Create Account

Or log in with Facebook


Log in

Or log in with Facebook

Barnett's Departure No Forgone Conclusion

By Category

Barnett's Departure No Forgone Conclusion

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.

  • Like Like
  • 1 points

Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (79) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ken's picture

Barnett is a good NFL player but I just feel like his act has gotten a little old around these parts.

Hopefully, we'll be playing from the lead quite often. If that's the case, I think I'd rather have Chillar over Barnett -- though I think Chillar is a bit overvalued as a cover guy.

On a sidenote, Brady Poppinga will now tie Robert Ferguson for "GB training camps attended despite adding little value other than above average Spec. Tms play" at 7 (though Brady P a much better dude).

packeraaron's picture

"I think I’d rather have Chillar over Barnett" - really? Strongly disagree there.

Ken's picture

My reasoning:

-Better cover guy when the defense is trying to protect leads
-Less likely to create a locker room distraction
-A bit cheaper
-Adds value on special teams

Barnett has also missed 19 games since mid-2008 (I know, I know, Chillar has missed his fair share as well).

packeraaron's picture

"Better cover guy" - I know that's the popular perception...but when you look at the tape, it suggests otherwise.

I hear you on the other things, esp on special teams - I just think there are a lot of younger guys on this team to pick up the slack on ST, esp in this draft class.

Ken's picture

I'd agree that Chillar's coverage production doesn't live up to the perception. But at least from an athleticism standpoint, there aren't many situations where he'll be overwhelmed by TEs/HBs/FBs.

That's a good call on how special teams will factor in.

I thought the rookie TE Taylor would have a great shot at making the club off ST abilities but it's hard to see how 3rd-day rookies make it above the practice squad across the league this year.

If you'll recall the mid-90s training camps in GB, the only shot borderline players had of making the team was to be OUTSTANDING on special teams. Very similar now. The mark of a good club.

PackersRS's picture

Chillar is NOT a better cover guy. Chillar is awful. That's a big misnomer because the coaching staff put him on nickel situations, but they were wrong on that instance.

Ken's picture

Since when is Nick Barnett a latter-day Wayne Simmons when it comes to covering guys?

Again, Chillar isn't a cover ace but I'd think it'd be foolish to not rank him ahead of Barnett.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Chillar will always hold a place in my heart because of that hurdle sack against duh bares... but other than that... he basically sucks.

fishandcrane's picture

Awful? There isn't an "awful" player in the entire NFL.

al's picture

I actually agree if were just talking about using Barnett as a cover guy, Chillar would be better. Also Chillar is already a backup and there wouldn't be any kind of issues to deal with like Barnett may bring about.

al's picture

Personally though I am fine with cutting Chillar, Barnett, and Poppinga. That leaves us Francois (if I spelled that right) and the new ILB we drafted. Plus we have Zombo, Jones, and Walden going for OLB so if Jones doesn't win the job he can play ILB.

PackersRS's picture

I'd like him back, don't get me wrong, up until last year and Bishop's improvement, Barnett was by far the best linebacker in space. And Chillar and Poppinga add close to nothing.

I just don't see how Barnett would handle a limited role in the defense. He could start in a lot of teams, so I believe if he doesn't win the starting job (at least being a starter in nickel) Barnett requests his release.

CounterPoint's picture

I agree with this completely and would add that neither Hawk nor Bishop would be happy to leave the field either for a "third starter" type rotation.

I would love to have him around, I just don't see how it fits personel or $-wise. It doesn't seem right that they would have to cut 3 veterans just to offset the cost of one situational player. You could keep Chillar for this limited role and have an extra $5 million to add to the savings from the exits of Tausch and Poppinga for other areas.

packeraaron's picture

"...neither Hawk nor Bishop would be happy to leave the field" - so what? Hawk wasn't thrilled when he played three snaps against the Colts. Guys play or don't play. Being happy doesn't enter into it.

CounterPoint's picture

I'll concede the happiness of the players is a secondary concern, with possibly no tangible adverse effects, but I think it is unesscessary, especially when the finances are added to the picture.

I actually was in favor of keeping him until I read this article. To think that cutting all that "dead weight" money (Tausch, Poppinga, Chillar) would only offset keeping a situationally-used Barnett for the year when so many others (Sitton, Finley, etc.) are due for a big raise soon? No thanks.

packeraaron's picture

But that makes no sense. You'd rather KEEP the deadweight? You still have those upcoming deals to do regardless.

