Staying In House: Packers’ 2010 Free Agent Priorities
Here’s the list of unrestricted and restricted free agents for the Packers this season. There are 13 of them, and here I have them listed 1-25, based on who is the most important to re-sign (1) all the way down to players who have no shot at making the club next season (13).
1. Ryan Pickett, NT, Unrestricted
Many expected Nick Collins to be in this spot, but the fact that Pickett is unrestricted makes it that much more important that he is re-signed. The defensive line will be an interesting spot in 2010 for the Packers, especially if Pickett leaves. Rookie B.J. Raji had an above average rookie season, but it’d be dangerous to put him as the full-time nose tackle and find a replacement for him.
Pickett has expressed his desire to stay in Green Bay as the focal point of the 3-4 defense, and it makes sense that the Packers would bring him back. After all, they were first in the league in rush defense last season for a reason. Expect Pickett to be back in Green and Gold in 2010. RE-SIGNED
2. Nick Collins, FS, Restricted
The fact Collins is restricted is fine and all but assures he will be with the Packers in 2010, but locking him up to a long-term deal would be wise for the Packers. He proved his breakout season from 2008 was not a fluke by putting together a fantastic 2009, and to make sure there is no holding out, giving Collins a five-year deal makes sense. He might not be given the long-term deal this off-season, but he will be back in Green Bay next year without question. RE-SIGNED
3. Chad Clifton, Unrestricted
Clifton will be 34 when the 2010 season begins, but the Packers need to extend him another year regardless of what they do in the draft. Unless they find a gem in the later part of the first round, Clifton will be as valuable as anyone on the offensive line. He isn’t what he once was, but he is a more than serviceable left tackle who can survive another year, or at least until his replacement is ready to go. Expect him back on a one or two-year deal. RE-SIGNED
4. Mark Tauscher, Unrestricted
(See: Clifton, Chad). If Ted Thompson believes T.J. Lang can be the right tackle of the future, then Tauscher’s stock goes way down on the list. But Thompson said Lang still needs to add some more muscle and is still versatile enough to play inside. Tauscher was the God-send to the offensive line last year, and it’s not out of the question to think he can play another season, and at the worst will be a cheap back-up. RE-SIGNED
5. Johnny Jolly, Restricted
Now we start getting into the contracts that can really go either way, and a lot will depend on A) how the Packers draft, and B) how Thompson sees the future playing out. So pretty much, this is all a guess at this point. Jolly is an interesting case because he performed well on the field last year, provides excellent depth, and would come relatively cheap as a restricted free agent. On the other hand, character concerns and legal issues make it a real toss-up on whether or not he will be brought back. For my own selfish reasons, I’ll say he stays. RE-SIGNED
6. Aaron Kampman, Unrestricted
A need the Packers will be looking to address this off-season is outside linebacker. Clay Matthews III supplanted himself as a starter for the next decade with his fantastic rookie campaign, but on the other side the picture is not so clear. Brad Jones put together a solid freshman season, but the jury is out on whether or not he is just a flash in the pan. Brady Poppinga is not a lock to be on the team (though his contract suggests he will), Jeremy Thompson can not stay healthy, and Aaron Kampman is an unrestricted free agent.
Ted Thompson claims the Packers will offer Kampman, but I’m not so sure he wouldn’t be better off playing in a 4-3 defense. For as much slack as he took for not playing at as high a level in the 3-4, he showed some promise before he went down for the year with a torn ACL. That ACL could mean the difference between the Packers offering and them showing him the door, and ultimately it will be time to move on. NOT RE-SIGNED
7. Daryn Colledge, Restricted
It would be nice to believe that Daryn Colledge suffered a bad season because the rest of the offensive line struggled as well, but on many occasions he was the reason why. The Boise State product has failed to live up to his second-round potential and while the Packers might not have a better option right now, it’s time for Colledge to pack his bags and move on. If the Packers are in truly dire need of a guard, he might be brought back, but I wouldn’t be for it. NOT RE-SIGNED
8. Atari Bigby, Restricted
Anyone who doubted Atari Bigby’s importance needs to look no further than the Cardinals playoff game, when Derrick Martin and Matt Giordano looked like high schoolers going up against Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne. There is a deep safety class in the draft this year which puts some pressure on Bigby, but he should be back in 2010. RE-SIGNED
9. Jason Spitz, Restricted
A back injury caused Jason Spitz to miss the majority of 2009, and Scott Wells came in and had a pretty decent season. However, Spitz claims he will be fully healthy to begin next season and there is reason to believe he can take over at left guard if Colledge is not brought back. Before the injury, Spitz was one of the Packers’ better offensive linemen, so he should be back in 2010. RE-SIGNED
10. Derrick Martin, Restricted
Martin will forever be known by die-hard Packers’ fans as the guy who got rid of Tony Moll, and to others he will be a special teams force who really helped improve Green Bay’s kickoff coverage in 2009. If he can be had for cheap, Martin will provide good depth in the secondary and continue to be the team’s best special teamer. RE-SIGNED
11. Will Blackmon, Restricted
What a roller coaster of a career it has been for Will Blackmon, who always seems to get injured right after he starts to get things going. Unfortuantely for him, the Packers can no longer wait for him to complete a full season healthy. It will be tough replacing the team’s punt and kick returner, but they can improve on the position while also finding a position player in the draft this off-season. NOT RE-SIGNED
12. John Kuhn, Restricted
Everyone’s favorite fantasy fullback had quite the year last season, scoring six touchdowns in the last two seasons for the Packers. However, the three-fullback system will not be in place next year and Kuhn is the odd man out. Quinn Johnson established himself as a powerful run blocker and Korey Hall is more than serviceable. (Sorry, Kevin…) NOT RE-SIGNED
13. Ahman Green, Unrestricted
It was one of the best storylines for the Packers all season. Ahman Green came back and gave vital carries for the Packers and became the team’s all-time leading rusher. However, the Packers are looking for speed in this year’s draft at the running back position, and Green is left hanging. Ryan Grant is clearly in and Brandon Jackson plays the third down back role very well. NOT RE-SIGNED
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