Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Packers placed the franchise tag on Chad Clifton this week. It surprised me, because I thought it would effect the Packers salary cap immediately, but the Packers have until March 2nd to work Clifton's guaranteed franchise salary figure into the cap. Mark Tauscher restructed his contract this week for some additional room next year, and some more restructuring, along with some releases, are likely to create cap room.

It would be a shock if another team courts Clifton now, because it would cost a team two first round picks. Clifton is a solid and underappreciated player, but it will cost Brett Favre type money to resign him, which seems too steep. If the Packers have a certain amount of money allocated to sign free agents this offseason, however, it might as well be spent resigning Clifton because there are not any top free agents at the positions the Packers might consider upgrading.

Defensive End: The Packers could use a run stopping, pass rushing, every down playing defensive end, like the player they expected when they signed Joe Johnson two years ago. The only top player who fits that profile, another New Orleans defensive end Darren Howard, was given the franchise tag by his team so that effectively makes him unavailable. Miami's Adewale Ogunleye and Tennessee's Jevon Kearse are also free agents, but both are better pass rushers than run stoppers, and Kearse has had numerous injury problems. Ogunleye first got league wide notice this last season, so he might be a one year wonder.

Linebacker: If the Packers wanted to improve at either outside linebacker position, San Francisco's Julian Peterson would be an upgrade to either Nai'l Diggs or Hannibal Navies, but Peterson was tagged by San Francisco instead of Terrell Owens, so he is certainly not going anywhere.

Safety: Only one safety, Jacksonville's Donovin Darius, would be a clear upgrade over Antuan Edwards or Marques Anderson, but (reaccuring theme) Jacksonville placed the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive season. Carolina's Deon Grant is an unrestricted free agent, but he is a free safety and plays more like Darren Sharper than LeRoy Butler. Reggie Tongue is a free agent strong safety from Seattle, but it isn't clear that Tongue is any better than Anderson. Last offseason, two Butler like safeties, Lawyer Malloy and Rodney Harrison, both were free agents after their teams cut them, so maybe a player like them will be cut before March 2nd.

With the franchise tag on Clifton, the only two free agents who may get some early attention are Michael Hawthorne and Edwards. With the tight cap situation, it looks like the Packers are seeing what the market is for those two players and waiting until March to possibly resigning them. The Packers would be better off if both players returned next season, but neither one can afford to be paid starters money.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The NFL announced today that the 2004 salary cap is $80.5 million instead of $78.7 million as it was projected at the end of 2003. Any extra wiggle room under the cap is good news for the Packers. According to John Clayton on, the Packers were under the cap by $1.1 million as of Feb. 12th, so its likely the Packers are $2.9 million under the cap as of today. The bad news is Chad Clifton will have to be tagged as the franchise player by next Tuesday, and according to Len Pasquarelli of that would add slightly over $7 million to the Packers cap, unless a long term deal can be worked out. It seems highly unlikely that Clifton will have either the franchise or transition tag (its cap cost is slightly over $6 million) placed on him. Clifton is probably the best free agent offensive lineman available, if Orlando Pace and Walter Jones for the umpteenth years in a row are given the franchise tags by St. Louis and Seattle respectively, and still likely to command a $10 million signing bonus. It seems unlikely that the Packers want to give that amount of money to arguably their 5th best offensive lineman.

Friday, February 13, 2004

It was surprising to read that Mike Sherman, Mark Hatley, Reggie McKenzie, John Schneider, and Tom Rossley all went to see a private workout by Drew Henson. "This isn't necessarily a unique situation", Sherman told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal. Sure it isn't. Henson looked outstanding running the offense during his one year as a starter in Michigan, although he played with an offense loaded with future NFL players. Sherman has ran two drafts and came away with two potential stars in Javon Walker and Nick Barnett, so I would expect any trade for Henson to be a good decision. An article last month on made the argument that it would be a shock if Henson was traded, instead of drafted in the upcoming April draft, because he could only receive a small signing bonus based on Houston's rookie draft cap for last season, but the Journal-Sentinal had a quote from Houston GM Charley Casserly that made it sound like it was more important for Henson to choose his first NFL team than to receive a huge signing bonus.

It seems unlikely that Henson would choose team over money, but why else would Houston host the workout, and Casserly attend it, if it isn't possible that Henson would consent to a trade? I don't know much about Henson, but maybe his agent, Tom Condon, told Sherman that Henson would consent to a trade to play for the Packers? If it was a workout to showoff for the draft, why weren't the high drafting and quarterback starved teams like Arizona, Cleveland or Pittsburgh in attendance with their head coaches?

I haven't been anxious for Brett Favre to retire and I haven't wanted the Packers to use a high draft choice on a quarterback because then they would have two starting quarterbacks salaries on their salary cap, but a trade for Henson would allow them to have a quarterback with the talent of a high draft choice on the salary cap at a 6th round draft choice price, at least for a season. It is a unique and very interesting opportunity.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Packers assigned 12 players to NFL Europe, but 10 of the 12 were signed just two weeks ago. Only Erwin Swiney and Derek Combs played any part on last season's team. Swiney might be part of the battle for the 3rd cornerback position, if Michael Hawthorne leaves in free agency, so it appears that Swiney is the only one of the 12 players who might make next season's roster. Certainly this is not as interesting as last season, when QB Craig Nall went to NFL Europe.

Apparently, Hawthorne thinks he is likely to get a big contract this offseason to be someone's starting cornerback. It is unlikely the Packers would sign Hawthorne to be a starter for next season since Mike McKenzie and Al Harris are both under contract for next season. Hawthorne might be right, he is tall (over 6 feet) and played well this season. Atlanta gave Tod McBride a multiyear contract last offseason, after McBride was the Packers 3rd cornerback (when healthy). However, Atlanta's pass defense was a disaster last season and it wouldn't be surprising to see McBride cut. Hawthorne has a few strikes against him because he is relatively slow for a NFL cornerback and he was released by New Orleans supposedly after clashing with coaches. Hopefully he doesn't get much interest from other teams and the Packers can resign him to a one year contract.

Monday, February 02, 2004

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal had an article about Nick Barnett and how he felt guilty about his blown coverage on the 4th and 26 play vs. Philadelphia in the playoffs. Philadelphia had three receivers running routes on the play. Why would the Packers run a defense that required their middle linebacker to cover the slot wide receiver on a play 26 yards from the line of scrimmage? The more I read about that blown play, the more it sounds like that it was entirely the coaches fault.

Last offseason, left tackles Luke Pettigout and Flozell Adams each got around a $10 million signing bonus for a 7 year, $30 million contract. That is Chad Clifton's price for the Packers this offseason, although he might discount it due to his serious hip injury in 2002. Clifton should fire his agent if his agent doesn't ask the Packers for a $10 million signing bonus. I am really torn about resigning Clifton. He is a solid player on the best offensive line in the NFL and he is just a step below a Pro Bowl level, although only one season removed from a career threating injury. Generally, a team cannot let a player of his ability leave in free agency, but he doesn't play a skill position. The Packers could find a replacement for Clifton in free agency or the draft, but it is unlikely that his replacement would be as good as Clifton. If the Packers can afford it, although it would be the the Packers only significant move in free agency, then he should be resigned, but the Packers should not bust their cap just to resign him.