Tag:Green Bay Packers
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:05 pm
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2012 Free Agency Previews: NFC North

It's understandable if you can't see him at first glance, but that's Driver making the Lambeau Leap. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Bears

In Week 11, after beating the Chargers 31-20, the Bears were 7-3, and though we didn’t expect Chicago to catch the Packers in the NFC North, we thought the Bears had a good shot to land a wild card playoff spot. And then, Jay Cutler broke his thumb. And then Matt Forte tore his MCL. And then backup quarterback Caleb Hanie didn’t produce much of anything. And then, the Bears lost five-straight to fall out of the postseason race, including an overtime loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos (thanks Marion Barber!), leading to the firing of general manager Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz. 

So yeah, not a great end to the season in Chicago.

Free agents of note
The Bears have franchise-tagged running back Matt Forte, so they don’t have to worry about whether they can sign him to a long-term deal for the time being … If defensive end Israel Idonije wants to return, as he’s said in the past, he provides solid play on the defensive line … Tight end Kellen Davis is a candidate to return, simply because there’s not a great free agent market for tight ends … Defensive tackle Anthony Adams already has been let go.

Needs
The Bears are in bad need of a receiver. Especially considering Forte was the team’s leading pass-catcher and considering Johnny Knox and Roy Williams -- two actual receivers -- combined for just 74 catches and four touchdowns. That’s not so good. If Jay Cutler had some help from his receivers, he could be a top-10 quarterback in the league.

Chicago also needs help in its secondary with a number of Bears cornerbacks on the free agent market. Only Charles Tillman is a sure bet to return, and though he’s a solid player, Chicago could become a top-10 defense if it shores up the backside of its defense.

Plus, we saw just how important a backup quarterback is for the Bears. With Josh McCown and Caleb Hanie probably not returning, the Bears will need to find Cutler’s backup.

Targets
The Bears don’t have a true No. 1 receiver, but that would change very quickly if they could land San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, who would be a great catch for Chicago. The Bears are going to have to spend some money in this area, and they should have the cash to land a top-notch receiver. Texans defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams would look good on the other end of the line from Julius Peppers, but there’s probably little chance the Bears would want to sink so much money into two defensive ends. Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan might not be a bad idea at cornerback, if Chicago feels like paying top money to one of the better guys in the league.

Packers

Most of the way through the regular season, Green Bay was the big-time favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Packers offense was ridiculously good -- quarterback Aaron Rodgers had one of the best seasons by a quarterback ever -- and though the defense clearly had problems, we thought Green Bay’s offense more than made up for that big deficiency. Hell, even when Matt Flynn played, he did nothing but set franchise records in passing yards and touchdowns for a single game.

And then the Packers played the Giants in the postseason, and though we thought Jason Pierre-Paul was a bit crazy to guarantee a victory against Green Bay, that’s exactly what New York accomplished, upsetting the defender Super Bowl champions. To make matters worse, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin left after the season to take over the Dolphins organization.

Free agents of note
One of the most popular free agents on the market is quarterback Matt Flynn, who has put together two amazing games as Green Bay’s backup in the past two years. The Packers could have franchise-tagged him, but there was no chance they were going to sink that much money into a backup quarterback. Better to let somebody else make that mistake … Already, the Packers have wrapped up tight end Jermichael Finley by signing him to a two-year, $15 million deal ... There’s a good chance the Packers won’t re-sign running back Ryan Grant … It sounds like Green Bay might be content to let go of center Scott Wells, though he’s been very solid his entire career.

Needs
Truthfully, the Packers don’t have a huge number of high-profile needs. If Grant leaves -- which seems like a pretty good bet -- they’ll need a running back to go with James Starks. The thing with Starks is that he wasn’t all that good last season. Not that the Packers necessarily need a big-time running back, because as long as Rodgers is on the team, the offense should be fine. But still, Starks probably won’t be asked to carry most of the load by himself.

The Packers had the worst pass defense in the league, but they also have talent in the secondary. Besides, that statistic is skewed because of how high-powered Green Bay’s offense was, meaning opponents had to throw the ball in order to try to keep up with the Packers. But Green Bay would do well to upgrade the linebacker corps with A.J. Hawk struggling and with Erik Walden most likely not returning.

Targets
If the Packers decide Wells isn’t worth paying, they could go after Texans center Chris Myers. The two sides apparently met at the NFL combine.

Lions

If there was ever a time for an NFL analyst to make Detroit his “sleeper” team, it was 2011. With a tough defense featuring Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Cliff Avril and a return to health for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who could toss the ball with impunity to Calvin Johnson, it was an easy call to predict the Lions would make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

And that’s exactly what Detroit did this season, as Stafford and Johnson overcame a tepid running game and the defense was good enough to set the Lions on a five-game winning streak to open the season and to win three of their last four to earn a wild-card berth. Although Green Bay will always make it tough, the Lions could continue making waves in the NFC North.

Free agents of note
The Lions made the right move by franchise-tagging Cliff Avril after his monster season -- it’s the first time they’ve used the tag since 2007. Now, they need to sign him to a long-term deal to make him happy. They also need to make sure he doesn’t hold out. … Shaun Hill is one of those solid backups every NFL team wants to have. He probably won’t go anywhere. If you consider Stafford’s injury history, there’s a decent chance Hill will play in Detroit anyway … It seems like there’s a good chance linebacker Stephen Tulloch will leave for Philadelphia.

Needs
As good as Stafford was last season, throwing for 5,038 yards, the Lions running game struggled. Jahvid Best and rookie Mikel Leshoure couldn’t stay on the field with injuries, meaning the Lions had to go with journeyman Kevin Smith to handle most of the carries. Though Smith, who was out of the league until Detroit called him, was solid, he’s also a free agent (along with Jerome Harrison). If Best and Leshoure are healthy, the Lions running game should be fine.

Detroit also needs to shore up its pass defense. The Lions ranked 22nd in the league against the pass, and you really saw them exploited in the playoff game against the Packers when Rodgers threw for 466 yards.

Targets
If the Detroit doesn’t re-sign left tackle Jeff Backus, the Lions could go after Jared Gaither. Since they also need help in the secondary, signing New Orleans’ Tracy Porter, New York’s Aaron Ross or Pittsburgh’s William Gay could be a good idea.

Vikings

In Leslie Frazier’s first full season as head coach, the season went relatively brutal for Minnesota. The Donovan McNabb acquisition backfired, and first-round pick Christian Ponder, who replaced him, didn’t fare much better. In fact, the best quarterback performances came when Joe Webb, who originally was supposed to be a receiver in the NFL, led the team up and down the field. Making matters worse, Adrian Peterson sustained an ankle injury, came back too soon and then tore up his knee. At this point, it’s unclear if Peterson -- rewarded with a ridiculous contract before 2011 -- will be ready to play at the beginning of next season.

One interesting note for Minnesota going forward. In the offseason, the organization hired Rick Spielman to be the general manager, though he didn’t have much success as the Dolphins GM and he contributed mightily to Minnesota’s 3-13 season last year. But before, the Vikings had shared authority with Frazier and other team executives. Now, Spielman will control the player personnel and Frazier will control his coaching staff. If Minnesota fails, expect Spielman to get more of the blame.

Free agents of note
Longtime guard Steve Hutchinson is likely on his way out because he’s 34 and very expensive for the team’s salary cap needs … The Vikings very well could lose Visanthe Shiancoe, whose stock as one of the better tight ends in the league has taken a hit. They’d better hope Kyle Rudolph is ready to go … The Vikings would like to keep linebackers E.J. Henderson and Erin Henderson.

Needs
The offensive line badly needs to be upgraded, and that’s probably most likely going to happen in the draft when (we assume) Minnesota takes USC’s Matt Kalil with the No. 3 pick and moves last year’s left tackle, Charlie Johnson -- still a dependable lineman -- to one of the guard positions. So, the Vikings will upgrade the left tackle spot and one of the guards spots.

