The Other 31: Will Eddie Lacy put the Packers over the top in the NFC?

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Running back Eddie Lacy at Alabama’s pro day for NFL scouts (Vasha Hunt/The Associated Press)

Green Bay Packers

nfl_lionsLast season’s record: 11-5

Key players released: S Charles Woodson, TE Tom Crabtree (not tendered a contract as a restricted free agent), LB Frank Zombo (not tendered a contract as a restricted free agent)

Retired: WR Donald Driver, C Jeff Saturday

Key free agents lost: LB Erik Walden, WR Greg Jennings

Key free agents re-signed: LB Brad Jones

Key free agents added: TE Matthew Mulligan

Draft:

Rd. 1 (No. 26 overall)… Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

2 (61)… Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

4 (109)… David Bakhtiari, T, Colorado

4 (122)… J.C. Tretter, G/T, Cornell

4 (125)… Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA

5 (159)… Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

5 (167)… Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi St.

6 (193)… Nate Palmer, LB, Illinois St.

7 (216)… Charles Johnson, WR, Grand Valley St.

7 (224)… Kevin Dorsey, WR, Maryland

7 (232)… Sam Barrington, LB, South Florida

Analysis: The Packers, as usual, declined to make major additions in free agency. But they did suffer some significant offseason subtractions when they released safety Charles Woodson and lost wide receiver Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent.

Woodson, a former NFL defensive player of the year, missed nine games last season because of a broken collarbone and was to count $10 million against the salary cap if he’d remained in Green Bay. He turns 37 in October.

Jennings exited for a five-year deal in Minnesota worth as much as $47.5 million. He turns 30 in September and had a modest 36 catches in eight games last season. The Packers also saw Donald Driver retire this offseason but still have plenty of reliable targets for quarterback Aaron Rodgers at wideout in James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

That doesn’t mean the Packers didn’t spend some money this offseason. They signed Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews to contract extensions — $110 million over five years for Rodgers and $66 million over five years for Matthews.

And it doesn’t mean the Packers didn’t make some upgrades. They got UCLA defensive end Datone Jones in the opening round of the NFL draft, and were fortunate when Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy fell to them late in the second round.

If Lacy can give the Packers a running game that takes just a little bit of the pressure off Rodgers, Green Bay perhaps will have made up some ground on the San Francisco 49ers and the other NFC front-runners this offseason. The Packers probably remain the team to beat in the NFC North, even with the Vikings’ addition of Jennings and attention-grabbing moves in the draft.

Why Redskins fans should care: The teams play Sept. 15 at Lambeau Field.

Conversation starter: Is Aaron Rodgers the NFL’s current top quarterback?

Background: Schedule | Depth chart | Draft | Home page | Previous Other 31 reviews

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