In Day 11 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, here is a look at the inside linebackers. Note: The other parts of our preview will be posted after tonight’s chat.
Packers depth chart
If there is strength in numbers, the Packers are a powerhouse at inside linebacker. Returning are starters Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk. Brad Jones and Robert Francois, who were free agents, were re-signed. Terrell Manning, a fifth-round pick in 2012, is back, as well. D.J. Smith, who started nine games since being a sixth-round pick in 2011, was released on Wednesday afternoon along with running back Brandon Saine. Both failed physicals after sustaining torn ACLs at Houston in Week 6.
Packers draft outlook
Still, don’t be surprised if the Packers use a quality pick to supplement this position. Why? Money, for one. Combined, Hawk, Bishop and Jones have a cap charge of almost $12.2 million. When a scout asked Packer Report what Hawk’s new deal was worth, he laughed when the combined cap for those three players was mentioned.
“For what?” the scout said. “How many big plays did those guys give you?”
Hawk, 29, who took a pay cut that trimmed $7.5 million over the final three years of his deal, had three sacks and no turnover plays in 2012. Bishop is the unit’s best player, but he turns 29 before training camp and missed three games in 2011 and all 16 in 2012. He has cap charges of $4.464 million in 2013 and $4.822 million in 2014. Jones had two sacks and forced a fumble — the only turnover produced by the entire group — and signed a three-year deal worth $11.25 million.
Strength of draft class
This is an excellent class, whether the Packers want to strike in the first round or they want to add competition in the middle rounds. Rookies are cheaper than veterans, after all. In Rounds 2-4, some names to remembers are UConn’s Sio Moore, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, Iowa State’s A.J. Klein (a native of Kimberly, Wis.) and Penn State’s Gerald Hodges. Wisconsin’s Mike Taylor, who grew up nearby Lambeau Field in Ashwaubenon, is among those worth a late-round pick.
Bottom of the first (round)
The name to remember isn’t Manti Te’o and it’s not Alec Ogletree, who are considered the two first-round prospects. Rather, it’s LSU’s Kevin Minter. At 6-foot, he’s not the biggest, and he’s not the fastest, either. What he is is a rugged, intelligent defender who was the glue to the Tigers’ juggernaut defense.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.