Free Agency Preview: Dissecting The Packers' Defense And Special Teams

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  • With the free agency period set to start on March 11, packers.com gives a sneak peak into the Packers' evaluation process.

The Packers have 13 unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and two restricted free agents (RFAs).

UFAs have completed at least four years in the NFL and can sign with any team unless the Packers designate them franchise or transition players. RFAs have completed three NFL seasons, but the Packers reserve the right to match offers from other teams. In the second of a two-part series, packers.com analyzes the future of the Packers' defensive and special teams free agents.*

LS Rob Davis (UFA) Re-signed 2/13/06

2005 stats: 16 games played

The skinny: Davis just completed his ninth season with the Packers, but unless you're a devoted Packers fan, you might not recognize the name. That's a good thing. Long snappers like Davis usually make the news only when something bad happens like a botched snap or a fumble. With Davis at the helm, that rarely occurs. The oldest Packers player on the roster -- he turns 38 in December -- Davis keeps himself in excellent condition and is a year-round fixture in the Packers weight room.

Burning question: Long snappers often have a more extended career than other position players, but as he approaches age 40, how much longer can Davis sustain his current level of play?


S Todd Franz (RFA)

2005 stats: Five games played, three special teams tackles

The skinny: A shoulder injury ended Franz's bid to make the team in training camp. But after safety and special teams demon Jeremy Thornburg went on injured reserve, the Packers re-signed Franz on Nov. 30. His end-of-the-year action marked his sixth stint with the Packers.

Burning question: Did the Packers see enough from Franz during those five games to re-sign him?


DT Grady Jackson (UFA)

2005 stats: 72 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble

The skinny: Recovery from a knee injury prevented Jackson from practicing until Aug. 29 and caused a slow start to his 2005 season. But by the midway point, Jackson again proved to be one of the NFC's best run stuffers. The Packers' 2005 scheme called for Jackson to occupy blockers, freeing the linebackers to make plays. He best exemplified that role in Week 14. He pushed Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola backward off of the ball, preventing Detroit from scoring on four opportunities from the one-yard-line. The Packers rotated their defensive linemen more frequently in 2005, but fewer snaps did not stop the 345-pounder from collecting 72 tackles, an extremely high total for an interior defensive lineman.

Burning question: There is no question that Jackson remains a difference maker along the line of scrimmage, but how much money can the Packers dole out to a 32-year-old with aching knees?


DE Aaron Kampman (UFA) Re-signed 3/11/06

2005 stats: 105 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles

The skinny: Through hard work, exemplary fundamentals and underrated athletic ability, Kampman has improved his tackle and sack numbers from each previous season during his four-year NFL career. Making him a unique player is his skill against both the run and the pass. Although many defensive ends come out of the lineup on obvious passing or running downs, Kampman played on 93.6 percent of the defense's snaps last season.

Burning question: Defensive ends can command a lot of money on the open market. What do the Packers do if another NFL team is willing to pay through the roof to secure Kampman's services?


LB Paris Lenon (UFA) Signed with Lions 3/22/06

2005 stats: 79 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five passes defended

The skinny: After dropping 11 pounds during the offseason to fit into the Packers' defensive scheme, which features linebackers flowing to the ball, Lenon started a career-high 12 games. Former head coach Mike Sherman called him one of the team's most indispensable players because of his versatility and ability to compensate for injuries along the linebacking corps. He started at both strong and weakside linebacker positions because of injuries to Na'il Diggs (knee) and Robert Thomas (quadriceps). Lenon gutted through his own setbacks as well, playing despite a bulky cast to protect an index finger he smashed between two helmets.

Burning question: The Packers love using Lenon as their utility man, but if another team offers Lenon the chance to start at a specific position, will he take the bait?


K Ryan Longwell (UFA) Signed with Vikings 3/11/06

2005 stats: 20-of-27 on field goals, 30-of-31 on extra points

The skinny: Longwell became the first Packers player to score 1,000 points, ending the 2005 season with 1,054. He also nailed the game-winning 28-yard field goal in overtime -- his 10th career game-winning field goal -- against the Detroit Lions in Week 14. But as Longwell admits, his 2005 performance was not entirely memorable. The kicker, who entered the season as the fourth-most accurate field goal specialist in NFL history, missed four-of-10 attempts between 30 and 39 yards and two-of-five kicks between 40 and 49 yards.

Burning question: Was Longwell's uneven 2005 season the result of playing with four different placeholders in the last two years, an off year or has the performance of the nine-year veteran begun to tail off?


DL Kenny Peterson (RFA) Re-signed 3/15/06

2005 stats: 30 tackles, three sacks, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles

The skinny: After the Packers nearly cut Peterson toward the end of training camp, he had an excellent final preseason game and carried that momentum into the regular season. Having improved his hand placement, Peterson responded with his best year, racking up career highs in tackles, sacks, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles. Labeled a tweener early in his career, he found a home at defensive tackle in the Packers' 2005 scheme.

Burning question: It looks like Peterson's career is on the upswing. But do young, potential-laden defensive linemen like Cullen Jenkins, Corey Williams, Colin Cole and Michael Montgomery make him more expendable?

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