Thursday, March 30, 2006

Idiot. Head coach Baldrick has another cunning new plan with "more core base concepts." Baldrick "said his belief is that reverting to an offense that relies heavily on the running game, throws often to the backs and uses big receivers running slants and shallow crossing patterns will best fit Favre’s talents." It sounds an awful lot like the offense Mike Holmgren ran in the mid-90s. Favre had some great seasons then, but he was happy when Ray Rhodes and later Mike Sherman allowed him to throw deep. The deep pass is what Baldrick would call a "core base concept" of Favre's game. Favre will not want to play the style of offense that McCarthy is suggesting.

The reality is that the Packers have reverted to an offense with three running backs (Gado, Green, and Davenport) all returning after season-ending leg injuries, that has no center or guards penciled in as starters, and three offensive tackles (Clifton, Tauscher, and Barry) who have all been promised starting jobs. Teams that use a zone blocking offensive scheme (Atlanta, Denver) usually run the ball well and have poor pass protection. Plus, none of the three offensive tackles fit the prototype of a zone blocking lineman. That does not sound like a team ready to rely on the running game. The team currently has three big receivers on the roster, but two of them are players no one else wanted (Gardner and Boehriger) and another is a player who has promised to never again play for the Packers (Walker). The team's best receiver (Driver) is not a big receiver. McCarthy's style of offense will not work with Favre and this current roster.

Why would Favre want to play for this mess of a roster with a coach that doesn't realize his team doesn't have the personnel to play McCarthy's preferred style of football? And now the Packers are trying to force Favre into a decision because they don't want to pay a $3 million roster bonus if they don't have to. Favre does have a big salary cap number and it might be a convenient excuse to shove him out the door.

With the money saved from Favre's roster bonus, they could sign CB Charles Woodson. What a stupid idea. He's 29 years old (cornerbacks don't play well past age 30), he's finished the last two seasons injured, he's fought with his coach, and he got arrested in 2004. Kansas City coach Herm Edwards was quoted as saying that Woodson might be able to play cornerback, but he might have to play safety. The Packers would pay top cornerback money to a safety who is a clubhouse cancer and couldn't beat out any of the projected starting defensive backs. Just say no.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Yawn. Coach Baldrick's cunning new plan this season is to load the team with tall wide receivers, the faster the better. Out goes WR Antonio Chatman, 2nd on the team in receptions. Staying is headcase WR Rod Gardner. Now enters WR Marc Boerigter.

Should Boerigter even being playing in the NFL? In 2005, he played with a top 5 quarterback and managed a whopping 8 receptions. Kansas City didn't have great depth at the position either. Their no. 2 WR Samie Parker only has 45 receptions for his career. The only bright side is that Boerigter might have slipped under the radar because he had an ACL tear in 2004 and players usually don't return to full strength until their 2nd season back (so don't be surprised if WR Javon Walker doesn't play in 2006 like he did in 2004). It is possible that 2005 was Boerigter's recovery season and now he is fully healthy in 2006.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Packers finally signed LB Ben Taylor. There was so little interest in Taylor that the Packers spoke with him right at the start of free agency, and no one else did since, except his ex-team Cleveland. No one appeared interested in this guy, but he might actually start with the Packers at strong side linebacker. Bonus trivia: Taylor was one of the last players left in Cleveland from the disasterous drafts of Butch Davis in 2001-2004. GM Ted Thompson said Taylor is "a football guy" who "played a lot of football in Cleveland." Sounds great.

Then the Packers signed K Billy Cundiff. K Ryan Longwell's greatest strength during his good seasons (aka pre-2005) was that he was remarkably consistant. Cundiff is the opposite. In a 2003 Loser League Recap at Football Outsiders, they pointed out how Cundiff had an awful week 1 for Dallas, missing a field goal and an extra point, but then rebounded in week 2 to hit 7 field goals. One coach said Cundiff has a strong leg for kickoffs, which is an area the Packers really need to improve on. Dallas let him go because of injury, so if he is healthy he may be as good or even a slight improvement over Longwell. Bob McGinn said that Cundiff won't be the last kicker the Packers sign.

