Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Packers Offseason So Far...

Unrestricted Free Agents:
The Packers put the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ryan Pickett which left them with 4 unrestricted free agents:

Chad Clifton (LT):
For a quick background on how nice of a guy Clifton is and how much he wanted to stay a Packer, check out former Green Bay Packer front office executive Andrew Brandt's recent article about the last contract that he negotiated with Clifton. As always, Brandt provides a great look at the inter workings of the Green Bay Packers from his time there.

Even though Clifton is 33 years old, he is still a top 10 left tackle in the NFL. As a result, Clifton rejected the Packers initial offers and tested free agency briefly before resigning with the Packers. Clifton ultimately signed a three-year contract worth $19,387,500. The contract is very cap friendly because the Packers will incur no cap charges if they cut Clifton after 2010. The Packers can draft a tackle in the 2010 NFL Draft but will not be forced to play him immediately thanks to resigning Clifton. Here is the breakdown of Clifton's contract:
- 2010: $7,481,250 = $6,376,250 roster bonus, $855,000 salary and $250,000 workout bonus
- 2011: $6,203,125 = $203,125 roster bonus, $5,750,000 salary and $250,000 workout bonus
- 2012: $5,703,125 = $203,125 roster bonus, $5,250,000 salary and $250,000 workout bonus

Ahman Green (RB):
Batman might be in Packers' plans if they don't draft a game changing running back or sign a younger running back in free agency. Plus, the suitors for Green will be few if any because of his advance age and mileage by NFL running back standards. Basically Batman would be lucky to be wearing Green and Gold in 2010.

Aaron Kampman (DE/OLB):
The Packers asked Kampman to move from defensive end to outside linebacker when they switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense heading into 2009. Despite the fact that Kampman was in the last year of his contract, he obliged and played out of position. As the season progressed, it became painfully obvious that Kampman did not fit as an outside linebacker in the 3-4.

Knowing all of that, why did the Packers hold on to Kampman at the 2009 NFL Trade Deadline? Refer back to my post on October 20, 2009 where I made the case for trading Aaron Kampman at the NFL trade deadline here. Unfortunately Ted Thompson doesn't read the blog and the Packers held on to Kampman.

We all know the story, Kampman tore his ACL towards the end of the season and started to plot his exit from the only NFL franchise he has ever known. Oddly, I thought Kampman tearing his ACL would be good for the Packers because teams might be scared to commit any significant money to him coming off such a horrible injury. I was wrong, Kampman's torn ACL didn't hurt him in the free agent market at all. Instead, Kampman refused any overtures by the Packers, preferring to move to a 4-3 system. Kampman found just that with the Jacksonville Jaguars where he signed a four-year contract worth $25 million. Not too sure how much sense it makes for the Jaguars to give Kampman such a hefty contract without knowing how healthy he will be, take a look at the breakdown of the contract:
- 2010: $11.025 million = $10 million signing bonus, $1 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus
- 2011: $2.475 million = $2.45 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus
- 2012: $5 million = $4.975 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus
- 2013: $6.5 million = $6.475 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus

Mark Tauscher (RT):
Speaking of ACL injuries, Tauscher tore his ACL in 2008 around the same point in the season that Kampman tore his ACL in 2009. Tauscher was unable to play for the Packers until October of 2009 but once he re-joined the Packers, the offensive line settled and the team started to win more games. Unless the Packers are 100% committed to drafting an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft they better bring back Tauscher. Furthermore, Aaron Rodgers expressed a strong desire to have Mark Tauscher return to the Packers in 2010...that should be reason enough to resign Tauscher.

If Tauscher wants a long-term contract, the Packers might look elsewhere. If Tauscher agrees to come back on a reasonable one-year deal, the Packers should sign him tomorrow. If it was up to me, I would resign Tauscher to a one-year deal ASAP.

Restricted Free Agents:
Since the 2010 season is being played uncapped, players need 6 years of NFL service as opposed to 4 years of NFL service to become an unrestricted free agent. As a result, any player with 4 or 5 years of NFL service would have been an unrestricted free agent in the past but now they are a restricted free agent. That rule change impacts 212 NFL players, including 9 Packers.

