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Monday, March 07, 2005

The Die Is Cast

by Mark Quarderer
PackerChatters Staff

In 2000, when Mike Sherman was hired to take over a team which had fallen from 11-5 to 8-8, he and Ron Wolf surveyed the landscape and said..."Rebuild the offense first."

And with good reason. The line had looked terrible at times in 1999, affording Favre the worst protection of his career. Dorsey Levens couldn't seem to shake off the injuries and regain his 1997 form. TE Mark Chmura was dealing with his own injury issues and had added insult to injury by getting involved in a legal imbroglio that ended his career in Green Bay.

So they drafted offense. Bubba Franks, Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Rondell Mealy and a host of forgotten WRs. They got a couple of defenders, too, most notably Nail Diggs and KGB, but they were later round selections. The emphasis was on offense, specifically, the offensive line and the receiving corps.

Fast forward 5 years.....new GM Thompson surveys the landscape and decides......"We need to fix our cap situation....rebuild the interior of our offensive line........fix the secondary".

None of this should have really come as a surprise to people who were paying attention. The salary cap situation had been stretched tighter than one of Pamela Anderson's halter tops for years in order to carry out the organizational goal of "resigning our own guys". Clifton got a nice payday....Ferguson was extended....Harris got (over)paid.....KGB signed a very nice contract for a situational pass rusher.

But the bills were coming due: Mike Wahle's $11 million dollar payout this year necessitated a decision.....do we continue to stretch the cap to resign our own guys, or do we change the way we do business?

It's pretty clear what decision has been made. But making the decision to let young, talented starters go (we've already lost Wahle , Rivera, Navies, Sharper....and could lose Franks, Kampman, and Reugammer. That's seven starters, eight if you include Hawthorne, who started the first several games last year), means you've got to strike gold in the draft. The past several years, the Packers rolled the dice on draft day, trading up to get players who they thought might be big time contributors. Some of those gambles have paid off.......Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson....but many have not, like James Lee, Kenny Peterson, BJ Sander, Hunter Hillenmeyer, etc. But when we were returning our own guys, we could afford to miss in the draft. We don't have that luxury anymore. If we don't land several starters and quality contributors on draft day, we're going to miss the guys who have left and the team is going to slide down in an improving NFC North.

So we've fixed our cap situation. And we've set on a course that will require us to rebuild the interior of our offensive line as well as bring in several new faces in the secondary.

We're going to need to draft a guard, possibly on the first day, even if we resign Reugammer. Morley needs a year to develop yet, according to all reports. If Barry can play tackle, you could slide Tauscher down. But the best scenario would be to draft a guard who could start and resign Reugammer.

And we need two new starting safeties. I was hoping that we wouldn't have to start two rookie safeties but if we have to, we have to. Farther down the list of needs we have a need for a dependable #2 running back to take some of the load off of Green and give us a viable option if we don't want to extend Green past this season.

Linebacker, DL, TE......and of course, the eternal quest for the "heir" at QB.

But the bottom line is.......this team needs to have a helluva draft or else they're going to be less competitive this season. TT has rolled the dice......I hope he doesn't come up craps.

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