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    August 11, 2019 8:03 PM PDT
    GREEN BAY Josh Jones Jersey White , Wis. (AP) — With their final pick on the second day of the NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers got quarterback Aaron Rodgers a new offensive weapon: Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger.The Packers took Sternberger with their third-round pick (No. 75 overall) Friday night after spending their two first-round picks on defense and adding Mississippi State offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins in the second round.“(Sternberger) was the best player on our board, so that’s the way we went,” general manager Brian Gutekunst replied when asked whether the Packers went into the draft wanting to get a tight end early. “We thought it would be nice to add a tight end; we thought it was a pretty decent class this year. But it wasn’t something that I felt like we had to add in this draft. I like the guys we’ve got in the room already. I think Jace will be a nice addition to that.”The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Sternberger, who’ll turn 23 in June, was late to develop in college, starting his career at Kansas before leaving the Jayhawks after and landing at a junior college before moving on to Texas A&M, where he caught 48 passes for 832 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns.“If you were to tell me that Aaron Rodgers would be my quarterback in about four years,” Sternberger said, “I would have laughed at you and called you a liar.”Sternberger was the sixth tight end taken, but Packers co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan made it clear that the Packers were high on him and that they didn’t rank Sternberger far lower than Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom went in the first round.“We felt like he was comparable with the better tight ends in this class,” Sullivan said.Sternberger joins a tight end room with two veterans – Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis – at the forefront, and while he’ll have a chance to play, the Packers don’t see the need to rush him onto the field.“I don’t think there’s pressure for him to come in here and be Superman,” Sullivan said. “But we definitely think he has the skill set to do that if needed.”The earlier pick (No. 44 overall) was used on Jenkins, who started Mississippi State’s last 26 games at center over the past two seasons but played all five spots on the offensive line during his career. He is expected to start at guard in Green Bay.The Packers were in the market for offensive line help, and they have an immediate opening in the starting lineup at right guard. Veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga is also entering the final year of his contract, but Packers college scout Charles Walls said the team picked Jenkins as a guard.“We took him as a guard, but you watch the tape, you feel comfortable putting him anywhere you need him to be,” Packers college scout Charles Walls said. “Definitely a light bulb goes off when a guy with that much value, that much versatility falls to you.”The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Jenkins, who turns 24 in December Aaron Jones Jersey White , grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. He redshirted his first year at Mississippi State, then played in eight games in his first two active seasons — six at left tackle and two at left guard. He moved to center as a junior in 2017 and started every one of the Bulldogs’ games there after that.“I feel like I can play all positions,” Jenkins said. “Right now, they’re looking at me at guard. But I feel like I can play all the positions on the line.”New Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy was Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator last season.On Thursday, the Packers selected pass rush specialist Rashan Gary from Michigan (No. 12 overall) and speedy safety Darnell Savage from Maryland (No 21).“There’s times you look up and say, ‘Wow, we really need to do this or we really need to do that.’ There’s other times, you’re like, ‘Let’s try to get better here. Let’s try to get better there,'” Gutekunst said. “I think you have to be careful of just trying to check boxes because you may end up missing on a player that can really, really help your team. … And really for my position, I think you’ve got to look two to three years out and try to keep this team competitive every single year.” The Green Bay Packers continue to see speculation about the team signing free agent running back Le’Veon Bell, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Most recently, beat writer Pete Dougherty said that Bell should be one of the team’s targets in free agency.Bell sat out the 2018 season because of his demands for a new contract, and he will be a free agent again in 2019. Is he one of the best running backs in the NFL? Yes. Would he make a team better? Almost certainly. But how much would he really improve a team? And would that improvement match up with the amount of money it would cost to get him in the door? Those are the critical questions when looking at signing him, and the answer is simple: he’s not worth the money.ContractBell is on the record saying he wants to be paid like a top wide receiver. He refused to play a second straight year on the franchise tag in 2018, a contract that would have paid him $14.544 million, all of it fully guaranteed.Currently, the biggest long-term contract for a running back belongs to Todd Gurley, who signed an extension before the 2018 season. That deal takes him through 2024, and it went down as a four-year, $57.5 million extension. That equates to $14.375M per year, just under Bell’s tag value. Presumably, Bell would want more in annual compensation than Gurley received , so we’re looking at something around $15M per year for Bell.In addition, he would almost certainly want a four-year deal at minimum, which brings the total to $60M. Let’s say he gets around $20M in a signing bonus; if for some reason he disappointed massively and the Packers needed to move on after two years, they would take a $10M dead hit on their salary cap in 2021.Marginal ContributionsAs with any signing, it’s not the total production a player brings that determines whether he’s worth his contract to that team. Any team in a salary cap league must evaluate how best to spend its money, prioritizing return on investment. Therefore, given the Packers’ success with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams the past two years, the marginal upgrade Bell would likely provide at running back is not remotely worth the $15M/year investment.Think about it: if you’re Brian Gutekunst, you can get some potential upgrade to the running back position for that amount of money, or you can use that $15M to upgrade multiple other positions. We’ll examine some better uses of that money shortly; first, let’s examine the upgrade that Bell would provide over Jones and Williams.Upgrade at Running Back?Zach Kruse of Packers Wire has been beating this drum for a while now. He did it last season, when Bell was reportedly seeking a trade, by looking at the Packers’ three running backs in 2017: Jones, Williams, and Ty Montgomery. Kruse refenced a tweet by NFL analyst Marcus Mosher, which observed that that trio had the exact same yards per touch average (when combining their numbers) as Bell did that year:On Monday, he did it again by comparing the two second-year Packers in 2018 to that 2017 season from Bell:Hey, look at that! Jones and Williams actually performed better on a per-touch basis in 2018 than Bell did in his most recent season. Their yards per carry was almost seven-tenths of a yard higher than Bell’s, thanks in large part to Aaron Jones’ stellar 5.5 mark, which led the NFL. Football Outsiders’ DVOA stat tells a similar story — the Packers’ rushing attack ranked third in that per-play efficiency stat in both 2017 (+10.6%) and in 2018 (+12.4%), while the 2017 Steelers were sixth with a much less-impressive +3.0% value.Now let’s look a bit closer at the individual players’ advanced numbers, both DVOA and DYAR (which is the total production corollary to DVOA). Note that DYAR fluctuates based on usage, so the fact that the Packers ran the ball fewer than any other team in the NFL will depress their running backs’ rushing DYAR numbers.2018 Jones: 16.9% rushing DVOA, 145 rushing DYAR; 2.2% receiving DVOA, 33 receiving DYAR2018 Williams: 1.7% rushing DVOA, 51 rushing DYAR; -9.3% receiving DVOA Womens Lane Taylor Jersey , 11 receiving DYAR2018 Total: 196 rushing DYAR, 44 receiving DYAR, 240 total DYAR2017 Bell: 7.9% rushing DVOA, 214 rushing DYAR; 2.5% receiving DVOA, 101 receiving DYAR; 315 total DYARNow, a 75 DYAR difference is notable, but that comes on 99 fewer touches than Bell had. Also note that the biggest difference comes in receiving production. How about addinga proven receiving back like Tevin Coleman for around $5M per year? That number is Spotrac’s estimate of his market value, and signing him could give the Packers tons of flexibility in the backfield, allowing them to roll out a three-headed monster to play the matchups and saving the team $10M annually compared to signing Bell. As an added bonus here: Coleman and Packers head coach Matt LaFleur are plenty familiar with one another, since they were together for two