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 three of this series covers 2010 free agents who are from the defensive backfield. Part One covered the offensive which is located here. Part Two covered the defensive line and linebacker corp which is located here.
Tramon Williams age: 26 CB2
It’s unbelievable that Williams was an undrafted free agent. Once cut from Houston in training camp in 2006, the Packers signed him to the practice squad halfway through the season.
He made the active roster in 2007 and is the clear cut nickelback in the talented secondary. Williams had nine starts in 2008 for Harris (spleen) and filled in nicely. He had five picks in 2008 and was on the field for 74 percent of the defensive plays.
Prediction: Stay. Green Bay has one of the best secondaries in the NFL, yet Al Harris and Charles Woodson are not getting any younger. The cornerbacks behind Williams are unproven and Williams has shown that he can be a difference maker on the football field. He also is a key contributor on special teams and looks to be a fulltime starter in a year or two.
Will Blackmon age: 24 CB4, KR/PR
Blackmon seemed to be a disappointment right out of the gate. Drafted in the fourth round in 2006, Blackmon broke his foot as a rookie in mini-camp which led to a lost rookie season. He broke the same foot the next year and missed seven games and the postseason. In 2008, Blackmon was finally able to stay healthy and showcased his return ability from punts and kickoffs.
Prediction: Walk. As important Blackmon is to the Packers for his punt and kick return abilities, he contributes very little on the defense because of the talented players ahead of him. Blackmon is a decent returner, but will only be offered a minimal contract by the Green Bay organization. I see Blackmon turning down the offer in order to test free agency.
Nick Collins age: 26 FS
Patience is a virtue. After three years of average play, many believed that the 2008 offseason was a make-or-break year for Collins. Drafted in the second round in 2005, he drew praises for his freakish athletic ability yet his skills had not translated into the regular season.
In 2008, Collins exploded with seven interceptions, three of which were taken to the house. Collins turned into a difference maker for the Packers who has helped make Green Bay’s secondary one of the best in the league.
Prediction: Stay. Thompson was smart not to jump the gun and fork out a new deal for Collins this offseason. Was the 2008 season a fluke? Collins will have to showcase his ability this year in a new defensive scheme.
He needs to be the Ed Reed of the defense, which if his play carries over from last year, he will be rewarded with a new contract. I believe Collins will continue his excellent play from 2008 and prove the doubters wrong that he is not a one year wonder.
Atari Bigby age: 27 SS
With quite possibly the coolest name on the roster, Atari Bigby is a fan favorite among the Packer faithful. Bigby was on the practice squad from 2005 and most of 2006 as a former undrafted free agent. His first name “Atari” is Japanese for "attack," which suits him well.
Bigby was the starter in 2007 and exploded at the end of the 2007 season and into the playoffs showing his hard-hitting ability. 2008 was a lost season for Bigby due to a bothering left ankle injury.
Prediction: Walk. Bigby has the tools to be the strong hitting safety that the Packers need in the secondary. Unfortunately, he has a tough time with injuries that severely hamper his ability on the field.
This year Bigby will need to prove he is healthy and can revert back to his 2007 form. I believe this year Anthony Smith may outplay him, leaving Bigby on the outside looking in.