiding the head and neck area. It was a much different league when he entered it in 2004 and he admitted that he is still figuring out how to adjust.

“The guys I looked up to when I started — Derrick Brooks, Ray Lewis — the way that those guys played the game. I just try to mirror my game after that,” Davis said. “But at the same time, we’re moving to a different place in the NFL and guys like myself just have to understand that we have to comply with the rules.”

Davis added, “It’s definitely a lot harder to conform. It takes some time, just changing up the style of play.”

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Mike Pettine is here to rebuild — both the Green Bay Packers defense and himself.

Two years after he was fired as Cleveland Browns head coach, the 51-year-old has returned to the game. He was introduced Wednesday as the new Packers defensive coordinator, a job he actually began two weeks ago.

Pettine had been out of coaching in any official capacity for two seasons, although he worked as a consultant for the Seattle Seahawks last year.

“I came out of it and I was just beat up physically, mentally,” Pettine said at his introductory news conference.

The same could be said of a Packers defense that’s been beset with injuries and performance breakdowns in recent years. It led to coach Mike McCarthy’s decision to fire Dom Capers after nine years as coordinator.

Like Capers, Pettine comes in as a former NFL head coach. For Pettine, however, it’s a matter of been there, done that; he is not in Green Bay as a stop on the way to another head coaching job.

“It’s not,” he said. “When I was the head coach, I didn’t enjoy the lack of interaction with the actual football part of it. I always made the comparison, it was going from being the teacher to now you’re the principal. The administrative part might be, as a coordinator, 90 percent football, 10 percent administrative stuff. That essentially flipped, and I didn’t like it.

“I missed the camaraderie of the room, the interaction with the staff, the interaction with the players. The chess-game part of it, the designing a game plan tailored to your opponent.”

So no designs on becoming a head coach again? “That’s the furthest thing from my mind,” said Pettine. “I’m here to coordinate an outstanding defense and win a Super Bowl.”


Pettine went 10-22 in his two seasons as Browns head coach. Before that, he spent one year as Doug Marrone’s defensive coordinator with the Bills — a defense that ranked 10th in the NFL. The four years before that, he was Rex Ryan’s coordinator with the Jets, where the defense never ranked lower than eighth.

“His attention to detail is outstanding,” said Marrone, now the Jaguars coach. “He’s very smart. He’s really good in front of the room. Really has the ability to communicate and really put players in great position. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s back in right now. It doesn’t surprise that he’s a defensive coordinator, and it won’t surprise me later on down the road if he’s a head coach again.”

Pettine took the podium Wednesday for his first meeting with the media with a stern, serious look on his face. Yes, he can bring a tough-guy attitude when necessary, but he also takes a modern, cerebral approach to the game.

“I’ve been told my natural resting gaze is not a pleasant one, but there’s not much I can do about that,” he said. “I blame my parents for that. … I’ve heard that. I think it’s important that the players see the certain way but they understand, too, the thinking that goes behind it. I always like to explain the why.”

Pettine’s task in Green Bay is to rebuild a defense that finished 22nd last season — the seventh straight year it finished outside the top 10. Breakdowns in communication proved just as problematic as injuries and missed tackles.

In an effort to streamline the process, McCarthy and Pettine put together a defensive staff with new positions like pass-game coordinator (former Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt) and run-game coordinator (former Giants and Patriots assistant Patrick Graham). Whitt also interviewed for Pettine’s job but instead settled for a new title.

Although McCarthy had no previous connection to Pettine other than sharing the same agent, Trace Armstrong, he said the two instantly connected. “It’s important in the game of football, particularly in coaching, you look for people that kind of view the game the way that you do,” McCarthy said. “His background in analytics, the ability to teach and being in tune with today’s athlete, there’s a number of things. I had five clear components and characteristics that I was looking for in the new defensive coordinator. And I’ll say this, Joe Whitt did an outstanding job in his interview. I thought Joe hit the target on the five components. I’m not going to get into specifics to that, but I thought Mike really knocked it out of the park. I knew early in the process that he was the right man for the job.”

Pettine’s scheme has been called complicated by some, and that wouldn’t seem to bode well for a defense that had trouble getting on the same page under Capers. But the new coordinator insisted that’s not the case.

