The Packers added valuable prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft and re-signed wide receiver James Jones and fullback John Kuhn, but there were a handful of players the team lost last week. Here’s a look at where those players wound up, what it means for those teams and how it will affect the Packers in 2011.
Daryn Colledge: Arizona Cardinals — 5 years, $27.5 million
Why he left the Packers: A common theme with all the Packers who left via free agency is that the Packers simply could not afford them. This is certainly the case with Colledge, who leaves Green Bay after five successful seasons. The money was not there, as seen by the contract Arizona gave him, and the Packers had viable (and cheaper) replacements in Derek Sherrod, T.J. Lang, Nick McDonald and Marshall Newhouse.
Why he joined the Cardinals: Colledge received a big payday as an injury-free starting left guard on a Super Bowl team, replacing long-time veteran Alan Faneca, who retired at season’s end. He will start from day one, protecting new quarterback Kevin Kolb and blocking for Beanie Wells. The Cardinals are starting fresh, in a sense, with Kolb and Colledge is now a piece of that.
What it means for the Packers: Ted Thompson clearly believes in the candidates at left guard, as the money was there for the Packers to bring back Colledge. The rookie Sherrod has seen first team reps during the first week of practice, and Lang, McDonald and Newhouse should make for healthy competition.
Brandon Jackson: Cleveland Browns — 2 years, $4.5 million
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.
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.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the NFL is hoping to have an agreement with the NFL Players Association in place to be ratified at the July 21 league meetings in Atlanta. If that is truly the case, the Green Bay Packers (and the rest of the league) will quickly begin making up for last time by re-structuring rosters, signing rookies and addressing free agency.
One player whose future will be up in the air once the league officially begins its 2011-2012 season is inside linebacker Nick Barnett. After playing in just four games in 2010 and being owed over $6 million in 2011, many wonder whether the eight-year veteran will be searching for a new home.
ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson suggests Barnett is likely to move, potentially to San Diego.
While that could be an option, Barnett is still a member of the Packers under contract for the 2011 season, so let’s take a look at his options.
Just one day after being released in March, the Packers re-signed inside linebacker A.J. Hawk to a five-year deal. Hawk was scheduled to make $10 million in 2011, a number neither the Packers nor Hawk knew was realistic if he was to stay in Green Bay. His deal is worth $33.75 million and will keep him in Green Bay through 2016.
Two months earlier, while the Packers were in the middle of their playoff run, the Packers also signed inside linebacker Desmond Bishop to a four-year, $19 million extension.
Both moves meant just one thing for Barnett: his days as a starter in Green Bay were over.
Due over $6 million in both 2011 and 2012, there’s no way the Packers keep Barnett with his current salary. Brandon Chillar is due a total of $7.7 million over the next three seasons, and the difference between the two is not enough to keep Barnett around if the Packers were to release Chillar.
NFL.com polled players to rank the top 100 athletes in the game, and last week the final list was revealed. A league-high six Packers were ranked, so here’s the breakdown of each player and where they were voted.
99. Chad Clifton, LT: Two years ago many wondered whether Clifton had run his course in the NFL and was on his way out, but back-to-back stellar seasons proved his importance as Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protector. He was the sixth best tackle on the list and should have a year or two left playing at a high level.
96. Nick Collins, FS: One of the Packers’ biggest playmakers on defense was rewarded with a spot on the Top 100, and for good reason. With 17 interceptions and four touchdowns over the past three years, Collins has become one of the best coverage safeties in the league. Like Clifton, Collins was also ranked as the sixth best at his position.
81. B.J. Raji, NT:
According to ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde, Green Bay Packers’ cornerback Brandon Underwood will appear in Brown County Court Wednesday morning “on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in connection with an alleged domestic abuse incident that occurred after the team’s June 16 Super Bowl ring ceremony.”
According to the report, Underwood’s estranged wife, Brandie Underwood, was dragged from a car and thrown to the ground in the driveway of the couple’s home following the ceremony. Underwood reportedly ripped a necklace and pendant given to the Packers’ player’s wives as part of the ceremony off her neck during the altercation.
Underwood was processed in at the Brown County Jail early on June 17 and posted $350 bail and released, according to Wilde.
The Packers have declined comment on the incident, but this is not Underwood’s first run-in with the law.
In June 2010, Underwood was investigated after two women accused him of sexually assaulting them at a Golf Resort where six other Packers were staying during a charity golf event. The Sauk County District Attorney’s office did not pursue charges against Underwood, who pleaded no contest to one count of prostitution-non-marital sexual intercourse and was fined $379.
