Five critical offseason moves for Packers

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Green Bay’s defense needs help at every level, while offense needs an RB

Sam Shields and James Starks are among the Packers’ first off-season cuts, or casualties, if you will.
The Packers released Shields, 29, after repeated concussions curtailed his availability and clouded his future. Furthermore, Shields is facing off-the-field issues involving an alleged arrest for marijuana possession.
The concussions, if not the legal troubles, made it an easy call.
What’s difficult is finding a player as gifted to replace Shields.
Starks, who’ll be 31 this month, was released with a “non-football injury” designation. After a solid seven-year career here, he missed the final six games in 2016 with a concussion he suffered as a result of a car accident.
The Packers have been trying to find a viable running back for some time. Ultimately, it appears they have settled on Ty Montgomery and hopefully two others in the backfield.
The Patriots, Steelers and Falcons all proved that today’s NFL offenses need running backs – as in plural – if they are going to adequately attack opposing defenses.
The Packers should re-sign Eddie Lacy at a reasonable cost and find a veteran running back in free agency. It needs to be a back who is at once assignment-sure, a legit receiver out of the backfield and explosive.
Clearly, Green Bay needs to go into this season with three running backs, and Aaron Ripkowski at fullback where he belongs.
Other critical moves for the Packers:

A veteran, mid-level free agent is a must for the LB unit

An inside linebacker capable of playing the run and pass would be a major upgrade. It would allow defensive coordinator Dom Capers the flexibility to be successful.
Right now, personnel limitations are rendering Capers’ extensive experience and expertise largely ineffective. Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas improved, but that trio isn’t nearly enough to revive this defense.

First 3 Draft Picks

If free agency is going to be an afterthought, the Packers MUST hit on two of their first three draft picks. When I say “hit on” I mean they need to be impact players. At least one needs to be an impact player on defense.
I’d be an advocate of trading up into the first round, and again into the second round, if necessary to get playmakers. That may be asking a lot.Then again, if the Packers choose to be finicky in free agency, they darn well better hit the jackpot in the draft.
Frankly, GM Ted Thompson needs to replace Shields with comparable resources. Shields carried a $12.1 million cap number, $9 million of which comes off the books.
The Packers need to reinvest in the cornerback position. My early preference would be Iowa cornerback Desmond King if he’s available beyond the 20th pick.

Free Agency

Stop telling Packers fans that signing Nick Perry is the same as playing in free agency. It isn’t. It’s re-signing your own.
The Packers had Perry and his 11 sacks. It wasn’t enough. I would love to retain Perry – and I believe the Packers will unless another team drops an obscene offer on him. In that case, I say congrats to Perry and wish him well.
On defense, the Packers need help in the front seven and the back end. Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins must recapture their rookie form and build on it. Neither played well last season.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s farewell to Shields included a thinly veiled shot at the Packers’ young defensive backs.
Clinton-Dix talked about Shields’ ability to be a pro and play whatever defense was called. Clearly, he felt the young DBs either were unprepared, or were freelancing way too often.
At any rate, the Packers would be wise to sink like resources into the cornerback position what with Shields’ departure.

Defensive Identity

Finally, the Packers need to create an attitude and an identity on defense. It isn’t enough to say, “Let Aaron (Rodgers) do it.”
It’s time for the Packers’ defense to throw punches rather than being a punch line.
That will require Clay Matthews being willing to move inside if that’s what is asked. It also will force the Packers to make a difficult decision where Julius Peppers is concerned. Perhaps Peppers will retire on his own accord. If he doesn’t, Green Bay needs to be honest in terms of how much he can help.
Beyond that, the Packers’ scouts need to keep scouring the bushes for players such as Dean Lowry, who really contributed on a defensive line that needed him.
Next week, I’ll talk about the next “Dean Lowry” and much more.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (  Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.