Packer Update

Free at last! Free at last?

Holding on to Jenkins won't be quite as easy as this

Training camp doesn’t open for another three days and there may not even be a season in 2011, but that didn’t stop us from taking a quick glance at the Packers who could be unrestricted free agents next March. Assuming – and as of today these assumptions are about as enormous as Ryan Pickett’s pre-training camp belly – that the players and the owners agree to a new collective bargaining agreement and that the number of accrued seasons to achieve true freedom reverts back to four from six, here are the players who would be eligible to hit the open market (along with their age as of 3/31/2011 and their current salary): John Kuhn (27/$1.176M), Korey Hall (28/$550K), Brandon Jackson (25/$550K), Donald Driver (36/$7.206M), James Jones (27/$1.101M), Allen Barbre (26/$550K), Jason Spitz (28/$1.759M), Daryn Colledge (29/$1.759M), Cullen Jenkins (30/$3.2M), Desmond Bishop (26/$550K), Tramon Williams (28/$3.168M/), Atari Bigby (29/$1.759M), Will Blackmon (26/$1.176M), Charlie Peprah (28/$630K) and Mason Crosby (26/$1.0M).

This is hardly an imposing list, but there will be a few interesting decisions facing GM Ted Thompson. As of today, the most compelling scenarios involve Driver, Jones, Colledge, Spitz, Jenkins, Bishop and Williams.

It’s hard to imagine Driver in another uniform, but as Packer fans found out two years ago, you just never know. That said, the only way we see the veteran wide receiver leaving Green Bay is if he asks for too much money or if Thompson isn’t willing to let Jones get away. It’s unlikely that Jones would re-sign unless he foresees a better opportunity to play – something that won’t happen if Driver is still around. Of course, Thompson’s decision on Jones will only be difficult if the former San Jose State star performs at a high level in 2010. Otherwise, he’ll almost certainly be allowed to walk without a fight.

There’s almost no chance that both Colledge and Spitz will return in 2011, so Thompson will have to choose between the two. Spitz – if his health is OK – would be the logical choice since he can play three positions. Not having a CBA brought Colledge back to Green Bay for another season, but his somewhat arrogant personality and his finesse-style of play just aren’t a good with the Packers.

Jenkins already looked to be the key unrestricted free agent in 2011, and his importance to the team’s present and future only increased with the news of Johnny Jolly’s indefinte suspension. It’s very likely that Thompson will want to re-sign the veteran defensive lineman; the big question is whether the feeling will be mutual. For the most part, Jenkins kept quiet last season and admirably did all the dirty work that’s required of an end in the 3-4. Whether he’d voluntarily sign up for more of the same remains to be seen. We have our doubts. That’s why it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the franchise tag used – if there’s even a franchise tag to use.

While Bishop has handled his lack of playing time with great aplomb, you know he’s dying to get a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job. That almost certainly won’t happen this season, but the door could finally open for him in 2011. That’s because A.J. Hawk and his scheduled $11 million contract could be moving on. Of course, even if that happens, Bishop would still have to contend with another overpaid inside linebacker (Brandon Chillar), so he might just decide that parting ways with the Packers makes the most sense. And who could really blame him?

Thompson showed what he thinks of Williams by placing the highest tender on him in February, so the odds are very good that the former street free agent will be around for many years to come. But there are a few variables that could change things between now and next March. For example, what happens if both Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood step up this season? Or if Williams continues to be inconsistent – this time as a fulltime starter. Or if he plays so well that other teams are lining up to make him rich? In short, it’s probably safe to hold on to your No. 38 jersey, but you might want to have a backup number in mind just in case.

The remaining potential unrestricted free agents won’t cause Thompson to lose much sleep. He should be able to pick and choose who comes back and who doesn’t. As of today, we’ll put Crosby, Hall and Jackson in the former category and Barbre, Bigby, Blackmon, Kuhn and Peprah in the latter. But needless to say, all of this can change depending on how these 15 players perform in 2010 and how things go at the bargaining table over the next eight months.

(NOTE- In a few cases, the salaries listed for 2010 are estimates and do not include playing time bonuses, escalator clauses, etc.)

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12 Comments to "Free at last! Free at last?"

  1. stroh says:

    Lets start w/ Jenkins. He never really excelled as a 43 DE the way that Kampman did, so he is more likely to be willing to return. Alot will depend on how Capers uses him this year. If Capers is creative and uses Jenkins, like he tried during OTA’s, I think Jenkins will return.

    Jackson is already going to have a fight on his hands for a roster spot this year. He isn’t that valuable to make himself a priority signing. He will be allowed to leave w/ Lumpkin or Porter replacing him.

