ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – James Jones’ homecoming apparently will only last one season. And a return to his previous NFL home appears unlikely.
The former Green Bay Packers wide receiver has been informed by Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie that the team is releasing him, according to a report from CSN Bay Area.
The Raiders took Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper with the No. 4 overall pick in last weekend’s NFL Draft and signed ex-San Francisco 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree in free agency. Jones, a San Jose, Calif., native, caught 73 passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns last season for the Raiders.
A third-round pick by the Packers in 2007, Jones played seven seasons in Green Bay, catching 310 passes for 4,305 yards with 37 touchdowns. Although he never had a 1,000-yard season, he led the NFL in touchdown receptions in 2012 with 14 and had a then career-high 64 receptions, and in 2013, despite missing two games with a knee injury and playing the final weeks of the season with broken ribs, he set a career high in receiving yards (817).
Jones, 31, signed a three-year deal worth $10 million with the Raiders in March 2014. It included a guaranteed roster bonus of $2 million and a guaranteed base salary for 2014 of $1.65 million. It was essentially the same deal Jones got the last time he was a free agent, in 2011, when he returned to the Packers on a three-year, $9.6 million deal.
A league source at the NFL Meetings last year said Jones, who also played collegiately at San Jose State, wanted to get back to California and made that his priority once the Packers decided not to immediately try to re-sign him. The source said Jones also drew interest from the San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers, and that by the time the Packers contacted agent Frank Bauer about trying to re-sign him, Jones had already agreed to the deal with the Raiders.
Like ex-Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings, whom the Minnesota Vikings released after just two seasons earlier this spring and landed with the Miami Dolphins, the Packers could – but are unlikely to – to have an interest in Jones, given that their depth chart includes Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis and new third-round draft pick Ty Montgomery.
GREEN BAY – While Brett Hundley might’ve preferred to go to a team where he’d actually have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job, the way the Green Bay Packers ended up with the UCLA quarterback during the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft certainly made it feel like the pick was meant to be.
It began with a phone call from the New England Patriots, according to Packers director of player personnel Eliot Wolf. The defending Super Bowl champions were apparently looking to add a seventh-round pick, so they called the Packers during the fifth round and asked if they were interested in giving up theirs, the 247th overall.
“They actually called us,” Wolf said.
The Packers, in turn, were happy to give up that pick to move up in the fifth round from No. 166 to No. 147 to take Hundley, whom they couldn’t believe was still on the board in the fifth round.
“I was shocked,” Wolf said.
Although Wolf wouldn’t say where the Packers had Hundley pegged in the quarterback pecking order, some teams had him as the third-best quarterback after Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota went 1-2 to Tampa Bay and Tennessee at the start of the draft.
Hundley was the sixth quarterback taken, after Winston, Mariota, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson (No. 75 to New Orleans), Oregon State’s Sean Mannion (No. 89 to St. Louis), and Baylor’s Bryce Petty (No. 103 to the New York Jets).
With two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers as the starter, Hundley’s selection is a long-term investment that could pay off in a future trade. He’s probably not Rodgers’ heir apparent – Rodgers only turned 31 in December – and it stands to reason that Hundley would be the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback this season behind Rodgers and backup Scott Tolzien, who re-signed with the Packers on a one-year, $1.35 million deal in March.
“Aaron Rodgers is one of the greatest quarterbacks [in the game]. He’s the quarterback I look up to just because of how good he is,” Hundley said. “I watched film on him, I think him and [Seattle’s] Russell Wilson are probably the two quarterbacks I watched the most film on this offseason, and to be able to learn from him [is great].
“I know he still has a lot of years to play, but my job as a quarterback is to go in and compete. And just play football and learn as much as possible. So that’s what I’m going to do.”
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers began the third day of the NFL Draft by filling what many believed to be their No. 1 need: Inside linebacker.
With a few of their loyal fans panicking on social media about his failure to address the position during the first two days of the draft, maybe Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s selection of University of Michigan inside linebacker Jake Ryan, the team’s fourth-round pick (129th overall), will quell that.
After making the pick, even Thompson apparently joked about that possibility.
"He kind of just said, 'Maybe they'll get off my back,'” Packers director of player personnel Eliot Wolf said with a smile after the pick. Then, turning serious, he added, “I honestly don't think it had any bearing."
Although Thompson probably wasn’t influenced by outside opinions, the addition of Ryan certainly fills a need after the Packers took Arizona State cornerback Damarious Randall in the first round Thursday and Miami (Ohio) cornerback Quinten Rollins in the second round and Stanford wide receiver/kick returner Ty Montgomery in the third round Friday.
The 6-foot-2 3/8, 240-pound Ryan moved to middle linebacker in Michigan’s 4-3 defense as a fifth-year senior last season and had 112 tackles (including 14 tackles for loss) and two sacks after missing half of the 2013 season with a knee injury suffered in spring practice that year. Despite the injury, Ryan made his way back in time for the second half of the 2013 season.