The secondary, which intercepted only eight passes last year (tied for the worst total in the league) needs to be improved as well. Minnesota would do well to find somebody who can force turnovers. Somebody like Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan or Kansas City’s Brandon Carr.

Targets
If, for some reason, the team doesn’t draft Kalil, it could go after Jared Gaither, whose career was boasted by his performance in San Diego at the end of the season. Assuming the Vikings don’t want to pay tons of money to Saints guard Carl Nicks, the Vikings could go after a guy like Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs, who would be less expensive. The Vikings would also prefer to upgrade their receiving corps to give Percy Harvin some help. Pierre Garcon and Mario Manningham might be two options.

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Posted on: March 7, 2012 4:27 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Michael Philbin was intoxicated, had marijuana

PhilbinBy Josh Katzowitz

About two months after the body of Michael Philbin, the son of new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, was positively identified after he drowned in the Fox River in Oshkosh, Wis., toxicology reports show Michael was intoxicated and had marijuana in his system.

According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, Philbin’s blood alcohol level was 0.176, more than two times the legal limit, when he fell through the ice and into the freezing river.

His death has been ruled accidental.

"The loss of a child and sibling is absolutely heartbreaking to a family," Joe Philbin said in a statement released in conjunction with the Oshkosh police department. "Ours is no different. We hope that the results of the recent toxicology report serves as a reminder to us all that the mixture of alcohol and marijuana can be extremely dangerous, potentially even fatal.

"Michael was alone when this incident occurred. For us as a family this has been the most difficult thing to deal with. Had he been with someone this would have been avoided. The message is clear: practice moderation in the consumption of alcohol, avoid illegal drugs, and if someone appears to be in need of assistance, help them so that this situation doesn’t occur again."

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:28 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:40 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Offensive line rankings

Is Nicks, our top free-agent offensive lineman, done hoisting Brees? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling lists of the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the offensive linemen.

It's not the sexiest position in the NFL -- just ask Andre "C-Cup" Smith -- and there's a feeling in the NFL these days, whether it's right or wrong, that offensive line is becoming a fungible position. It's OK to laugh at that idea, because a few years ago, wide receiver was the same way. It'll shift back and forth in the next few years. Right now, you'll pay a nice price to land a wideout and offensive linemen are relatively cheap.

Some of the guys on the list below won't be cheap however. There's a pretty nice group of offensive linemen hitting the market this year, and teams might be wise to avoid trying to race in the free-agent market and focus their efforts on improving protection.

1. Carl Nicks

Breakdown: Nicks is probably the best guard in the league, and it doesn't help that his teammate, Jahri Evans, signed a $56.7 million deal for the next seven years. Especially since Nicks wants more money. With Drew Brees franchised, the Saints are essentially forced to let Nicks and top wideout Marques Colston both hit the market and good luck bringing Nicks back. He's the only guy who can hurt the guard-related stock for Stanford's David DeCastro.
Potential Landing Spots: Saints, Cowboys, Chargers, 49ers

2. Chris Myers

Breakdown: Honestly if Meyers left it would be a) a huge mistake for the Texans and b) a big surprise. Everyone talks about Mario Williams as the guy they need to re-sign, but Meyers is substantially more valuable to what they do (especially with the defensive personnel vs. the offensive personnel). Houston's offensive line is by far and away the most underrated in the NFL and while Eric Winston is the anchor, Meyers is the leader. I'd like to think that Houston won't let him walk, simply because the AFC South window is too big not to keep making a run at another division title.
Potential Landing Spots: Texans, Packers, Ravens

