While Barnett spent the majority of 2010 on the IR, his replacement, 26 year old Desmond Bishop, excelled in his absence. Bishop proved his worth with 103 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a pick. His promising play led GM Ted Thompson to hand him a four year, $19 million contract extension.
Fellow inside linebacker A.J. Hawk, whose return was also questionable, was re-signed after being cut due to a bulky contract.
With Bishop and Hawk locked up for the near future, it seems all but certain that Barnett will be bounced from the team.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has already said that when Barnett returns, he will be a backup to those two players.
Everything is up in the air right now, of course, because all contract conversations are illegal during the lockout, but both sides have their ideas on what will be done.
The Packers have a few options on how to deal with Nick Barnett, who will cost them $11 million dollars in the next two seasons.
Option No. 1: Restructure Barnett's Contract and Bring Him Back
Why wouldn't he? The Packers have a serious shot at returning to the Super Bowl, and of course he wants to be closer to the big game than just the team photo he was almost left out of.
If Barnett truly wants to remain Green Bay, then he'll most likely be forced to take a paycut. A back up isn't worth the money he's due, so the Packers would be happy to drop his contract if he wouldn't agree to less money.
The fact is, I don't really see Barnett being content with a backup role after starting in each of his eight seasons in the NFL, including his rookie season. He can make more money starting on a number of other teams, so it will be interesting just how strong his desire to stay really is.
The depth at inside linebacker would certainly be beneficial, considering one fourth of the 16 IR players last season were linebackers. While dealing Barnett would free up cap space, it may be safer to just keep him around if possible.
Option No. 2: Trade Barnett For Draft Picks
With the lockout rolling along in full force, Ted Thompson won't be able to trade Barnett for selections in this year's draft unless it would happen to end before draft day.
The Packers have shown that they can develop young players with a high success rate, and there's no doubt in my mind that Ted Thompson could reel in a solid linebacker in the draft.
The position is a need, and the Packers certainly believe in buidling through draft picks. Why not give up Barnett for a shot at grabbing a defensive stud like Clay Matthews or B.J. Raji early on?
If not this year's draft, future picks would also be a worthy prize.
Option No. 3: Trade Barnett for a Player
This team just won the Super Bowl, so the Packers don't necessarily need to make trades to improve. The value they could get for Barnett is questionable due to Barnett's age, and the fact he missed all of last season.
The Buccaneers are one of the teams that may be interested in him once the market opens up again, so a trade including a player and/or draft picks is the most probable option.
Option No. 4: Release Barnett
The Packers' defense was obviously strong without him.
If he does stay on board as a backup, things may get tense between Barnett and management. He showed he isn't afraid to speak his mind in the Super Bowl pic outburst, although that was justified anger in my opinion.
It's a hard thing to let a talented veteran go, but business is business.
Like with all other offseason activity, we will have to wait until the lockout is over to see how events unfold. Fortunately it is a win-win situation no matter what direction they go.