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Who will stay, go? Expect big changes in 2006

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by IPBprez, Jan 2, 2006.

  1. IPBprez

    IPBprez Cheesehead

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    Posted Jan. 01, 2006
    [​IMG]
    Pete Dougherty

    Who will stay, go? Expect big changes in 2006

    Time, draft position and the trading of too many draft picks finally have caught up with the Green Bay Packers.

    This team isn’t 3-12 going into its finale today for nothing. Even if Javon Walker and Ahman Green had stayed healthy all season, this was a .500 team at best.

    Every offseason brings major roster turnover to the majority of NFL teams, but General Manager Ted Thompson and his scouting staff have more work than most this offseason. The Packers need to upgrade their starters in ways big and small to be a decent team next season, and even that possibility is contingent on quarterback Brett Favre’s return.

    Don’t be surprised if this team has anywhere from six to nine new starters next season.

    Below is a position-by-position look at likely returnees and places where the Packers need new talent. The Packers will have some high draft picks — probably in the top five of the first and second rounds — and $10 million to $15 million in salary cap room for free agency.

    Thompson disdains high-stakes free agency, so a big-money signing is unlikely. But he might be extremely active pursuing low-level and perhaps mid-level players.

    Quarterback

    It’s anybody’s guess whether Favre returns for his 15th season as the Packers’ starter. He’s never looked more frustrated, and there’s no telling if he’s had enough. Last month, he told ESPN he plans to talk to Thompson shortly after the season to see what the GM’s plans are for next season. That meeting probably will determine whether Favre can find the drive to play another season or two.

    Running back

    A new starting halfback is a priority. You usually only find high-quality backs in the draft, though it doesn’t necessarily take a first-round pick.

    Free agent Ahman Green probably will be back because no one else will invest in damaged goods, and there’s no knowing whether he’ll have much burst left after tearing a quadriceps tendon in October. That’s a bad injury for any soon-to-be- 29-year-old player, but especially for a halfback who looked like he’d lost a half-step before he got hurt. For the long term, it’s probably worse than a torn anterior-cruciate ligament. Yes, a highly determined Green could come back strong and surprise next year, but that’s something no team can bet on.

    Samkon Gado was an excellent find from the NFL scrap heap. Three 100-yard games in eight weeks is no small feat, and considering he’s only a rookie with a limited football background, his future is intriguing. But odds are, he’s more of a No. 2-quality halfback than a primary one.

    Free agent Najeh Davenport might be back after missing the final 11 games with a broken ankle. No team banks on a halfback who’s missed 25 games in four seasons.

    Receiver

    Hard to believe, but this has become a position of need, too, though a lower priority than several other spots.

    Even if Javon Walker resembles the player he was before knee-reconstruction surgery this year, the Packers need quality help.

    You can’t knock courageous Donald Driver, who’s had back-to-back, 80-catch seasons. But Robert Ferguson never has played as strong as he appears and hasn’t been the same since last year’s season-ending neck injury. His $1.4 million salary isn’t bad, but it’s a lot if his primary impact is as a gunner on the punt coverage team.

    Rookie Terrence Murphy’s return to the NFL appears to be a 50-50 proposition because of the neck injury that ended his season. He won’t know until March whether he’s OK to play football. That would be a huge blow to lose a promising second-round draft pick before his career gets started.

    Waiver pickup Rod Gardner can go over and through defensive backs to get the ball but lacks the downfield speed to think he’ll be more than a No. 3 or 4 receiver.

    Antonio Chatman? It’s hard not to admire the strides he’s made as a receiver in three years, and the number of third downs he’s converted. But at 5-foot-whatever — he’s listed at 5-9 but isn’t that tall — he plays too small to be anything but a stopgap.

    Tight ends

    A low priority.

    (IPBprez disagrees here. I've always luved the Tiger Set and everyone has seen Green Bay decimate defenses consistently when they were using it.)

    Bubba Franks is a complete player but not a threat to defenses. David Martin runs better but doesn’t stay healthy. Donald Lee could end up being the most productive receiver of the three.

    All are under contract for next year.

    Offensive line

    This team needs two starting guards something fierce. Free agency, draft, any how, any way.

