Packers strike deals with their draft picks
Green Bay – The Green Bay Packers used their last week before the start of organized team activities to finalize signing their draft class.
Two days after signing first-round cornerback Jaire Alexander, the Packers announced they signed secondround cornerback Josh Jackson and third-round inside linebacker Oren Burks.
Alexander, the 18th overall pick, received a four-year contract with an approximated total value of $12.1 million, per Spotrac. It also comes with a fifthyear team option.
Jackson’s four-year deal represents almost $6.3 million in total value, according to Spotrac. He was the 45th overall pick and fourth cornerback drafted last month.
Burks’ four-year deal is expected to have a total value of approximately $3.3 million, per Spotrac.
Before this week, the Packers previously announced the signing of fourthround receiver J’Mon Moore, fifthround offensive lineman Cole Madison, fifth-round punter JK Scott, fifth-round receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, sixth-round receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, seventh-round defensive lineman James Looney, seventh-round
long snapper Hunter Bradley and seventh-round linebacker Kendall Donnerson. Vogel to Browns: Former Packers punter Justin Vogel, released May 4 in the aftermath of Green Bay drafting Scott, was claimed off waivers May 7 by Cleveland. Vogel set a Packers record as a rookie last season for net punting average (41.6). He joins former Packers cornerback Damarious Randall and executives John Dorsey, Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith in Cleveland. Vogel’s future with the organization was upended the moment general manager Brian Gutekunst used a fifth- round draft pick on Scott, a four-year starter at Alabama. Even if Vogel went through training camp, and even if he kicked beautifully on every attempt, the chances of him making the 53-man roster over a fifth-round pick were always going to be slim. Vogel asked for his release, and Gutekunst honored the request.
“A lot of things go into those decisions,” McCarthy said.
“You go through all the different options you go through in camp. There is a fairness to Justin to give him an opportunity out there today as opposed to
come August (during roster cuts). You weigh all those.”
Meanwhile, former Packers backup quarterback Joe Callahan signed with the Eagles.
Grateful for the advice: Alexander, the Packers’ first-round pick, spoke to one of his former cornerbacks coaches at Louisville. The coach told Alexander he was proud of his former pupil and excited to watch his career unfold at Lambeau Field.
The coach’s name is Terrell Buckley, a first-round pick by the Packers in 1992.
“He was telling me congrats,” Alexan- der said after a practice this month inside the Don Hutson Center. “He said he likes what I’ve been doing.”
Buckley, 46, is now the cornerbacks coach at Mississippi State, where he works alongside former Packers wide receivers coach Luke Getsy, now the offensive coordinator and receivers coach for the Bulldogs. But from 1992-’94 he was a cornerback for the Packers whose tenure in Green Bay was both brief and disappointing. Buckley had 10 interceptions in three years but his diminutive stature — he’s only 5-9 — led to an unwritten rule that would be passed down by former general manager Ron Wolf: The Packers don’t draft cornerbacks smaller than 5-10½.
Which makes it fitting that from 2015-’16, the first two years of Alexander’s collegiate career, it was Buckley who was responsible for molding a player the Packers hope can transform their secondary. Especially since Alexander, who stands 5-10¼, breaks the rule created for his coach.
“T-Buck, he taught me a lot of technique,” Alexander said. “As far as swagger goes, I tell T-Buck all the time, ‘I got my swag from T-Buck.’ So he knows that. He played with some swagger too, now, if you watched him.”
Alexander said Buckley described what it’s like to play in Green Bay, from the strong and supportive fan base to the community itself. But even Buckley’s pep talk couldn’t prepare Alexander for his first glimpse of Wisconsin.
“Never in my life did I think I’d be
here in Wisconsin, so it’s an experience,” Alexander said. “It’s definitely different. Even the plane ride coming in, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s so many fields and stuff.’ I don’t know what to expect. But it’s been pretty cool.”
Sheehy aboard: Former Wisconsin defensive end Conor Sheehy has signed as an undrafted free agent, the Packers said.
The 6-3, 295-pound Sheehy was a late addition to the Packers’ roster after two free agents who had agreed to sign were not added. The Packers never announced that Minnesota State–Morehead tight end Damon Gibson and Portland State cornerback Chris Seisay had signed, but their agents had confirmed reports they were headed to Green Bay.
It’s possible both failed their physicals.
Sheehy had taken a “local” pre-draft visit, which are limited to players who are from the Green Bay area or attended school in the state. They must pay for their own travel to the facility.
Sheehy, who attended Milwaukee’s Marquette University High School, started 33 games for the Badgers and finished with 95 tackles (13½ for loss).