The Packers need to move on from the injury filled seasons with RB Najeh Davenport. Instead they resign the veteran backup. I have nothing against Davenport (despite his bizarre dorm room incident as a rookie) because he has great talent and seemed to enjoy playing in Green Bay. But he can't stay healthy, and it is likely that he never will stay healthy. It would have been best for both parties to move on, but instead they will try try again.

Wow. C Mike Flanagan was given a $3 million signing bonus by Houston. Flanagan didn't play well last season. At least 1 or 2 plays a game, Flanagan would be overpowered and the play would collapse because of the defensive pressure. Adding the major injuries he has faced with his declining play in 2005, it seemed reasonable to let him go or bring him back on a small contract. However, Houston had the worst offensive line in the NFL last season and had to do something. Flanagan is a lighter offensive lineman with solid foot work who could have benefitted the most from a switch to a zone blocking scheme, but the Packers reasonably didn't want to match Houston's big offer.

The Packers also lost RB Tony Fisher to St. Louis. Fisher doesn't have enough speed to start in the NFL, but he is a good receiver and a good pass blocker. He has value as a 3rd down specialist, but RB Ahman Green might be that same running back in 2006. Green is a good pass receiver and blocker, and he might be just as slow as Fisher after his knee injury. It is possible RB Samkon Gado takes over as starter, while Green is a 3rd down back next season. Why couldn't the Packers have pursued RB Edgerrin James in free agency?

Don't panic. Thompson says "I think we helped ourselves a little bit in free agency." Mike McCarthy went deep into his catch phrases and pulled out "our approach has been consistent" and "we're not taking big chances. We're staying true to our plan." You know, Baldrick had a cunning plan too, and it always seemed to make the situation Blackadder found himself in a lot worse. If you think of them Coach Baldrick and GM Blackadder, then it all makes a lot more sense.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Great. LB Paris Lenon was not a great player during his time with the Packers, but as the Packers thin linebacker depth chart stood, Lenon would have been considered their 2nd best linebacker way behind LB Nick Barnett. Teams shouldn't spend big in free agency to sign players other teams are not trying too hard to keep; such as the huge $18.5 million guaranteed payday Seattle gave LB Julian Peterson when San Francisco wasn't exactly throwing themselves in front of the train to keep him from leaving town. But teams should be trying hard to resign their own players that they want to keep. Mike McCarthy said. "Hey, that's free agency. You're not going to win 'em all, unfortunately." You haven't won anything this offseason! The only good side to this is that any player Matt Millen wants in Detroit can't be all that great.

The Packers offered ex-Cleveland LB Ben Taylor to fill one starting linebacker position, but then hit him with a low-ball one year offer that didn't get the job done. Maybe you can win that one Mike.

At this point, there is not one big name free agent that the Packers should pursue. LB Lavar Arrington is still available, but that is an ugly battle with the coaches and several lawsuits waiting to happen. It isn't clear how many battles the Packers won in free agency, they won on DT Ryan Pickett and DE Aaron Kampman but who knows how many battles they actually fought and lost.

The biggest signing by a division rival might have happened when Chicago signed QB Brian Griese. Griese is an average QB, but Chicago has been playing some of the league's worst QBs in recent seasons; QB Kyle Orton and QB Craig Krenzel being the worst of the bunch. QB Rex Grossman has his moments, but so far he has been a below average QB, when healthy. Still he looks like QB Peyton Manning after watching several games with Orton starting. Griese should make Chicago better next season.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Packers did resign FB William Henderson. It is a mystery why Minnesota would be interested in Henderson, because the fullback has been the least utilized player in their offense for many seasons. Henderson will contribute in 2006, especially if QB Brett Favre returns, but he will only play a part-time roll along with FB Vonta Leach. Further down in the article, it says something about Mike McCarthy that he prefers tall wide receivers that are head cases (WR Rod Gardner) over short wide receivers who have been useful to the team over the last couple of seasons (WR Antonio Chatman).

Why is the Packers pursuit of K Adam Vinatieri making any news? The Packers might be interested in signing him, but it would be shocking if he had any real interest in signing with them. If Miami is interested in him too, then the Packers would be, at best, a distant third behind Miami and New England. He would help the Packers improve their kicking game from the disasterous 2005 season, but the Packers have to be a longshot to acquire him.