The new rules allow the Packers to "tender" their 9 restricted free agents a one-year contract at 4 tender levels: 1st & 3rd rounds, 1st round, 2nd round, and original draft position. Those tender levels determine the compensation the player would get if they sign the one-year tender and the level of draft pick compensation the Packers would receive if the players signs with another team.

Once the tenders are placed on each player, they have the right to speak to the other 31 NFL teams about a contract. If one of the 31 other teams signs a player to an offer sheet, the Packers have the right to match the offer. If the Packers decline to match the offer then they receive the draft pick compensation from the team that signs their restricted free agents. Here is a look at the Packers 9 restricted free agents and how I think things will play out:

Atari Bigby (S):
Bigby was undrafted in 2005 out of the University of Central Florida. The Packers tendered Bigby at the 2nd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $1.76 million. Despite Bigby being injured and somewhat inconsistent this was a smart tender. If the Packers gave Bigby the lowest tender (original draft position) then teams would have been jumping at the chance to sign him to an offer sheet because they would be getting a starting NFL safety for no draft pick compensation. Instead, the Packers have their starting safety under contract for a reasonable price since there is no chance a team would surrender a second round pick for Bigby.

Will Blackmon (KR/CB):
Blackmon was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 draft out of Boston College. The Packers tendered Blackmon at his original draft position which is a one-year contract worth $1.176 million. Blackmon has shown flashes as a kick returner but has been placed on injured reserve almost every season. Blackmon will garner little interest on the restricted free agent market and will have to show he can stay healthy to even make the Packers roster in 2010.

Daryn Colledge (OG):
Colledge was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft out of Boise State. The Packers tendered Colledge at the 2nd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $1.76 million. There are conflicting reports on whether Colledge is salty about only getting a second round tender. From the fan's perspective there are no conflicting reports, we are all salty with his play.

Colledge just hasn't played that well for the Packers and is a good example of how the rule changes in the CBA have helped the Packers. In the past the Packers would have had to make a long term contract offer to Colledge in order to retain his services. This offseason, the Packers can wait and hope a team signs Colledge to an offer sheet because they would gladly take a second round pick instead of Colledge since there is a chance Colledge won't even make the roster in 2010 depending on who the Packers select in the 2010 draft.

Nick Collins (S):
Collins was originally drafted in the 2nd round in 2005 out of Bethune-Cookman University. The Packers tendered Collins at the 1st and 3rd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $3.35 million. Collins took everyone by surprise and recently signed his offer sheet as a sign of good faith to induce the Packers to negotiate a long-term deal.

First off, not too many people are feeling sorry for Collins earning $3.35 million next season if the parties fail to reach a long-term agreement. That said, Collins has earned a long-term deal. Collins is a two time Pro Bowler and the only reliable safety on the Packers roster unless you count 2012 Chuck Woodson.

Some people have used the contract Antrel Rolle signed with the New York Giants (five-year, $37 million with a $10 million first year payout) as a benchmark for what Colllins should get. That seems a little rich but the price is only going up. Of all the restricted free agents on the Packers roster, Collins deserves a long-term deal and I expect one to get done before the start of the 2010 season.

Johnny Jolly (DT/DE):
Jolly was originally drafted in the 6th round in 2006 out of Texas A&M. The Packers tendered Jolly at the 1st round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $2.521 million. This was again a good move by Ted Thompson.

There was some thought that with the uncertainty surrounding Jolly's pending court case for drug possession that the Packers could have gotten away with tending him at only a second round compensation level. If they did, I expected at least one team would have taken a gamble on Jolly because he thrived as a combo DT/DE in the 3-4 last season.

Even with his legal troubles pending, so many teams are gravitating towards the 3-4 which would made Jolly very enticing for only a second round draft pick. Jolly is another example of how the Packers lucked out with the new rules. The Packers would rather see how the court case plays out before offering Jolly a long-term contract.

John Kuhn (FB):
Kuhn was undrafted in 2005 out of Shippensburg University. The Packers claimed Kuhn off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007. The Packers tendered Kuhn at his original draft position (undrafted) which is a one-year contract worth $1.176 million.

