Free Agents and Second Year Players

From Larry R in Appleton, WI

There seem to be an unusually high number of free agents this year due to the changing rules over the last 24 months.  None of these can be signed until after the draft (probably).  Because of this timing, teams that normally would have signed their own free agents and grabbed one or two new players, now will be tempted to go to the draft first.  Those teams may draft for need to protect against the chance that they will not be able to sign the free agent they really want. In fact, the Packers might also be influenced by this and draft a new receiver without knowing how much resigning James Jones would cost them.  More likely though TT will, as always, draft the best available player….definitely the best strategy this year when you are at number 32.

Whenever the new CBA is finalized, teams are going to be doing a lot of scrambling to lock in their own free agents first and then seeing what is leftover out there.  Not a good deal for the free agents because all the teams will have loaded up during the draft to fill their greatest needs.  Who will the Packers scramble to sign first?  My vote is for Jones, Crosby, Kuhn, and Jackson.  Jenkins would be nice but I am afraid he has peaked.

The following is the list of Packer free agents:

  • WR James Jones
  • DE Cullen Jenkins
  • G Daryn Colledge
  • C/G Jason Spitz
  • S Atari Bigby
  • S Anthony Smith
  • FB Korey Hall
  • TE/LB Spencer Havner
  • CB Josh Bell
  • LB Matt Wilhelm
  • RB Brandon Jackson
  • FB John Kuhn
  • K Mason Crosby
  • WR Brett Swain

Second Year Impact

Coaches frequently comment that the greatest player improvement comes between year 1 and year 2.  What kind of improvement should we look for from each of these players and how do they go about acheiving it in the off season?  More importantly, who if anyone will step forward enough to be a starter or better yet an impact player?

Here is a list of last year’s rookies looking to make an impact in 2011:

Bryan Bulaga – A very solid rookie year.  More consistency and run blocking for the entire line needs emphasis.  Already a starter and an impact player.

Josh Gordy – Surprised if he makes the roster

Nick McDonald – Should improve enough to make the roster.

Dimitri Nance – A tough road to have a chance to make the team.  Gone.

Andrew Quarless – Got a ton of playing time and we have not really seen the big play potential that his physical skills suggest that he has. Perhaps a noticeable improvement but still only a second string tight end that might take some snaps away from Crabtree.

Sam Shields – Wow what a rookie year.  More playing time and workouts with the coaching staff, Williams and Woodson should make Shields even more valuable.  Packers are in a great position here now when all we have to do is look for our fourth CB.  I expect his play to continue to improve and yes he will make some spectacular plays.  If he is good enough to prompt more discussion of Woodson moving to Safety…..that says a lot.

James Starks – Might well be our starting RB next year.  Simply needs more time to pick up the blocking and pass catching skills.  Real improvement and yes he may have an impact.  He will just have to get the ball often enough.  Not likely to happen actually.

CJ Wilson – Likely to get more playing time.

Frank Zombo – Made some great contributions in 2010 and who knows what he can bring in 2011.

Morgan Burnett – Should be a great competition for a starting safety position.  More experience will clearly help.

Mike Neal –  Resign Jenkins?  Neal definitely showed flashes in 2010.  Not resigning Jenkins would be a huge opportunity for Neal!

Marshall Newhouse – Might have a long shot chance at a starting role.

Tom Crabtree – Strictly speaking Crabtree is not really finishing his rookie season but it is the first season he has had significant playing time and he has been labeled the Packers best blocking tight end in some comments.

Who is most likely to step up big time?  My guess is Starks will get more and more playing time and he will make very good use of it.  Shields will be better than ever and keep getting better with more playing time and end up giving the Packers will have the best defensive backfield in the business in 2011.  Mike Neal will be in a great position to get a fast start and have a great year.  Very good possibility that there will be a new starter on both the offensive and the defensive line.  Sometimes you wish they could expand the roster beyond 80.  Now how are the 2011 rookies going to fit in?  They cannot all be on the practice squad!

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  • Rick

    Good article Larry.

  • ScottS

    Looks like the Packers will probably once again lead the league in the number of players they cut that get picked up by other teams.

  • Thats why so many of us treat last years IR like another pass at a draft and FA exercise…!

