In case you haven’t heard, the quarterback spot in Green Bay is locked up for the foreseeable future.
While that is great news for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers receiving corps and the coaching staff, it has created a roadblock for backup Matt Flynn.
As the three-year veteran enters the 2011 season, the final year of his rookie contract, his audition for a potential move at the end of the year will come over the next four weeks as the Packers go through their preseason schedule.
A seventh round draft choice out of LSU, where he won the National Championship in 2008, Flynn entered the league without a rocket arm, without the measurables of a franchise quarterback, and without the pinpoint accuracy of a player like Matt Ryan, who was selected third overall by the Falcons in that same draft.
However, Flynn excelled early in preseason games and was awarded the backup job to Rodgers over second round draft choice Brian Brohm, currently with the Buffalo Bills. In his rookie season, Flynn finished the preseason 27-of-42 (64.3 percent) for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
A year later he threw just eight passes in preseason, completing six for 63 yards. In 2010, Flynn turned heads again by completing 50-of-85 passes for 583 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, including a 304-yard performance in the finale against Kansas City.
His most impressive performance came last year in his first and only start to date, when he filled in for an injured Aaron Rodgers in New England and passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns in an eventual 31-27 loss.
The secret is now out on Flynn as a potential starting quarterback, and one executive in personnel for an NFL team even touted him as “the best backup in the NFL.”
Unfortunately for Flynn, he will not get a chance to start, barring injury to Rodgers, until at least the 2012 season.
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
The Packers certainly were not the only NFC North team who made big splashes in free agency, both gaining and losing valuable pieces. Here’s a list of notable free agent signings and departure and how it will affect the Packers’ chances at winning the NFC North.
Please let me know if I missed any:
Additions: DT Stephen Paea (R), OL Gabe Carimi (R), CB Corey Graham, WR Roy Williams, WR Sam Hurd, RB Marion Barber, DE Vernon Gholston, DT Amobi Okoye, P Adam Podlesh, C Chris Spencer
Subtractions: LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, DT Tommie Harris, WR Rashied Davis, S Danieal Manning, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, C Olin Kreutz, P Brad Maynard, TE Brandon Manumaleuna
The Bears improved in a number of areas in the 2011 offseason, but at the same time will be relying on a handful of veterans to make immediate impacts. Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi was a steal at No. 28 in the first round of the draft and will start at right tackle from day one, while former Seahawk Chris Spencer will replace veteran Olin Kreutz, who left on bad terms after the Bears low-balled him on a one-year deal. Regardless of Kreutz’s struggles in 2010, Spencer is a downgrade and will need to prove his worth (and health) if the Bears are to compete.
The Cowboys will have a head start on their offensive scouting report for the Bears if the two meet in the playoffs, as Marion Barber, Roy Williams, and Sam Hurd all join Chicago in 2011. Barber, who rushed for a career-low 374 yards (3.3 YPC), will replace Chester Taylor and act as a third down/goal line back to complement Matt Forte.
Williams, 30, re-joins offensive coordinator Mike Martz, where he enjoyed his best seasons as a pro in Detroit. He hasn’t topped 40 catches in any of the last four seasons but the Bears got him cheap and are hoping an increased role in the offense turns his career around.
Bringing back Corey Graham will help depth in the secondary and Podlesh, who punted in Jacksonville the last four years, ranked 15th in punting average a year ago. Maynard was a fan favorite but had run his course in Chicago, finishing last in the NFL with a 40.1 average in 2010.
The Bears still have major concerns on their offensive line, specifically left tackle J’Marcus Webb, but Carimi will help. Harris is the only major contributor to leave an already impressive Chicago defense, and second round pick Stephen Paea will impress in his rookie campaign.
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.”
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.
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)
With rumors that the NFL Players Association and owners are nearing an agreement that would begin the 2011-2012 NFL season, it is time to look ahead at the Packers’ free agency situation. Since teams are not allowed to talk or negotiate with free agents, there has not been much buzz on which Packers will be back in Green Bay when the season begins. However, here is a look at each free agent and what his odds of staying in Green Bay are.
1. Cullen Jenkins, Defensive End: After a spectacular 2010 campaign in which he racked up seven sacks, Jenkins could be in line for a massive payday when he hits the open market. While excelling in the Packers’ 3-4 defense, Jenkins has also proved himself as a defensive end in 4-3 schemes during his first five seasons in Green Bay (2004-2008). A year ago, Jenkins freed up rushing linebackers with his size and also used his speed to get to the quarterback, all while playing the majority of the season with a broken hand. The Packers drafted defensive ends Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson a year ago and still have Ryan Pickett, Justin Harrell, Howard Green and Jarius Wynn on the roster. Seventh round pick, Arizona State rookie Lawrence Guy, could also break the rotation and the Packers could look at a cheaper defensive end in free agency. Those players, combined with the massive contract Jenkins should receive from another team, makes it likely that Jenkins’ tenure in Green Bay is over.
2. James Jones, Wide Receiver: While the casual fan probably remembers Jones more for his costly drops, his value to the Packers’ offense in 2010 was immense. After tight end Jermichael Finley was lost to a knee injury, Jones improved his play and finished with career highs in receptions (50), yards (679) and touchdowns (5). Unfortunately for the Packers, those numbers for the third, sometimes fourth, option in an offense show that Jones is a starting wide receiver in the NFL. With Greg Jennings signed long-term, Jordy Nelson blossoming and the second round selection of Randall Cobb, Jones should get a chance to start…it just won’t be in Green Bay. If Jones decides winning is more important than money, there is a chance he comes back. But the smart money is on Jones taking the money elsewhere.
3. Brandon Jackson, Running Back: