Tuesday, February 22, 2005

After reading Tom Silverstein's article at jsonline.com, I see I was mistaken with OG Mike Wahle's free agency. His contract isn't expiring, but his cap number is $11 million next season, which is far too high and intended to force the Packers to release him. It doesn't seem possible that the Packers could use their franchise tag on Wahle. That's too bad, because it would really surprise me if Wahle doesn't sign a contract with a signing bonus over $10 million next season to start at left tackle for some other team.

The rest of Silverstein's article is very good too and does a great job of setting up the next four weeks for the Packers front office. Silverstein does put too much emphasis on retaining LB Hannibal Navies, who rarely made plays last season, and took a big step back from his solid 2003 season. OG Marco Rivera is a priority for next season, but how many seasons will he play at a Pro Bowl level? His knees have taken a pounding over the last few seasons and he didn't seem to play as well in 2004 as past seasons. If his contract demands are to be paid like as one of the highest paid offensive guards in the NFL, which they should be, then the Packers might be better off in the long run to let him go. Although it would be harder to convince QB Brett Favre to return without Rivera and Wahle back on the offensive line. Rivera's return is a not an easy decision.

TE Bubba Franks was tagged as the Packers franchise player, as multiple sources reported. It makes some sense to let Franks go out and price himself in the marketplace, then if some team offers Franks a reasonable contract, the Packers can easily match it. It probably depends on whether a team with cap space really wants to upgrade their tight end position this offseason; it would easy to write a contract that the Packers can't afford to match and they have to let Franks go for no compensation.

If the Packers think FS Darren Sharper would accept a pay cut, then they must be crazy. Unless Sharper's loyalty to the Packers is beyond my imagination, if Sharper is a free agent this offseason, then he would find a team willing to pay him a multi-million dollar signing bonus on a long term contract. If the Packers want to reduce Sharper's salary cap figure and keep him, then they have to offer him some guaranteed money and an extension. This can often lead to salary cap jail in the future if you do this with too many players, but Sharper can still play at a high level for a few more seasons and be worth the dollars in future seasons.

Overall this is a tough first offseason for Ted Thompson. It would be more difficult to rebound next season with the losses of Rivera, Wahle, Franks, and Sharper (assuming Favre returns). Favre's departure would change every other decision in the offseason.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Its been a quiet past couple of Packer weeks.

There has been speculation on QB Brett Favre's retirement, but nothing is really known at this point (maybe Favre himself doesn't know what he wants to do).

Further speculation has been whether FS Darren Sharper will remain a Packer. Hopefully he stays but his 2005 cap number is too big. Sharper has lost a step over the last two seasons, but he still makes big plays, he is just turning 30, and he isn't too old or slow to remain a top NFL safety for the next few seasons. The Packers will probably have to guarantee him some money now to spread out his salary over the next few seasons.

Will some Packer get the franchise tag? I've read about TE Bubba Franks being tagged, but that seems unlikely after Franks's average past couple of seasons. Maybe OG Mike Wahle or OG Marco Rivera will be tagged. The salary cap value to tag either player would be less than other players because offensive guards are generally lesser paid players. Rivera would probably receive a franchise tag to keep him a Packer, but Wahle might get tagged and traded to a team that would play him at left tackle (and pay him bigger left tackle bucks). ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli had an article about teams using the franchise tag to obtain compensation for free agent departures a week ago, so it is possible that the Packers might decide to do the same. Remember that the Packers are currently over the salary cap so they won't be quick to place the franchise tag on any player (they would have to restructure contracts or release players to make it possible) and players are more likely to leave than to stay at this point.

If Wahle and/or Rivera leave this offseason, its likely that OG Steve Morley is at the front of the line, along with C Grey Ruegamer or C Scott Wells depending on whether C Mike Flanagan can return from his injuries. Morley was just sent to NFL Europe to get some more experience. OT Kevin Barry could return and start at right tackle, with RT Mark Tauscher switching to guard too. Morley was probably the Packer with only legitimate chance of starting or making the roster who was sent to NFL Europe, although bust P B.J. Sander was sent too.

If the current roster is left intact and new defensive coordinator can Jim Bates turn the defense into a NFL average unit, then the Packers are better than any team in the NFC except Philadelphia and have a great shot at making the Super Bowl. That should be the goal for this offseason.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

It looks like WR Donald Driver will be proven wrong. After various sources reported on Driver's radio show comments that QB Brett Favre would be retiring, espn.com's Chris Mortenson reported that Favre will be staying. Hopefully Favre will be playing for a couple more seasons. Favre isn't the best QB in the NFL and he takes too many chances (although they work out as often as they don't), but he will remain a threat to lead the NFC in TD passes next season (he led the NFL in 2003 and QB Daunte Culpepper could throw fewer in 2005 if WR Randy Moss is traded and so might QB Donovan McNabb if WR Terrell Owens doesn't fully recover from his broken leg-remember WR Jerry Rice was never the same after he broke his kneecap) and the Packers could spend the next 25 years (approximate time between QB Bart Starr and Favre's careers) looking for as good a quarterback.

Bob Slowik decided for a change of scenery after the 2004 defensive disaster. Slowik coached a very good Packer secondary from 2001-2003 and was offered the opportunity to return to that position, but he accepted the same job for Denver, as reported by denverbroncos.com last week. He could have been a good coach for the Packers next season, but maybe this was for the best.