“We like to appear multiple without necessarily putting that much stuff in,” Pettine said. “So, it’s not a system that is overwhelming to learn. The league has changed. When I first got in the league, it was easy to put in 50 or 60 defenses up for a game. Now, you’re 20-25. Why? Because a lot of time you’re dealing with young players that haven’t been veteran guys in a system that know it, and also you’re dealing with the new CBA where you have limited time to get with them, especially in the offseason, for them to learn that foundation. I think as a coach you have to adjust. But no, you look at us, you’re going to see we’re going to be multiple and we’re going to be aggressive.”

ESPN’s Michael DiRocco contributed to this report.

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Of the 16 players who had per-game roster bonuses for the Green Bay Packers this past season, only two of them — tight end Lance Kendricks and kicker Mason Crosby — collected the full amount.

The other 14 combined to miss a total of 57 games, therefore losing more than $2 million in bonus money this season.

The biggest loser was right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who missed out on $412,500 in weekly roster bonuses. His contract calls for a bonus of $37,500 for each game he’s on the 46-man active roster. Bulaga tore his ACL and played in only five games, thus collecting just $187,500 of a potential $600,000.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed out on $337,500 because he missed nine games because of his broken collarbone. The Packers saved the same amount with tight end Martellus Bennett, who appeared in only seven games for the Packers, although he did collect two more weeks of $37,500 bonuses from the Patriots, who got two games out of him after they claimed him off waivers.

Kendricks earned all $300,000 of his weekly roster bonus money because he was active all 16 regular-season games, and Crosby earned all $150,000 of his.

In all, the Packers paid out $5,981,250 of a possible $8 million in weekly roster bonuses — or 74.8 percent of the possible 2017 total. The unpaid $2,018,750 will be credited to the team’s 2018 salary cap.

In 2016, the Packers paid out 83.4 percent of their possible weekly roster-bonus money — another indication they were more injured this season, when they went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

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Jamaal Williams spent last week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, where he talked with NFL hopefuls who played in the pre-draft all-star game.

They asked the Green Bay Packers rookie for advice on how to prepare for the draft and what it takes to make in the NFL.

But the running back, a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, couldn’t stop thinking about the advice he was given before he left Green Bay after the season. It was in his exit interviews with running backs coach Ben Sirmans and coach Mike McCarthy that the Packers’ leading rusher this past season learned what he needs to take his game to the next level.

“We were just in agreement that I’ve got to get my feet quicker and just get a little more speed happening and make sure that my knees are up,” Williams said in a phone interview during a break in the NFLPA-sponsored college all-star game near Los Angeles.

“So, I’m just going to be working on my lateral movements, speed, make sure I get my knees up, make sure my lower body’s a lot stronger.”

That will begin this week near Phoenix, where he plans to train with his uncle, Luke Neal, who also works with Cardinals linebacker Scooby Wright.

Yes, Williams rushed for a team-best 556 yards in a season in which he finally stopped the revolving door at running back. But he did so in grind-it-out fashion, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.

He knows that Ty Montgomery will return next season after wrist surgery that landed him on season-ending injured reserve and that fellow rookie Aaron Jones will be over his two knee injuries that cost him four games this season. That means that just because he was the Packers’ leading rusher in 2017 doesn’t mean he is guaranteed anything for 2018.

“I learned that on every team, no matter what, everybody’s a superstar, and you’ve got weapons,” Williams said. “Everybody’s got to touch the ball. There’s just so many superstars, especially on my team with Aaron [Rodgers], Davante [Adams], Jordy [Nelson], Randall [Cobb]. We just spread the ball around.

“When you’re in college, you’re used to, like, two guys — two superstars — on the team who get the ball consistently. I liked it because it just shows that you’ve got to keep working hard, and every year there’s going to be a new batch coming in, so you’ve got to make sure you improve every offseason.”

But there won’t likely be many — if any — new running backs. The position appears stocked after former general manager Ted Thompson picked three in last year’s draft: Williams (at No. 134 overall from BYU), Jones (at No. 182 from UTEP) and seldom-used Devante Mays (at No. 238 from Utah State).

It’s another reason Williams knows that he needs to be more explosive. Yes, he gained more than half of his yards after contact (51.8 percent to be exact), according to ESPN Stats & Information. By comparison, NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt got 47.9 percent of his yards after first contact, and second-leading rusher Todd Gurley gained just 39.8 percent of his yards after initial contact.