Zaphod Beeblebrox's picture

^Colts^Eagles^, but you're right.

Chillar's big accomplishment: hurdling a Bear (was it Garrett Wolfe?) to sack Cutler in the season opener at Lambeau in '09. I distinctly remember a Rams game where he got burned twice by their TE for TD's. Throw in the multiple (was it three?) shoulder surgeries, and yeah.

BP is not a fit for this defense - nice guy but I'd certainly rather keep a Ricky Elmore/Erik Walden over him...

CounterPoint's picture

No- not talking about keeping those 3 guys instead of Barnett. I'm saying that if the only benefit of getting rid of all that "dead weight" would be a year's worth of Nick Barnett, it would seem like a waste to me. In other words, all the savings from cutting the big contracts of those guys went just to pay Barnett's salary for this season. The cap and future expiring contracts need to be considered, and it is my feeling that savings made from this "dead weight" should go towards extensions for other players, not for a situational back-up.

Obviously, Barnett>Chillar, but, especially in a planned limited role, is Barnett>Chillar & $5 million? For the long term future of the team, and the upcoming contracts that need to be extended within a salary cap, I don't think so.

Jake's picture

I remember something like midway through the season Barnett tweeted something to the extent of being excited that Hawk and Bishop were playing well. He was like "can't wait till next year, Hawk, Bishop, Chillar, and I holding down the middle together"! I don't remember exactly what it said, but he seemed to express some understanding that they were playing well as starters...

packeraaron's picture

I remember that as well.

PackersRS's picture

Yeah I really don't get where this bad teammember is coming from. He was actually the leader on the D for a long period of time before Woodson started talking. For all accounts he's well liked and respected.

The only thing is that he's very outspoken and doesn't like to sit. While still a possible distraction, very different from being a bad teammate.

MarkinMadison's picture


PackersRS's picture

Was speaking for every player on IR. That IS being a good teammember. As I said, he's outspoken to the point where he doesn't consider everything before he talks, and that's sometimes damaging to the organization, but he has his teammates' back. He wasn't being selfish in that, it was something the team had talked about, being on the wall with the other Packers greats, something they used as motivation.

Plus, not trying to re-open that issue, but the Packers dropped the ball on that one.

He's not like a TO that's selfish, or Joey Porter that calls other teams out, or James Harrison.

packsmack25's picture

Photogate galvanized the team and led to a ring. Helped everyone see Aaron Rodgers was in TOTAL control.

asshalo's picture

Good points. I am still hoping they can pull a trade for Barnett. Also, I think Poppinga is gone regardless with Walden, Jones, Zombo, and now Elmore in the mix.

asshalo's picture

I would add, cap issues aside, there a quite a few marquee contracts coming up this year an next. Barnett's salary may be too burdensome that way as well.

CSS's picture

Does anybody think the coaching staff is serious about giving Brad Jones a look at ILB? Will it happen from day one in camp?

packeraaron's picture

I'd be shocked. He's strictly an OLB as far as I'm concerned.

BrianD's picture

If we need to spend the money because of a salary cap floor, or if they team does not have any better options/players to give the money to, why not spend it on a quality backup? Hawk and Bishop are not immune to injuries.

The only reason I get rid of Barnett is if the Packers can upgrade the team via free agency or have come to a verbal agreement on a future contract extension which needs the money Barnett will be getting.

packeraaron's picture

Tom Silverstein just posted this:

Some potential cap money they could recoup right away would be:

$1.25 million from the release of DL Justin Harrell, who is coming off a torn ACL.
$2.35 million from the release of LB Brady Poppinga, who is coming off a torn ACL.
$4.38 million from the release of OT Mark Tauscher, who is coming off a shoulder injury.
$2.3 million from the release of LB Brandon Chillar, who is coming off a third shoulder surgery.
$1.75 million from renegotiating a roster bonus due to RB Ryan Grant, who is coming off an ankle injury.

Oppy's picture

Just wanted to say:

Wow, Nice pyramid format.

Tommyboy's picture

Hmmmm...bold prediction, Aaron. I hadn't considered the Chillar/Poppinga cuts. This makes sense. Now this has me wondering, though - could we see Thompson release all three if someone else steps up in camp?

packeraaron's picture

Oh sure. If someone steps up, wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Chad Toporski's picture

If they keep Barnett, Hawk, and Bishop, then I could see a more prominent use of the Big Okie package next season.

