It’s worth examining the Green Bay Packers’ three unsigned restricted free agents. They embody the curious situation of unsigned restricted free agents. All three – cornerback Tramon Williams, defensive end Johnny Jolly and safety Atari Bigby – chose to miss the June 15 deadline, meaning they now could have their tender offers reduced.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran the numbers and reported that the Packers could reduce Williams from $3.168 million to $584,000 (i.e. 110% of his ’09 salary). Jolly could drop from $2.521 million to $589,000. Bigby’s case is unique. He stands to lose only one SUV worth of dough, dropping from $1.759 million to $1.704 million.
But besides the money, all three players are jeopardizing their short-term prosperity. Williams is presumably in contention for a starting job, given that veteran Al Harris is recovering from major knee surgery. At 27, Williams is around that age where he either blossoms as a key NFL contributor or becomes permanently viewed as a backup.
Jolly is facing a felony drug trial and could be off to prison. You’d think he’d know that this doesn’t exactly give him great leverage at this point.
As for Bigby, his starting strong safety job could go to rookie Morgan Burnett, a third-rounder who has gotten an opportunity to practice with the first unit all offseason.
The Packers could use all three of these players, but they don’t need any of them. Corners Jarrett Bush, Pat Lee and Will Blackmon have all seen the field in their short careers and could compete for Williams’s role. Second-round pick Mike Neal and ’07 first-rounder Justin Harrell are both newcomers at Jolly’s end position. And for Bigby, as just stated, there’s Burnett. It will be interesting to see how Ted Thompson goes about playing hardball here.
UPDATE: Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Jolly has now signed his tender.
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