Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Packers wined and dined a couple of interesting free agents.

Strong safety Mike Logan is out in Pittsburgh, making way for last year's 1st round draft choice Troy Polamalu. Apparently he would be well received by the Packers' beat writers because he won an award in Pittsburgh last year for his work with the media, for what that is worth. He tore his knee up in the 2002 playoffs, but came back to start 16 games in 2003. Pittsburgh's pass defense was 6.3% worse than average in 2003, according to footballoutsiders.com, but had one of the best run defenses (19.6% better than average) while Logan was their 3rd leading tackler. Logan sounds like Marques Anderson with more experience. No strong safety has signed this month, although strong safety Greg Wesley resigned with Kansas City for $5 million in guaranteed money several weeks ago so that might be in Logan's mind. The strong safety market has been dead the last couple of offseasons, so I would be surprised if the Packers jumped in with an offer and instead are waiting to see if Logan is still available right before the draft at a reduced price.

Mark Roman played free safety for Cincinnati last year, but he was shown the door when Cincinnati signed free agent Kim Herring. If "defensive genius" Marvin Lewis doesn't want you anymore, does that mean the Packers should be interested in him? Maybe the Packers are looking at him as a backup safety/cornerback.

William Bartee would be a project. He played in college at Oklahoma, and that makes me compare him to fellow alum Torrence Marshall, in that both players have the physical ability to play at a high level in the NFL, but neither has gotten the job done. Bartee has played 4 seasons in the NFL, partipated in 57 games, and has never once made an interception. He was bumped out of his starting cornerback spot after 2002, he was the 3rd cornerback in 2003, and Kansas City's pass defense improved from 12.5% worse than average in 2002 to 2.7% better than average in 2003 according to footballoutsiders.com, but their opponents might have avoided a good pass defense to run the ball against Kansas City's anemic 10.1% worse than average run defense in 2003. The year ended on a really bad note for Kansas City when Peyton Manning dominated their pass defense in the playoffs. Signing Bartee and counting on him to fill the 3rd cornerback position sounds like a substantial risk.

Finally, the Packers brought in backup quarterback Billy Volek. It doesn't sound like any team is looking for a starting quarterback, so now he seems to be weighing his backup offers. Volek played well when healthy in 2003 (QB rating of 101.4) and Tennessee would probably prefer to have him backup Steve McNair in 2004 but they have big cap problems. According to jsonline.com, offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said "I'm hoping [Brett Favre will] play another four or five years" which is exactly what I want to hear. Volek is the best free agent quarterback available at this point, for what that is worth, so I would expect him to find a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere behind an injury prone starting quarterback. Until Favre retires, hopefully in four or five years, the Packers should keep the backup spots occupied by low cost veterans (Doug Pederson) or low cost projects (Craig Nall) who could come in relief if Favre misses some time, but no highly paid quarterbacks of the future please.

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