Old college try: The Packers had 16 players take part in the rookie orientation on a tryout basis earlier this month, including former Wisconsin safety Joe Ferguson. The others were quarterback Nick Stevens (Colorado State); cornerbacks Mike Minter (Middle Tennessee State) and Tray Mitchell (Eastern Illinois); running backs Sherman Badie (Tulane) and Anthony Philyaw (Howard); fullback Caleb Melton (Cal Poly); tight ends Marcus Bryan (UNC-Wilmington) and Ryan Smith (Miami, Ohio); linebackers Greer Martini (Notre Dame), Derek McCartney (Colorado), Jacob Onyechi (Air Force) and Xavier Thigpen (Southern Mississippi); end Mack Weaver (Eastern Illinois); guard R.J. Prince (North Carolina) and tackle Sunny Odogwu (UCLA). After the tryouts, the Packers announced the signings of two of those players: Martini and Smith. Ferguson started only a handful of games at Wisconsin and posted modest stats: 48 total tackles and four interceptions in four years. But the tryout offered a chance for the former Badger to impress the coaches and scouts.
“I have great respect for the program and Barry Alvarez and Paul (Chryst) and the whole bunch down there,” McCarthy said. “I’m glad they’re here. Because I know for a long time (former Packers general manager) Ted (Thompson) was scared to death to bring one into the building. It’s great to have some Badgers in our program.
“I thought they did some really nice things. You have to be thinking about it, but you know they’re well-coached. You know they have some growth just because they’re young. But, yeah, you always like to see the hometown guys do a little better.” Burks’ skills suited for hybrid role: Just about the time the Packers were starting to integrate Sean Richardson into their defense as a third safety, the former Vanderbilt undrafted free agent injured a cervical disc for the second time and was put on injured reserve.
It was 2015 and defensive coordinator Dom Capers was using the 6-2, 216pound Richardson in a hybrid linebacker/safety position, a precursor to the role Morgan Burnett would play two seasons later.
In drafting Burks, the Vanderbilt inside linebacker the Packers selected in the third round this year, Green Bay coaches may be envisioning a bigger, quicker version of Richardson. The 6-3, 233-pound Burks played safety at Vanderbilt through his sophomore season and comes to the Packers with athletic traits similar to Richardson’s.
“Definitely versatility, my movement skills and just knowing the game from a lot of different perspectives,” Burks said of his skill set during a break at rookie orientation camp. “So that versatility, coming to linebacker, that’s a very big asset for me.”
What separates Burks from Richardson, besides 17 pounds, is lateral quickness. His times in the 20-yard shuttle and the three-cone drill at the combine were far better than Richardson’s despite the weight difference.
Burks started out playing both inside linebacker positions during rookie orientation and will likely stay there on the depth chart. But in reality, he’s probably going to be a bigger version of that hybrid player Capers was starting to employ.
New coordinator Mike Pettine is likely to find a place for Burks in nickel and dime situations if he isn’t a full-time starter.
“I really felt comfortable being around the ball and being able to be in on all the plays, with the pass and run defense as well,” Burks said of his senior year. “I really feel like my game got taken to the next level. My production went up.
“I was able to show how I played and run sideline to sideline, and also make plays.” Training day: Rookie wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown’s father is a two-time Mr. Universe, so it stands to reason that his son probably has learned a lot about weight training over the years.
On draft day, St. Brown said he played last season at Notre Dame at 203 pounds but had since put on 15 pounds and felt his 6-5 frame could carry even more. St. Brown said that despite his father
John’s experience, he did not intend to ask the Packers if he could follow his own strength and conditioning plan.
“I followed Notre Dame’s program,” St. Brown said. “No, I’ll do whatever they tell me to do.” Another opening on scouting staff: Already in need of replacements for two personnel executives who defected to Cleveland earlier this year, Gutekunst must find another scout as well.
Alonzo Dotson, a college scout for the Packers, is leaving the organization for a job with the New York Jets, a source confirmed. Dotson’s exact title with the Jets is unclear, though the franchise is in need of both a national scout and a director of college scouting, according to Neil Stratton of Inside The League.
Dotson joined the Packers in 2013 after two seasons with the Houston Cougars, where he worked with defensive quality control. His responsibilities with the Cougars included working with the defensive line and linebackers, coordinating the offensive scout team, identifying the personnel packages of opponents and various administrative duties.
The loss of Dotson follows the departures of executives Highsmith and Wolf, both of whom joined the Browns to work with Dorsey. They were two of the higher-ranking personnel men for general manager Ted Thompson, and Gutekunst said in January that he would need to hire reinforcements later this year.