But as tough as Williams proved to be — he was the only Packers running back who didn’t miss a game this season — he lacked big plays. Of his 153 carries, he had only five explosive runs, defined by McCarthy as a gain of 12 or more yards.

By comparison, the speedier Jones had 10 explosive rushes despite carrying only 81 times.

“It just comes with time and repetition,” Williams said. “I felt like I was getting better and better at it as the season went by. So next year, it really won’t be anything new to me. I’ll just be able to come in and start where I left off.”

It was at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl that Williams signed hundreds of rookie trading cards that will be included in the 2017-18 Panini football card packets. Williams was supposed to sign over the course of a couple of days. Instead, he decided to get it all done at once in a four-hour, hand-cramping session.

“That’s the warrior mentality of playing football,” Williams said.

It helped Williams ride things out when Montgomery began the season as the starter and then Jones got the next shot. It wasn’t until both were injured in Week 10 against the Bears that Williams got his shot to be the No. 1 back, a job he didn’t give up the rest of the season.

“When Aaron and Ty went down, and they were like, ‘Jamaal, you’re going to run the ball,’ I was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment, and I’m going to go out there and do what I need to do,’” Williams said. “That, for me, made me feel like all my hard work is paying off.”

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The question is asked of Herb Waters without fail every time the Packers’ first-year cornerback returns home to Florida.

“People back home are like, ‘Are you still playing receiver?’” said Waters, smiling. “I’m always like, ‘Nah, I’m at corner now.’ It’s slowly setting in.” Before Waters made an in-season switch during his rookie season in Green Bay a year ago, the native of Homestead, Fla., was known as an offensive playmaker during his four years at the University of Miami (Fla.). Waters caught 99 passes for 1,534 yards and nine touchdowns in 47 games with 20 starts for the Hurricanes, with a bulk of that production coming his senior year when he set career highs in both receptions (41) and receiving yards (624). After going undrafted, Waters signed to play receiver with the Packers as a college free agent, but he went without a catch in four preseason games. One of two dozen players released on cut-down day, Waters was offered a spot on the practice squad under one condition. The Packers and position coach Joe Whitt wanted Waters to give cornerback a shot. “Coming out of high school, Charlie Strong wanted me to come to Louisville to play corner,” Waters said. “I played in high school but I said no because I wanted to play receiver. I talked to the guys in the (cornerbacks) room and they’re like, ‘See, you should’ve played corner.’” Whitt, who previously shepherded the conversion of Sam Shields from a Miami (Fla.) receiver to Pro Bowl cornerback, liked Waters’ makeup. At 6-foot, 188 pounds, Waters’ size, speed, quickness and arm length made him an ideal candidate to make a position switch. Waters showed enough progress during his rookie year to not only warrant staying on the Packers’ practice squad in 2016, but also earn a call-up to the 53-man roster during the team’s playoff run. He hoped to carry the momentum into 2017 before suffering a shoulder injury early in training camp, which led to Waters being placed on season-ending injured reserve. The news was devastating. “I was hurt (emotionally); I was let down,” Waters said. “Unfortunately, things happen and God has other plans. I was terrified. I was kind of sad for a couple weeks until I got back up here after surgery and got back around the team, and the guys.” Players who are placed on IR are allowed to rehab away from team facilities if they choose. However, Waters wanted to stick around Green Bay this season and continue learning the finer points of the position. While unable to do any on-field activities, Waters continued to participate in the meeting room and followed all the happenings on the field. He took notes on how Davon House, Damarious Randall and even fellow undrafted free agents such as Josh Hawkins and Lenzy Pipkins went about handling their week-to-week assignments. “Just picking up techniques from the other guys and seeing what they do in certain situations,” Waters said. “I’m a good learner. It just upped my game. Since I’m not playing, that’s all I can really do is learn from other guys and see how to handle situations.” As players cleared out their lockers earlier this month, Waters acknowledged he still has “a couple more months” of rehab ahead of him before he’s fully cleared to return from the shoulder injury. However, he’s hoping to be “100 percent” for organized team activities this spring. Since his injury occurred so early in training camp, Waters didn’t get a chance to play in a preseason game last August. Wanting to show how far he’s come as a cornerback, the idea of stepping on the field at his new position is what continues to push Waters during his training. Whenever he steps back on the field, Waters believes having a chance to sit back and learn the position at a more controlled pace this past year will serve him well in the long run. “I’m kind of glad I did stick around,” Waters said. “I just want to be the best cornerback I can be. Putting all my tools to the test and see where it goes. I haven’t really played in a game at corner, so I don’t know my ups and downs. But I’m just trying to keep a high pace and fly around.”