    I’ve been saying for months that Driver doesn’t return next year. Sorry to sadden all the fans w/ Driver jerseys, but Thompson doesn’t resign an old player and let a younger, cheaper version get away. Both won’t be back… Say Good-Bye Donald!

    If Hawk doesn’t return on a fair contract then Bishop becomes a priority. I don’t see Hawk being back, since he’s already on record as saying he won’t take a reduced salary. Hawk is released and Bishop moves up the priority list. Question that none of us know is if Bishop is upset w/ the Packers about not being traded or getting more playing time.

    Barbre is gone unless he plays like a starter in training camp on this year… He might not even make the roster this year.

    Colledge and Spitz are intertwined w/ each other and other OL. IF Giacomini shows he can be a starter then he becomes the RT, Lang moves to LG and the Colledge/Spitz decision becomes different. I don’t think Spitz will make a good LG. Colledge wins the job this year and could be back if Lang stays at RT, which largely depends on Giacomini. Spitz has versatility and I would be in favor of brining him back and releasing Wells so Spitz can play C.

    Hall or Kuhn is decided this training camp one way or another. Even if Johnson fails then Both are back.

    Tramon Williams is a starter at CB for the foreseable future. Unless he falls on his face as a starter this year!

  2. Grave Digger says:

    Something will definitely be worked out with Driver in my opinion. I doubt Driver wants to go to a new team and the Packers don’t have that “Aaron Rodgers” type player waiting in the wings to take over. Nelson and Jones are good role players, but neither have shown signs of being capable of handling Driver’s job. It’s not like the situation in Arizona where the Cardinals could trade Anquan Boldin because they had a very good young player in Steve Breaston (and also Early Doucet) who could take over. They will work out something with Driver and keep him around until he decides he’s ready to go. Letting go of a fan favorite and long time Packer who legitimately does still have starting caliber skill would be a hard sell for some Packer fans I think also.

    Bishop and Jones are the Packers big trade bait IMO this season. If Jones is looking good before the trade deadline, you have to believe some teams will be calling and Thompson would be willing to listen. As you say, Jones can’t be that excited to remain with the team as the #3/4 receiver and Thompson doesn’t like just flat out lose players. He won’t take just anything, it will obviously have to be the right deal, but I won’t be surprised to see Jones traded. Unless Chillar, Hawk, or Barnett are injured for any length of time this season or aren’t playing particularly well, I can’t see Bishop NOT being traded. There will be a team with an injury at MLB/ILB and Bishop will look very enticing. If Bishop isn’t traded he will walk IMO. If they can’t move Jones I think they’ll work hard to get him re-signed and he won’t command that much money unless he makes good on his 1000 yard prediction.

    Jenkins will be a priority this season in my opinion. I think we’ll see him signed during the season. Thompson rewards players who perform.

    I think Tramon will be evaluated during the first half of the season while Al Harris is on the PUP list and if they think he’s the direction they want to go in then they will hammer something out immediately.

    Crosby will be re-signed to a fair deal. Thompson won’t get into the situation he was in with bringing in Dave Rayner types again.

    Bigby won’t be re-signed and wouldn’t sign if they made him an offer. He was gone the moment they drafted Burnett.

    The rest of those guys will be allowed to test the market but ultimately I think Kuhn, Hall, Jackson, Spitz, Peprah, and Blackmon will re-sign as they won’t get better offers on the market. I think the Packers will make a halfhearted effort to re-sign Colledge and he’ll ultimately move on.

    • stroh says:

      Wait… Are you saying that Jones and Nelson are role players but Breaston and Doucet are playmakers? Your nuts… Both Jones and Nelson are every bit as good, maybe better, than either Breaston and Doucet. They haven’t been given a chance to do what Breaston and Doucet cuz Driver hasn’t been injured all the time like Boldin has. Put Jones in Drivers position and give him all the chances Driver has and he doubles his production from last year and likely more! I live in AZ and watch the Cards almost as much as the Packers, and I can tell you that neither Breaston or Doucet has a thing on Jones and Nelson!!!

      Teams have already called bout Bishop and Thompson has passed each time! Why would that change now? I think Thompson has something in mind for Bishop and is going to hang onto him! He might be starting next season after Hawk is released due to large salary next year. I would honestly trade Driver instead of Jones. 36yr old compared to a 26 yrs old. And the Packers have invested alot of time and coaching in Jones. I think the Packers move forward w/o Driver next year.

      Crosby had better make 80+% of his FG attempts this year or he might be allowed to leave.

      Colledge will depend on where Lang is playing next year and that depends on Giacomini. Spitz is the Center next season and Wells might be released or traded.

