Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jones back in Green Bay after all

Several days ago, it looked as if Green Bay Packer wide receiver and unrestricted free agent James Jones was as good as gone. First, to the ViQueens...but then they signed Michael Jenkins from Atlanta instead. Then, it looked as if Jones might got to the Jets...but they wound up signing Plaxico Burress. Opportunities for the big deal Jones wanted seemed to be drying up. And, given the abbreviated time teams now have to make deals, evaluate talent in training camp and come to their final roster decisions, free agent players also have to make some quick choices.

Whatever and however it finally came together, James Jones will be back with the Pack for a reported three-year deal. That has to make his quarterback very happy. Aaron Rodgers not only publicly said that re-signing Jones should be the team's number one priority but also is said to have personally lobbied GM Ted Thompson to get Jones back. Fellow wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings also added their support for Jones rejoining the team.

Certainly Jones showed real moments of brilliance last season. He has the makings of being a great receiver, no doubt. But he also drove Packer fans and coaches crazy with drops in too many key situations. If he can overcome that lack of focus, Jones could have a breakout season and can make the Packers receiving corps even a greater threat than last year.

As I wrote in my post here yesterday, I thought the chance of Jones returning was less than 50 percent; but that was before the Jets signed Burress...that changed the dynamics of the situation considerably.

Congratulations, Mr. Jones. Glad you're back with the Pack for another Championship run.

You can read more about Jones deal here.

Kuhn also back with the Pack
Late breaking news: FB John Kuhn has also signed a three-year deal to return to Green Bay. Kuhn was another player that Rodgers felt was key to the offense and the team's Super Bowl run of last season.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

For Packers, it's ch-ch-ch-changes

Since the moves recounted in the last posts here at on Thursday, the Green Bay Packers have:
  • Released 11-year veteran right tackle and Wisconsin native son, Mark Tauscher. (Thank you, Tausch, for being a great Badger and Packer. Look forward to seeing you in the Packers Hall of Fame!)
  • Released veteran linebacker Brandon Chillar, who had the bad misfortune of apparently sustaining a serious hamstring injury 2 weeks before the start of camp
  • Lost DE Cullen Jenkins in free agency to the Eagles
  • Lost FB Korey Hall in free agency to the Saints
  • Did not re-sign S Atari Bigby as demonstrated by the team awarding his #20 to rookie RB, Alex Green.
  • Signed their remaining draft picks, OL Derek Sherrod, RB Alex Green, and DB Davon House
  • Re-signed TE Spencer Havner and WR Brett Swain
  • Commenced training camp, held their first meetings, scheme installation, and evening practice
Even head coach Mike McCarthy added to his personal roster: his wife gave birth to their second daughter Thursday evening...think he's a little sleep deprived right now?

About the only key Packer free agent left on the board is James Jones (yes, John Kuhn is still unsigned as well, but will likely return to the Pack). According to reports, and following Minnesota's signing today of former Atlanta receiver, Michael Jenkins, Jones is now being pursued by the Jets and Cardinals, as well as the Packers. But you just don't know how much GM Ted Thompson is going to be willing to pay. I'd still say the odds are Jones does not return to the Pack.

One advantage of the new CBA and the whirlwind week of training camp start-up activity is that player holdouts, whether veteran or rookie draft picks, are virtually nil as far as the Packers goes. Given the changes on the squad already, and with many players coming back off injured reserve, there is a real awareness that there's not much time to compete for a job. Players have to make the most of every moment they have right now. The Packers will field the best players, of course, for the final squad. To make it onto that elite, defending Super Bowl Champion roster, they have to Expect one of the most competitive training camps you've ever seen.