Jake's picture

When was the last time we saw a samurai sack celebration anyway? I miss that...

BigBayBlues's picture

I think the biggest question facing us fans is: What is Nick Barnett's hair gonna look like this year?

Ruppert's picture

My favorite part is the part where Poppinga exits. To me, he's one of those guys who has been begging for people to pass him on the depth chart, but it never happens. He's the Mike Montgomery of the linebacking corps, so to speak.

lebowski's picture


aussiepacker's picture

I re-watched the game @minnesota last night and one thing that i thought stood out was that brandon chillar will struggle to make the squad this year.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Has anyone else noticed on Madden '11 Barnett leaves almost every game with an injury??? He and Burnett... Just sayin'.


Mojo's picture

I remember a game a number of years back where the Pack were getting their asses-whipped. The only player showing any hustle and emotion was Barnett.

If he agrees to a smaller salary, I would be more than pleased to bring him back.

If he was backing-up on a bad team I believe he could become a distraction, but I believe with this SB quality roster, he'll be a team player.

Oppy's picture


I remember that game, too.

The problem is, I remember that game a bit more clearly that you do (i think).

I believe you're talking about a game that came after a week where Nick Barnett received some scathing criticism from the local press..

Nick Barnett decided to finally play that week to silence the critics.. And after every play that he made (regardless of the situation), he gloated around the field and celebrated, beating his chest and barking.

The problem was, the TEAM was being absolutely HUMILIATED by the Chicago Bears.

Real classy, Nick Barnett, Real Classy. Just the first showing of his douche-baggery, IMO, and DEFINITELY NOT a showing of "Hustle and emotion" as you remember it, from my perspective.

I'll never forget how angry it made me at the time, but I have since decided to give him a half-pass because he was still young and dumb at the time.

Nononsense's picture

Cut Poppinga, Chillar, Harrell and Tauscher for sure. If Tauscher wants to come back as a backup at a lower salary I would be cool with that.

Im good with keeping Barnett as a backup but I would also trade him if someone was offering a 4th round pick or better for him. Hes still an asset to us and other teams so no need to just give him away.

Dong Slinger's picture

Barnett is overated. Been so for years. Consistantly gets creamed by o-lineman and is a disaster on run defense up the middle. We won the Super Bowl without him. Cut him, invest in someone younger worth keeping who's not a distraction.

Majik Man's picture

I, to add a different dimension and more...encouraging light to the situation, am very glad that we have a situation of who doesn't make the team, instead of a serious lack of depth at that position. This team is assembled so well, and so deep. I also saw someone mention Ricky Elmore's name, someone I'm excited to see fight for a spot, albeit at the OLB postion, but still. Glad we're on this end of the debate.

Nerdmann's picture

If Barnett wants to try out at ROLB, give him a shot. Poppinga should just go away.

Oppy's picture

Barnett's biggest flaw as a LB in general is he can't get off a block to save his life.

He's great at making open field tackles. He takes good angles.

But put a body on Barnett and he's often lost in the wash.

I do not see how he is going to challenge LT's and win that battle.

packeraaron's picture

"Barnett’s biggest flaw as a LB in general is he can’t get off a block to save his life."

Unfortunately, Hawk has this same flaw.

Oppy's picture

Which is why Hawk isn't vying for a ROLB position, either :)

Nerdmann's picture

Well he ain't making it inside. Maybe Kevin Greene can make a man out of him.

Oppy's picture

The defense IMPROVED with Hawk taking over for Barnett.

He may not be the game-changingLB everyone wanted when he got taken at #5...

But his calls and adjustments certainly put the players on the field in position to succeed.

I don't think Hawk has to worry too much so long as he keeps on doing what he did last season.

packeraaron's picture

"The defense IMPROVED with Hawk taking over for Barnett"


Paul DelVechio's picture


They didn't give up 51 in the wild card game or let the steelers drive down the field and score in the last seconds.

fishandcrane's picture

The D improved but I think in part because of Mr. Bishop and a coming of age Raji. The ring on his finger helps tell us that Hawk played just fine.

Oppy's picture


I recall the first four games of the season, and I seem to remember thinking that there a number of broken coverages and other minor hiccups coming out of the LB corps. Don't get me wrong, the LB's were whacking the crap outta QB's, and that was great, but they seemed to be playing on their heels often, too. I also remember not being too thrilled when Barnett went down, thinking it was going to be a crushing blow..

