As I mentioned in the opening article of this series, the Packers are not in need of much coming off an 11-5 season. However, there are a few positions that do need improvement if the team is to take the next step and win the division to shut up all those Thompson-hating Favre apologists.
In part one, I dealt with our one glaring weakness. Now, we can focus on an area that may not be a weakness, but could be a true strength--linebacker.
Let's start on the outside: Aaron Kampman is gone, and while rookie seventh-round draft pick Brad Jones filled in adequately, the position is generally one of a playmaker in the 3-4 defense. The Packers will help their secondary greatly if they can add a bookmark backer to partner with future Pro Bowler Clay Matthews.
He doesn't have to be the impact player Clay is, but he should be better than Jones. Jones may well improve, which is more than can be said for others on the roster--if a veteran could not out-perform a rookie last season, how will they when he has starting experience under his belt--but that is not something a potential Super Bowl contender should roll the dice on.
There are a few options in free agency, like Keith Bulluck and Jason Taylor. Either would be dynamic, but both are on the wrong end of 30 and would command too much salary for Ted Thompson to go after.
Most others still available who fit Thompson's mold are not going to be huge upgrades, especially as they get used to the Packers schemes; I would have pursued 29-year old Tully Banta-Cain, but perhaps Thompson did and Banta-Cain wanted to stay in New England, or got more money to.
The team could also look to upgrade at inside linebacker and move A.J. Hawk back to the outside. But there are not any players left that will be an upgrade over Hawk on the inside, and no one will fall far enough for the team to draft. Moreover, Hawk was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2009 after moving to the inside, and that seems a better fit for him.
The next logical answer is to look for an outside linebacker in the draft. To get a coveted impact backer, usually you need a first-round pick. Brandon Graham would be a great fit if he dropped further than anticipated: Scouts, Inc. ranks him 18th, and the Packers do not pick until 23rd. However, if the Packers are going to trade up five spots, why not make it seven for a position of greater need, offensive tackle, and get Trent Williams?
An easier grab might be Sergio Kindle of Texas, who is the 21st-ranked player on their list--he is smallish, but so was Matthews. For this reason, there is not much point to trading up to get him because there are other options; if he does not fall to Green Bay, Matthews' former USC teammate Everson Griffen is athletic and about the same size as Graham, and could likely make the transition to outside linebacker.
While this is the second biggest need for the Packers, I understand Thompson not wanting to saddle the team with a large contract extending past the uncapped year for a big-name, aging star. If Green Bay cannot get a suitable offensive tackle in the first round, this is the next position to fill, and I believe we will see either Kindle or Griffen in green and gold next season, pushing Jones for playing time.