It is a stretch to think that because QB Craig Nall signed with Buffalo, that it means that it is likely Favre will return. Nall probably saw himself behind Favre or QB Aaron Rodgers in either situation, and realized that QB J.P. Losman flopped, QB Kelly Holcomb isn't very good, and he has a better shot in 2006 to start in Buffalo.

Dear GM Ted Thompson, Favre was probably asking you to be aggressive this free agency period to improve the offensive line, something you haven't done. Were you intentionally trying to drive Favre into retirement or is it just incompetance on your part? Love, Packer Fans. P.S. Resigning T Kevin Barry doesn't count, because he doesn't have the ability to play in a zone blocking scheme (he isn't quick enough or have good enough footwork) and you will be releasing him this time next year after you've realized it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

What are they thinking? Does Mike McCarthy even believe what he is saying? The Packers resigned T Kevin Barry with a 2 year contract and have promised him a legitimate shot at a starting job. Barry is a quality backup right tackle who could probably start for some teams. However, the Packers are switching to a zone blocking system next season and the 330 lbs. lineman was told that "he needs to slim down." The Packers gave Barry a long look at right tackle a couple of seasons ago, with the idea of moving RT Mark Tauscher to right guard or the bench, however Barry didn't come close to beating out Tauscher and found himself on the bench. Barry is a solid backup right tackle, but the Packers' coaches are dreaming if they think he will slim down and develop quick feet work over the summer. If the Packers are serious about switching to a zone blocking scheme, then they will let players like Barry go and start looking for quality college players that fit their new mold for offensive linemen. Instead, they resign 330 lbs. lineman who don't fit the mold and will blame the players for not fitting in with their scheme when it all collapses around them next season.

WR Rod Gardner was resigned in a small, but useful signing. Gardner only played the last couple of weeks, but he did give a legitimate receiving option. Gardner is no more than a number 3 wide receiver, but he does provide some nice depth. Unfortunately, WR Antonio Chatman is looking for a new team, and Chatman is probably better than Gardner. Both players would have a tough time making the opening roster if the top 4 WRs (Walker, Driver, Ferguson, and Murphy) actually show up to play and are all healthy.

The Packers are interested in LB Rocky Boiman. Dear Ted Thompson, this was not the type of free agent that QB Brett Favre wanted you to pursue. Love, Packer Fans. P.S. I am sure Favre is not really excited to return next season when you pursue free agent QB Josh McCown.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Packers signed NT Ryan Pickett and probably waived good bye to NT Grady Jackson. It is better for the long-term to bring in Pickett and replace the aging Jackson. Terms weren't disclosed, but it is probably around the $5 million Seattle guaranteed to DT Rocky Bernard. I compared St. Louis's and the Packers defensive lines last week and it isn't clear that Pickett's performance in 2005 is an upgrade over what Jackson did in 2005. The Packers have spent a lot of money to resign DE Aaron Kampman and sign Pickett but all it has done has maintained an average defensive line. These are not free agent signings that should encourage QB Brett Favre to return for another season with the Packers. Maybe these signings are trying to encourage Favre to retire.

What does Favre mean when he wants to see free agent signings to keep the team competitive? I would assume that Favre is thinking offense first. The only signing there has been RB Ahman Green. That is better than nothing, but Green's best days are probably behind him. There were two top running backs available; RB Edgerrin James and RB Shaun Alexander, and the Packers made no effort to sign either. The Packers made no effort to sign any of the top 3 offensive lineman; T Kevin Shaffer, G Steve Hutchinson, or C LeCharles Bentley. With WR Javon Walker demanding a trade, it wouldn't hurt the Packers to sign a wide receiver, but they made no effort at either WRs Antwaan Randle El or WR David Givens.

What remaining signings could get Favre's attention? The only obvious one is WR Terrell Owens, but there have been no rumors of any interest from the Packers. Plus signing Owens brings with it a new set of problems. There are a couple of big name linebackers available; LB Lavar Arrington and LB Julian Peterson, but they would demand big money and both players have issues with attitude and injuries, respectively. Would Favre care if the Packers signed K Mike Vanderjagt?