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Mel Kiper Jr. is right: the Green Bay Packers should address their pass rush in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

It’s why the ESPN draft analyst has the Packers taking defensive end Marcus Davenport of UT-San Antonio with their first-round pick, No. 14 overall, in his first mock draft of 2018.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who had 21.5 career sacks in college was the second pure pass rusher to come off Kiper’s board. The other, N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, went No. 3 to the Colts. Kiper also had a linebacker — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, who’s a potential pass rusher — at No. 12 to the Bengals.

Either way, the Packers would be getting one of the top pass rushers in the draft.

But they shouldn’t stop there. Not with how bereft they were of edge rushers this past season. They had only two players with more than five sacks, and none even came close to double digits. Clay Matthews led the team with 7.5, and Nick Perry had 7.

Matthews will turn 32 this offseason and is entering the final season of his contract. He underwent knee surgery already this offseason and missed two games in 2017 because of other injuries.

Perry, who signed a five-year, $60 million deal, couldn’t follow up his career-best season in 2016 (when he had 11 sacks). He reverted to his oft-injured ways, missing four games.

It’s why new general manager Brian Gutekunst might have to go all-in on pass rushers early in the draft, unless he’s able to find at least one impact rusher in free agency. His predecessor, Ted Thompson, ignored the position in free agency last year until he signed Ahmad Brooks (who had 1.5 sacks all season) at the end of the preseason. He waited until the fourth round of the draft to take an edge rusher, Wisconsin outside linebacker Vince Biegel, whose foot surgery last May all but ruined his rookie year.

It wouldn’t be an upset if Gutekunst drafted multiple pass rushers in this draft. He watched his old boss, Thompson, take defensive backs with his first two picks last year (cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones).

For what it’s worth, Kiper had the Packers taking running back Christian McCaffrey a year ago at this time in his first mock draft of 2017. McCaffrey ended up going much higher, at No. 8 overall to Carolina, and Kiper’s mocks will surely change as draft season progresses.

Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay’s first 2018 mock draft had the Packers taking a pass rusher, Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry. Kiper had Landry at No. 25 to the Titans in his first mock.

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Sunday’s NFC Championship Game should be a case study for the Green Bay Packers on how to not only survive but flourish without a starting quarterback.

The Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings wrote the report on it this season.

It’s why Nick Foles and Case Keenum will decide who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl, and why the Packers are in an offseason of upheaval.

Everyone from team president Mark Murphy, the new overseer of all things football in Green Bay after he made significant changes to the organizational flow chart last week, on down through new general manager Brian Gutekunst and returning coach Mike McCarthy should watch and learn on Sunday.

Or maybe they already have.

It starts with the two quarterbacks, but it doesn’t end there.

Both teams provided their backup quarterbacks with the resources to win. Yes, quarterback play made a difference in both cases, but it wasn’t the overriding factor in their successes.

Still, it’s a good place to start.

When Keenum replaced Sam Bradford (who had replaced Teddy Bridgewater), he had 24 career starts under his belt. When Foles replaced Carson Wentz, he had 36 starts.

When Brett Hundley took over for Aaron Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in Week 6, the Packers were going with a first-time starter. McCarthy stated emphatically that the three years he had invested in Hundley as a backup made him the right choice for the job, but the Packers either underestimated the former fifth-round pick’s ability or his acumen for the offense.

The result was a wildly uneven showing from week to week.

Compare Hundley’s numbers to those of the other two:

  • Hundley (11 games total, 3-6 as a starter): Nine touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 60.8 completion percentage, 5.81 yards per attempt and a 70.6 passer rating.
  • Keenum (16 games, including playoffs, 12-3 as a starter): 23 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 67.2 completion percentage, 7.42 yards per attempt and a 97.3 passer rating.
  • Foles (eight games, including playoffs, 3-1 as a starter): Five touchdowns, two interceptions, 61.1 completion percentage, 5.84 yards per attempt and an 84.2 passer rating.

