As we near 11:01 p.m. Lambeau Time, the Green Bay Packers have a pair of decisions to make.
At 11:01, the Packers can reduce the RFA tenders made to safety Atari Bigby and cornerback Tramon Williams to 110 percent of the 2009 salaries for each player. The Packers reportedly sent letters to those two – along with Johnny Jolly, who signed his tender late Monday night – informing them the offers would indeed be decreased.
Bigby, tendered at $1.759 million, would only drop $55,000, down to $1.704 million. For Williams, the dip would be significantly more, from $3.168 million down to just over $584,000.
There’s also a great difference with regards to the respective situations of Bigby and Wiliams and how the Packers should handle them.
With Bigby, it’s fairly simple: Drop the offer and let him sit – make that rot – if he so chooses.
Outside of one good year, 2007, Bigby has shown his deficiencies time and time again. He’s not the great run support guy some make him out to be; rather, he’s merely solid (and even that’s not all the time). He’s capable of making plays in coverage, but he’s caught out of position or just plain flatfooted quite a bit, too. His football smarts also leave something to be desired.
Of course, those average skills are only on display when Bigby is, you know, healthy, something he’s struggled with for much of the past two seasons.
And then there’s this: Morgan Burnett.
Burnett, the team’s third round pick out of Georgia Tech, has been turning heads throughout the minicamps/OTAs as he’s consistently displayed his innate knack for finding the ball – a big reason the Packers surrendered their fourth-round pick to move up and get him.
With Bigby sitting out in his search for a new deal, Burnett has worked almost exclusively with the starting defense. As Bigby continues to make a home on his couch, Burnett will only continue to gain confidence. I said at the time of his drafting that I thought Burnett would be starting by week four. That target date keeps moving up, even if Bigby signs his tender. Simply put, I think Burnett is a better option.
So, Atari, continue to listen to super agent/super scumbag Drew Rosenhaus – the defense will only be better for it.
Things will be much, much trickier with Williams.
Williams, despite his ups-and-downs, has shown himself to be a very capable starter in the NFL. He’s got upside, too, and could develop into a Pro Bowl-type guy in time. That gives him a lot of leverage, as does the fact that Charles Woodson turns 34 in October and Al Harris, 36 in December, is coming off major knee surgery and very well could miss the first six weeks of the season.
And Green Bay has no Morgan Burnetts waiting in the wings at corner, but rather an injury-prone Pat Lee, a paying-for-sex-prone Brandon Underwood (allegedly) and a – gulp – Jarrett Bush-prone Jarrett Bush.
A small paycut likely means little to Bigby, but a massive monetary decrease thrown Williams’ way will likely be taken as a sign of great disrespect from the organization. After all, reaching Dallas is the goal this year and the organization has clearly shown that by dishing out roughly $80 million to Ryan Pickett, Nick Collins, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. If the Packers have paid that much – in a capless 2010 – why are they suddenly being so cheap with an up-and-coming player at a position with little depth?
If that is indeed Williams’ viewpoint, I can’t say I disagree with him too much. He’s right; he should get a raise.
But here’s the part I take issue with: the Packers gave him a raise – of $2.6 million. They didn’t have to tender him as highly as they did – they could have dished out a first-round tender instead of a first-and-third tender, as it’s likely no one would have surrendered that - but by doing so they showed him how much value he holds to the team. He should – like Collins before him – sign the tender, get into practice and continue to work towards a long-term extension. My best guess is that the team wants to re-up him, but it wants him to bend a little, too.
And signing the tender is the best way to do that. Meet them halfway, Tramon – I’m pretty sure it’ll be in your best interest.