3. Jared Gaither

Breakdown: Gaither was a supplemental draft pick with the Ravens in 2007, washed out, went to the Chiefs and then looked finished in the NFL at an early age. But he was a big factor in revitalizing the Chargers run late in the season; after Marcus McNeil went down, Philip Rivers was offered no protection until Gaither came into town. The Chargers want to keep him, but this is a very shallow class for free-agent tackles, and Gaither could pull in good money on the market. He's got gobs of talent and is still young, but keeping him motivated is a concern.
Potential Landing Spots: Lions, Chargers, Cardinals, Vikings, Rams

4. Ben Grubbs

Breakdown: Grubbs, the Ravens 2007 first-round pick, made the first Pro Bowl of his career in 2011. He's a free agent only because Baltimore's had to use their franchise tag on Ray Rice and couldn't commit to the guard. The Ravens still want to re-sign Grubbs, and that could happen between now and March 13 when free agency begins. Working in the Ravens favor is the deep nature of this crop of free-agent guards.
Potential Landing Spots: Ravens, Bengals, Giants, Bears, 49ers

4. Scott Wells

Breakdown: Wells and the Packers are in the middle of a headed non-discussion about a new contract. Wells believes he deserves big money, and the Packers believe he deserves the type of money that a shorter, 31-year-old center would get on an open market. But Wells isn't just any center; he's proven his worth in working with different quarterbacks in Green Bay and helping to develop Aaron Rodgers. Wells made his first Pro Bowl in 2011 and has missed just one game since 2006. He won't want to leave Green Bay but he also won't take less than he's worth. It wouldn't be surprising to see him move closer to Tennessee (he's from there and played for the Vols in college) either.
Potential Landing Spots: Packers, Texans, Broncos

5. Demetrius Bell

Breakdown: Bell's been playing football for less than 10 years, but he's clearly quite good at it. Or at least good enough to keep being named the Bills left tackle. The seventh-round pick out of Northwestern State could come back to Buffalo, but if there are teams in need of offensive line help, there's a good chance he'll bail. The offensive line market is odd this year, in that it appears to be guard and center heavy. The tackles aren't exactly stacked and that could result in a nice deal for a guy like Bell.
Potential Landing Spots: Lions, Bills, Chargers, Cardinals, Vikings, Rams

6. Evan Mathis

Breakdown: Mathis hasn't started 16 games since coming into the NFL. But he's coming off easily the best season of his career and has said he'll take a discount to remain with the Eagles under the tutelage of Howard Mudd. Mathis said he'd work for "$20 and a pizza," but the reality is he got paid the league minimum last year, and at 30, he'd be insane not to maximize his money-making ability.
Potential Landing Spots: Eagles, Saints, Seahawks, 49ers

8. Geoff Schwartz

Breakdown: Schwartz played all over the line for Carolina in 2010 before missing all of 2011 with injury. It'll be interesting to see Ron Rivera's coaching staff handles the offensive line: Schwartz and Jeff Otah are holdovers from a previous regime and might not necessarily stick. But Schwartz, at 25, would be a nice, versatile and discounted signing for someone who needs help and depth across the line.
Potential Landing Spots: Giants, Bills, Panthers, Seahawks

9. Dan Koppen

Breakdown: You know what's weird? Everyone's willing to toss out the "system" word as it relates to anything with the Patriots quarterback but don't bother discussing how their offensive line, which features a pretty cohesive unit, helps Tom Brady's success. Whatever, it's fine. That's the "Patriot Way." But Koppen isn't going to get the franchise tag like fellow lineman Logan Mankins and he stands to make more money for a team that needs a center.
Potential Landing Spots: Packers, Ravens

10. Jake Scott

Breakdown: The good news is this: Scott played for an offensive-line monster in Mike Munchak. Munchak consistently creates cohesive offensive units that over-produce relative to their value. But the bad news is that Scott's 30 (not too old) and if you bring him into another organization, he's not going to have that same Titans cohesiveness. Is that overplayed? Yeah, maybe. But Scott will have bigger questions when it comes to Chris Johnson's production in 2011, whether that's fair or not.
Potential Landing Spots: Titans, Saints, Eagles, Seahawks

HONORABLE MENTION

Jeff Backus, Nick Hardwick, Vernon Carey, Anthony Collins

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 12:19 pm
 

Packers net about $67 million from stock sale

Green Bay stockBy Josh Katzowitz

You can always count on the Packers owners to make sure their team has enough money to help pay for whatever improvement projects need to be financed for Lambeau Field. And I’m not talking about the owners who actually have a vote in how the team is run.