Perhaps the most telling number doesn’t show up in any of those stats, and that’s sacks. Hundley was sacked 29 times in 11 games, which, in part, speaks to his poor pocket awareness. Keenum has been sacked 24 times in 16 games and Foles six times in eight games.

But it runs much deeper than just the fill-in quarterbacks.

The top-seeded Eagles ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense and were No. 1 against the run. The Vikings ranked first in total defense and were second against both the run and the pass.

To be sure, the Eagles and Vikings were constructed differently. They don’t have the luxury of a future Hall of Fame quarterback, so they devoted resources elsewhere.

The Packers used 13.36 percent of their total 2017 salary cap on the quarterback position — 12.89 percent of that was Rodgers. They devoted only 40.77 percent of their cap space to the defensive side of the ball.

The Eagles, with the benefit of a starting quarterback on his rookie contract, needed only 5.2 percent of their cap space on the position, including just 3.97 percent on Wentz. Foles, who is on a two-year, $11 million deal, ate up just 1.05 percent of the Eagles’ cap space in 2017. Therefore, they could devote 45 percent of their cap to their defense.

While the Vikings’ quarterback-cap situation more closely resembled the Packers’, using 15.3 percent of their cap space on the position (including 12.23 percent on Bradford), they still managed to use 52.14 percent of their cap space on their defense.

In some ways, the Eagles and Vikings have done the unimaginable by reaching the conference title game without their starting quarterbacks. But upon closer inspection, thanks to veteran backups and championship-caliber talent and coaching on defense, it’s just that they were better prepared to survive without them.

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Ted Thompson’s last acts as Green Bay Packers general manager — if he was actually still acting as GM and not just as a figure head — were to sign Davante Adams and Corey Linsley to contract extensions on the final weekend of the 2017 regular season.

It leaves new GM Brian Gutekunst without a must-sign player on his list of upcoming free agents.

Adams would have been one of the top receivers had he hit the open market. Instead, the Packers were able to retain him on a five-year, $58.9 million contract that made him the fourth-highest-paid receiver in the league.

In Linsley, the Packers made sure they retained their starting center — and the only player on the team who played in every snap on his side of the ball last season. He signed a three-year, $25.5 million extension.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Packers’ players who are headed for free agency when the new league year opens on March 14:


Unrestricted (Players with four or more accrued seasons)

  • Richard Rodgers: Tight end is a major need with or without Rodgers, who never quite took off after his Hail Mary catch against the Lions in 2015. That remains the only 100-yard receiving game of his career. He slipped behind Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks to start the season and even when Bennett was released, Rodgers’ productivity barely spiked. He had only two games this past season with more than one catch and missed the finale with a shoulder injury. The market could be light for the former third-round pick, so perhaps the Packers could get him back cheap for some depth. His salary last season was $1,797,000.
  • Jahri Evans: The 12th-year veteran was perhaps the surprise of last year’s free-agent class for the Packers. He played the first 912 snaps of the season before a knee injury kept him out of the final two games. Evans said late in the season that he wasn’t sure if he would play a 13th season. He will turn 35 in August. The Packers could slide Justin McCray or Lucas Patrick into the right guard spot if Evans isn’t back. He signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Packers last offseason.
  • Jeff Janis: His chance to contribute as a receiver is probably gone; he played just 50 snaps on offense last season and didn’t catch a pass until the second-to-last game of the year. But he’s become a valuable special-teams player.

Restricted (Players with three accrued seasons but not four; can be tendered by March 14 for the Packers to retain the right to match any offer from another team):

  • Ulrick John: The tackle was signed off Arizona’s practice squad on Sept. 26 after injuries to backups Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy and played just 40 snaps.

Exclusive rights (Players with fewer than three accrued seasons; must be offered minimum salary tenders by March 14 or they become street free agents): WR Geronimo Allison, QB Joe Callahan, WR Michael Clark, OL Adam Pankey