Stay tuned to for ongoing updates. And follow us on Twitter for even more timely news flashes and commentary.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brandon Jackson goes to Browns

Green Bay Packers veteran third-down running back and unrestricted free agent, Brandon Jackson, has signed a two-year contract worth $4.5 million with the Cleveland Browns according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Given the return of Ryan Grant, the emergence last season of James Starks, and the drafting of Hawaii running back Alex Green, it was almost a given that Jackson might look for a deal elsewhere. He always wanted to be an every-down back, and had been given the opportunity to be just that in Green Bay on occasion, but was best suited to protecting Aaron Rodgers in third down pass blocking situations and to being a relief valve in the passing game.

With the drafting of a few receivers and tight ends who could fill Jackson's shoes as an H-back in specific situations, Jackson's role in the offense might very well have been diminished. The Packers obviously were thinking much the same thing.

Thank you, Mr. Jackson for your good and valuable service to the Green Bay Packers. Good luck in Cleveland.

Spitz heading to Jacksonville
There is further late breaking news this evening that C Jason Spitz has signed a multi-year deal with the Jaguars. Thanks and good luck, Mr. Spitz.

More departures and signings expected...hard to keep up! But we'll do our best.

Packers release Harrell and Poppinga

In the current NFL funhouse, where what was thought to be one thing may turn out to be something else altogether, reports of DE Cullen Jenkins going to the Redskins seem to have fizzled, while others indicating that the Green Bay Packers have released LB Brady Poppinga and DE Justin Harrell seem to be solid. And, yes, LG Daryn Colledge has indeed been signed by Arizona, and the ViQueens are hot on the trail of WR James Jones.

With me so far?

Poppinga had a big motor which helped overcome average talent as a linebacker. He ultimately became a casualty, not unlike fellow linebacker Nick Barnett, of his season-ending injury last year; the Packers were able to find -- and win -- with other linebackers filling in without missing a beat.

Harrell was and is GM Ted Thompson's biggest draft bust during his tenure. An overall #16 pick in the first round, Harrell had been hurt in college and was a stretch at that slot given the injury history. He was never able to stay healthy and on the field. The Packers gave him every opportunity to get healthy, where other teams likely would have cut him several years ago. Having said that, virtually everyone covering the Packers from the inside, as opposed to those of us looking in from the hinterland, says Harrell is hands down one of the nicest young men you'd ever want to meet. He was the kind of character person and player that the Packers want on their roster. Unfortunately, character can't make tackles and the plug was finally pulled.

Thanks to both Brady Poppinga and Justin Harrell for their service to the Packers, and good luck to you in the future.

Undrafted free agents finalized
Initial reports two days ago indicated that the Packers had reached agreements with 16 undrafted rookie free agents. Today, final signings have been announced. They are:
  • WR/KR Antoine “Shaky” Smithson, Utah
  • WR Tori Gurley, South Carolina
  • LB Jamari Lattimore, Middle Tennessee State
  • C Sampson Genus, South Florida
  • S M.D. Jennings, Arkansas State
  • DE Vic So’oto, BYU
  • QB Diondre Borel, Utah State (possible WR in the NFL)
  • OL Theo Sherman, James Madison
  • OL Ray Dominguez, Arkansas
  • WR Kerry Taylor, Arizona State
  • LB Eli Joseph, Temple (incorrectly listed earlier as NT)
  • S Anthony Bratton, Delaware
  • FB Jon Hoese, Minnesota
  • DB Brandian Ross, Youngstown State
  • RB Brandon Saine, Ohio State
You can read brief bios on each of these players here.

Vegas sees Pack and Pats with most wins
A report out earlier today stated that the oddsmakers at Las Vegas' MGM Grand had figured the Packers and the Patriots with the most wins in the league, with 11-1/2 each...not sure how you get that half-game win but that's Vegas, right?

Hello, I must be going...

As the whirlwind feeding frenzy (is that a mixed metaphor?) of the first week of the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement continues, the Green Bay Packers will be bidding adieu to a few longtime veterans.