    Scott Wells has started the second half of the season at left guard but appears to be a center. He should be OK if center Mike Flanagan signs elsewhere. There’s a decent chance the 32-year-old Flanagan won’t be back with the Packers because of age, injury and replacements, but he’s a hard guy to write off. The guess is he has a couple more good seasons left.

    Either way, the starting guards need upgrading. It’s hard to project Junius Coston as the answer on the left side, though the fifth-round draft pick could be a player down the road. Will Whitticker was overmatched at right guard as a rookie.

    Backup Kevin Barry is a free agent who doesn’t fit the Packers’ mobile West Coast running game as a starter and probably is headed for a zone-blocking offense where he might start at guard.

    Defensive line

    Though this group played OK, finding a high-quality end or tackle is a major priority. Those guys win games. Problem is, they’re hard to find, and it usually takes a high draft pick to have a shot.

    The best bet is the Packers will re-sign Aaron Kampman, though it’s not a given. His free-agent leverage should land him a substantial signing bonus, perhaps in the $6 million range. He’s not a difference maker, but he’s been the line’s best player this year and provides intangibles and has a career-high 6½ sacks under defensive coordinator Jim Bates.

    Nose tackle Grady Jackson is 50-50 to return as a free agent. He turns 33 this month, so even though he’s had a decent season, the market probably won’t be strong for a part-time player with a history of weight and knee problems.

    Rookie defensive end Mike Montgomery will help more in 2006 if he keeps getting better. But any real improvement will have to come through the draft and perhaps a free-agent find.

    Linebacker

    A major priority with two open starting spots.

    Nick Barnett is improving steadily at middle linebacker. Na’il Diggs appears to be gone on the strong side, and Robert Thomas was a one-season stopgap at the weak side. There are no likely successors on the roster, because rookie Brady Poppinga tore his ACL in mid-December and probably won’t be ready for the start of next season.

    Diggs is due a $600,000 roster bonus in March, and it’s hard to see the Packers paying it and his $2.3 million salary with this defensive coaching staff. Though he’s a good athlete and not old (27), he doesn’t fit Bates’ linebacker profile. Bates emphasizes pure quickness at that position and will sacrifice size to get it.

    Secondary

    Another priority, for a starting cornerback and a starting safety.

    Cornerback Ahmad Carroll was better the second half of the season, and young players need time to develop. But after two seasons, it’s starting to look like the Packers need a bigger, better starter on the left side.

    Nick Collins is a keeper at one safety, but fellow rookie Marviel Underwood doesn’t appear ready to replace Mark Roman at the other.

    Special teams

    All signs suggest Thompson will make a good run at retaining kicker Ryan Longwell, but the free-agent market will drive up his price, and his return looks shaky. For one, he seems weary of kicking in a rough climate. Also, Thompson might not be willing to outbid what could be an expensive market, perhaps in the range of $1.5 million to $2 million a year.

    Many scoff at Longwell’s complaints about holding, but the truth is, those things matter. You can’t take for granted guys who put points on the board in tough conditions.

    B.J. Sander didn’t punt well when the weather turned cold, so his future’s in doubt, too.

    Pete Dougherty covers the Packers for the Press-Gazette. Call him at (920) 431-8222 or e-mail him at pdougher@
    greenbaypressgazette.com

    =========================================

    Well - there ya have it from one of the Insiders... and PackersNews Premium has been pretty decent this year with all the nonsense happening at ther Tundra - moreso than other Sports web sites...

    Comments? Opinions?
     
  2. yooperfan

    yooperfan Cheesehead

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    I think we all saw the same things expressed in this article as the season expired.
    The question none of us can answer is how to fix the car after the wheels have fallen off. Hopefully TT has the blueprint and the tools to fix it. It should be interesting to watch him roll up his sleeves and start turning the wrenches.
    Hopefully us armchair coaches will see progress begin immediately.
     
  3. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    ive said most of the things he has all year long (most of us have, we so smart!). I wonder how much cash we save if Flanny is outta here. I like Wells. He did good two years ago when he replaced flanny, and he did decent at LG last year (bottom line, the guy can play).
     

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