Despite the huge cap room this offseason, the Packers have done little in free agency. The two new players; S Marquand Manuel and Pickett don't add much more than S Mark Roman and Jackson provided in 2005. GM Ted Thompson has just made it one step closer to Favre's departure from the team or his retirement.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Two items of interest in this article. The Packers had NT Ryan Pickett in town. The personnel director quoted in the article prefers Pickett over NT Grady Jackson, which isn't a big surprise since Pickett is a young tackle and Jackson isn't. It doesn't seem likely that Jackson's body will hold up for too many more seasons. Although Football Outsiders ranked the St. Louis defensive line 21st last season, 3 spots better than the Packers. St. Louis had an odd season because they had the 3rd best rank at stuffing running plays for a loss but were 30th vs. runs on 3rd or 4th down with less than 2 yards to go. The Packers need to replace Jackson because he can't be trusted with a long-term deal at this point in his career. Pickett appears to be a modest upgrade with better potential to make it through to the end of a long term deal.

The second item was the $3 million signing bonus Minnesota gave to K Ryan Longwell. That is a stunning amount to give to a kicker, especially a kicker who was awful in 2005. That signing bonus appears to be the blessing and the curse of having a lot of salary cap room.

It was reported that DE Aaron Kampman received a 4 year, $21 million deal and $12 million of it is guaranteed. That is a really big number. For example, RB Edgerrin James received $11.5 million guaranteed in a 4 year, $30 million deal. The size of the guaranteed money isn't surprising since it was enough to keep Kampman from entering the free agent market.

For the second season in a row, Minnesota trades away a superstar. Anything that weakens Minnesota sounds like a good idea. It will now be interesting to see if Minnesota moves up to draft QB Matt Leinert or QB Vince Young since New Orleans's 2nd overall pick is apparently available in trade and Minnesota has an extra 2nd round pick to offer in return. It would seem unlikely that QB Duante Culpepper will ever play as well as he did during the 2004 season again, but it is better to avoid the chance of it happening in Minnesota.

In other NFC North quarterback news, Detroit signed QB Jon Kitna. It would seem that Kitna's best games are behind the 33 year old quarterback, but Prez. Matt Millen can't let GM Ted Thompson upstage him with his crappy S Marquand Manuel signing and Millen signed Kitna plus ex-Packer WR Corey Bradford. QB Joey Harrington is not a great player, but Kitna isn't much of an upgrade.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Packers probably did good by resigning DE Aaron Kampman. Keeping Kampman is a good deal by itself because Kampman was the team's best defensive lineman in 2005. It could be bad if the Packers decide to draft DE Mario Williams in the 1st round, the player that they were most recently rumored to be interested in. Does that mean DE KGB becomes a linebacker? Will GM Ted Thompson encourage more 3 defensive end sets? If the Packers have decided on someone else with their 1st round pick, like LB A.J. Hawk, then resigning Kampman makes sense. Unfortunately the terms of the contract weren't announced. It would probably seem like too much money for Kampman, but in a world where Minnesota would guarantee $16 million for an offensive guard, it probably is reasonable.

Minnesota moved quickly to sign K Ryan Longwell. This keeps the annual trend intact for Minnesota as they sign a kicker from a division rival for the second consecutive season. Apparently K Jason Hanson will be kicking in Minnesota next season. Longwell had been outstanding from 1997 through 2004 on scoring attempts, but he fell apart in 2005 and cost the Packers 1 or 2 games with missed field goals and a big missed extra point against Tampa Bay. If Longwell continues to kick as he did in 2005, then he will not be missed. A potential benefit is that Longwell had been killing the Packers with poor kickoffs for several seasons. Hopefully the next kicker for the Packers can help them win the field position battle better than Longwell.

Some people love Green Bay, but WR Javon Walker doesn't believe it is "the best place for me." As much as the Packers don't need a return of the 2004 CB Mike McKenzie saga, the Packers should not give Walker a new contract. Walker will not be a great receiver in 2006 because he will still be recovering from his knee injury. By 2007, Walker should be as good or better than he was before the injury. The Packers should see how Walker plays in 2006, then try and extend his contract next offseason if he looks fully recovered. The Packers have all the leverage in this situation and if Walker wants to screw around with his career and retire, then that his choice. The Packers can't afford to trade him now when his value is at its lowest.