Then, I remember feeling like "Wow, this defense is really starting to come together" once Hawk starting taking control.

I took a look at a few numbers, and found this:

First four games (Barnett making adjustments/starting)/last twelve games(Hawk)

Total YPG: 303.25/311
Pass YPG: 185/197.25

Doesn't look so good.. but then:

Rush YPG: 118.25/113.75
1st Downs PG: 18/16.5
Turn overs PG: 1.75/2.1
PPG: 18.25/13.91

Yes, there's plenty of factors. But Hawk was calling the D and making adjustments, and it sure felt like the D was in better position to capitalize when he did so.

PackersRS's picture

Oppy: too many variables. There's nothing in the numbers that guarantee that Hawk was the cause of the change. It could be the defense coming together better, with Shields and Peprah better adapting to the playbook. It could also mean an easier schedulle, and both of those combined. And another possibility is that simply the most important players of the defense had a better day when Barnett went down.

Barnett going down and the defense improving could be a complete coincidence.

Moreso, in the Super Bowl, while we still had Woodson and Shields, comunication on defense was impecable, and they only had scored 3 points. However, as soon as they went down, players started being off position, and the Steelers started scoring. Then, Hawk's comunication skills didn't help the team.

BubbaOne's picture

MM hinted Chillar may be done due to the 3 shoulder surgeries. If he's gone Barnett is the only vet backup at ILB. Otherwise would it be Francois? Briggs? DJ Smith? W/ the Packers poised for another SB run I'm not to sure I want to leave it in their hands, esp after we saw last year how one injury can turn a strength into a weakness.

And NB hinted being willing to work w/ the Packers (renegotiate?). Don't forget he has extra motivation to staying, he's 8 tackles short of the all time Packer record.

Isn't LB Matt Wilhelm on the roster @ $3M this year?

Does anyone know where the Brad Jones being tried at ILB came from? It may speak to MM/TT having confidence in Zombo, Walden et al. The team loves versatility and may think Jones is most capable of playing both positions.

Jay's picture

Nope not even close. Wilhelm is a FA

BubbaOne's picture

Thanks Jay...goes to show ya, double check what bloggers post. Maybe that's why I posted it as a question.

ILpackfan's picture

Don't worry TT will keep the best players available and will get us in under the salary cap. I would love for Barnett to stay but if he stays other people will have to go. I would like to see what Barnett offers at outside linebacker oppisite of CM3.

Jake's picture

McGinn disagrees with you.

packeraaron's picture

And Silverstein agrees with me - so I'm batting .500, which is well above the Major League average. :)

Ken's picture

McGinn had my back as well!! Haha-

McCarthy and the players also have my back on the productivity of the OTAs, but I'll let it slide :)

asshalo's picture

Wilde disagrees, but PFT half agrees. .417

packeraaron's picture

Of course, Rosenthal got that from me... ;)

CounterPoint's picture

I have to admit, I smiled when I read that McGinn article as well. In a dream world, Barnett would agree to restructure for less $ and stay on the squad, but I don't see that happening since he probably believes he can still earn starter's money elsewhere (and is most likely correct.) Jenkins, James Jones, and BJax also resign to deals that fit under the cap in this dream world of mine... it really is a wonderful place! :)

Ken's picture

That'd be ideal! McGinn made the Jones resigning sound very possible.

Can I play birdie golf in this dream world of yours?

atheist4thecause's picture

I disagree with the article. It states that we could cut Poppinga or Chillar to save just about as much money as cutting Barnett, but then it goes on to say that Poppinga is set to make $2.05 million against the cap and Chillar is set to make $2 million against the cap while Barnett is set to make $7 million against the cap. That's a difference of about $5 million cap room, which could be used to sign FA's or extend contracts.

Barnett really isn't that good. He's really bad against the run. He fails to attack the line of scrimmage allowing RB's to get 3 or 4 yards before making contact a lot of times. Barnett can't stay healthy, either, which should be taken into consideration.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but 3-4 teams usually keep about 9 LB's on their roster. Here's my list: Matthews, Hawk, Bishop, Zombo, Walden, Jones, Elmore, and Smith. That leaves open one spot and I think I'd rather have a young guy fight it for that spot. If the Packers want the older veteran, Chillar is only 28 compared to Barnett's age of 30. That's a pretty big difference.