  • Rick, a follow up to our prior posts which fits in here with “second year and FAs”. Look at what TT sees……..!
    Bishop 26, Francois 25, Hawk 27, Jones 25, Walden 25, Young 24 (DE?), Biggs 25, Chillar 28, Jackson 22, Matthews 24, Zombo 24, then Wilhelm 31 and Popinga 31. I’m not sure if a backup role (if he would accept at about 2-3M) isn’t appropriate on a SB favored team. Barnett is 29 by comparison but is he in better shape than Chillar? Then you look at the list and who is in the middle after Bishop and Hawk? Next, has Hawk matured into the role or was he playing over his head all year? Barnett has not been a bad warrior, hence the current contract. Re-looking at the list, Barnett made a good point yesterday – what if Hawk or Bishop went down……..? Shoot it was just a pin in his wrist – not the legs this time.

    • Rick

      Barnett has had time to see what is coming. Most likely he is looking at this as a 30+ year old ILB coming off a serious injury with a history of injuries. How marketable is that in the NFL that is alwasy trying to get younger. Especially when the “fill in” players won a Super Bowl with out him and were resigned.

      He sounds like hat in hand time has arrived.

      This could mean a restructured deal and GB keeps quality depth.

      • Rick

        He will be 30 at the beginning of the season not 30+, sorry the typo rules again.

  • Packer’s Advocate

    I say “let TT pick and choose”. He’s finally has himself in the spot where he wants to be. Pick if there’s a good one and trade it (picks for next year) if not. Could get Jenkins back for reasonable w/the depth of DL in this draft. Probably a good year to trade away picks for next year w/the work stoppage. They may not have enough time this year to learn what they need w/the lockout. Also, any picks traded are almost garunteed to land in a better spot than 32. Don’t think we need any picks cause if you called Finley, Neal and Burnett picks one, two and three coming back from IR and added to a SB team, that’s a fine draft in itself. I’d like to see Jones get resigned and take over for Driver after next year but w/Finley coming back, that leave him or Nelson out on 4 wides cause they usually split Finley out. Might have problems w/enough balls but this team could be poised for a three-peat. Gotta win this year before worrying about that. Draftwise though, I’d like to see the compliment to CMIII. That’s a 5-1 deal. If you can’t control him, your stuck then defending 5 players. Sack the QB, get him off target and pretty much eliminates 5 players he’d throw to. That’s where the bang for the buck is I think.

    • Packer’s Advocate

      By “If you can’t control him” I meant the QB.

    • Rick

      As long as the Dline does not allow the offense to adjust to our inside and outside LB schemes that is a sound theory that seemed to work last year for the Pack.

  • Well, I thought we had a pretty good front seven this year. Capers was great, Pickett and Raji pushed their men into the backfield and Jenkins was commanding enough to let CM through. When Pickett and Jenkins were out Capers went to that crazy two DL (a new one on me) and a few other variations involving Woodson. PA is right about the other side (I’m thinking Jones is OK there for now) but w/o a major trade up I’m not sure there is one available in the draft the quality of what we have in Zombo, Jones, etal. Worse case senario, as I see it, is to repeat the injuries. I still have memories about the OL a few years ago, ugh. I don’t know if anyone other than Capers could have pulled off what he did last year.

  • iccyfan

    A friend of mine played football at the University of Minnesota-Duluth about ten years ago. They won the DII National Title this season and had their pro day on Friday. Per my buddy, only the Packers were in attendence and they appeared interested in a RB named Isaac Odim. Just thought I’d share…

    • Shhhhh!!!!! Can you say Walter Payton? One could only hope he would drop to 32. Knee surgery?

    • As a follow up, iccy, Path to Primetime – Draft Tracker doesn’t even list him. I thought he was a senior in ’10, but maybe that post-grad scholarship plus the knee made him take himself out of filing for the draft. Wonder if he worked out at pro day. There are other horses on that team to be interested in so maybe thats where mosts scouts interests lie. His highlight films are outstanding, but not much of a level of competition. But then, I go back to the Payton comparison. I think he’s real, if healthy.

    • Rick

      Interesting, he shredded his leg and missed this season.

      Not even on my UDFA pool, or top 750 or even top 900.

      Also I can not see that a GB team scout went to Minnesota Friday. Maybe a hired gun to attend the smaller schools for the Packers.

      He was their KR as well so maybe a camp KR/RB invitee when football begins again.

  • Rick

    Okay who would win in a cage match…. The commish Rodger Goodell or NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith??

    • ScottS

      Neither. They would just push each other around for a while and then let the court pick a winner.

      • Rick

        OMG!!!!!!!!! ROFLAO!!!!!!!


        • ????? Help the old farts out, Rick!

