The Packers’ offense got a major boost Sunday when the team announced they had to come to terms with free agents wide receiver James Jones and fullback John Kuhn.
The announcements came two days after the Packers released seven players, including veterans Mark Tauscher, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga, which John Clayton reported saved the team $17.1 million in cap space.
The team wasted no time in bringing back two key cogs to the offense, giving both Jones and Kuhn three-year deals. Terms of the contract were not available as of Sunday afternoon.
The moves will make life on Aaron Rodgers easier and it’s apparent he knew that as the quarterback lobbied in the media to bring back both free agents. He had this to say to Don Banks of SportsIllustrated.com:
“I’m a leader on this team and my voice carries a little bit of weight in the locker room. You don’t get better by taking from the whole. You need a guy like [James] Jones back. You need a guy like John Kuhn back. We need guys like that to win.”
Four down, six to go.
The Packers agreed to terms on a contract with four of their rookies from the 2010 NFL Draft Thursday. Fifth round tight end D.J. Williams, sixth rounders offensive guard Caleb Schlauderaff and Ricky Elmore, and seventh round tight end Ryan Taylor all signed their first NFL contracts, which will be four-year deals, due to theNFL’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Full contract details were unavailable as of Thursday night.
Williams, whose contract involved a $198,000 signing bonus, was selected with the 141st overall pick and will join a deep and talented tight end group consisting of Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree. The recipient of the 2010 John Mackey Award, given to college football’s top tight end, Williams caught 54 passes for 627 yards and four touchdowns. Undersized at 6-feet, 2-inches, 245 pounds, Williams posted a 4.59 forty-yard dash at the NFL Combine and was labeled the top H-back in his draft class by ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
The newest addition to Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal was also rewarded with the 2010 Disney Spirit Award, given to college football’s most inspirational figure, after he, his mother and siblings moved from Texas to Arkansas to escape an abusive father. Williams fits the bill of “Packer people” and will be a threat down the middle of the field. He must add size and, as will be with all rookies, will need to work on his timing in the offense.
Rejoice, members of the anti-Justin Harrell fan club.
The defensive lineman’s era in Green Bay is finally over.
The Packers announced two roster moves Thursday afternoon, releasing veteran linebacker Brady Poppinga and the oft-injured defensive lineman Justin Harrell. The moves will save the Packers around $3 million in cap space, just one day after parting ways with inside linebacker Nick Barnett.
Harrell was plagued by injuries in each of his four years in Green Bay, limiting him to just 14 of a possible 64 games in which he totaled just 27 tackles. General manager Ted Thompson drafted the defensive tackle out of Tennessee in 2007, yet his stock had been dropping on many team’s draft boards due to a torn bicep muscle. Many questioned Thompson reaching on an injury-prone player who did not fill a need, but the defensive tackle showed signs of progress in the seven games he played in his rookie year.
That offseason the injuries began to rack up, as a back injury forced Harrell to the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, and he appeared in just one game before being sent to injured reserve. In 2009, another back injury forced him to miss the entire 2009 season, and after a promising preseason in 2010, the injury bug struck again as Harrell tore his ACL in Week 1 in Philadelphia.
Many NFL teams were busy agreeing to free agent deals and dealing players, but (surprise, surprise) it was the Packers who stayed put on the second day of free agency. While teams are not allowed to officially sign free agents until Friday, left guard Daryn Colledge, offensive lineman Jason Spitz and running back Brandon Jackson all agreed to deals that will end their tenures in Green Bay. Here’s how it will affect the team in 2011:
Colledge signs with Cardinals
There will be a new starting left guard for the Packers when they take the field for the first time in August after Daryn Colledge agreed to terms with the Arizona Cardinals. The deal is worth a reported $29.5 million over five years, with $10 million of the that money guaranteed. A five year veteran in Green Bay, Colledge started 76 of 80 games after being drafted in the second round out of Boise State in 2006. It would have been virtually impossible for the Packers to match that contract, so instead they will look elsewhere at left guard.
Early candidates for the starting gig, assuming the Packers do not address it in free agency, are T.J. Lang and Nick McDonald. Lang, a fourth round pick in 2009, has been on the cusp of making the jump to a starter’s role and will now get his first real chance. McDonald hung on as an undrafted rookie in 2010, and it should make for a healthy competition in August. Marshall Newhouse, a fourth round draft pick a year ago, is a darkhorse candidate.
Spitz signs with Jacksonville
Right. Through. His hands.
Chances are if you are a Packers fan and were watching Super Bowl XLV this past February, you uttered those exact words (or something like it) when wide receiver James Jones dropped what would have been a 75-yard touchdown to put Green Bay up 28-10 early in the third quarter.
That phrase may have been a repeat (potentially with added expletives) of what you said when Jones, now a free agent, dropped another would-be touchdown in the Wildcard game against the Eagles. Or his fumble against the Bears in Week 3 that cost the Packers a chance at completing a fourth quarter comeback.
It’s true. Jones has provided more than his fair share of, “What?!” moments in his four seasons with Green Bay, and many would have no problem to see him join another franchise. But are we selling No. 89 short? Will the Packers miss him more than fans think if ultimately he decides to leave Green Bay?