“I think there will be some additions I’m sure at some point, probably after the draft when most of that movement happens,” Gutekunst said at the Senior Bowl. “We’ve got plenty of hands on deck right now, so I’m not worried about it right now. But at some point I’m sure we’ll have some movement, you know?”
While some of Gutekunst’s new hires will come from outside the organization, there is also the potential for internal promotion. Director of college scouting Jon-Eric Sullivan and director of pro personnel John Wojciechowski have taken on added responsibilities since the front office shakeup. Both men could be elevated to new titles if Gutekunst was pleased with their work during the pre-draft process.
Another candidate for promotion could be scouting assistant Brandian
Ross, a former safety who spent portions of two seasons with the Packers in 2011-’12. Ross came through the Packers’ scouting internship program last year and was hired full time by Gutekunst in
January, this after Thompson had already extended Ross’ internship to cover the entirety of last season. Elevating Ross to college scout, where he would replace Dotson, could be the logical next step in his development. Rodgers next up for deal after Ryan
gets extension: Gutekunst said in February he wanted to sign Aaron Rodgers to a contract extension as soon as possible. That time might be getting closer. A big hurdle was cleared May 3 when Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan agreed to a contract extension. ESPN reported that Ryan agreed to a five-year extension worth approximately $150 million, including $100 million in guarantees.
The Packers and Rodgers want the imminent extension to feature the largest per-year average in the NFL since Rodgers is considered one of the top quarterbacks, arguably second only to New England’s Tom Brady, who was the league MVP last season and led the Patriots to their eighth Super Bowl appearance since 2002.
If Rodgers had signed his deal first, it’s possible Ryan’s would have sur- passed his NFC counterpart. So, without facing an immediate deadline — Rodgers is under contract through 2019 — the two sides waited for the Falcons to make the first move.
In an interview with ProFootballTalk Live, Gutekunst acknowledged he wanted to study how other quarterback deals were being structured, especially after Minnesota signed free agent Kirk
Cousins to a fully guaranteed threeyear, $84 million contract in March.
The Packers do not want to give Rodgers a fully guaranteed deal and probably were hoping Ryan didn’t receive one. If the report on his salary figures are true, then the Packers can make a case that a more traditional structure is in order, one that features a sizable percentage of guaranteed money paid in signing and roster bonuses.
Gutekunst said Rodgers’ deal could get done soon.
“We’re pretty confident that this is something that’s taking its normal course, its normal time,” Gutekunst told PFT Live.
Another consideration could be a Brady contract extension. He is in the second year of a $41 million contract and is considered vastly underpaid. However, the Patriots probably wouldn’t sign Brady to a deal as long as Rodgers’ and the per-year average wouldn’t be as big a factor.
Rodgers is entering the fourth year of a five-year, $110 million contract extension he signed April 26, 2013.
He is scheduled to make a base salary of $19.8 million this year and $20 million in 2019. He has per-game roster bonuses each year worth a maximum of $600,000 and workout bonuses of $500,000.
His salary-cap number for 2018 is $20.9 million. ‘Awesome surprise’: Tennis star Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a serious Packers fan, and now she has the helmet to prove it.
The Olympic gold medalist was recently surprised with a helmet signed by Rodgers. In a video produced by the Women’s Tennis Association, MattekSands can’t believe it when she reads the autograph: “Best wishes for your comeback season.”
“And he spelled my name right,” she said.
Mattek-Sands, one of the world’s top
doubles players, suffered a gruesome knee injury at Wimbledon last July. She returned to tournament play in March. Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in October, is also poised for his comeback season this year.
“You’ve always been an inspiration for me,” she tells Rodgers in the video. “I believe in you, and I feel like you believe in me, too. So let’s do this, 2018, here we go.”
A bio for Mattek-Sands on NBC’s website for the 2016 Olympics lists her hobbies as cars, shopping, cooking, hiking and watching the Packers. She was born in Rochester, Minn., and spent part of her childhood in Neenah.
She told Sports Illustrated in 2011 that her all-time favorite athlete is Brett Favre and that her husband, Justin Sands, a former D-lineman at the University of Albany, kind of looks like him.
House deal: Cornerback Davon House signed a one-year, $1.005 million deal that featured a veteran minimum salary-cap benefit.
Under veteran minimum rules, House receives the minimum base salary for a player with seven-to-nine years of experience ($915,000) and can receive up to $90,000 in guaranteed money. The Packers gave House the full guaranteed amount.
House counts only $720,000 against the cap under the veteran minimum benefit, which was created so that older players wouldn’t be passed over because they have high minimum salaries and would count more against the cap than a younger player.
Authorities: Slaying possibly linked to killing of former Packers camp player: A man whose bullet-riddled body was found dumped along a rural road in Alabama apparently was killed in retaliation for the slaying of a former Packers player, authorities said May 2.
