Friday, February 17, 2006

Free Agency Decisions Coming Up

With the free agency signing period kicking off March 3, the Packers have many decisions to make. Everyone -- including by this time GM Ted Thompson -- knows the team blew it last year by letting both starting guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera depart. Free agent replacements Adrian Klemm and Matt O'Dwyer didn't fill the holes...literally. Actually, O'Dwyer didn't even make it out of training camp. Bad decision, Ted. Bad! Losing Darren Sharper to the ViQueens, despite his Pro Bowl year, seems to have been less of a blow given the overall problems in the secondary as a whole.

This year, Thompson faces decisions on such Packer veterans as Aaron Kampman, Grady Jackson, Paris Lenon, Ahman Green, William Henderson, Najeh Davenport, Tony Fisher, Mike Flanigan, Craig Nall and Ryan Longwell. Can't keep 'em all. The question is which ones do you really go after and which ones do you keep at a reduced rate given age, injuries, performance, etc. And to whom do you say, bye-bye now?

It would seem that Kampman and Jackson are integral parts of that defensive line which came alive late in the season. Resigning both would be a plus. On the offensive sides of the ball...not easy calls. If you can get Green, Henderson and Davenport back at reduced cost, that would be a real plus, especially given the potential for Samkon Gado when he returns from injury rehab. Fisher is no more than a third-down back. Not what's needed, given the other needs on offense. Flanigan has been a great center, but Scott Wells performed admirably as a stand-in. As for Nall, if Favre returns, Nall is probably gone and the Pack will look to later rounds in the draft to pick up a number three quarterback. If Favre retires and the Pack starts Aaron Rodgers they may very well keep Nall as an experienced number two behind Rodgers...or as the starter if Rodgers falters. Longwell had his worst year as a Packer, arguably because of the change in holders. Despite being the team's all-time leading scorer, he's also made it known he'd like to kick in warm weather or a dome. Given his proven reliabililty over the years, especially given the challenges of kicking late in the season at Lambeau, the Pack should do what they can to keep Longwell on the roster. There will likely be a change at punter this year (see prior blog entry). Changing both parts of the kicking game at the same time might be a real recipe for disaster on special teams. And given the razor-thin margin for error the Pack will have this coming season -- with or without Favre's return -- that might just be the difference between another dismall year or a shot at the playoffs.

The next month or so will tell a lot about whether the Pack is going to try to get back to a playoff caliber team this year or...gulp...start to re...reb...rebui...I can't bring myself to say it. For the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's take on things, check out there story here. (And if you want to get a near-daily report on possible draft picks, check out the MJS's analysis here.)