          • Rick

            OH MY GOSH(GOD)!!!!!!!! ROLL ON FLOOR LAUGHING MY ASS OFF!!!!!!!!!

            SMILEY FACE

  • iccyfan

    Somebody from another site just posted Isaac Odim’s personal website. I didn’t read the whole thing but he sounds like a pretty impressive kid, both as a dedicated football player and a student-athlete.

  • Oh, of course. Gee, if only you had put the “M” in there I’m sure I would have understood. Heh, heh, heh.

  • By the way, I heard on the radio this AM that after the draft picks are made that the teams cannot talk to the picks. How can this be if there is no Union, hence, no agreement. Doesn’t make sense – at least to me.

    • Rick

      They can call them and have them for press opportunity the day after the draft but NO football discussions.

  • Gets me back to FA. Jenkins is screwed for this year. All the teams that need, and would pay for him, will find a DL starter in the draft. Overall a bad year for FAs as it turns out. Teams cannot wait – if they don’t settle prior to the 28th a lot of money will be lost for them and I can’t see any of them sitting out a year in their prime.

    • Rick

      You are correct. If most teams have drafted “cheaper” rookie labor with a deep DLine draft then FA market will be less. Maybe able to aquire Jenkins service for a reasonable rate with jolly out of the picture.

  • Rick

    Ok so now the federal judge mediator in Minnesota is going to take a crack at this. Oh boy, the same Minnesota that still haven’t gotten either Williams off the field AFTER 3 FULL SEASONS….

    I hope the NLRB steps in and calls the NFLPA out on the sham decertification. Then the federal judge loses the right to rule and it goes to the National Labor Review Board. That will completely put this where it belongs. The NFLPA is still a union and has to negotiate or take the owners offer.

  • Larry

    Everyone talking DL or OLB but I think the big risk is at CB. In 2010 there was no major injuries until the SB (Woodson, Shields) and during the 2nd half Rburger came back against Lee (not so much) and Bush. Had he targeted anyone but Williams the ending may have been different.

    I don’t see a round 1 corner worth taking once the first two come off but any thoughts on who might upgrade this area?

    • Asmo!

    • Rick

      @ LT – LOL , Only on a budget though.

      @ Larry – I like Aaron Williams from Texas at pick #32 at CB.

      The dream player for GB in first round would be to draft JJ Watt from Wisconsin for the D line. Raji, Pickett, Neal, Watt, and CJ Wilson is a good rotation. “Big” Green and “Oh My Back” Harrell can compete for a last spot for Depth.

      With Picketts age. It will be soon Neal, Raji, Watt starting on the line. Maybe we can get lucky and everyone will think he has short arms too. LOL

  • Got a lot going ag’in ya with that one Rick. Write ups have him going everywhere from WAS to DET and Kiper had him #3 as strictly a DE (but either in 43 or34). Shoot, looking at how Wynn and Wilson showed last year, I’m not looking for their replacements yet…..! Here again, I think that exposure they got last year was extremely valuable. You know how stubborn I can be (like TT); I’m still holding out for “Hot Tub” to be Jenkins’ replacement…!

    Seriously, I like your CB pick better. He got screwed in Big-12 ’cause they went with all-SR DBs. He’s lightning on the field. If he is rated in top 4 CBs in the draft, then at 32 (1st pick in the 2nd round?) its a good value pick.

    • Rick


  • Rick

    My updated big board from Sunday after Pro Days.

    Big Board #26 to #38 so 5 picks in front and 5 picks after GB’s #32. If QBs are picked early then someone has to fall. If QBs go more in the second round then we might have to grab someone a little lower on the list. The player at #32 should be in this group.
    #26 Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio St
    #27 Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado
    #28 Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Temple
    #29 Phil Taylor, DT Baylor
    #30 Aaron Williams, CB Texas
    #31 Akeem Ayers, OLB UCLA
    #32 Jabeel Sheard, DE Pitt

    #33 Danny Watkins, OG Baylor
    #34 Christian Ponder, QB Florida St
    #35 Brandon Harris, CB Miami
    #36 Mikel Leshore, RB Illinois
    #37 Martez Wilson, ILB(OLB) Illinois
    #38 Torrey Smith, WR Maryland

    • iccyfan

      What a “trick bag” that list presents. Nolan Nawrocki from Pro Football Weekly (the guy who created the recent Cam Newton firestorm) does not like Cam Heyward; I’m inclined to believe most Ohio State products are slightly over-rated. Aaron Williams and the rest of the Shorthorn defense got lit up by Iowa State; that makes him suspect in my book. I keep seeing write-ups about Torrey Smith being a speed-only guy who catches with his body. Danny Watkins will be 27 by the time of the draft and Jimmy Smith failed multiple drug tests at Colorado. Where does Ted go with this? Who’s on your 39-50 list?