When you combine everything together, you have Barnett who takes up $7 million cap space instead of $2 million. Barnett is more injury prone than Chillar. Barnett is older than Chillar. Barnett is more of a distraction than Chillar. Barnett is also worse against the run than Chillar and he's not that much better than Chillar against the pass (you didn't really give an examples to shoot down of Barnett being better against the pass). It just makes absolutely no sense to keep Barnett over Chillar. Oh, and by the way, we could potentially get a low draft pick for trading Barnett according to John Clayton, most likely from a 4-3 team, something Chillar wouldn't bring.

PackersRS's picture

If you have a subscription to ProFootballFocus, take a look at Barnett's ratings in the 09 season.

He was rated the 3rd best ILB/MLB in football that season.

Just to make it clear, he was graded as the best ILB in blitzing, and amongst the best in pass defense, though he had a pretty poor day the first Vikings game, where he was returning from an injury, and allowed a TD to Shiancoe.

atheist4thecause's picture

My problem with that argument is what do you mean by "best". Barnett's always been overrated, and people are finally catching on to him. 2009 is also a lot different than 2011.

PackersRS's picture

I don't mean anything. Pro Football Focus do. They grade each and every play (how I don't know) and end up stabilishing points. Barnett was ranked the highest in terms of rushing the passer, and 3rd overall, with the categories being pass rushing, coverage, run support, and penalties.

atheist4thecause's picture

Pro Football Focus doesn't really mean much if we don't know how they are ranking players.

packeraaron's picture

Well, as I wrote, they could save NEARLY as much - not AS much, by cutting those two. My only point being they could lose the deadweight rather than lose a quality player. Its obvious you don't think Barnett is very good. I disagree. And that is fine. As I wrote, he has his limitations and his strong points.

The one point where I have to vehemently disagree is where you say it makes no sense to keep Barnett over Chillar - again, we have different evaluations of these two players. I think Chillar is terrible - truly terrible. Better against the run than Barnett? We have seriously been watching different tape. Is Barnett the second coming of Ray Lewis? Of course not - but he is lightyears better than Chillar as an all-around football player, which again is my whole point. I'd much rather pay a little more for quality depth than keep Chillar and Poppinga around just because some they need warm bodies to fill out the roster.

atheist4thecause's picture

A $5 million difference is pretty big. And if you are going to cut Poppinga and Chillar you could cut Barnett and Poppinga. It's not really fair to compare cutting 2 players to cutting 1. If you have Poppinga, Chillar, and Barnett, do you need to cut 1 or 2? If 1 you can save $5 million more by cutting Barnett. If 2, you save $5 million more by cutting Barnett and either Chillar or Poppinga. Either, way it's a $5 million difference was is not "NEARLY as much".

brian's picture

Leaving aside the actual abilities of the players, it doesn't seem likely to me that Barnett will be a Packer much longer. I have to believe Hawk and Bishop will remain in the base and nickle packages. If they aren't, extending them was a dumb move. From there, it follows (IMO, anyway) that if Barnett isn't part of the base or the nickel package, keeping him on the roster won't make anyone happy... esp Barnett.

adroge's picture

Cutting or trading Nick Barnett only saves 4 million in cap space, not 7 million.

Cutting both Poppinga and Chillar would also save 4 million in cap space.

Cutting Poppinga and Barnett would save 6 million. A 2 million dollar difference is not alot, especially when talking about the quality of player your keeping.

Chillar can be a very good player at times. Problem is, he is a very inconsistent player. He's good one game and bad the next.

Even if they don't, keeping Barnett is an option for the packers. It was a good article to point out something that most writers seemed to have missed.

Barnett had a great 2009 season and was doing just fine in 2010. He is a very aggressive player and fits well in Capers skeem. Barnett has already said he is just fine fighting for his job in training camp. And Profootball Focus has him graded out very high because he is a very good football player. Grading out all linebackers on a play to play basis is a much more accurate calculation of a players abilities than watching some games and saying he's overated.

brian's picture

Barnett may be fine with fighting for his job in camp, but the problem is he will be fighting for his job the same way Wells was fighting for his job vs Spitz a few years ago at center. The battle has already been fought... and Barnett is on the wrong end.

lebowski's picture

If history is any indication, this whole argument will become moot when one of the 3 gets injured in preseason.

fishandcrane's picture

The fact that this string has so many comments means we are blessed with small problems.

Log in to comment, upload your game day photos and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.

Or log in with Facebook



"The Bears still suck!"
"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. "