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Cap savings or salvation? by PG's Tom Pelissero

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by PWT36, May 27, 2007.

  1. PWT36

    PWT36 Cheesehead

    Apr 15, 2005
    Money ball

    Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
    Defensive end
    2007 base salary: $5 million
    Cap number: $6,571,428
    Signed through 2009

    Robert Ferguson
    Wide receiver
    2007 base salary: $1.8 million
    Cap number: $2.5 million
    Signed through 2008

    Bubba Franks
    Tight end
    2007 base salary: $1.4 million
    Cap number: $2.4 million
    Signed through 2011

    Marquand Manuel
    Strong safety
    2007 base salary: $1.56 million
    Cap number: $1.6 million
    Signed though 2010

    Posted May 27, 2007

    Cap savings or salvation?

    Team must choose between keeping or cutting vets like Ferguson, Franks, KGB and Manuel

    By Tom Pelissero

    Four veterans coming off disappointing seasons are slated to take up more than 11 percent of the Green Bay Packers' salary cap for the upcoming season.

    The team could release some combination of Marquand Manuel, Bubba Franks, Robert Ferguson and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila by Sept. 1. But increased spending power, a young roster and management's commitment to long-term flexibility make it possible for all four to make the team — even if none earns a starting role.

    That would have seemed impossible a year ago, before NFL owners and the players' association agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement, thus avoiding the need to release high-priced players to stay under the salary cap. The cap has risen from $85.5 million in 2005 to $109 million this year.

    Armed with roughly $30 million in cap space, the Packers this offseason re-signed starters Nick Barnett and Cullen Jenkins to long-term contracts with a combined first-year cap hit of about $11.5 million. Their only notable free-agent signing was cornerback Frank Walker, who got a one-year, $1.24 million deal.

    Subtracting their $4.907 million allotment for rookies, the Packers are roughly $10 million below the cap. So, players like Manuel, Franks, Ferguson and Gbaja-Biamila have an opportunity to keep making inflated salaries despite deflated production, provided General Manager Ted Thompson believes they're making positive contributions.

    "You have to say, 'OK, what can this person do for us as a football team?'" Thompson said last week, speaking generally. "A lot of times, (a player's income) just has to do with timing, the nature of the position, when those contracts were negotiated. So, you can never wipe the slate clean and say, 'OK, we're going to be absolutely fair to the dime with every guy.'"

    Role playing

    Manuel, 27, is the only member of the group going through the offseason program as a starter, but his spot on the 53-man roster is in jeopardy as much as any. He was inconsistent in his first season in Green Bay, and the Packers spent a third-round draft pick on strong safety Aaron Rouse.

    Set to make $1.3 million this season, Manuel will try to prove groin and calf problems were all that prevented him from making the impact expected when the Packers gave him a five-year, $10 million free-agent deal before last season.

    "Even though I was smart enough and physical enough to play the game, I still wasn't Marquand," Manuel said during last weekend's mandatory minicamp. "It's just a blessing to be healthy, man."

    Manuel returned to his old offseason regimen this year, working with trainers in Arizona to improve his athleticism. Packers coaches expressed support for him throughout minicamp, though defensive coordinator Bob Sanders emphasized "there's competition at every spot." Atari Bigby and Marviel Underwood also may have a chance to unseat Manuel, or the team could bring in another veteran.

    "Marquand took a lot of negative heat on some things," secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer said. "He's overcome that, and again, he's come back (and) he's in excellent shape."

    Franks, 29, says he's in the best shape he's been in years, but he's fallen behind Donald Lee on the depth chart and is battling Tory Humphrey to earn the No. 2 spot. A Pro Bowler from 2001 to 2003, Franks is coming off the two least-productive seasons of his career, and he's trying to find a niche in the Packers' zone-blocking scheme.

    "We're going on our second year in it," said Franks, who said he's leaner and about 5 pounds lighter than a year ago. "Last year, they said it wasn't a new offense, but it kind of was. You're going to have your learning curves."

    If he's in the rotation, Franks is a relative bargain at $1.4 million this season. He might find himself closer to the cutting block a year from now, when his base salary jumps to $3 million. He's slated to make at least $5 million the three seasons after that.

    "We are adjusting some things as we move forward with the tight end position, and I think we have excellent competition," coach Mike McCarthy said. "But Bubba Franks is a veteran football player, and we expect him to contribute to our football team."