“I feel comfortable,” Ryan said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters. “Hopefully I can make an impact and help the Packers.”
GREEN BAY – Ty Montgomery hadn’t heard the comparison before, but he sure liked it when he did.
The former Stanford wide receiver/kickoff returner watches enough NFL games to be familiar with the work of Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb. So when someone told Montgomery Friday night that he’d been compared to Cobb – his new teammate after being taken by the Packers in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft – Montgomery wasn’t sure what to say.
“I’m still just kind of speechless about it,” Montgomery said during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters. “That’s very flattering and that makes me happy to hear, but I’ve just got to be the best Ty Montgomery I can be.”
The man who drew that comparison, West Coast scout Sam Seale, has actually liked Montgomery for almost as long as Cobb has been on the Packers’ roster. Because Seale’s son, Ricky, was Montgomery’s college teammate at Stanford, the elder Seale saw a lot of him over the past four years.
Cobb was listed at 5-foot-10 1 /4 and 191 pounds when the Packers took him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Kentucky. Montgomery measured 5-11 1 /8 and weighed in at 221 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
“He’s a bigger Cobb,” Seale said after the pick Friday. “For four years at Stanford, he lined up all over the field.”
That’s how the Packers have used Cobb throughout his four-year career, playing him at wide receiver (mostly in the slot but also outside) and frequently lining him up in the backfield, too. He’s also returned both punts and kickoffs during his tenure – something that Montgomery should be able to do for him this season.
Last season, Cobb only had two kickoff returns (in the playoffs) but held the job off-and-on during the previous three years. The Packers used third-string running back DuJuan Harris as the kickoff returner last year and ranked 31st in the 32-team league in kickoff return average.
Montgomery left Stanford as the school’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage, averaging 27.4 yards per kickoff return. He scored five touchdowns on returns – three kickoffs, two punts – and handled both jobs last season for the Cardinal.
“I think he’s faster than the guy we had last year (Harris) returning kicks,” Seale said. “I think he’s more explosive. When he touches the ball, he hits the hole. The return that I saw him score last year was against Cal-Davis, but I’ve seen him do it in practice. I like the kid. He’s explosive, he’s big. And I think it would give Randall a break. For me personally I think he’s a bigger Randall.”
GREEN BAY – Ted Thompson was a linebacker as a player, but as a scout, he sure seems lo like wide receivers.
The Green Bay Packers veteran general manager had a simple explanation for that on Friday night, after selecting Stanford wide receiver/kick returner Ty Montgomery in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft – Thompson’s 11th in Green Bay.
“We’ve got an offensive head coach,” Thompson joked, referring to 10th-year head coach Mike McCarthy.
In all seriousness, Thompson’s predilection for taking wide receivers early – he’s now taken one in the first three rounds of seven of his 11 drafts in Green Bay – actually pre-dates McCarthy, having started with Texas A&M’s Terrence Murphy (second round, 2005) when Mike Sherman was the head coach.
Since then, Thompson has picked Western Michigan’s Greg Jennings (second round, 2006), San Jose State’s James Jones (third round, 2007), Kansas State’s Jordy Nelson (second round, 2008), Kentucky’s Randall Cobb (second round, 2011) and Fresno State’s Davante Adams (second round, 2014).
Overall, Thompson has taken 15 wide receivers in his 11 drafts, including three – Adams, Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis (fifth round) and Saginaw Valley State’s Jeff Janis (seventh round) – in last year’s draft. The Packers signed Nelson to a four-year contract extension at the start of training camp last summer and Cobb to a four-year deal just before the start of full-fledged unrestricted free agency in March.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had Brett Favre playing quarterback or Aaron Rodgers,” Thompson said. “So you like to get them as many people to throw to as you can.”
With Nelson, Cobb and Adams atop the depth chart, Montgomery will battle Abbrederis, who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and training-camp sensation Janis for playing time this season. He caught 61 passes in each of his final two seasons for the Cardinal, and he should also upgrade the Packers’ kickoff return game after the team decided not to issue a qualifying offer to exclusive rights free agent DuJuan Harris. Thompson called Montgomery “a very dynamic player,” although the player himself made sure he didn’t kick off his Packers career by talking big.
“I think I can do whatever’s asked of me. [But] I haven’t played a down in the NFL, so I can’t give you any numbers, or tell you I’m going to be so great,” Montgomery said in a conference call with Wisconsin reporters after he was picked. “I do have the utmost confidence in myself, but all I can tell you is I’m going to work very hard, I’m going to play very confidently, and I’m just going to do whatever’s asked of me, and I’m going to make as many plays as I can – whether that be at the returner position or at the receiver position or anywhere else they need me on the field.”