No, I’m talking about the Packers fans, who bought more than 268,000 shares of stock the team put on sale to help pay for a proposed $143 million expansion of Lambeau. Paying $250 apiece for the stock certificate (plus $25 for handling) that gives them a non-voting ownership stake in the team, the Packers raised about $67 million from the sale.

And while we can debate how much value Green Bay fans are receiving from plunking down that much money for one share of “worthless” stock -- and really, I’m not sure there’s any convincing those fans that this is anything but a great deal -- there’s little doubt that Packers fans are some of the best fans in football. Because they so willingly donate their money to the team so they can, in fact, be a part of that team.

NFL News, Notes
Mark Murphy, the team president and CEO, called the results of the sale “humbling and overwhelming” and “just unbelievable” and told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “The stock sale really allowed us to borrow less and gave us much more flexibility.”

About half of the new sales came from the state of Wisconsin, but states like Illinois (8.5 percent of the total sales), California (8.5 percent), Minnesota (5 percent) and Texas (5 percent) certainly made their contributions known. Even Canada got into the act, as that country’s citizens bought 2,000 shares.

In all, the paper reports that the team added 250,000 new stockholders, bringing the overall total to 360,000 -- more than the combined populations of Madison and Green Bay, Wis.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 4:16 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 4:49 pm
 

NFL kicks off Wednesday 9/5 to avoid Obama speech

The NFL's popular, but not that popular. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

For the past few years, the NFL's kicked off each season with a Thursday-night game featuring the previous year's Super Bowl champion. This year, though, the kickoff will be on a Wednesday, to avoid Barack Obama's scheduled speech at the Democratic National Convention, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Tuesday.

Latest NFL News, Notes

The specific Wednesday in question September 5, 2012 and it will feature the Giants, as expected. It'll take place on NBC, beginning at 8:30 pm ET, with an NFL Kickoff 2012 special airing at 7:30 pm ET.

Currently the Giants are scheduled to host the Saints, Buccaneers, Browns, Steelers, their NFC East division foes and ... the Packers. Green Bay, as the 2010 champion, makes the most sense as a potential opening game for the Giants.

The NFL has yet to announce that however, but made the information about the move from a Thursday to a Wednesday public early on.

So much for the idea that the NFL was more powerful than the President.

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Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:45 am
 

Donald Driver on 'Dancing With the Stars'

Driver was already a fan favorite before appearing on 'Dancing With the Stars.' (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

It's apparently an aging wide receiver tradition to appear on Dancing With the Stars these days: Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers will fill the "football slot" on the 14th season of ABC's inexplicably popular reality show about famous people dancing.

The announcement was made on Good Morning America Tuesday, and Driver will join a group of folks that includes Jack Wagner of "Melrose Place," Jaleel White of "Family Matters," and Melissa Gilbert of "Little House on the Prairie." (This was a white-hot group in 1999.)

Drivers, who recently re-worked his contract with the Packers, will be paired with professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd, who's returning for her second season as a pro on DWTS.

He'll look to follow in the footsteps of Steelers wideout Hines Ward, who won Season 12 of DWTS. Jason Taylor, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Chad Ochocinco, Kurt Warner and Jerry Rice have all appeared on the show previously.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:00 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 1:50 am
 

McCarthy on Flynn: 'It's his time to play'

After playing behind Rodgers, Flynn's in line for a starting job in 2012. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

As is the case most years, the 2012 combine is all about the quarterback. Sure, there are plenty of other players to evaluate but the NFL is a passing league. To win consistently, teams need franchise quarterbacks. (Just take a look at the recent Super Bowl winners for proof -- Eli Manning (twice), Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger (twice), Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.)