The Packers were stuck between a rock and a hard place with Kuhn. There is no way they could put a second round tender on him but they would also like to get some compensation for him. Unfortunately if any team signs him to an offer sheet and the Packers decline to match the offer, they get Kuhn without having to sacrifice a draft pick.

The Packers already have two younger fullbacks on their roster so Kuhn is expendable. That said, the Packers carried 3 FBs for the entire 2009 season. In the end it would be a huge surprise to me if more than 2 FBs were on the 2010 roster and if one of them was named Kuhn.

Jason Spitz (C/OG):
Spitz was originally drafted in the 3rd round in 2006 out of Louisville. The Packers tendered Spitz at the 2nd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $1.76 million. Spitz has injury problems similar to Bigby and Blackmon. All three players show flashes of brilliance canceled out by long spells of injuries.

Similar to Colledege, the Packers would happily take a second round pick in the upcoming, talent laden draft for Spitz. But because of the aforementioned injury history, teams will likely shy away.

What will be interesting to see is if Colledge and Spitz (drafted the same year in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively) do in fact square off against one another for the starting left guard position next season. My money would be on Spitz to win in a land slide if he stays healthy but that is a big if.

Tramon Williams (CB):
Williams was originally undrafted in 2006 out of Louisiana Tech. The Packers tendered Williams at the 1st and 3rd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $3.043 million.

This was the most perplexing tender of the group. I thought Williams would get a 2nd round tender. Instead, the Packers blew right by that and the 1st round tender to give Williams the highest tender possible. There isn't a team in the NFL that is going to give up a 1st and 3rd round pick to sign Williams.

Although it is not an apples to apples comparison since Charles Woodson is much older, I am not even sure a team would surrender a 1st and 3rd round pick for Charles Woodson at this point and Woodson was the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Williams looks to be the corner back of the future in Green Bay but he is still a work in progress. My friends over at Football Outsiders call Williams "Arm Bar" because of how many pass interference penalties he draws. In the penalty department Williams reminds me a lot more Ahmad Carroll than Charles Woodson...shoot.

DeShawn Wynn (RB):
Wynn was originally drafted in the 7th round in 2007 out the University of Florida. The Packers decided not to tender Wynn because of his lengthy injury history.

I have said it before and I will say it again, if Wynn stayed healthy in 2007 then Ryan Grant is either a journeymen running back in the NFL or a runway model. It was Wynn's injury in 2007 that gave Grant a chance to play. Grant parlayed that into a huge contract before the 2008 season.

If you want to read how lucrative of a contract Grant actually got in 2008 while the Packers were dealing with the Favre saga click here to read my past post.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
This is what the aforementioned Ryan Grant was in 2008. These players are the exclusive rights of the Packers so they basically have to take what the Packers offer or sit out the season:

Spencer Havner (TE):
Havner was originally undrafted in 2008 out of University of Cudahy by the Lake Almost. The Packers offered Havner a one-year deal worth roughly $500,000. Not a ton of money by NFL standards but Havner has no leverage.

The Packers already have two TEs ahead of him on the depth chart (Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee) although really only one should be since Lee is really only good at dropping wide open TDs at this point. Havner caught 4 TDs this year and made an even bigger contribution special teams. The Packers will welcome back Havner with open arms for $500,000 this season unless they get a couple special teams mavens in the draft.

Jeremy Kapinos (P):
Kapinos was originally undrafted in 2007 out of Penn State. The Packers did not offer Kapinos a contract, which shows you how little they think of him. Kapinos would have earned between $400,000 and $500,000 next season but the Packers didn't even think he was worth that and they were right.

The Packers punting game has been in shambles since letting Craig Hentrich leave via free agency a million years ago. Kapinos was not the answer, he was last in the league in net punt average...don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Other Moves:
The Packers released Michael Montgomery (DE) and Matt Giordano (S) on March 5th at the start of free agency.

Montgomery, a former 6th round pick from the 2005 NFL Draft, lacked the size to play defensive end in the 3-4. Add in that Montgomery was scheduled to make $1.5 million next season and the decision was pretty easy for the Packers.

Giordano was signed during the 2009 season but never really made an impact for the Packers. Despite lacking depth at safety, keeping Giordano would have cost the Packers $850,000 which would have been a little rich.

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