GREEN BAY – Ted Thompson’s phone did ring. He just wasn’t particularly impressed with what he heard.
So instead of trading back and adding an extra pick later on in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers general manager stayed at No. 30 and took Arizona State defensive back Damarious Randall.
“We took a few [calls],” Thompson said following the selection of Randall. “A couple of teams were wanting to move back up at the end of the round. Obviously we didn’t do anything.”
Earlier in the day Thursday, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who took Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick, were looking to trade up into the bottom of the first round. The Bucs, who’ll pick 34th overall today with the second pick of the second round, ended up not making a move.
Thompson wouldn’t divulge what the offers were or which teams called him, but he made it clear that none of the offers were very inviting.
“Quite frankly, some of the trade proposals to us were a little bit skewed in the other team’s favor,” Thompson said with a chuckle. “And that’s the way it normally is.”
In his first nine drafts in Green Bay, Thompson executed 27 trades – 20 backward to add more picks, seven upward. He stood pat at all of his selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, so the last time he swung a draft-day deal was in 2013, when he made three trades back during Day 2 of the draft, then made one trade up during Day 3 to take UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round.
GREEN BAY – There are plenty of inside linebackers on the board for Day 2 of the NFL Draft, although how many will remain at No. 62 when the Green Bay Packers go on the clock in the second round is hard to predict.
Only one inside linebacker – Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, who went to the New Orleans Saints with the 31st pick, one selection after the Packers passed on him to take Arizona State defensive back Damarious Randall – went during Thursday night’s first round.
That leaves UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, Miami’s Denzel Perryman, Texas Christian’s Paul Dawson and Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney still on the board entering the second round, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Central time Friday.
The Packers are remaking the inside linebacker position after cutting former starters A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones during the offseason and allowing another part-time starter, Jamari Lattimore, to leave for the New York Jets in free agency. As of now, the Packers starting inside linebackers are Sam Barrington and Clay Matthews, who is an outside linebacker by trade.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson hasn’t historically spent high picks on would=be 3-4 inside linebackers beyond Hawk, who was the No. 5 overall pick in 2006, when the Packers were running a 4-3 defense.
Thompson drafted Hawk, Abdul Hodge (third round, 2006), Desmond Bishop (sixth round, 2007), D.J. Smith (sixth round, 2011), Terrell Manning (fifth round, 2012) and Barrington (seventh round, 2013).
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ unwritten rule of drafting cornerbacks – or maybe it is written down somewhere, in soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf’s chicken scratch – is that they do not take players who are shorter than 5-foot-10 1/2.
Perhaps they should call it The Terrell Buckley Rule, in honor of the undersize 1992 first-round pick.
Whatever the Packers call the rule, in first-round pick Damarious Randall, general manager Ted Thompson followed it – barely.
The Arizona State safety, who Thompson said will play cornerback with the Packers, measured 5-10 7/8 at the annual NFL Scouting Combine. He joins a cornerback group where the Packers list Sam Shields at 5-11, Casey Hayward at 5-11, Micah Hyde at 6-0, Demetri Goodson at 5-11 and Tay Glover-Wright at 6-0.
“We’re tall enough,” Thompson replied when asked about his cornerbacks’ lack of height.
Departed free-agent cornerbacks Tramon Williams (5-11) and Davon House (6-0) weren’t listed as being any taller on the Packers’ roster in previous years, but Randall is the shortest cornerback Thompson has ever drafted. Before Thursday, the shortest was 5-11 3/8.
Thompson didn’t seem to have any concern about Randall being undersized.
“He’s a good athlete,” Thompson said. “Just a good player.”
GREEN BAY – Staying put at No. 30 in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers took Arizona State defensive back Damarious Randall to bolster their secondary.
"We feel fortunate we were able to draft Damarious Randall that late,” Thompson said after the selection.
Although Randall played safety for the Sun Devils, the Packers view him as a versatile defensive back who can play cornerback – a position of need after the team lost veterans Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency this spring.
Thompson said need did not factor into the selection of Randall but did say that the Packers view him as a cornerback, not a safety.
"We think he's a very versatile player,” Thompson said. “We'll probably line him up as a corner."
Randall had 106 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, one sack, 12 pass breakups and three interceptions last season as a fifth-year senior.
He started his college career at Butler (Kan.) Community College playing baseball, then spent two years at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College playing football for two years before coming to Arizona State in 2013.
Thompson said the Sun Devils played Randall at safety last season because that was where they needed him most. Randall said the same thing during a conference call shortly thereafter.
“Honestly, I can play both,” Randall said. “Corner is fun, to be on an island. Safety, controlling the back end, is also fun."
Asked how many teams talked to him about playing corner as opposed to safety in the NFL, Randall replied, “Probably 12 teams talked to me about corner, seven or eight talked about safety."