A statement from the Jefferson County Sheriff ’s Department said Dar
ryl Thomas, 21, of Center Point appeared to have been killed in retribution for the shooting death of former Packers defensive lineman Carlos Gray, 25.
Thomas’ body was found along a road near Birmingham on May 1, the day after Gray’s body was found in his home, also near Birmingham.
No charges were filed immediately in either death, but four suspects were in custody following Thomas’ slaying and at least one was believed to have been a close friend of Gray, authorities said.
Gray, who played at North Carolina State, signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He was cut by the team at the end of training camp.
Authorities said Gray’s girlfriend returned home from an outing to find him dead and called police. Officers discovered marijuana, scales, a handgun and an AK-47 rifle with a high-capacity magazine in the home, the statement said.
The next morning, according to authorities, deputies received a call about a reported kidnapping at a convenience store. A man who wasn’t identified by police said he and Thomas had been abducted at gunpoint by several men. The man told officers he escaped at an intersection but that Thomas did not, officials say.
A passer-by later found Thomas’ body along a dirt road, and authorities determined he had been shot more than once.
Police said murder charges and kidnapping charges were likely. Kwik Trip added as gate sponsor: Kwik Trip, which seems to have a convenience store at every intersection in every town in Wisconsin, is now at Lambeau Field.
The La Crosse-based company re- placed Verizon as a gate sponsor at Lambeau. Kwik Trip’s Cafe Karuba coffee and its hot chocolate will be sold throughout the stadium, and the company’s Kwik Rewards program will include Green Bay Packers-related deals.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Packers President and CEO Mark
Murphy said gate sponsorships do not open up often and are a key revenue generator for the team.
He said the Packers approached Kwik Trip about expanding their partnership to include a larger sponsorship. The organizations worked together on a marketing deal last year.
“Our sales and business development staff do a great job. They’re always trying to work with companies to help grow their businesses, and sponsorships are an important source of funds for the team,” Murphy said. “We won’t sell naming rights for the stadium as long as I’m here, so this is a way to build up partnerships.”
Kwik Trip also will sponsor the Instant Win Tower at the Lambeau Field Live traveling exhibit that is part of the Packers’ 100 Seasons celebration.
“Kwik Rewards will provide Packers fans with even greater in-store savings along with opportunities to win tickets, merchandise, gift cards and Packers game-day experiences throughout the year,” said Mark Meisner, Kwik Trip director of marketing and advertising.
Kwik Trip expanded aggressively throughout Wisconsin in recent years. It
now has 15 stores in the Green Bay metro area with a 16th under development. It opened its first metro gas station-convenience store in 2003. Its expansion accelerated in the last five years.
Kwik Trip replaces Verizon on the Lambeau Field entrances, making all gate sponsors Wisconsin companies.
“The Wisconsin-based companies aspect is amazing. We’re really pleased to be able to partner with a company like Kwik Trip,” Murphy said. Starr’s 1967 Corvette up for auc
tion: Bart Starr’s Super Bowl I MVP Corvette took an interesting road from the Los Angeles Coliseum to the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, where the venerable sports car was scheduled to be auctioned May 19. The green 1967 Corvette is owned by
Michael Anderson of Thunder Valley Classic Cars in St. Joseph, Minn. He acquired it from another owner in the 1980s.
Mecum Auctions of Walworth, which bills itself as the world leader in selling collector cars, vintage and antique motorcycles, and Road Art, is auctioning the car on consignment. As of May 21, however, the website featuring the car included a banner that read “The BID Goes On...”
The car had been in storage for several years and needed restoration when Anderson acquired it. He decided on a sympathetic restoration that respected the car’s history.
During the restoration process, Anderson uncovered the tank sticker, clearly stating, “Courtesy Delivery: B. Starr,” as well as discovering an AFLNFL World Championship Game ink pen underneath the passenger seat.
According to Mecum, Anderson removed the body from the frame to clean and recondition the undercarriage and suspension, and replaced the body mounts, suspension rubbers, u-joints, seals and bearings. The brake system was overhauled and the calipers were upgraded with stainless-steel piston sleeves for durability.
The driveline is original: the engine has never been disassembled and retains the original gaskets and paint.
A new Dewitts reproduction radiator was installed, but the original was retained to accompany the car.
First-round pick Jaire Alexander received a reported four-year contract with a value of about $12.1 million. It also has a fifth-year team option.
The Packers have added former Wisconsin defensive end Conor Sheehy to the roster.
Packers receiver Equanimeous St. Brown probably knows a bit more about weight training than most rookies.
The 1967 Corvette awarded to Bart Starr as Super Bowl I MVP was recently up for auction.