S Marquand Manuel signed his contract with the Packers as expected. It isn't much money, but as I discussed last week, S Mark Roman actually outplayed Manuel in 2005. The big difference was that Manuel had two big playoff games plus he was claimed off of waivers by Seattle when Thompson was still working for the Seahawks. The Packers would be better if they could find a safety who can outplay Roman, but Manuel is a career backup who did nothing during the 2005 regular season and he won't outplay him.

Why Minnesota would want QB Craig Nall or FB William Henderson is a bit of a mystery. Nall might be a competant NFL starting quarterback, but it is more likely he is the next QB A.J. Feeley. Henderson was in the Pro Bowl in 2004, but he took a step back in 2005. While Henderson still played well in 2005, he didn't play nearly as much as he used to and FB Vonta Leach as much if not more than Henderson. Henderson has been a great Packer for over 10 seasons, but he may have played his last quality NFL season.

Thompson appears to be continuing his poor track record with other team's free agents by showing interest in LB Ben Taylor when no one else is. Taylor had a solid 2005 season but if a player has no visits scheduled with any other team at this point, then how good is he? He might be just as good as Manuel; a career backup who is better suited for special teams.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006 reported that the Packers will sign S Marquand Manuel as soon as free agency begins. It seems to be a trend that GM Ted Thompson has a poor track record for signing free agents. None of the free agents signed by Thompson last offseason made any significant contribution to the Packers. Signing Manuel doesn't guarantee the streak of signing useless free agents is soon to end.

Manuel is a career backup who was claimed off waivers by Seattle from Cincinnati before the start of the 2004 season. It seems to be assumed that Manuel played well after Seattle lost S Ken Hamlin for the season and is now deserving of a starting position, however, it is more likely that Manuel is S Mark Roman v.2.0. Seattle's pass defense was actually worse in 2005 than the Packers. quoted a NFC scout who said "one of his strengths would be being physical when attacking the line of scrimmage" while "his weakness would be ball skills." If new defensive coordinator Bob Sanders uses the same defense as Jim Bates did last season, the safeties in the defense are interchangable and have to be able to play the run and the pass. Rookie S Nick Collins made some mistakes in 2005, but he also showed the ability to play both the run and the pass. Manuel doesn't sound like he is the same caliber of player. The only person quoted by who consistently spoke well of Manuel was his agent.

Manuel appears to be the classic guy who played great in the playoffs after nothing much during the regular season. He had no interceptions and 2 pass defenses during the regular season and 1 interception and 5 pass defenses during his 3 playoff games. Compare him to Roman and it looks like Roman actually played better in 2005. Overall, the Packers are paying a $2 million signing bonus for a player who isn't as good as the player they already have. Another crap move by Thompson. said "the Packers have identified Manuel as the player they want as their other starting safety in ’06 from a free-agent list that includes Chris Hope, Tank Williams, Marlon McCree, Tebucky Jones, Lawyer Milloy and Marcus Coleman." That is not a list of players to get excited about. Although Roman has not played great during his time with the Packers, the only player who is truly an upgrade over Roman is S Chris Hope. The only problem with Hope is that he calls the plays on defense for Pittsburgh and it would be a major surprise if Pittsburgh lets him leave in free agency. The Packers should be trying to develop a safety to play alongside Collins, but S Marviel Underwood was a non-factor during 2005 after Thompson spent a 4th round pick on him last April. Apparently Underwood is another mistake made by Thompson.

On ESPN last night, Mel Kiper predicted that the Packers would draft DE Mario Williams. It would explain why the Packers are dragging out negotiations with DE Aaron Kampman if they want to draft Williams. With Williams on the team, it would seem that Kampman would be a backup, but Kampman probably wants to be paid like a starter. If the Packers fail to resign Kampman, it would seem more likely that Kiper is correct and Williams will be a Packer next season.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Packers resigned RB Ahman Green for one season. Green is guaranteed $2 million and could make another $3 million with incentives. Hopefully, the incentives are hard to reach, such as 1,200 yards or 10 TDs. The most likely scenario is that Green is done. In NFL history, there is not a long list of success for running backs who are almost 30 years old and coming off a major knee injury. This is $2 million less that the Packers have to sign a running back that might really help them in 2006, such as RB Michael Bennett or RB Mike Anderson.

