It may be only a few weeks until the start of the regular season, but it is important that we look ahead and play Ted Thompson by evaluating players who should or should not have their contracts renewed for the 2010 season and beyond.
So far this offseason, Greg Jennings has been the only player that has been given a contract extension, which prevents him from testing free agency in 2010. But 15 more Packers are in the last year of their contracts.
Part two of this series covers the defensive linemen and linebackers who will become free agents next offseason. If you missed Part 1, it is located here.
Ryan Pickett age: 29 DT1
As a former first round pick by St. Louis in 2001, Green Bay was able to acquire Pickett through free agency.
Pickett has been durable as he has started 90 of the last 92 games.
As a defensive tackle in the 4-3, he makes the switch this year to play nose tackle for the first time in his career. Pickett has been very helpful along the defensive line and looks to contribute as the starter for the 2009 season.
Prediction: Walk. As productive as Pickett has been, he will soon turn 30 and his chronic knee problems may catch up to him.
B.J Raji was drafted as the nose tackle for the future and the only reason he is playing as a 3-4 end this year is because Pickett is not mobile enough to transition to end.
McCarthy wants both players on the field at the same time, but Raji will eventually become the anchor of the defensive line.
Alfred Malone age: 27 DT/DE3
Malone was signed to the Packer’s active roster last year on December 1 and is on the roster bubble to make an impact as a 3-4 end.
Harrell’s status has opened up a bigger possibility for the undrafted free agent to make the team but he will have to beat out Jarius Wynn and Michael Montgomery.
Prediction: Walk. The odds are against Malone making the active roster, but if he defies expectations, he will have to make an impact on the field in order to warrant a contract extension.
If Malone makes the team, I wouldn’t rule out his staying because he provides depth on the line that would not cost much. I just don’t believe he will make the 53 man roster this year.
Johnny Jolly age: 26 DE2
The Green Bay organization has been able to find gems with late round picks and Jolly is no exception. Jolly was a sixth round pick in 2006 and has been able to contribute in a positive way on the football field.
On the other hand, he has legal issues pending for codeine use, which could result his receiving a four game suspension.
Jolly has been an effective pass rusher in the 4-3 and looks to have a positive transition to a 3-4 end. In the preseason game versus Buffalo, he had two sacks and one forced fumble in only two-and-a-half series.
Prediction: Stay. Though it is likely Jolly may be suspended for four games, I believe he is an important asset to the defensive line.
There is little depth behind starters Cullen Jenkins, B.J. Raji, and Ryan Pickett. Jolly may be able to become a starter in 2010 taking over Raji for a 3-4 end.
I believe Jolly will consider resigning with the Pack since they have developed him and have stuck beside him through his legal problems.
Aaron Kampman age: 29 OLB1
One of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL is on the Packer’s roster. As a former fifth round pick in 2002, Kampman has blossomed into one of the best pass rushers in the league.
In the last three years, Kampman has been to two Pro Bowls and ranks third in the NFL in sacks (37) behind only DeMarcus Ware (45-and-a-half) and Jared Allen (37-and-a-half).
Kampman is transitioning to OLB for the first time and looks continue to bring leadership to the defense.
Prediction: Stay. It is unclear if Kampman will successfully transition into an outside linebacker. Essentially, Kampman will continue to get his sack numbers and assist the pass rush instead of doing it by himself (the last few years).
The Packers have no depth at the position and if Kampman proves himself, he will be rewarded with a lucrative contract. If Kampman struggles, look for him to be hit with the franchise tag and traded for draft picks.
Thompson will not let Kampman walk away from the organization without any compensation. I believe he will continue to be the dominant force on defense and will remain a Packer for the future.
Brandon Chillar age: 26 ILB/OLB2/3
Chillar was the only free agent acquisition for the Packers during the 2008. Chillar is a multi-talented player that can blitz and cover.
Last year, Chillar was used to cover tight ends and running backs. He is also a key special teams contributor where he ranked fourth on the team with 13 special teams tackles.
Dom Capers looks to utilize the versatile player to play outside and inside linebacker.
Prediction: Walk. I really do believe Chillar can thrive in a 3-4 defense because he can play inside or outside.
With Kampman, Matthews, Barnett, and Hawk in the starting lineup, Chillar is going to have to take his game to another level in order to get attention for a contract extension.
If Kampman struggles and Chillar is able to play better ball, don’t be surprised if Chillar becomes the linebacker who receives the contract extension and Kampman is traded. With all of the expiring contracts, Ted Thompson will only be able to keep one linebacker.
Any thoughts or comments Packer fans?
Part Three will cover the secondary in the defense as well as a salary cap analysis.