      • Grave Digger says:

        Last time I checked, Steve Breaston had a 1000 yard season (1800 total yards in 3 seasons) under his belt while neither Jones or Nelson have come close…heck their combined career yardage is barely more than Breastons. Breaston also reached that 1000 yards in season where the Cards top 2 receivers also reached 1000 so it’s not like he was the only other option. Don’t be silly, Steve Breaston is a starting caliber WR and at this point in their careers, Jones and Nelson are not. Maybe they’re better than Doucet I will give you that, but my point wasn’t about who’s better between all these WRs, it was about how we don’t have a legit starting WR to replace Driver. You can speculate wildly all you want on what Jones/Nelson would do if they became starters but the hard truth is that they haven’t proven anything yet as pros. Driver will be re-signed unless we draft the next great WR coming out.

        Why would he do an about face and trade Bishop? Because if he stands pat and does nothing he will lose him without gaining anything. At least by trading him he could get a decent pick or another player. If no one gives a good offer I think they’ll work hard to re-sign him but I don’t believe he would stay. No player wants to be a back up and I wouldn’t blame him a bit if he just walked. If he doesn’t get better offers elsewhere then I believe he would return, but there will be a team that will make him a better offer. And you very well could be right about Hawk being released which would indeed be a reason to re-sign Bishop, but it takes 2 to make a deal and if Bishop doesn’t want to stay then he won’t. If he stays then that surely would be a sign that Hawk is in danger.

        Crosby has been up and down, but I don’t think they’ll let him walk. People I think forget that rough patch in 2005 I think where we used crappy kickers like Billy Cundiff and Dave Rayner. Thompson won’t do that again, especially since he hasn’t been able to find a Punter.

        People keep counting Scott Wells out, but the man has hung on thus far. The only way he will be traded is if Spitz wins the job and Wells demands a trade. Having 2 starting quality Centers, both of which can play Guard, is nothing to throw away.

        • stroh says:

          Like I said… Its about OPPORTUNITIES!!! Jones and Nelson haven’t been given the same opportunities. Watch this year… Breaston isn’t going to do much, he’ll be getting covered by better CB w/ Boldin gone. Look, I watch the Cards every Sunday. I don’t care about the stats… I know talent when I see it and Breaston is good. But not great by any means. I think Jones and Nelson will go on to have careers every bit as good if not better than Breaston or Doucet, if given the same chance. Drivers been a great Packer, but if #4 can finish his career in another uniform then certainly Driver can as well!!!

          As the saying goes, and I suggest you remember it… Its always better to get rid of a guy a year too soon, than hold onto him a year too long!!! Thompson won’t let a good YOUNG WR walk to keep an aging, so to be over the hill WR!!! Write it down…

          If Bishop leaves in FA we get a compensatory pick… Same w/ Driver, Colledge, Bigby etc… Those compensatory picks can come in handy!

          Spitz won the job last year! And would still have it if it weren’t for his back surgery casting doubts over his future! Or didn’t you remember that Spitz was the starter at the beginning of last season?!

  3. DaveK says:

    Nice run down of the upcoming potential FA’s.

    It is going to be an very interesting year in regard to contracts all over the league. The looming work stoppage really has the potential to change the normal flow of things. You might have players wanting a deal (and the bonus money) before a work stoppage or they might just want to hold off until a full fledged uncapped year and possible more guaranteed money. Teams may not want to give up front $ prior to a stoppage or they may want to give big upfront money before the cap is reinstated. So many things could change that you might have teams with completely different strategies next year. The potential is there for a savvy GM to take advantage of the changes before the others teams clue in on it. It does seem that Mark Murphy will be at the center of the storm though so that may be beneficial to the Packers if they have some knowledge of negotiations and pending changes before the rest of the league or players do.

  4. [...] Packers Update takes a gander at, assuming there is a 2011 NFL Season, those Packers that will be unrestricted free agents in 2011. [...]

  5. [...] Packers on the horizon for next season are considered by Michael Rodney of Packer Update who thinks the Packers could use a franchise tag on Cullen Jenkins. “It’s very likely that [general manager Ted] Thompson will want to re-sign the veteran [...]

  6. stroh says:

    What happened to the chat tonite??? I set aside time to be here… If you cancelled it or postponed it the least you could have done was notified us so we didn’t have to waste our time trying to link to it!!!!

    Poor Poor Poor!!!

    • Michael Rodney says:

      The chat was scheduled to begin at 8. I was ready. Not a single question was submitted as of 8:10 so I shut it down. Sorry you wasted your time; I know exactly how you feel. But don’t worry, it won’t happen again.

      • stroh says:

        I couldn’t even link to it prior to 8.. No wonder there were no question!!!

        • Michael Rodney says:

          I don’t know what to tell you. I opened the chat for questions at 7pm ET – an hour before it was scheduled to begin. A few of us tried the link and it worked fine. We even posted a few test questions. I just assumed there was no interest in a chat.

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