When the Green Bay Packers re-signed Brad Jones, the move created more questions than it did answers. The primary question is whether the Packers are looking at Jones as a starter at inside linebacker.
And if they are, who goes to the bench?
The seemingly obvious answer to that second question is the lead-footed A.J. Hawk. That is, if there weren’t a bunch of other questions.
What about the Packers best inside linebacker, Desmond Bishop? Will he be fully recovered from his torn hamstring when the season starts? We’d hope so, since he’ll have been inactive for an entire calendar year by that time.
Then what about D.J. Smith, who stepped into the starting lineup for Bishop and ahead of Jones? Well, he tore up his knee in week six of 2012, so there’s a good chance he won’t be ready for the start of the season.
Then there are the young guys — Terrell Manning, Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore. The Packers traded up in the draft last season to grab Manning. Francois was promised he could compete for a starting spot when he re-signed this offseason. Lattimore is one year removed from being an outside linebacker and is likely to make a jump in 2013.
That makes for one giant logjam.
What we do know is this. Since the Packers made Hawk take a pay cut, Bishop is now the highest-paid inside linebacker on the team. If he’s healthy, pencil him into the starting lineup.
Courtesy of his new three-year, $11.25 million deal, Jones is the second highest-paid inside linebacker on the team. He’s getting starter’s money (and so is Hawk, for that matter).
But let’s face it, with the exception of Bishop, none of these guys are good enough for anyone to say, “he’s our starter.”
With Smith likely sidelined for the start of the season, that leaves Jones, Hawk and the three youngsters in a competition for the starting spot opposite Bishop. Although Jones probably has the edge, you can’t rule out any of them at this point.
That means the Packers are going to have a battle royale for the starting inside linebacker spot during training camp. And hopefully, someone will prove themselves worthy of winning the job.