Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Packers Who Won't Be Back Next Year (And How We'll Replace Them)

 The Super Bowl champions nearly always lose a lot of people in the year or two after the game takes place. Free agents get huge deals elsewhere, veterans retire or move on and fat gets trimmed from the roster. With a deep roster, fifteen players returning from injured reserve and lucrative deals waiting once free agency resumes, a lot of Packers will likely be playing elsewhere next year. Here are some of the most likely candidates to move on.

We'll Miss You!!

Brandon Jackson
The Packers' 2007 second-round pick saw his rookie contract expire after the 2010 season. Despite a mediocre season as the starter after Ryan Grant went down in Week 1, Jackson still wants to start somewhere, and will likely be given an opportunity in free agency. He's a top-notch pass-blocker and by far the Packers' best man on screen passes, but whatever team picks him up will have to deal with his limitations running the football and in overall speed. James Starks will likely take over as the third-down back, as well as splitting time as the starter with Ryan Grant, and I expect the Packers to spend a mid- to late-round pick on another back.

Korey Hall
 The Packers' nominal No. 1 fullback, another 2007 draftee, also has his contract expiring and probably won't be back. He's the best blocker among the three-man corps, but Quinn Johnson is still around and John Kuhn will certainly be resigned, and since Hall has been injured for large parts of the last three years, it's likely he won't be back. The Packers will have a job replacing Hall on special teams, however.

                                 James Jones
The second most talented receiver on the roster after Greg Jennings, Jones is also the most inconsistent. Packers fans will remember his spectacular touchdown catches against Atlanta in the playoffs (left) and the one-hander against Minnesota, but Jones can't be relied on on deep passes. The 2007 third-rounder dropped deep balls against the Giants, Eagles and Steelers late in the season that all could have been long touchdowns.
 Despite his drops, Jones has a ton of talent and the ability to be a starter and star, and teams will give him a chance come free agency. My prediction is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are always looking for receivers.
With Donald Driver's career in Green Bay nearing its end, look for the Packers to spend a high pick on Jonathan Baldwin or another tall receiver to fill out the corps behind Jennings and presumptive 2011 starter Jordy Nelson.

Daryn Colledge
 One of the only true starters on this list, Colledge has been pretty darn consistent for the last five years. He's started 78 games at left guard and occasionally at left tackle, and was thought to be the Packers' long-term plan at LT until several disastrous stints there in relief of Chad Clifton in '09. Journal Sentinel beat writer Bob McGinn said "there's no question he ranks fifth-best on a five-man unit" after the season. Colledge spent part of the offseason speaking out about a long-term contract, and between that and his subpar play, it's not hard to imagine the Packers letting him go. Third-year lineman T.J. Lang or sophomore Nick Macdonald will probably replace him in '11.

 Jason Spitz
Once a key starter along the interior of the line, Spitz has been merely a reserve for the last two seasons, since the emergence of Josh Sitton at RG put him out of a job there. The Packers were getting trade offers from him at the end of the 2010 training camp, and he might be attractive to teams looking for a low-priced center or guard. I could easily see him resigning with the Packers, though. Spitz had back issues in '09 and before, and his regress to backup status might be a turn-off for suitors.

Mark Tauscher
The savior of the right tackle position in 2009 after Allen Barbre imploded, Tauscher had a mediocre four-game stint in '10 before going on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. There's no reason to bring him back, with Bryan Bulaga seemingly locked-in at RT for another year, and he'd earn $4.1 million in base salary next year for a team that'll be looking to cut spending. Don't expect to see him on the opening-day roster.

Brett Swain
Swain's been on the roster for two years, plays hard and has been a special-teams constant. He just doesn't have the speed to ever be dangerous on the field, and if Thompson keeps to his mantra of drafting plenty of receivers, Swain will likely lose out in training camp to a speedy kick-returner type.

Cullen Jenkins
I couldn't resist using this photo.
I've already covered in this space how the Packers' best defensive end has likely seen the end of his time in GB. If the lockout drags on into training camp, Jenkins might consider returning on a one-year deal, but by all reports there wasn't much contact between his agent and Ted Thompson even before the lockout began. Mike Neal will be tasked with filling Jenkins' formidable sack production in 2011, if he can stay healthy...

 Justin Harrell
Like the rest of the 2007 draft class, his contract is up. And... yeaaaaah.... the Packers would be crazy to give him a tender or any kind of second contract.

Brady Poppinga

 One of only three draftees remaining from the 2005 class (Pro Bowlers Aaron Rodgers and Nick Collins are the others), Poppinga's time might have come. He's coming off a blown knee, is 31 and plays a position where the Packers have a glut of players. Will be remembered for his stint as a Mormon missionary and his memorable quotes.

Nick Barnett
The Packers' starting MLB since 2003 and part-time nightclub owner has long been one of Green Bay's top defensive players. But with his base salary over $6 million in 2011, at a position where starters A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop are both sitting on long-term deals, Barnett will either take a pay cut or a trade to some other team. He's just 29 and hasn't played much due to season-ending injuries in '08 and '10, and could be a real find for a 4-3 team. Has two years remaining on his contract. Barnett will likely be one of the Packers' top priorities once the lockout ends.

Atari Bigby

The one-time mighty hitter in the secondary has been injured basically since 2007. With an expiring contract and Morgan Burnett slated to start next year, and Charlie Peprah around for depth's sake, Bigby might not even make it to training camp. Plus, apparently he's spending his time out of the country instead of working out, which will help exactly none.

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