  • Morgan Burnett: The veteran safety was No. 3 on the priority list behind Adams and Linsley, but he was a distant third. Yes, he’s versatile — having played everywhere from safety to slot cornerback to inside linebacker. But he’s also never been one to make a ton of splash plays. He has nine career interceptions in eight NFL seasons. He just turned 29 and hasn’t played a full season since 2012. He missed four games this past season because of two separate injuries (hamstring and groin). The Packers also have potential replacements in Josh Jones and Kentrell Brice. Burnett is at the end of a four-year, $24.75 million deal. There will be a market for Burnett, but it may not be at that same price. Given that new coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense can be complicated, Burnett might have more value to the Packers than to another team.
  • Ahmad Brooks: Essentially signed as a replacement for Julius Peppers, who left months earlier in free agency, but the former 49ers linebacker didn’t come close to replicating what Peppers did during his three years with the Packers and certainly couldn’t match the production Peppers had back in Carolina. For the same money — $3.5 million — the Packers got 1.5 sacks from Brooks and the Panthers got 11.0 from Peppers.
  • Quinton Dial: Like Brooks, Dial was a last-minute pickup right before the regular season started. He gave the Packers quality snaps along the defensive line to complement Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry. At just $775,001, he was a value signing who probably earned a little bit more in his next contract.
  • Davon House: After two seasons with the Jaguars, House returned to the Packers on a one-year, $2.8 million deal and played with the kind of toughness the Packers expected. He also served as a mentor to top draft pick Kevin King. A similar type of deal would make it worthwhile to bring him back. Like Burnett, House could be valuable in a scheme that favors veterans because of its complexity.
  • Demetri Goodson: Although he made it back to the active roster more than a year after a serious knee injury, he did not play a single snap in 2017, so it’s unknown what the fourth-year cornerback can do. He would be a minimum-salary-type signing.


  • Joe Thomas: A year after he led the inside linebackers in snaps, he fell behind Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan on the depth chart. Injuries and the increased use of the “nitro” defensive package with a safety at inside linebacker also played a role.

Exclusive rights: CB Herb Waters, S Jermaine Whitehead



  • Brett Goode: The veteran long-snapper played in 10 games during two separate stints on the roster last season. His snaps have been on point for 10 seasons, but the Packers have seemed intent on trying to replace him in recent years, even though he’s on a minimum salary. The Packers signed another snapper, Zach Triner, to a futures deal and also could bring back Taybor Pepper, who finished the season on IR.


  • Jake Schum: The punter in 2016 spent all of 2017 on injured reserve because of a back injury and probably won’t get a shot at the job after the solid year rookie Justin Vogel had.

Cheap Youth Blake Martinez Jersey-Packers NFL Shop

Don’t get Blake Martinez wrong, he wasn’t happy about much of anything after the Green Bay Packers closed this past season with a dud of a performance in the finale at Detroit to finish with a 7-9 record.

But no one will ever be able to take one thing away from him in 2017: the second-year linebacker led the NFL in tackles.

It was his position coach, Scott McCurley, who informed him of the news after all the Week 17 games came to a close.

“He showed me a picture of the tackle stats and stuff to just congratulate me,” Martinez said.

And then the next day, McCurley was let go as assistant linebackers coach.

“I texted him after I heard the news; I was wondering what to say and how to go about it,” Martinez said. “I just said, ‘Hey, I heard the news and am extremely sorry to hear that.’ He just came back and said, ‘Hey, it’s part of the business. That’s what happens.’ I just told him you helped me tremendously these last two years just growing as a player, understanding the game of football that much more.”

McCurley had three players under his purview, and one of them led the league in tackles. Martinez finished in a three-way tie for the NFL tackles lead with Bills linebacker Preston Brown and Browns linebacker Joe Schobert. Each finished with 144 tackles.

Only one Packers defensive player was on the field for more snaps than Martinez was this past season. He played 979 of the 1,052 plays. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led the team once again, but the big news was he finally missed a play – eight of them, to be exact. He played in 1,044 snaps a year after he played all 1,236, including the playoffs. Clinton-Dix was taken out of the game in Week 4 against the Bears and sat the final eight plays because the game was out of reach. It ended a streak of 2,033 straight snaps.

“It’s definitely tough not making the playoffs and doing that type of thing,” Martinez said of his season. “Obviously, I have two sets of goals – season goals, team goals of going to the Super Bowl, winning the Super Bowl. Then individual goals, and that was one of my individual goals, to lead the league in tackles. It’s just something I’m going to use to propel me into next season.”

One other noteworthy item as it pertained to playing time: cornerback Davon House will receive a $500,000 bonus for playing in more than 60 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps. He could have gotten another $250,000 had he topped the 70 percent mark.

Below are the snap counts on defense from the 2017 season, including playoffs. For comparison, here are last year’s defensive totals.

Total defensive snaps: 1,052