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WRs: Packers offseason by position 

Players under contract
No.
Name
Ht.
Wt.
Age
Exp.
College
85
Greg Jennings
5-11
198
28
 6
W. Michigan
87
Jordy Nelson
6-3
217
26
 4
Kansas St.
89
James Jones
6-1
208
27
 5
San Jose St.
18
Randall Cobb
5-10
192
21
 R
Kentucky
80
Donald Driver
6-0
194
37
 13
Alcorn St.
86
Tori Gurley
6-4
216
24
 R
S. Carolina
19
Diondre Borel
6-0
199
23
 R
Utah St.
9
Shaky Smithson
5-11
202
24
R
Utah

The good news:  Is there a team with better top-to-bottom talent at the wide receiver position than the Green Bay Packers? Even if you don’t include tight end Jermichael Finley – a tight end in name but often utilized as a wideout, which could make things tricky when it comes to using the franchise tag on him -- the Packers’ top-to-bottom talent at the position is unmatched. The team’s five wide receivers caught 235 of quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers’ and Matt Flynn’s 376 completions (62.5 percent). For comparison’s sake, three of the New Orleans Saints’ top five pass-catchers were non-wide receivers (tight end Jimmy Graham, running backs Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas), and their top five wide receivers – Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Adrian Arrington – caught 206 of Drew Brees’ and Chase Daniel’s 472 completions (43.6 percent). Arrington, their No. 5 wide receiver, had just two receptions. The Packers, meanwhile, spread the ball around to Nelson (68 receptions, 1,263 yards, 15 TDs), Jennings (67-949-9), Jones (38-635-7), Driver (37-445-6) and Cobb (25-375-1) while Finley also got plenty of action (55-767-8).

The bad news:  If there is any bad news at such a deep position, it’s that Rodgers will always be challenged to keep everyone happy. Early in the season, before Nelson had fully broken out into the star he’d become by year’s end, Driver was less than thrilled with his limited role after so many years as a starter. Once he embraced his spot in behind Jennings and Nelson, recognizing just how good Nelson had become, Driver settled in. While he was the consummate pro throughout, it wasn’t hard to understand why he might struggle with seeing his role diminished. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Jennings, who missed the final three regular-season games with a knee injury suffered on Dec. 11, led the Packers wide receivers with 713 snaps played in 2011. Nelson was next at 699, followed by Driver at 562, Jones at 557 and Cobb at 308. Jennings also led the team in targets with 101, followed by Nelson with 96, Finley with 93, Driver with 56, Jones with 55 and Cobb with 31. Whether Rodgers, who threw 45 touchdown passes and just six interceptions in 15 regular-season games, can continue to placate everyone with his “I throw it to the open guy” approach remains to be seen, but at least his receivers know where they stand with him.

The big question: While the club has all eight of its wide receivers – including practice-squadders Gurley and Borel and Smithson, who spent the year on injured reserve with a training-camp shoulder injury – the team will keep a maximum of six on the 53-man roster, and most likely will only keep five, as they did last season. The biggest question, of course, is whether the 37-year-old Driver is back for a 14th season in Green Bay. Driver is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver with 735 career receptions for 10,060 yards and 59 touchdowns in regular-season play and 49 catches for 667 yards and three TDs in postseason play. He ranks 32nd all-time in the NFL in career receptions and tied for 35th all-time with Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe in career receiving yardage. He is tied for 71st all-time in career TD catches. But there are other numbers that also matter: His $2.2 million roster bonus due in March, a $200,000 workout bonus and a $2.6 million base salary. Last week, Driver said he would be open to taking a pay cut to return, but it’s not as simple as just reducing his salary cap number. The team gave both Gurley (Minnesota) and Borel (Tampa Bay) significant pay raises to stay on the practice squad after offers to join those team’s 53-man rosters, and both players’ futures are bright. General manager Ted Thompson must decide whether Driver’s veteran presence and role as a beloved figure in the community is enough to keep him around with talented youngsters waiting for their chance.

Offseason outlook: While Driver’s status is hands-down the biggest issue facing the position – lest we forget, he was the lone receiver who showed up in the team’s NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl XLVI-champion New York Giants (three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown with no drops) – his future should be decided next month, since it’s incomprehensible that the team would pay him his $2.2 million roster bonus and simply bring him back without at least some major financial concessions. If the club simply cuts ties with him – public relations blowback be damned – then Gurley, Borel and Smithson figure to benefit significantly from a full-fledged offseason in the program, even with the limitations of the new collective bargaining agreement. Of the three, the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Gurley is the most intriguing. An undrafted free agent only because he surprisingly came out after playing just two college seasons, he not only possesses size that makes him different than the team’s other receivers, he also was productive in the preseason (team-best nine receptions) without an offseason and showed a knack on special teams (particularly on blocking punts).

Next: Tight ends.

– Jason Wilde

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