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With the Detroit Lions’ mid-season collapse and some late-game heroics by the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers down the stretch, Green Bay was able to rally to win another NFC North crown. But after first-round exit in the postseason and with some major decisions in free agency, the Pack have their work cut out for them if they want to repeat in 2014.
Defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are both set to hit free agency, while the back end of their defensive secondary could lose both Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. At safety, neither M.D. Jennings nor Morgan Burnett are even average players.
With so many needs on the defensive side of the ball, it’ll be hard to predict what the team does with the No. 21 pick. Should they choose to find a new top corner, they could have their pick of either Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard, Nos. 1 and 1A in this year’s draft. Gilbert would give the Packers a playmaker in the secondary, which has been lacking since Charles Woodson’s departure. Dennard is a lockdown cover corner who can contribute as soon as Week 1.
If neither of the top two corners are around Green Bay could choose to address safety first. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a true center fielder in the defensive backfield and a sure tackler in the open field, while Calvin Pryor was a jack-of-all-trades at Louisville with tremendous instincts. Or the team could cross their fingers and hope Jimmie Ward falls to them in Round 2.
The team drafted Datone Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft but he was unable to contribute much in his rookie campaign. The team may look to add a veteran end in free agency and address tackle through the draft. Perhaps Louis Nix III could fall to the Pack in the first round to help replace Pickett; he’s been compared to Vince Wilfork. Or the team can wait for an Aaron Donald, a Dominique Easley,or Will Sutton. Donald was a disruptive pass-rusher as a 3-technique, while Easley was considered a first-round talent before injuries derailed his senior season. There are some concerns about Sutton’s size, but when in shape Sutton can be a force in the interior of the line.
Finally, while Green Bay obviously has no glaring need at quarterback with Rodgers in place, his injury this past season showed the team could afford to add a backup. A late-round selection like Zach Mettenberger, Tajh Boyd or Logan Thomas could be worthwhile.
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