Aaron Rodgers thinks so.
Inside linebacker Nick Barnett was the first salary cap casualty of 2010 for the Packers, as he indicated Tuesday afternoon on his Twitter account that his days in Green Bay were over.
“Just met with Ted [Thompson],” Barnett tweeted. “Thanks for the great 8 years. Very blessed 2 be apart of such a great tradition and great fans. Happy I was able to be here for the great [Super Bowl] XLV run…I will always keep a special place in my heart for this team and city.”
Later he tweeted, “I look forward to the next jungle Mufasa will roam… let’s get it.”
According to ESPN’s Andrew Brandt, the Packers first will attempt to trade the veteran linebacker and, if that fails, will release him.
Thompson’s decision to release the eight-year veteran should come as no surprise, given Barnett’s hefty contract and the team’s current situation at inside linebacker.
Set to make $5.5 million and a $400,000 roster bonus, trading or releasing Barnett will save the team $4 million in 2011. Season-ending injuries in two of the past three seasons and age (30) made justifying Barnett’s roster spot difficult, especially considering he would have returned in a back-up role.
The Packers have broke the bank to shore up their inside linebackers, extending Desmond Bishop to a four-year, $19 million contract in January and then signing A.J. Hawk, a day after they released him, to a 5-year, $37.5 million contract.
The Green Bay Packers wasted no time getting busy on the first day of free agency Monday, agreeing to terms with eight undrafted free agents. Here is a list of the eight players, who can officially sign Tuesday morning, and their chances of making the team’s final roster.
Shaky Smithson, WR/KR, Utah: We profiled Smithson on his own tonight, and you can read all about the return specialist right here.
Tori Gurley, WR, South Carolina: At 6-feet, 5-inches, Gurley brings a dimension that no other Packers receiver can: size. His 4.56 forty-yard dash is quite impressive given that size, and the possession receiver could stick if James Jones leaves for greener pastures. Randall Cobb is a lock and free agent Brett Swain should get the first look in training camp, but Gurley has the size and speed to groom into a solid fourth receiver.
Sampson Genus, C, South Florida: Aside from having one of the cooler names of all undrafted free agents, Genus has produced in the Big East. A team captain and first team All-Big East selection, Genus started all 13 games his senior season and was a Wuerffel Trophy candidate, given to the best college football player who “best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.” The offensive line surprisingly has become a log jam, so Genus will have his hands full trying to make the roster. Aside from Scott Wells, the Packers do not have a true center (Even Deitrich-Smith and 2010 UDFA Nick McDonald both have the ability to play the position, while free agent Jason Spitz does as well).
Anthony Bratton, SS, Delaware:
Have the Packers found their answer at punt returner?
It sure looks that way after they reportedly agreed to terms with undrafted free agent Antoine “Shaky” Smithson, a wide receiver from Utah, on the first official night of free agency.
While Smithson will not be able to sign with the team until tomorrow morning, Smithson indicated on his Twitter account that he indeed would sign on with the World Champions.
There was no one better in college football at returning punts in 2010, as Smithson averaged 19.1 yards per return (572 yards) and scored twice. He was named a Walter Camp first team All-American punt returner for his record-breaking season, while also starting four games at wide receiver for the Utes.
He ended the season with 25 catches for 383 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver, but Smithson is going to make his living as a punt returner, if anything.
It’s that time of the year again.
Howard Eskin of 610 WIP in Philadelphia has reported that the Philadelphia Eagles will have interest in signing quarterback Brett Favre (yes, that Brett Favre) once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is agreed upon.
Eskin reports that the team could pursue the 41-year-old quarterback after they trade backup Kevin Kolb, who Adam Schefter suggests will be traded to the Arizona Cardinals shortly after the season begins. As funny as it is to joke about another offseason Favre saga, this move actually would make a lot of sense for both parties.
The NFL lockout still remains after the players opted not to vote on the owner’s proposed labor deal. However, that short window when it looked as though the 2011 season would be underway shortly has this author excited to begin breaking down the 53-man roster.
The Packers, who currently stand approximately $62,000 under the salary cap, are not expected to make any big splashes in free agency. However, the Packers kept three undrafted rookie free agents on their roster in 2010 (Sam Shields, Nick McDonald, Frank Zombo), so this projected 53-man surely could change once free agency gets underway.
Here is the first (of many) 53-man projections for the 2011 Packers:
QB (2): Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn
Why: Graham Harrell should be back in 2011 as an emergency quarterback, but the Packers have gone with two quarterbacks ever since Rodgers took over as the starter. Flynn is an above average backup who could have trade value next year.
RB (4): Ryan Grant, James Starks, Brandon Jackson, Alex Green
Why: Jump aboard the Brandon Jackson bandwagon. The Packers will have to take one less lineman (in this projection) to keep Jackson, but he’s worth it in the long run. Expect Grant to be the “starter” but to split carries with Starks.
FB (2): Korey Hall, Quinn Johnson
Why: John Kuhn was a great success story in 2010, but Hall’s ability on special teams and Johnson’s use in the run game helps them make the roster.
