Most people who follow the Green Bay Packers, fans and media alike, have had Packers linebacker Nick Barnett out the door ever since the Packers extended the contract of Desmond Bishop and re-signed A.J. Hawk.
I don’t think this is nearly the done-deal that most people seem to think it is.
Many folks are pointing to this recent article from John Clayton, where he lays out each teams cap problems and which high-priced veterans might be cut to get teams under the cap.
I made the point on Twitter yesterday that the Packers could just as easily cut Brady Poppinga and Brandon Chillar and save nearly the same amount of money. Both linebackers signed extensions well above their market value the last couple of years. Poppinga is slated to make $2.05 million, along with a $300,000 roster bonus, while Chillar is slated to make $2 million. That doesn’t add up to Barnett’s nearly $7 million cap number, but coupled with the expected release of Mark Tauscher, it would easily get the team under any cap.
Lots of people responded that Barnett might not be interested in “backing up” Bishop and Hawk. My response to that is, much like the wide reciever position, the term “starter” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to the linebacker position. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers uses so many different fronts and personnel packages, I could easily see having Barnett in during a lot of obvious passing situations. Remember, he was the linebacker who stayed on the field when the Packers went to Dime. After his injury, that responsibility went to Hawk, who did a serviceable job – but Barnett is simply better in that role. Not only that, but Capers loves to bring guys in and out all over the field. Barnett may have his limitations, but he also has his strong points – he’d be another useful tool in Capers’ tool box.
Is it a lot of money to pay a situational player? Perhaps. But consider the latest nugget of information to come out of the labor negotiations which tells us that the new Collective Barganing Agreement may contain a provision that makes it easier for teams to keep hold of their “high priced veterans.” There’s not much info on how the mechanics would work, but it sure sounds like the cap, at least initially, will be much softer than football fans had become accustomed to.
Regardless of how things play out with the salary cap, I don’t expect Nick Barnett to be anywhere other than in Green Bay next season.
UPDATE: It would seem Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel agrees with me:
Another option that many fans have discussed is the release of LB Nick Barnett, which would clear $5.9 million from the cap. But I don’t see that happening now. That option is available at the end of camp if Barnett has a huge dropoff, but giving away good players is not a smart idea.