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Mike Vandermause column: Jennings, Grant good as gone in annual roster churn

Jan. 26, 2013
 
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Will receiver Greg Jennings, left, or fullback John Kuhn be back with the Green Bay Packers for the 2013 season? H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

When it comes to change, the Green Bay Packers donít mess around.

Just 27 players from their 53-man Super Bowl championship team two years ago remained on the active roster when the 2012 season ended two weeks ago.

Thatís a nearly 50 percent turnover rate, a staggering number in such a short time period. Even for a successful and stable franchise like the Packers, the revolving door in the locker room continues to spin at a high rate of speed.

ďChange is constant, and I think everybody understands that,Ē said Packers coach Mike McCarthy at his season-ending press conference last week. ďI donít exactly know what the statistics are, but I know it has been around 20 percent for us, the way your roster changes every year, and that will probably hold true this year. Weíre a draft and develop football team, just the way we always teach and program everything to the youngest guy to make sure everyoneís given an opportunity to make our 53. Iím thinking weíll definitely be in that position again.Ē

McCarthyís message couldnít have been more direct. The promise of a 20 percent churn in the roster means at least 11 players on the current team will be gone.

But his estimate was actually low. Since 2007 the Packersí year-ending final roster, compared to the previous season, has turned over at a rate exceeding 30 percent. If that keeps up, there could be at least 16 or more new faces on the 2013 team.

Hereís a rundown by position of how the roster could change next season:

Running back

There is virtually no chance the Packers keep Ryan Grant. They didnít want him last season and only signed him in December out of desperation due to injuries. Meanwhile, the Packers have nothing to lose by offering Cedric Benson another one-year, minimum salary contract. If he bombs in training camp the Packers walk away no worse for the wear. Speculation surrounds John Kuhnís future, but chances are good he milks one more year out of his soon-to-be 31-year-old body.

Wide receiver

So long, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. It sure has been nice knowing you. It wasnít that long ago they were starters. Now one is a casualty of the salary cap (Jennings) and the other the victim of Father Time (Driver). Jarrett Boykin or a hotshot draft choice could assume the No. 4 receiver role behind Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones.

Tight ends

Rumors of Jermichael Finleyís departure have in all likelihood been greatly exaggerated. Some prematurely said last season the Packers didnít want him back. With the projected loss of Jennings, the offense will need playmakers and the Packers would be foolish to let Finley walk.

Offensive line

The Jeff Saturday experiment at center didnít work and he has called it a career after 14 NFL seasons, which leaves the door wide open for Evan Dietrich-Smith. If Bryan Bulaga makes a full recovery from his hip injury, and the Packers mean it when they say they will play their five best offensive linemen, then it might be time to make Bulaga the left tackle of the present and future.

Quarterbacks

The only burning question is whether B.J. Coleman can beat out Graham Harrell for the backup job behind Aaron Rodgers.

Defensive line

Ryan Pickett canít last forever but might have one good year left in the tank. Still, the Packers need reinforcements through the draft, and youngsters like Mike Neal, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels must step up their games.

Linebackers

A.J. Hawk has been written off on numerous occasions during his seven-year career, but now his Packers future might legitimately be in doubt unless he takes a pay cut. Brad Jones was serviceable, but whether he was good enough to earn a new contract is open to debate. Erik Walden was too erratic, Dezman Moses too young, and Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry, Frank Zombo and Terrell Manning too dinged up. All of which is to say that Clay Matthews, after all these years, still needs help. Itís high time Ted Thompson shores up this position.

Defensive backs

The aging Charles Woodson isnít worth $10 million next season, but if he settled for roughly half that amount the Packers would be wise to keep him for one more year. Tramon Williams isnít much of a tackler but can still cover, a skill that shouldnít be underestimated in a pass-happy league. The future looks bright with some young and hungry cornerbacks on the rise. But what the defense has lacked since Nick Collinsí career-ending injury in 2011 is a safety that can knock the snot out of people. Thatís another project for Thompson to work on.

Specialists

For all his struggles last season Mason Crosby still possesses a big leg, but the Packers need to bring in some training camp competition to sharpen him up. Despite an inexcusable turnover in the playoff loss to the 49ers, Jeremy Ross still looks good enough to assume Cobbís return duties.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
15%
572 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
22%
850 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
27%
1011 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
1268 votes

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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