COMMENTARY | When your favorite team's season comes to a close, there is a pretty good chance it didn't end the way you had hoped. Such was the case for the Green Bay Packers, who were disposed in the first round of the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers.
Certainly, it's frustrating to lose, especially when you come so close to beating a team that has had your number over the past two years. It's easy to dwell on what could have been -- what if Micah Hyde hadn't dropped that interception? What if the Packers had managed to score a touchdown rather than a field goal on their final drive? Et cetera, et cetera.
But in this case, it's a lot more fun to take a glimpse into the future rather than recall the past. Taking into account age, performance and contracts, which current Packers will return to play for Green Bay in 2014?
We need not explain why Rodgers will be back, but one would imagine that Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien can't both be the backup quarterback next season. With Flynn due to become an unrestricted free agent, that might be the difference.
The ideal scenario would be to keep both Flynn and Tolzien, but after going 2-5-1 without Rodgers this season, the Packers realize they need more from their backup quarterback. That could mean either selecting a quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft or exploring other outside options.
For now, we'll project that Tolzien sticks around to develop under Rodgers for at least one more year.
Fullback (1): John Kuhn
John Kuhn is 31 years old and an unrestricted free agent. But he is the best pass blocker in the Packers' backfield, and it's not even close. He's also the only fullback on the roster, an important position when Green Bay gets near the goal line.
Running back (3): Eddie Lacy, Jonathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris
Entering their second season, you can guarantee Lacy and Franklin return, especially Lacy, who has an excellent chance at being named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. James Starks was a serviceable backup to Lacy down the stretch, but he enters free agency.
Remember DuJuan Harris? He was Green Bay's No. 1 running back by the end of 2012 and missed the entire 2013 season due to a knee injury. Expect him to assume Starks' role next season.
Offensive line (7): Don Barclay, Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, David Bahktiari, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Derek Sherrod
The Packers ought to have a solid offensive line from left to right next season in some shape or form. That is, if they are able to re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, who has blossomed into one of the better centers in the league.
Barclay will likely settle into a reserve role, and former first-round pick Derek Sherrod may not only be battling for a starting job, but a roster spot as well considering the $2.1 million he's set to make in 2014.
Tight end (3): Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick
With Jermichael Finley out of the picture (contract, health), tight end becomes an area of need in the draft for the Packers. Coming off a major knee injury, Quarless stepped up and performed admirably in Finley's absence, but he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Taylor has grown into a nice special teams player and Bostick has some promise. But as an insurance policy, the Packers will want to re-sign Quarless.
Wide receiver (3): Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin
James Jones, an unrestricted free agent, will wind up being out of Green Bay's price range, but thanks to Boykin's emergence this season, the Packers can afford to let the seven-year vet walk.
Defensive line (5): Datone Jones, Johnny Jolly, Mike Daniels, Jerel Worthy, Josh Boyd
B.J. Raji has played his way out of Title Town -- and to think he turned down an extension worth $8 million a year. Pickett (age, contract) has also played his last snap in Green Bay, which leaves the Packers rather green on the defensive line.
Also set to enter free agency is Jolly, but he became a feel-good story in his return to football and feels like someone who will return to the organization that gave him a second chance.
Linebacker (6): Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba
The only player on this list whose contract is up is Lattimore, but he is a restricted free agent, which will make it easier for the Packers to retain the third-year linebacker. Otherwise, it may be curtains for Mike Neal (performance) and Rob Francios (injury), who will become unrestricted free agents.
Quite frankly, Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer didn't show much as undrafted rookies and will need to battle for a roster spot next summer. Expect Green Bay to address the linebacker position -- both inside and outside -- via the draft.
Cornerback (5): Casey Hayward, Davon House, Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush, Micah Hyde
It's at cornerback where the most difficult decision awaits general manager Ted Thompson this offseason. Tramon Williams is scheduled to make $9.5 million next season. He's 30 years old and had his ups and downs in 2013. All of these factors might spell the end for Williams in Green Bay.
Safety (2): Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson
Is there a weaker position on the Packers' roster? Burnett is locked down, but beyond that, nobody is safe. Richardson's promise buys him another year, but M.D. Jennings and Chris Banjo are about to experience free agency. Green Bay will undoubtedly target a safety in the draft.
Special teams (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
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