      I guess I see the bright-side as being there are no blatant “needs” on this deep Packer squad so selection of hungry prospects with high-upside is possible without sacrificing the present. Ryan Bowen & Wes Whathisname of the National Football Post are very high on Leonard Hankerson – where do you have him?

      • Rick

        #39 Justin Houston, OLB Georgia
        #40 Kyle Rudolph, TE Notre Dame
        #41 Ryan Mallet, QB Arkansas
        #42 Stephen Paea, DT Oregon State
        #43 Andy Dalton, QB TCU
        #44 Reed Brooks, OLB Arizona
        #45 Ras-I Dowling, CB Virginia
        #46 Leonard Hankerson, WR Miami
        #47 Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech
        #48 Randall Cobb, WR Kentucky
        #49 Rodney Hudson, C Florida St
        #50 Marvin Austin, DT North Carolina

      • “T-Rick bag”! Thats 13 + the one that falls unexpectedly and the one TT wants that we are unaware of. If its BPA at that spot, who on the list is it? I look at that list and take Ayers but dont think he will be there. I could live with Williams but why go there with Woodson-Shields-Williams-(+Lee?) that high? Re Iowa State everybody has a bad day. With those as my choices other than Ayers and Williams I trade down.

        • Rick

          2) Williams
          3) Taylor

          as far as what I see available at #32

        • iccyfan

          LT – I agree with you on Akeem Ayers – he’s the guy on T-Rick’s list that I’d love to see fall to us. With the way everybody is enamored of sheer speed, it could happen. As for Aaron Williams, if Iowa State was Texas’ only blemish last year I could agree, but they weren’t…

          There’s likely a player on that list TT really likes, and we’ll learn to like him as well! From my perspective, unless Akeem Ayers or Derek Sherrod fall to us, I’m a proponent of trading down, accumulating picks and selecting Brooks Reed, Leonard Hankerson, Titus Young or Ben Ijalana in the upper to mid-second…

      • Does that mean you’d pick them or that they are BPA at the spot in your mind? I could see Wilkerson, but not Taylor because we already have our space eaters. With that in mind we’re kind of like the PATS now, with our slight edge being at WR and a younger QB.

        • Rick


          I feel Martez Wilson would be the next valued pick for GB after those three.

          He played for a dissapointing Illinois team and has excellent tape both as an inside and outside LB. He also has tape against an interesting series of teams. Besides playing a Big Ten schedule Illinois has tape against Baylor in the Texas Bowl and really showed what he and Luiget could do. He was in coverage all day against pass happy Fresno State in California.

          Ayers is more of and ILB when it comes to a 3-4 defense and he just does not value out as well for the packers because of it.

  • Rick

    #46 Leonard Hankerson, WR Miami
    My only issue is he keeps dropping balls and has small hands for his sides.

    #48 Randall Cobb, WR Kentucky he is a 5’10” do everything player. Runs throws jumps nearly as high as Leonard even though Leonard is 4″ taller.

    • Rick

      small hands for his size……

  • iccyfan

    From an article by Wes Bunting for the National Football Post yesterday regarding his top-five over-rated draft prospects: Aaron Williams

    “It’s tough to be considered an elite cornerback prospect when you play high, are stiff out of your breaks and struggle to turn and run, which is exactly the case for Williams. Now, I know some talent evaluators are looking at him as a free safety prospect only. However, I don’t see the type of awareness and/or overall instincts to his game on tape needed to quickly step in and start in a center field type role. I do agree safety is a better spot for him at the next level, but he still looks more like a potential starter only and more of a 3rd round value.”

    Just to have some fun with T-Rick, also on Bunting’s over-rated list, M. Wilkerson! I can’t remember exactly, but I think he has Aaron Williams at #78 overall, preceeded by Torrey Smith at #77. I really enjoy a different perspective than that espoused by nearly everybody else; it’ll be interesting to see how it works out on draft day…

    • Rick

      The true fun is once you make a big board then sitting down and really thinking about each team, the GM, the coaches and what they will do. Personally if I am a GM at the front end of this draft I stay away from QBs. There is no franchise QB talent that scores well and has no warts.