At least on paper and according to most experts, the Green Bay Packers were one of the “winners” from the 2011 NFL Draft. But for as good as the newest Packers could be this season, there are a handful of others who could make the jump from roster-worthy to impact player.
Breaking out implies that the player is not already well-known and has not made an impact on the team worth writing about. For example, Jordy Nelson could very well become the Packers’ second leading receiver in 2011, but last season was when he became a household name. Other notable players left off the list include Desmond Bishop, John Kuhn and Tim Masthay.
1. Mike Neal, DE: The Packers’ second round selection from 2010 played just 83 snaps during his rookie campaign, but a shoulder injury forced him to miss the remainder of the season. Many were skeptical of the pick, but in those two games Neal registered a forced fumble and sack to go with three tackles. With the reality that Cullen Jenkins could be in a different uniform come September, Neal could be expected to enter a starter’s role. He has the size and speed to play the position and could make the loss of Jenkins that much easier on the defense.
2. James Starks, RB: There’s no denying Starks’ impact down the stretch and into the playoffs, but his sophomore season could be the year that he takes the reigns from Ryan Grant and becomes the Packers’ starter of the future. Grant has been one of the more underrated running backs in the NFC over the past three seasons, but Starks has played well enough to at least share a 50/50 load in the backfield. Grant is under contract for just one more season and the Packers could be grooming Starks to take the role full-time.
3. Bryan Bulaga, RT:
A year ago, the Green Bay Packers were ranked by ESPN as the ninth best franchise in professional sports.
One year and a Super Bowl championship later, the franchise heads the list.
ESPN the Magazine released its ninth annual Ultimate Standings, which “measure[s] how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them.”
With that criteria in hand, it came as no surprise that the Packers took the top spot. The rankings are based on eight different major categories, each weighted differently, and averaged out into one number. Here they are and analysis of how the Packers fared in each.
1. Bang for the Buck (24.3%) — Packers ranked 4th: The biggest category, which measures “wins during the past three years per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules,” was big for the Packers. Since a 6-10 2008 season, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have given fans a 25-12 record and, oh yeah, that Super Bowl championship in 2010.
2. Players (16.6%) — Packers ranked 5th: When Ted Thompson took over as general manager, he said he would only bring in players labeled as “Packer people.” Such has been the case, as players like Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji have all stayed out of trouble while working hard on the field. Outside of Johnny Jolly, whose tenure in Green Bay is all but over, the Packers have had a squeaky clean track record, and their performance on the field speaks for itself.
3. Fan Relations (16.5%) — Packers ranked 10th:
The Green Bay Packers received their Super Bowl rings Thursday night during a private ceremony held at Lambeau Field. Despite the current lockout generally forbidding staff and players from having contact, the team was given special permission from the NFL to hold the event. While there are still uncertainties about the upcoming season, this night was all about reliving the memorable 2010 season, culminating in a world championship.
The Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 on Feb. 6 to win Super Bowl XLV, highlighted by 304 passing yards and two touchdowns from MVP Aaron Rodgers and a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown from safety Nick Collins. That next Tuesday the team held a “Return to Titletown” celebration in Lambeau Field, but that marked the last time the team and staff all had been together, prior to Thursday night.
Here are the details of the Super Bowl ring, per a press release from the Packers:
There were plenty of surprises in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but everything was calm in Green Bay as the Packers selected offensive tackle Derek Sherrod with the final selection in the first round.
Sherrod started all 25 games the last two seasons at left tackle for the Bulldogs and his massive size had the Packers excited as to what he could do on the offensive line. His 35 3/8-inch arms and 11-inch hands were some of the biggest in the draft, and his 6-foot, 5-inch, 321-frame gives him prototypical size at left tackle.
The Packers obviously have not decided on whether or not Sherrod will play left or right tackle at the next level, but the pick gives Green Bay flexibility on the offensive line to mix and match the Sherrod and Bulaga at the tackle position.
Here is a scouting report on Sherrod, via ESPN.com insider and Scouts, Inc:
Picking 32nd in the NFL draft is usually a good sign for your franchise, winning the Super Bowl and all, but it won’t do much help in the draft itself. Ted Thompson and the rest of the personnel in the war room will have their work cut out for them in the first round (assuming they keep the pick) and will see 31 players come off the board.
The Packers will have three options Thursday night to decide what to do with their first round selection. Here are the upsides and downsides to each option.
Keeping the pick: Staying in the first round has its obvious advantages: the top players in the class are available. This year’s crop of players set up nicely for the Packers to fill a potential need at offensive tackle, defensive end or outside linebacker, so there’s clearly upside. Last year’s 32nd pick, New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson, was signed to a five-year deal worth $12.25 million, so money isn’t an issue, especially if the Packers think they have a steal. Options include, but are clearly not limited to, DE Cameron Heyward, OLB Brooks Reed, OLB Justin Houston, LT Derek Sherrod, and OG Danny Watkins.
