Let's Do Some Weird Things With the Packers In Madden
Like most young adults, I reminisce on just how nerdy my hobbies were in my childhood. At the top of the list was my desire to play sports video games not for the gameplay, but rather for the front office wheeling and dealing.
I’d fire up Madden every spring after the Packers had been eliminated from the playoffs and “do things different.” I’d trade Brett Favre, sign the best free agents and maneuver my way to the top of the NFL Draft. Dreams of how I could make the Packers into a 16-0 team and win the Super Bowl for a decade straight floated through my mind.
With that in mind, I dusted off the cobwebs and fired up this year’s version of Madden. Here are a few fun and unrealistic trades and free agent signings I was able to pull off that would sure make the 2017 Packers a different team:
Step One: Simulate the 2016 season
The virtual Packers outperformed their real life counterpart, finishing first in their division with an 11-5 record. Green Bay finished with the top offense and 29th ranked defense, and their season ended in the Wild Card round with a loss at home to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bengals and Seahawks met in Super Bowl XLI, and Seattle came out on top.
Step Two: Decide who we’ll re-sign
Nick Perry re-signs with the Packers for three years and $17.2 million. Jared Cook wants a four-year deal, and as a 30-year-old tight end, I’m willing to let him walk. After some give and take, Julius Peppers returns on a one-year deal for $5 million and Micah Hyde comes back on a three-year, $11 million deal.
Step Three: Trade for a superstar running back
I’m not a Madden general manager because I play it safe; I’ll let it ride and try my hand at a few trades. First, I approach the Pittsburgh Steelers about their star running back, Le’Veon Bell (95 OVR). Pittsburgh’s interested in Mike Daniels (93 OVR), but I’ve got to sweeten the deal. Eroding a defense that was already poor last season is a hard decision, but I’m willing to roll the dice. Bell joins the Packers in exchange for Mike Daniels and Damarious Randall (76 OVR).
Bell’s addition makes Eddie Lacy’s departure easy to handle. Jared Cook leaving, however, makes tight end a weak spot. I’m confident in Richard Rodgers as a starting tight end, but I’d love to get some veteran depth behind him. My target is Baltimore tight end Benjamin Watson (82 OVR), but the Ravens love Watson and want Sam Shields (83 OVR) and a draft pick in exchange. No deal.
Instead, the Jaguars offer veteran Marcedes Lewis (74 OVR) in exchange for safety Kentrell Brice (66 OVR) and a fourth-round pick. Trading a draft pick isn’t desirable, but I’m willing to part with one for the safety net Lewis brings.
Teams are knocking down my door trying to acquire the rest of my defense. After Adam Schefter reports that anyone on the defense is tradeable, the offers fly in. At one point, linebacker Kyler Fackrell is in the midst of a bidding war between three teams. He thrived as a rookie, so I hang onto him considering the advanced age of most of the pass rushers.
Step Four: Empty the wallet for defensive free agents
The cap’s in good shape, as Green Bay has over $20 million to spend after re-signing our own. After years of diligent management of the cap, let’s throw caution to the wind and get weird. You didn’t click on this article looking for conservative re-signings.
As a virtual general manager, I read all of the tweets and emails from fans. They've been clamoring for a middle linebacker, so Stephen Tulloch (82 OVR) joins the team. He may have ended his season prematurely celebrating a sack of Aaron Rodgers, but if he’s on the Packers then he can’t sack Rodgers. Therefore, he can’t get injured. Logic checks out, and he’s ours on a two-year, $11 million deal.
With the departure of cornerback Damarious Randall in a trade, the secondary is a big target in free agency. The first target is veteran corner Leon Hall (76 OVR), who’s looking for a one year, $4 million deal. We pay a premium for Hall, but it's nothing compared to the outrageous contracts his fellow free agent corners are signing. He fills Randall’s spot and adds some leadership to the secondary.
Next, I’d like to strengthen the front seven. Veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch (76 OVR) joins the team on a one-year, $2 million deal. Pass rusher Trent Cole (79 OVR) is a compelling veteran presence because he can play both linebacker and defensive end. He may be 34, but he’s affordable at $2 million for one year.
I miss Tim Masthay (78 OVR). Good bye Schum, and welcome back “Ginger Wolverine.”
Step Five: Draft defense in the first three rounds
After only having to part with one draft pick in a trade, it’s time to continue to reinforce the defense through the draft. The first-round pick falls into our lap, as Nebraska cornerback Kurtis Meadows (74 OVR) is available. At 6-4, he’s already the tallest cornerback in the league. Even though he's a computer-generated fake cornerback, he's the immediately the coolest player on the Packers. I want a #48 MEADOWS jersey.
In the second round, the board doesn’t go our way. At the time the Packers are on the clock, the best players available are all running backs. After trading for Le’Veon Bell, even this rambunctious general manager can’t pull the trigger on a second-round pick for a running back. Instead, there’s a stout defensive tackle from USC, Jeffrey Haggans (69 OVR), that looks like a good fit.
The third round pick is a solid left end, Jeff Balmer (64 OVR). He figures to be a rotational player, and is a nice addition to a defensive line now without budding superstar Mike Daniels.
Step Six: See what happens in 2017
In just one offseason, the Green Bay Packers have completely reloaded. They have the league’s best quarterback, running back and wide receiver trio in Rodgers, Le’Veon Bell and Jordy Nelson. Their defense has been significantly upgraded with help in free agency at middle linebacker, cornerback and defensive line. In the draft, the Packers went defense for five of six picks.
The ensuing Packers season ends exactly like the one before it - in the Wild Card round at the hands of an NFC West team. This time, the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks beat the Packers 35-21. Green Bay went 10-5-1, and the Vikings won Super Bowl XLII in their home stadium.
The responsibility that went along with the two years as virtual general manager of the Packers weighs on me. I resign, choosing not to work in an NFL where the Vikings have a Super Bowl title.