While much of the focus falls on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, there has been plenty of talk about current NFL QBs -- old faces possibly playing in new places in 2012. Peyton Manning tops that list even if no one can speak to when he'll be healthy enough to return to the field.

After Manning, there's Matt Flynn who has often been compared to Kevin Kolb for his lack of on-the-job training followed by what's sure to be a big payday to be some team's starter. The comparisons are probably unfair, especially if Flynn can play in a system that fits his strengths (like, say, Miami).

First things first, though; after the Packers signed tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year deal this week, the speculation was that the organization would then franchise Flynn with the plan to then tag and trade him before March 5.

On Friday, Packers general manager Ted Thompson wasn't interested in speaking in particulars, telling the media that “I’m not going to stand here and tell all the 31 other teams what I think about Matt Flynn.”

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, however, was much more forthcoming.

“Matt’s had a chance to play versus New England (in 2010), versus Detroit (in 2011), so based on what I’ve seen in the every day — classroom, practice field — he’s ready,” McCarthy said via NFL.com. “It’s his time to play.”

“You don’t ever know if that backup quarterback can take that next step and go out and play 16 games. I know mentally, he’s ready; emotionally, he’s definitely ready,” McCarthy continued. “But until you play the position and go play those 1,100, 1,200 snaps, that’s when you really find out. I think Matt’s ready for that.”

On Thursday, NFL Films' Greg Cosell made the case for Flynn to the Dolphins and it came down to this: "It would make good sense for Flynn to join his former offensive coordinator in Miami. [New head coach Joe] Philbin understands from personal experience Flynn’s strengths and limitations. If he gets the chance, he will take a page from the Bill Walsh book, and cast Flynn in his rightful role: an efficient passer in a multi-dimensional passing game in which the scheme rules, not the quarterback."

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is reportedly "infatuated" with Manning but Sports Illustrated's Peter King thinks Peyton-to-South Beach doesn't make a lot of sense.

"As one GM told me today, problem with Peyton to Miami is Philbin wants to control his team and his offense -- not cede it to Manning," King tweeted Friday.

General manager Jeff Ireland said the organization would be okay with a "short-term solution" at quarterback but added that "Obviously you'd like a long-term solution, but you can do both."

The pool of free-agent quarterbacks is pretty thin. In fact, if you're willing to accept that Manning's future remains uncertain, Flynn is easily Miami's best option. If they agree, then the question becomes whether they can get him for a good price.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:26 pm
 

Report: Packers to cut Clifton; redo Driver deal

Cliftonem>By Josh Katzowitz

With the Packers recently agreeing to a two-year contract worth $15 million with tight end Jermichael Finley and with the team trying to figure out what to do with backup quarterback Matt Flynn, Yahoo Sports is reporting that Green Bay will cut left tackle Chad Clifton and restructure receiver Donald Driver’s contract.

If the Packers were to release Clifton and Driver, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out that the team would save about $10 million in the salary cap, which could be enough for it to franchise-tag Flynn (for the likely purposes of trading him somewhere else).

Clifton represents $5.7 million of that salary cap total, but assuming Driver restructures his contract, the Packers will add significantly to the reported $10-13 million they’re already supposedly under the cap. Tagging Flynn, meanwhile, would cost about $14 million for 2012.

While Clifton has been a key component of the Green Bay offense since the 2000 season, he only played six regular-season games last year because of a hamstring injury. Though Clifton returned for the playoffs, Marshall Newhouse played well enough in replacing Clifton that the Packers must believe he’s ready to take over the job full time.

Newhouse wasn’t great, especially in early performances, but compared to Clifton’s $5.5 million salary, the Packers could be looking at Newhouse’s $490,000 base salary for 2012 and figuring that Clifton is not 10 times the player Newhouse is.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com