One of the the most exciting times of the NFL offseason is only 24 hours away: NFL Free Agency. As Packers fans know, Ted Thompson has not been a major player in the yearly festivities in his tenure as GM. Last year, his big move was bringing in OLB Brandon Chillar and the year before CB Frank Walker. Even three years ago, when he signed Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, both moves were made after the intial wave of signings.
Since, we are not expecting Thompson to make any major signings this weekend, let’s look at the Packers’ list of unrestricted and restricted free agents.
Atari Bigby, Safety (restricted) – Probably the headliner of the team’s free agents. Missed playing time last season due to injuries, but when healthy is one of the best hitting safeties in the NFC. Closed out the 2007 season strong and showed enough last year when healthy to warrant an extension. The Packers have five tenders they can use of restricted free agents, so expect Bigby to garner a second-round tender, which would allow the team to match any potential offer and recieve a second-round pick in compensation if they fail to match. The tender is at $1.545 million, which is more than fair for Bigby. Expect an extension to be signed sometime in the coming weeks.
Mark Tauscher, Tackle – Until he blew out his knee against the Saints, it didn’t look good for the former Badger to return. Has been one of the more underrated tackles in the games for years, but at 31 years old and coming off surgery, the market is not as good as it was for him. With the draft loaded with tackle prospects, I expect Tauscher to test the open market, but ultimately re-sign with the Packers at a low number with incentives and the opportunity to compete for his starting job (if healthy) this summer.
Ruvel Martin, Wide Reciever (restricted) – Has performed very well as the Packers 4th reciever the past couple seasons. Wide Reciever is the team’s deepest position and if James Jones is healthy next season, Martin may be 5th on the depth chart. That said, with and the team’s style of offense and depth needed at the position, Martin will more than likely be offered a low tender of $1.01 million and be back in green and gold next season.
Tory Humphrey, Tight End (restricted) – Will most likely be offered the low tender of $1.01 million as well. With Donald Lee holding down the starting Tight End spot and the potential Jermichael Finley, Humphrey becomes expendable, but $1.01 million is fair due to depth and his special teams play.
John Kuhn, Fullback (restricted) – Split time with Korey Hall at fullback and has performed well. Expect him to be offered the low tender as well and be back for 2009.
Colin Cole, Defensive Tackle – Switching to a 3-4, the question rises, is Cole a DT or DE? Thompson loves defensive line depth, but Cole has had trouble staying on the field. It may come down to what his price tag will be and having shipped out Corey Williams last offseason due to a high salary, don’t be suprised if Cole walks.
Mike Montgomery, DE/OLB – Montgomery will get some looks at OLB if he is re-signed, and switching to the new scheme it may be beneficial to bring him back to find out what the team has for outside pass rushers. However, Jeremy Thompson and Jason Hunter will also get looks, so unless the price is right Montgomery may not be brought back.
Jason Hunter, DE/OLB (restricted) - Speaking of Hunter, the Packers will more than likely sign him to the low tender based on his potential and depth. May come cheaper than Montgomery, which will play a factor.
Jarret Bush, Cornerback (restricted) – Oh, Jarret Bush. Has given probably more headaches to Packer’s fans than any other corner on the team over the past couple years. A good special teams player, but falling down on the depth chart at CB. It wouldn’t suprise if they offered him a low tender, but it is doubtful anyone would match and the team is better off giving Pat Lee and Will Blackmon more looks.
Shaun Bodiford, Wide Reciever (restricted) – Remember him? Didn’t think so. Injured for all of last season and won’t be offered a low tender. However don’t be suprised if he gets a brought back for a tryout at training camp.
In closing, Bigby is the most important free agent for the Packers to retain this offseaon. It helps he is restricted and if Thompson puts a second-round tender on him, he will almost certainly be back and at a reasonable price. Tauscher is next on the list and being unrestricted and possibly facing his last NFL contract, he will test the open market. Unless he can find a contract in the 4-5 year range (doubtful due to his injury), he will probably be re-signed at a lower price than expected. While Martin, Cole, Montgomery and Hunter could all be parts of the team’s future, don’t shed a tear if they get offered a better deal somewhere else.