Trade the pick, move up:
Round 1, Pick No. 32: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: The Packers’ top two needs, by this author’s estimation, are the offensive and defensive line, but Houston’s value is too good to pass up at the end of the first round. One of the most intriguing aspects of Houston’s play is that he has experience playing both defensive end and outside linebacker. For a 3-4 outside rusher, that should give him a head start as he makes his case for a starting gig in August. He’s one of the best pass rushers in the draft and, if he continues to fall down the board, would make a great addition opposite Clay Matthews.
Round 2, Pick No. 64: Jerrell Jernigan, WR/KR, Troy: Who? Ted Thompson tends to go with the biggest need in Round 2 after selecting the best player available in Round 1, and as crazy as it sounds the Packers’ biggest need could be kick returner. Jernigan ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and would, at the very worst, be the answer to the kick return needs. If James Jones leaves to get starter’s money, Jernigan would fit in perfectly as a speedy slot receiver behind Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jordy Nelson. This is a huge wildcard pick given his questionable size (5-feet, 9-inches; 185 pounds) but then again, so is every pick in the NFL Draft. This could be a steal. In a nutshell, he is explosive.
Round 3, Pick No. 96: Chris Hairston, LT, Clemson: The Packers have plenty of depth on the offensive line, but outside of Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, and potentially T.J. Lang, they’re thin on the outside. Hairston would be a project at left tackle, with the capability to move to right tackle, but it would give the Packers more options to work with around Bulaga. Hairston played well in the East-West Shrine Game but will need to work on his conditioning and footwork before he sees the field. That being said, his size and potential would make him a nice third round pick.
Round 4, Pick No. 129: Cortez Allen, CB, Citadel:
The Green Bay Packers were ecstatic that Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga fell to them at pick No. 23 a year ago, and while it wasn’t the sexy pick fans hope for in the first round (Sergio Kindle was a popular want), it gave them stability on the offensive line that proved valuable in their playoff run.
One year later, the offensive line is better but could still use an upgrade and is the biggest need for the Super Bowl champions. Lucky for them, there are plenty of linemen toward the back end of the first round worth looking at.
Center Scott Wells, right guard Josh Sitton, and Bulaga are the three spots on the offensive line the Packers feel comfortable moving forward with in the future, with left tackle Chad Clifton nearing the end of his career and left guard Daryn Colledge serviceable, at best.
T.J. Lang has been on the cusp of starter-worthy the past two seasons and still provides versatile depth, while rookies Marshall Newhouse and Nick McDonald project as back-ups at this point. The same goes for Evan Dietrich-Smith, while Jason Spitz has battled injury last season.
The main question for the Packers is whether or not Bulaga can ultimately move to left tackle when Clifton hangs his cleats up. Draft experts had concerns about his (relatively) short arms, but his smooth feet and size should give him the capability to be Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protection in the future.
That being said, the Packers could go with a tackle with the 32nd pick and not have to move Bulaga from his right tackle position, where he played last season.
The NFL announced Thursday that Chicago Bears defensive end has been fined $10,000 for his hit on quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter of the NFC Championship game last Sunday. Peppers was flagged for roughing the passer after the helmet-to-helmet hit, which caused Rodgers to bite his lip.
Rodgers, who has sustained two concussions on the year, was slow to get up but was not injured on the play. Rodgers credits that to, in part, the new helmet he has been wearing since his second concussion suffered in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions.
While he wasn’t hurt on the play, Rodgers’ play seemed to be affected after the hit, although he claims his less than stellar performance had nothing to do with the hit.
In preparation for the Packers-Eagles contest Sunday afternoon, I asked Philadelphia Eagles Examiner Gordie Jones five questions about the Eagles. Questions he asked me about the Packers can be found here. Here are his responses.
1. No one denies Michael Vick has had an MVP-worthy season in 2010, but is there any credibility to Andy Reid’s comments that he would consider pulling him if he fails to perform early?
I can’t believe he would ever do that. Kevin Kolb, who began the season as the starter, is a worthy backup. But I can’t envision a scenario (other than injury) under which Reid would pull the plug on the Michael Vick Experience at this point.
2. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems LeSean McCoy can get buried underneath the press and headlines Michael Vick and the Eagles’ high-octane pass attack gets. However, his split stats in wins and losses are extremely telling. Despite Vick’s prowess on the field, is it fair to say McCoy is the engine that makes the Eagles’ offense go?