WR (5): Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, Brett Swain
Why: Jermichael Finley is basically a wide receiver, but Swain has earned a spot on the roster and will fill a depth void left by the departure of James Jones. Randall Cobb will be used all over the field.
TE (4): Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree
So close, yet (potentially) so far away.
Thursday night the 32 NFL owners approved a proposed 10-year labor deal with the NFL Players Association that would end the 132-day lockout, the longest in the history of the league. However, the uplifting spirit of the breaking news was quickly lost when the players completed their two-hour conference call without voting to ratify the deal.
Owners voted 31-0 to accept the proposed labor agreement, with only the Oakland Raiders abstaining, yet there are still large hurdles that must be cleared to lift the lockout and get the 2011 season underway.
According to the Players Association, there were a handful of aspects that were added on late to the agreement that the players had not agreed to. The players are expected to vote Friday, but according to sources there is still negotiating to do, and the lockout will not be lifted.
As if his actual Super Bowl ring wasn’t enough, Packers cornerback Sam Shields is going to let everyone know that he and his fellow teammates were victorious in Super Bowl XLV.
Keeping busy during the lockout, Shields had an enlarged picture of the Packers’ Super Bowl ring tattooed onto the left side of his neck.
The Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers back on February 6, 31-25, in Dallas Stadium. Shields was credited with two solo tackles in the contest before missing the second half with a shoulder injury.
An undrafted free agent from Miami (Fla.), Shields made the Packers’ 53-man roster as a cornerback despite playing just one season at the position for the Hurricanes, transitioning from wide receiver.
Owners of fantasy football teams, look away. Ryan Grant fans, understand where this is coming from. Members of the James Starks fan club, know that your man is going to be an important piece to the Packers’ puzzle in 2011.
But Brandon Jackson is the most valuable running back the Packers have on their roster, and it would be a huge mistake if they let him leave Green Bay when he becomes a free agent as soon as the new CBA is announced.
A second round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2007, the Packers initially had hoped Jackson would be the running back of the future. The 22-year-old Jackson had just one year of being the feature running back under his belt, rushing for 989 yards on 188 carries and eight touchdowns his junior year. He also caught 33 passes out of the backfield and scored twice through the air. Out of college, the scouting report was that consistency was an issue but his shiftiness and strength would serve him well at the next level.
Unfortunately for Jackson, his draft choice coincided with the Packers trade for Ryan Grant, who would go on to start the next three seasons in Green Bay. Jackson saw spot duty from time-to-time, but Grant’s durability (not missing a start in three years) never allowed Jackson to prove his worth running the ball.
ESPN Wisconsin’s senior Packers writer Jason Wilde took time Saturday afternoon to answer fan’s question regarding the Packers. To see all of Wilde’s tweets, follow him at @jasonjwilde.
Q: Is the starting outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews currently on the roster?
Wilde: Yes, and his name is…Frank Zombo. (That’s my prediction.)
Q: If the Packers decide to re-sign their offensive line, which one do you likely see staying?
Wilde: If they re-sign any offensive linemen, I think it’s Spitz. Cheap as backup. I think Daryn Colledge gets paid elsewhere.
Q: Projected season stats for James Starks?
Wilde: I’d purely be guessing. How about 110 carries, 440 yards four touchdowns rushing?
Q: Will the Packers seek another wide receiver if Jones doesn’t return? I think Cobb is built in a different mold.
Wilde: Nope, I think it’s Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb and Brett Swain.
Q: Everybody seems to be counting me out again. Well, where am I going guys? (Question asked by free agent left guard Daryn Colledge)
Every sports fan in America does it. It’s that exaggerated feeling of falling in love with rookies and expecting nothing but greatness, while proven veterans are suddenly moved to the back burner and become old news.
In Green Bay, this has certainly been the case with Green Bay running backs Ryan Grant and James Starks.
Just 18 carries into the season, an ankle injury in Week 1 knocked Grant out for the remainder of the 2010 season. From there, the Packers’ run game struggled as Brandon Jackson, Dmitri Nance and John Kuhn unsuccessfully attempted to fill the void.
Then, when Starks was finally activated on November 9, returning from a hamstring injury that had him sidelined since training camp, many expected him to enter the platoon with Jackson and be used only in short-yardage situations. Starks did not see the field until Week 16 against the San Francisco 49ers, but he made his presence felt by rushing for 73 yards on 18 carries in that contest. He would rush for just 28 yards on 11 carries in the final two regular season games, but burst onto the scene in the playoffs by rushing for 123 yards in the Packers’ Wildcard win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Starks then became the every-down back for the Packers and finished the 2010 playoffs with 315 yards on 81 carries and a touchdown. His performance was made even more impressive considering the sixth round draft choice was playing for the first time in almost two years. Starks had missed his entire senior season at Buffalo with a shoulder injury.
That skill set combined with fans not having to see Jackson dance in the backfield before diving forward for two yards quickly made Starks a fan favorite in Green Bay. Capping the year off with a Super Bowl victory only further improved Starks’ standing in the eyes of the Packer faithful.