      I know Jimmy Smith is not on the Packers Board at all really, Wilkerson is questionable. A CB/FS/ ST ace like Aaron Williams is a solid player. I would love to see a Dlineman slip to GB however.

      My gut says GB trades down so some team can grab a QB like Mallet or if Gabbert or Newton slide to the end of the draft. Though if Gabbert slides I say take him and develop him. 2 to 3 years under this teaching coaching staff and Gabbert would be better than most starters in the league.

  • Larry

    At some point we need to go on record with some picks or repost our picks from weeks ago…I’m still taking Carimi and Williams (Ryan) as Packer 1 and 2. I doubt either will be there at 32 and 64 but all this noise surrounding QB’s and Dtackles will cause lineman to fall. I’m hoping TT gets lucky again and gets a falling star like Rodgers, Bulaga, hopefully Carimi.

    I really can’t see Gabbert getting to 32. A QB hungry team that passes early would surely trade back in to grab him in the back half of RD. 1.

    • iccyfan

      Two months ago I was convinced it was gonna be a LT in Round 1 to pair with Bulaga. Over on Packer Report, Bill Huber keeps posting interviews he’s doing with players the Packers are working out, either on campus or on location in Green Bay. They’re taking a real close look at LT’s further down the draft analyst’s lists, which leads me to believe they’re not going there early. A couple days ago it was a guy from East Carolina who sounded intriguing as a prospect; today it’s a four-year starter from James Madison.

      I’d suggest April 26 as the date to post predictions. I can’t wait to see what Packer Pete has to give us this year!

  • Rick

    We should pick a date and all post our thoughts on GB picks at least 1 and 2. When should we do so?

  • Mel E Mel

    FYI Blaine Gabbert is the next great 1st round bust. Hopefully he becomes a Viqueen. No tape of him exist throwing more than 15 yards. OLine DLINE and PR/KR. IF I am TT I move up and get a top LT if its there. I like Heyward, of OSU and maybe C Pouncey or OG Watkins. All this talk of a OLB is aq bit premature. How many teams have 3 options at OLB that have started NFL playoff games? The depth the Pack has makes this pick very intriguing. We all would say that OLine is a need but what about TJ Lang, Newhouse and Campbell? I heard Matt FLynn wants to start somewhere, hopefully somebody will give up a 2nd rounder for him. We cant afford Tramon Williams returning punts, so get the guy from Cal who set the record there. With Rodgers and Bishop we seem to have good fortune with those Golden Bears

    • Mel, Flynn isn’t exactly a good deep passer and MM was able to make him into a useful QB. MM could do a lot more with a top prospect. Maybe Gabbert didn’t throw deep because he wasn’t asked to in his offense. I haven’t heard anything bad about his arm strenght or accuracy. I think TT will do something we don’t expect and maybe don’t like but his record speaks for itself.

      • Rick

        Watching DT Luigets tape and see what Gabbert did to the Illinois team was frightening.

        The problem is Gabbert is a spread offense guy and has never had to train and work on how to come out of center and make reads and throws. Think of him like a big gun armed version of Kyle Orton. Kyle was a Purdue spread guy like Drew Brees before him and it took about 3 years for him and about 3 years for Drew to really turn into a solid pro style QBs. I see the same with Gabbert. If he can sit for a couple of years he will be amazing. If not then a bust he will be.

        Flynn would be a solid 2nd or 3rd rounder in the draft this year maybe a 1st with the weakness of the QB class.

  • Mel E Mel

    Blaine Gabbert is a fraud, more power to him because he is going to be rich. Chase Daniel threw more TDs 39 in his Sr year than Gabbert had in his entire career at Missouri. Same offfense. I have nothing against Flynn but if wants to go, lets get value for him. Lets get Watkins from Baylor to deal with Suh, and the roid freaks in MN. We need to Keep Rodgers Upright and let Starks and Grant take pressure off the passing game.

    • Rick

      Chase Daniel is also 5 1/2 inches shorter and has a longer throwing motion.

  • Hi to all from PHX. Harrell gives you a longer ball than Flynn and has a year into the system. I’m sticking with him rather than anybody on this year’s list. Like most of you I’ve bounced around on a pick simply because @32 there is too much activity above. I don’t think of 32 as a first round pick so can wait later in the 2nd and 3rd for BPAs. Hence, my pick is trade down for a larger selection. Keep in mind I have a SB squad with only ST as a need area. The rest of this draft, IMO, is looking for development types that could start in 2-4 years not now….!