It's been a very interesting week in free agency for the Green Bay Packers.
Last Saturday, the Packers lost C Scott Wells, as he signed with the St. Louis Rams. Then the next day, QB Matt Flynn signed with the Seattle Seahawks. The Packers also saw CB Pat Lee leave via free agency, as he signed Wednesday with the Oakland Raiders.
But the Packers made some movements of their own this week in free agency. On Tuesday, the Packers re-signed DB Jarrett Bush to a new three-year deal worth $5.25 million dollars. But the big news came yesterday, as the Packers signed C Jeff Saturday to a two-year deal. The terms of the deal have not yet been announced.
The Packers offered enough money to keep Saturday from signing with the Denver Broncos, where Peyton Manning will now play. Saturday had been Manning's center for almost all of the four-time NFL MVP's career with the Indianapolis Colts.
Saturday also won some personal awards himself when he played with the Colts. Saturday has been named All-Pro four times and has also been selected to play in five Pro Bowls.
Saturday is also adept at snapping the ball in the shotgun formation, as well as calling out line assignments in the no-huddle offense.
Bottom line: The former Colt should be an excellent addition to the Packers. Saturday goes from playing center for a four-time MVP (Manning) to the current MVP of the NFL, Aaron Rodgers.
But the Packers also realize that Saturday will be 37 years old in June. That is why the contract is only two years in length. Green Bay will definitely draft a center in the 2012 NFL draft. The only question is when.
I did a mock draft about six weeks back, when I had the Packers selecting C Peter Konz of Wisconsin in the first round. And that was when I thought the Packers still might be able to re-sign Wells. And Wells is just 31 years old.
I know, the Packers need to concentrate on defense in this draft, especially trying to improve the talent for the front seven.
But know this: The Packers already have eight draft choices for the 2012 NFL draft—all seven of their own, plus an additional seventh-round pick from the New York Jets in the Caleb Schlauderaff trade last season.
The NFL is expecting to announce the compensatory picks allocation to teams in the NFL in a short while, and the Packers may get as many as four extra picks because of that. The would leave the Packers with 12 draft picks.
Teams can't trade compensatory picks, but they can trade any of their other picks.
Okay, Ted Thompson will be focused on helping the defense in this draft. However, getting back to free agency for a moment, Thompson and the Packers have expressed interest in two players who could help out at ROLB. They would be Manny Lawson, who played with the Cincinnati Bengals last year, and former Packer Dave Tollefson.
Lawson was a former first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers, who has been a pretty good overall LB in the NFL, especially stopping the run and in coverage. However, his pass-rushing skills have not been as good as expected when he was drafted out of North Carolina State in 2006.
Lawson, who is just 27 years old, has only 16 sacks in his six-year career in the NFL, which also saw him miss most of the 2007 season with a knee injury. Lawson measures at 6'5", 240 pounds.
Tollefson didn't make the roster of the Packers when he was drafted in the seventh round in the 2006 NFL draft, but he did make the team's practice squad. Tollefson left the Packers fro a brief stay with the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and then signed with the New York Giants, where he has been part of a defensive line rotation which has been considered by most as the best in the NFL.
The Northwest Missouri State star had five sacks in 2011 for the G-Men at DE. The Packers see the 6'4", 266-pound Tollefson as a OLB, though.
Time will tell if the Packers will sign either one of those players in free agency. In the draft, the Packers will most likely be focused on a number of defensive players when the team picks in the first round with the 28th selection of the draft.
Those players will most likely include DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw (Alabama), DE/OLB Nick Perry (USC), DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus (Illinois), DE/OLB Vinny Curry (Marshall), DE Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State), DE Michael Brockers (LSU), DE Devon Still (Penn State) and DE Kendall Reyes (Connecticut).
There is a good chance that most of those players will be off the board when it's time for the Packers to select a player in the first round. Curry might still be available, but it's not a given. Reyes is moving quickly up most draft boards and he now has a viable chance to be selected in the first round.
The other players will most likely be gone, at least based on most mock drafts I've seen.
That takes me to Konz. Thompson has steadfastly held to picking the best player on the board when he has drafted for the Packers since 2005.
Thompson did that with his very first selection back then, when he selected Rodgers with the 24th selection in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft.
Thompson was at the Wisconsin Pro Day and he shared his thoughts about Konz and QB Russell Wilson, among other things. Also, Thompson has always liked Konz.
There are a lot of things to like about Konz. First, his size: Konz is 6'5" and 314 pounds. Secondly, his versatility: Konz can obviously play center, but has also played guard and could even play tackle with his size and quick feet. The coaching staff of the Packers love versatility among their offensive linemen.
Konz is probably the best offensive lineman from Wisconsin to enter the NFL since Joe Thomas.
Konz was an All-American at C for the Badgers and was named first-team All-Big Ten as well. Konz started 31 games for Wisconsin over the last three years.
Konz does everything well. He is a punishing run-blocker who gets to the second level with ease. Konz is also a very nice pass-blocker and played very well against big-name competition.
The Packers need to add some quality depth along their offensive line. The selection of Konz would certainly do that. Konz could be the center if anything happens to Saturday. Ditto if something happens to either RG Josh Sitton or LG T.J. Lang.
Plus, there are still questions at LT for the Packers.
Will Chad Clifton be back? Can Marshall Newhouse improve as a pass-blocker after he gave up 12.5 sacks in 2011? How is Derek Sherrod progressing from his leg injury late in the 2011 season, which saw him break two bones in his right leg?
There are those who were concerned that Konz only had 18 reps in the bench press drill at the NFL Scouting Combine. But remember that Konz was still rehabbing from a dislocated ankle suffered late in the 2011 season. Konz also did not work out at the Wisconsin Pro Day.
Still, Konz was able to get well enough to play in the 2012 Rose Bowl, where the Badgers played Oregon. Konz not only played, but he played well.
Bottom line: Don't be surprised if the Packers pick Konz with their first selection of the 2012 NFL draft.