years with the Falcons.Plus, when looking at per-play efficiency, Jones was better in ‘18 — admittedly on a smaller sample size — than Bell was the year before. Can we find improvements of 75 DYAR for cheaper than $15M? Most definitely, and we’ll do so shortly.Steelers’ RBsLet’s take the Bell analysis even farther and look at the dropoff (or lack thereof) from Bell to the Steelers’ 2018 running backs, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels. There is a common refrain among a certain sect of NFL analysts, that running backs are fungible assets, and that is borne out by several situations in 2018. Take the Los Angeles Rams, for example. When Todd Gurley was injured late in the season, they plucked C.J. Anderson off the street and had essentially no drop in production from the position. The dropoff from Bell to the tandem of Conner and Samuels — a 2017 third-round draft pick and a 2018 fifth-rounder, respectively — was also minimal:Conner/Samuels271 carries, 1,229 yards (4.53 YPC), 12 TDs; 81 receptions, 696 yards (8.59 YPR), 4 TDsTotal yards per touch: 5.46The Steelers got better per-carry averages (4.53 to 4.02) and better per-reception averages (8.59 to 7.71) with Conner and Samuels in 2018 than Bell had in 2017, demonstrating that they were in all likelihood better off with Bell refusing to play. The advanced stats are a little different, but they make the two options seem nicely comparable , regardless of whether you’re looking at per-play efficiency (DVOA) or total cumulative production (DYAR):2018 Conner: 2.4% rushing DVOA, 100 rushing DYAR; 15.2% receiving DVOA, 112 receiving DYAR2018 Samuels: -1.2% DVOA, 17 rushing DYAR; 36.4% receiving DVOA, 79 receiving DYAR2018 Total: 117 rushing, 191 receiving (308 total DYAR)2017 Bell: 7.9% rushing DVOA, 214 rushing DYAR; 2.5% receiving DVOA, 101 receiving DYAR; 315 total DYARThat’s almost the exact same total production from the Steelers’ two running backs in 2018 as Bell had the year before, with those backs providing much more as receivers — which is typically one of the hallmarks of the arguments in Bell’s favor.Other InvestmentsIt’s too early to tell exactly who will be available on the free agent market this season, but it’s a good bet that a team could get a much better bang for their buck at other positions.Take slot receiver, for example. In 2018, Randall Cobb was bad — he had had negative-45 DYAR on 61 targets. Now, I don’t mean to throw more gasoline on the Cole Beasley fire that has been raging recently, but he would have been a huge upgrade over Cobb last season. Beasley had a round 100 DYAR on 87 targets, and adjusting that total down for the difference in targets puts him at an even 70. Swapping him in for Cobb would represent a net gain of 115 DYAR, and he could come with a price tag around $5 million/year. The difference in production between Bell and the Packers’ current running backs is more than accounted for at a third of the price.This is just an example, of course, and it relies on projecting DYAR values from prior seasons forward. However, it does help illustrate just see how small of an upgrade Bell would likely provide over the Packers’ runners.It’s not as easy to quantify the impact of adding an offensive lineman or a pass-rusher, since there is no DYAR or DVOA for those positions, but those spots would almost assuredly provide a better bang for the buck than signing Bell. Even the top free agent guards will likely max out around $8 million per year. How about using $15 million to try to sign a pass-rusher like Dee Ford instead? That number would put him right around the top ten highest-paid edge rushers, a good spot for him. Is there any argument that the marginal upgrade from Jones/Williams to Bell would be greater than going from Clay Matthews/Reggie Gilbert to Ford? Going after a second-tier player like Dante Fowler or Preston Smith could be an excellent alternative as well, and they would take up less cap space.Gutekunst could alternately use this cap space on a safety. Landon Collins ($9.3M/year market value, per Spotrac) or Earl Thomas (likely to get around the same) would provide instant playmaking ability in the Packers’ secondary. Tyrann Mathieu could do the same if he sees the Packers as an immediate contender. If you’re intent on signing a free agent running back, pair Tevin Coleman with one of these safeties to upgrade two positions for the price of one.There are numerous ways that the Packers could use the money that Le’Veon Bell would demand to improve their team. It’s easy to imagine any number of scenarios which would cost the same or less than Bell and should lead to a much bigger marginal impact than what Bell would provide on his own.