Barnett, Colledge, Jenkins and Jones...going, going...
As reported the Tuesday, LB Nick Barnett was informed by the Packers they would attempt to trade him or, failing that, part ways with him when today's release timeline kicks in. Late yesterday, free agent LG Daryn Colledge apparently agreed to terms with the Arizona Cardinals, according to A Tweet from Colledge this morning confirmed that his days in Green Bay were done following conversations with Arizona. The St. Louis Rams had also been rumored to be a possible suitor. Nothing can be made official until tomorrow, however. According to both Colledge and his agent, the Packers "never showed interest" in resigning him. Apparently, GM Ted Thompson and the coaching staff feels confident that either veterans T. J. Lang, Nick McDonald or Marshall Newhouse can fill the slot at least as well -- and cheaper -- than Colledge, or rookie first round-pick Derek Sherrod will be be able to do what Bryan Bulaga did last season and step right into the fray.

Thank you, Mr. Colledge, for never missing a game during your tenure as a member of the Packers. You never got the appreciation you deserved, in this writer's opinion, for your solid service. You weren't a Pro Bowler, but you weren't chopped liver either, as the saying goes. Good luck in the desert.

Another apparent, although not unexpected, loss for the Packers in free agency is DE Cullen Jenkins. Reports this morning indicate that Jenkins has come to terms with the Washington Redskins although, again, nothing can finalized until Friday. Well, at least he's not going to Da Bearz.

One possible inter-division free agent loss that is getting some buzz this morning is that WR James Jones may be going to the ViQueens. With Sidney Rice bolting the 'Queens for the Seahawks, Minnesota is now desperate for a starting receiver to play opposite Percy Harvin. Jones has made it clear he wants the opportunity to be a starter. While Packers QB Aaron Rodgers stated on a radio program yesterday that he felt re-signing Jones was a priority for the team as he saw things, Jones will likely be offered more money than the Packers are willing to pay. My guess is Jones will be dressing in purple this Fall -- just as other former Packers have (what's up with that, by the way?). Stay tuned.

Crosby scores a deal
The Packers did come to terms yesterday, however, with one free agent: kicker Mason Crosby. He apparently will be signing a five-year $14.75 million deal with $3 million in guaranted money. There seems to be some mixed feelings about this deal among Packer fans. While Crosby's leg strength has never been in question, his accuracy has been at times, and stats demonstrate he is below the NFL average in that regard. He also is merely 1 for 4 in game-winning kicks. Speaking for myself, I have had very little confidence when he comes in for those clutch kicks. I hope to have that opinion reversed over the next five years.

Shareholders meeting today
Today is the annual meeting for Packers shareholders, which is being held at Lambeau Field. Will do a re-cap of anything newsworthy that might arise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

...And on the first day of the new CBA...

Day One of the new NFL collective bargaining agreement saw many players arriving at team facilities, many others in transit and teams beginning the frenzy of signing, trading and releasing players.

The Green Bay Packers made a number of moves today. The most important from a personnel and budget cap standpoint is the pending trade or -- more likely -- release of eight-year veteran LB Nick Barnett. GM Ted Thompson met with Barnett early this morning and told him of the team's plans. Certainly had to hurt, but just as certainly Barnett couldn't have been too surprised. Given the Packers' cap situation, the fact that Barnett would have been due more than $5 million in salary, the fact that Barnett has been injured two of the last three seasons, and the fact that the Packers made their successful end-of-season/playoff/Super Bowl run without him, the writing was on the wall.

Farewell, Mr. Barnett, thank you for your service and for being a great Packer. Good luck wherever you land next.

There is no word at the time of this posting as to the status of Cullen Jenkins, James Jones, Mason Crosby or John Kuhn, all unrestricted free agents. Speculation is that Jenkins will take a bigger deal elsewhere, while Crosby is expected to be re-signed; there are reportedly 12 free agent kickers on the market. Kuhn indicated that he would test the market. As for Jones, QB Aaron Rodgers was reported to have stated that re-signing him was "priority number one," at least as he saw it. So, stay tuned. These will be interesting days ahead, full of roster activity.