In the end, this is a deal has small downside. If Green is done and the Packers realize it after 2006, then Green is released and doesn't cost the Packers any future money or cap space. The Packers have a lot of cap space this season and it is likely that the Packers won't use it all anyway. If the unexpected happens and Green does return to pre-2005 form, then the Packers made a great signing.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Although they are over $20 million under the salary cap, the Packers cut LB Na'il Diggs and some punter. It is too bad that it had to end like this for Diggs. He had been a valuable contributor but leg injuries had limited him over the last two seasons. He played in 14 games in 2004, but he wasn't the same player he had been in 2003 and he didn't make a difference in pass coverage or as a pass rusher anymore. His injury problems make it unlikely that Diggs will be able to perform as a quality starter in the future.
Few thought it was likely but it appears that "Bloody Thursday" will come to pass. I thought the Packers might do best to act fast, but Len Pasquarelli says "because of the quirks of the pending uncapped year in 2007, even those teams will have to move with great caution in crafting contracts." There are many teams with cap flexability and the Packers will have more competition for free agents then I expected.

The failed CBA extension will impact the Packers draft in April too. Pasquarelli points out that "without an extension to the CBA, teams will be able to amortize signing bonuses over just four seasons, instead of the maximum seven years." This is a problem if the Packers decide to draft a quarterback with the fifth overall selection. QB Vince Young is expecting a signing bonus and guaranteed money of around $20 million. The Packers can only spread the signing bonus over four seasons. The Packers have more salary cap room than most teams, but all teams have the same amount of rookie cap room, usually around $4 to $6 million. The Packers won't sign Young and leave themselves no room to sign any other draft choices, but it means that any team that drafts a quarterback this season is looking at a tough negotiation and a long holdout. If the Packers draft an offensive lineman or defensive player instead, that player won't command such a high signing bonus and the Packers probably won't have too much trouble with the rookie salary cap.

Scanning the list of names on's rumor central brings up a few references to the Packers. QB Brett Favre is mentioned, but that is pure speculation since Favre isn't talking to anyone about it. The Packers are rumored to be interested LB Derek Smith. Since Mike McCarthy was coaching last season in San Francisco, it makes sense that he would be familar with Smith. The Packers really need a linebacker who can stay healthy and help in coverage, two abilities Smith has shown over the last few seasons. The big problem with Smith is that he is over 30 years old, but he hasn't shown any signs of decline over the last couple of seasons. There is no need to break the bank for Smith, but he would be a welcome upgrade at outside linebacker. The Packers are rumored to be far apart in negotiations with DE Aaron Kampman. Kampman is coming off a career 2005 season and looking to cash in. If the Packers are really interested in DE Mario Williams with the fifth overall selection, then resigning Kampman isn't a priority. Otherwise the Packers need Kampman back and hopefully they don't lose him. K Ryan Longwell is a free agent but he is coming off the worst season of his career and he was one of the worst kickers in the NFL last season. I doubt many teams will show much interest in Longwell. Hopefully he comes back to the Packers and is given some real competition in training camp this season (but please don't draft a kicker!).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No one knows how this labor negotiation is going to unfold except Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue. Luckily it won't hurt the Packers one way or another because the team is $20 million under the salary cap. It may be a boon to the Packers if other teams are forced to cut players to get under the salary cap by Friday and then the Packers move quickly to sign quality free agents. Some players might want to act fast to find a new contract with so many free agents now available and so few teams able to spend because of the salary cap.

The most likely scenario is that the teams agree to a new revenue sharing agreement and the salary cap is substantially raised by Friday, which would mean the current $20 million of cap room really won't do the team much good because now everybody has cap room to spend on the remaining few quality free agents. With the losing 2005 season plus all the changes in the front office and all the talk about the retirement of QB Brett Favre, the Packers won't be a preferred new home for most free agents.