    Ferguson, 27, also could contribute to an offense that needs playmakers. But he's recovering from the mid-foot ailment that landed him on injured reserve in 2006, and he never has been a full-time starter in six NFL seasons.

    If Ferguson can fit in with the rookies and young players set to rotate behind Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, his $1.8 million base salary (and $2.5 million cap number) isn't unreasonable.

    "I'm not necessarily re-establishing myself — I'm establishing myself," said Ferguson, who says he's added 15 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame. "I feel like I'm fresh and healthy and faster and all that than I ever was before."

    Then there's the highest-paid player of them all, Gbaja-Biamila, who is set to make a base salary of $5 million — more than the total compensation of top linemen Ryan Pickett and Aaron Kampman combined.

    Coaches aren't expecting Gbaja-Biamila, 29, to reclaim the starting job he relinquished to Jenkins in December. But they know he's one of two players on the roster with proven double-digit sack potential, despite recording a career-low six in 2006.

    "He can still be that guy," defensive ends coach Carl Hairston said. "He's not rusty. He's still got the ability of one of the top pass-rushers in the league. He has to think that he's not a backup."

    Built for the future

    It seems more likely the Packers would dump an expendable backup like tackle Kevin Barry (cap number: $1.235 million) than any current or former starters, though kicker Dave Rayner and punter Jon Ryan face competitions for their respective jobs.

    In late August, the Packers were about $7.6 million under the cap. Barring a major free-agent signing, they'll be in the same neighborhood this fall.

    The cap is expected to rise to $115 million or more in 2008, and the Packers have between $95 million and $100 million in commitments, a number that is certain to drop during fall cuts. So, Thompson is poised to enter a third straight offseason with more than $20 million to spend — and $12 million more if quarterback Brett Favre retires — though he's proven it's possible to fill cap space without spending a lot of cash.

    Defensive tackle Corey Williams is the only player of consequence who can become an unrestricted free agent. A multiyear deal with running back Vernand Morency, set to be a restricted free agent after this season, could be a priority if he wins the starting job.

    "In order to make this a continuing process so you always have a little flexibility in that regard, (the key) is to be able to plan in advance, to be able to seek out core players on your team and try to do contracts in advance," Thompson said. "It's good, quite frankly, for the player and for the organization. I think that's an ideal situation."

    Chances are Manuel, Franks, Ferguson and Gbaja-Biamila won't breathe any easier if they make the roster. Their combined cap number for 2008 is more than $17 million.
  2. PackFanInSC

    PackFanInSC Cheesehead

    Jul 29, 2006
    I would guess that Bubba is safe -- as a backup -- until Lee is established and for the 2 TE sets. He is a better blocker than the rest of the TEs and MM seems to think that the pass catching problems are more of a confidence issue.

    IF Manuel's problems are because he was hurt, than maybe he can surprise us. If he could produce and give Rouse a season to learn the system, it would be nice but I would put him on a very short leash. A couple of explosive plays and I would drop him.

    KGB could be an elite 3rd down pass rusher but I don't know if we can pay that much for a player that only plays part-time. If Jenkins goes down, would we be better off with a liability against the run or a slightly weaker pass rusher that can slow the run as well? Could KGB's weakness against the run be over-emphasized last year because he had a rookie (Hawk) playing behind him? Or could his inability have inflated Hawk's numbers? Maybe we need to look at the difference in yards per carry against KGB/Hawk compared to the other side of Kampman/Poppinga.

    Ferguson is signed through 2008. I would say that he has the toughest road ahead of him to make the team. If he does squeak through the next couple of pre-seasons, I would guess that he would not be re-signed.
  3. retiredgrampa

    retiredgrampa Cheesehead

    Sep 21, 2005
    Frankly, I don't hold out much hope for Manual coming back but if he does, I feel he could have the most positive impact of that group. KGB will always be one-trick, IMO. Franks will never get faster. Our hopes must hinge on the young Packers to advance. And there are many of those with real promise, I believe. I will breathe a sigh of relief when Corey Williams is finally extended. That will solidify our front 7 for years to come. That's a great feeling, to be sure.
  4. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

    Dec 11, 2004
    The deal with Manuel is apparently he was injured all of last year. Personally, I think he was the injury to the packers D. Whether he has two good hammies or one, I think he sucks.

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