Undrafted free agent signings

Teams across the league were busy today signing undrafted free agents. The Packers were no different, adding 16 players according to various sources. They are:
  • WR/KR Antoine “Shaky” Smithson, Utah
  • WR Tori Gurley, South Carolina
  • LB Jamari Lattimore, Middle Tennessee State
  • C Sampson Genus, South Florida
  • S M.D. Jennings, Arkansas State
  • DE Vic So’oto, BYU
  • QB Diondre Borel, Utah State (possible WR in the NFL)
  • OL Theo Sherman, James Madison
  • OL Ray Dominguez, Arkansas
  • WR Kerry Taylor, Arizona State
  • NT Eli Joseph, Temple
  • LB Peanut Joseph, Temple
  • S Anthony Bratton, Delaware
  • FB Jon Hoese, Minnesota
  • DB Brandian Ross, Youngstown State
  • RB Brandon Saine, Ohio State
Among the most intriguing, at least on paper and/or video seem to be Shaky Smithson and Tori Gurley. Smithson in particular could finally be the punt and kick returner the Pack hasn't had since the days of Desmond Howard. He will no doubt be given every chance to secure that role. As for Gurley, the length of his arms is apparently sasquatch-like and that makes him attractive as a receiving target...along with his 6'4" height and 4.53 40 speed, of course. And let's not forget the Joseph twins, Eli and Peanut, from Temple. Whether they make the final roster or not, it's at least a bit of future trivia that there was once a player in camp named "Peanut" AND his twin brother was in camp at the same time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ding dong the deal is done!

At long last, the NFL lockout is over, although the players still have to ratify the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and recertify their union. Bottom line: those are formalities and it's a done deal.

So, let's say it loud and say it proud: Go Pack Go!!!

Yes, we fans of the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers can now start chomping at the bit again. Because while free agent, drafted and undrafted rookie signings will now be compressed into the negotiating equivalent of a thimble, the Pack's existing roster is already loaded. Remember all the players coming back off IR from last season?

Questions, at least among fans, concern what the Pack will do with some of their own free agents, such as Cullen Jenkins, Daryn Colledge and James Jones among others. The consensus of the chit chat over the past few months seems to be about evenly split: some fans hope the Packers keep each of these players, some say let 'em walk. I have to admit to having a split mind on these guys myself. But there won't be a lot of guessing; we'll likely know by the end of the week who the Packers will re-sign and who they won't.

Keep in mind also that under the new CBA, the training camp rosters have been expanded by 10 players, from 80 to 90. That means Ted Thompson will have even more of a field day signing undrafted rookies for camp. The downside is that he and the coaching staff will have only about a month to evaluate them and set their final rosters. Given the depth of the Packers' roster it will be tough for a rookie, especially an undrafted one, to crack the regular season roster particularly given the accelerated learning curve. But Thompson is known for finding hidden gems, with last season being a prime example. So anything is possible.

It's going to be a busy time for all the players, coaches and management. Players can begin using team facilities tomorrow and, in the case of the Packers, report for camp Friday, with the likely first practice being on Saturday as previously scheduled. The first preseason game is still set for Aug. 13. There's a lot to be done before then. But if any team is in position to handle it all, it is the Packers.

No doubt, Packers shareholders will be hearing all about that -- and more -- at the upcoming shareholders meeting this Thursday at Lambeau Field.

For the first time for the upcoming 2011 season, say it with me: It's great to be a Packer fan!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Packer Fans: Are You Ready for Some Football?!

Silly question, isn't it? Of course fans of the Green Bay Packers are ready for football. We were ready for more football as soon as the Pack won Super Bowl XLV and brought the Lobmardi Trophy back to Green Bay. When you are a Super Bowl champ (or even a fan thereof) you can't wait to get back in the mode of winning another. And, oh, by the way, in case you haven't heard, the Packers are favored by many prognosticators to play in this season's Super Bowl versus the Patriots. There's even some analysis out there -- you can find it if you look hard enough, trust me -- that the Packers are a team, if not the team, best positioned to dominate over the next several years. Looking at the management, the coaching staff and the roster you'd be hard pressed to find a a better organization anywhere in football. Yes, I'm a homer and readily admit it. But there are plenty of folks out there besides yours truly saying the same thing. So there.

But first, we need the lockout to end. And, as I suggested here in my last post, I thought a deal would definitely get done by the end of this month. I'm sticking with that. The deal may come, as rumored, as soon as this weekend. Let's hope so. The Packers sure seem to think so: they're reportedly getting Ray Nitschke Field -- the Pack's training facility -- prepared for action. And St. Norbert College in De Pere, home going back to the 1950s for the Packers' training camp, is also making preparations as if camp will be starting on time.

So, let's be optimistic. There's too much money to be lost if this drags on. And when push comes to shove, that's usually what will get a deal done...the loss of real dollars in the bank account not dollars merely on paper.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 are you enjoying the lockout?

It's been a long while since my last post here, although for those that follow on Twitter (@packfansunited ... you can click the Twitter link here in the righthand column, as well ... a-hem) you know that I've been more active there of late. Most tweets (or re-tweets), but not all, are football related. The most exciting tweets of note the last several days had to do with that other kind of football -- or futbol, as called in some part of the world -- we in the U.S. call soccer. Specifically, the U.S. Women's World Cup team. They're headed to the finals after a thrilling quarterfinal game against Brazil and nearly as an exciting semifinal match against France. To be honest, I've never been a big soccer fan. But I am a sports fan. Friends know I will likely watch anything if it's competitive and interesting enough. And that's been the story on this World Cup stuff. So...yeah, I'm enjoying this level of competition. But will I watch any of the pro soccer league matches that get televised? Hmmmm...doubt it. Without a local or national connection with a team, c'mon, what's the point of watching?

Anyway, hadn't really intended to go off on this tangent about soccer. But on the other hand, it is an indicator of the general boredom football fans everywhere are experiencing as the lockout drags on and on.

Depending upon which reports you read or hear about, things are either really close to getting a deal done or are still miles apart. If there is an encouraging bit of news it seems to be that more pundits are apparently suggesting that they see the lockout over before the end of July. If so, most training camps would start close to on time, unless there was a built-in period for free agent signings before camps get underway. Some speculate that two pre-season games may be wiped out because of the timing of these things, if and when the deal does get finalized. Most players wouldn't mind that, although with teams missing perhaps the equivalent of up to two months of various workouts and organized team activities, you can figure things will be sloppy for quite a while, probably through as many as four to six games of the regular season.

The players who will be hurt most in this whole situation, of course, are the rookies. They have the most to learn and will have the least amount of time to learn it. Rookie impact players, one might expect, will be few and far between, although as the season goes on, as with the case of Packers RB James Starks last season, we will get glimpses of what might lie ahead. And the ironic thing is that, if you believe some of the reports, the area of negotiations that is currently hanging things up is regarding rookie compensation and length of contracts.

But others will also be hurt if this lockout drags on: communities and businesses that serve team training camps, wherever they might be. Lots of financial impact in these places will go bye-bye if the training camps are shortened or done away with altogether. And as the regular season gets shortened -- if it does -- the individual vendors and, in the case of Lambeau Field, charities that benefit from operating various concession stands during games will also lose out. While the league and players can't figure out how to divy up billions of dollars, it's possible many hard-working individuals who need the game-day money they make in order to help make ends meet are going to be taking it you-know-where.

So, I'm going to be optimistic and go along with the reports that a deal will get done by the end of July. Until then...I may just lock myself out of further posts. A solidarity thing, I guess you could say. Stay tuned. We'll be back. And there will be plenty of catching up to do.