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Free Agency Preview: Dissecting The Packers' Offensive Players


  • With the free agency period set to start on March 11, 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 first of a two-part series, analyzes the future of the Packers' offensive free agents.*

OL Kevin Barry (UFA) Re-signed 3/15/06

2005 stats: 16 games, one start

The skinny: In 2004 the 6-4, 332-pound Barry played a crucial role in opening holes for the running game. In the "U-71" package named after his jersey number, Barry lined up as a blocking tight end, but he played more like an extra tackle, overpowering smaller defenders. The Packers, however, employed less of the U-71 scheme in 2005. Barry wants a chance to start, but the Racine, Wis. native enjoys life in Green Bay, Wis.

Burning question: New offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinksi and offensive line coach Joe Philbin favor a zone blocking scheme that typically employs small, fast linemen who can execute double team blocks. Can the massive Barry fit that scheme?

WR Antonio Chatman (RFA) Signed with Bengals 3/22/06

2005 stats: 49 catches for 549 yards, 11.2 receiving avg., five touchdowns

45 punt returns, 381 yards, 8.1 avg., one touchdown

The skinny: The diminutive Chatman had a career year in 2005, recording highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns. He also added punch to the return game, returning a punt 85 yards for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in Week 16. That score served as the first Packers punt return for a touchdown since 2001.

Burning question: Chatman showed his value in 2005 as a receiver. But if Javon Walker (knee) and Terrence Murphy (neck) return to full health, the wide receiver position becomes crowded. Is there room for Chatman?

RB Najeh Davenport (UFA)

2005 stats: 30 rushes for 105 yards, 3.5 rushing avg., two rushing touchdowns

The skinny: Some have forgotten that Davenport was a catalyst for the Packers' first win of the season in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints. Rushing for 54 yards on 12 carries and the first two Packers rushing touchdowns of the season, he provided a shot in the arm to a running game that had previously struggled. Davenport, however, fractured his ankle late in the second quarter and missed the rest of what could have been his breakout season.

Burning question: The 250-pound running back has a hard-charging style where he likes to drive through defenders rather than elude them. That style has taken a toll. Davenport has missed more that 20 games in his five years in the NFL with a variety of ailments, including eye, hamstring and ankle injuries. He has shown obvious talent, but do the Packers think Davenport can stay healthy for an entire year?

RB Tony Fisher (UFA)

2005 stats: 60 rushes for 173 yards, 2.9 rushing avg., one rushing touchdown

48 catches for 347 yards, 7.2 receiving avg. and one receiving touchdown.

The skinny: Fisher possesses the versatile skills of an ideal third-down back. He can run, catch and block. Fisher proved the latter skill by taking out two pass rushers simultaneously with one block in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals. In that same game, he showed -- in a pinch -- he can start, rushing for 51 yards.

Burning question: Fisher can adeptly fill the jack-of-all trades, third-down back role. With the emergence of Samkon Gado, however, it is unlikely that the Packers will re-sign Davenport, Fisher and Ahman Green. Who will be the odd man out?

C Mike Flanagan (UFA)

2005 stats: 14 games, 14 starts

The skinny: Flanagan once again showed his toughness in 2005. He returned to action just four weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery. After struggling to play effectively with that injury early in the season, Flanagan rounded into form once he became healthier, earning alternate honors to the Pro Bowl. Known for his smarts, the quarterback of the offensive line has played in the same offensive scheme for 10 years and knows every read and call.

Burning question: Flanagan will turn 33 in November of next season and has suffered two major injuries (knee and hernia) in the last two years. Do the Packers believe it is worth extending a contract offer to someone of that advancing age?

WR Rod Gardner (UFA)

2005 stats: four catches for 67 yards, 16.8 receiving avg., zero touchdowns

The skinny: Claimed on waivers on Dec. 20, Gardner proved to be a quick study. Five days later he played more than 20 snaps against the Chicago Bears. Gardner will not dazzle anyone with his speed, but the 2001 first-round draft pick has the perfect size and frame for the West Coast offense. In his two games with the team, the 6-2, 215-pounder showed an ability to box out his defender and churn out yards after the catch.

Burning question: Gardner showed flashes, but did he show enough in just two games to merit a contract on a team that already has Javon Walker and Donald Driver at wide receiver?

RB Ahman Green (UFA) Re-signed 3/6/06

2005 stats: 77 rushes for 255 yards, 3.3 rushing avg., zero touchdowns

19 catches for 147 yards, 7.7 receiving avg., zero touchdowns

The skinny: Green tore his quadriceps tendon against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7, which ended his season. Even before the injury, his season was disappointing. The franchise's second all-time leading rusher averaged a season-low in rushing average. Late in the season former head coach Mike Sherman suggested Green was never healthy in 2005, and that led to his declining performance. The nine-year veteran may not be able to run until the end of April or early May. Although Green faces an arduous comeback, he has one thing going in his favor. Often the first one in and last one out of the weight room, Green has the diligent work ethic necessary to return to his Pro Bowl form.

Burning question: Green remains an exceptionally well-conditioned athlete, but he turns 28 on Feb. 16. Did injuries and inconsistent blocking account for his un-Green-like numbers in 2005, or has Green reached an age where his performance begins to tail off?

FB William Henderson (UFA) Re-signed 3/20/06

2005 stats: 30 receptions for 264 receiving yards, 8.8 receiving avg., zero touchdowns.

The skinny: Henderson has said he wants to play in his 12th NFL season. The Packers have previously tried bringing in a "fullback of the future" to replace Henderson, including Nick Luchey in 2003, but Henderson has fought off the challenge each time. In 2005 Vonta Leach began sharing playing time with Henderson. Even in a more limited run blocking role, Henderson continued to serve as a valuable outlet in the passing game, earning alternate honors for the Pro Bowl. He also adds leadership intangibles, having played on the 1996 Super Bowl championship team. Henderson remains an effective special teamer as well, ranking third on the team in tackles with 14.

Burning question: How much longer can the soon-to-be 35-year-old sustain his current level of play?

QB Craig Nall (UFA) Signed with Bills 3/21/06

2005 stats: zero starts, zero games played

The skinny: Although Nall did not receive any action in 2005, the Packers value his knowledge of the offense. With the uncertain future of Brett Favre, the four-year Packers veteran serves as a safety valve because of his command of the intricacies of the West Coast offense.

Burning question: How much better will Aaron Rodgers become in 2006? If the second-year player makes a big jump and shows mastery of the offense and Favre returns, Nall could become more expendable.

OL Grey Ruegamer (UFA) Signed with Giants 4/04/06

2005 stats: 13 games, two starts

The skinny: The offensive line's utility man, Ruegamer played at center, left guard and right guard during the 2005 season. Although he has mastered each position, Ruegamer is best suited at center. The 6-4, 305-pounder brings a nastiness to his game.

Burning question:If Scott Wells or Flanagan mans the center position, will Ruegamer remain content as a versatile backup or look for starting opportunities elsewhere?

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