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Roster Spot Open, It's Time to Add Johnny Jolly Back into the Mix

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Roster Spot Open, It's Time to Add Johnny Jolly Back into the Mix

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly practices with the Packers last season, by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly practices with the Packers last season, by Benny Sieu—USA TODAY Sports.

When Johnny Jolly was reinstated from suspension by the NFL last season, no one knew if he would make the Green Bay Packers roster, let alone be effective.

Not only did Jolly prove too good to cut during training camp last season, he went on to start eight games and led all Packers defensive linemen in tackles per snap (one every 7.55, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Jolly may not be a Pro Bowl caliber player, but he proved his worth last season and best of all, he made a comeback from a troubled past and stayed out of trouble.

Assuming Jolly is healthy, the Green Bay Packers should fill the roster spot opened through the release of running back Johnathan Franklin to sign the veteran defensive lineman. Currently, the Packers have 89 of 90 potential roster berths occupied.

Granted, the decision whether or not to sign Jolly lies primarily with the Packers medical staff, a consistently conservative bunch.

Jolly underwent single fusion neck surgery this offseason to repair a bulging disc between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae, the condition that landed him on injured reserve late last season.

There's no guarantee Jolly will ever play football again, but there is reason for hope, especially compared to a player like tight end Jermichael Finely, who similarly went through neck-fusion surgery.

Injuries lower on the spinal column are easier to come back from than those higher on the neck—nearer the head—where Finley's injured occured and, likewise, Nick Collins before him.

Chances are better that Jolly is eventually cleared from injury than Finley and there's less to worry about from a financial perspective as well.

Whereas Finley—a player that was making $7 million before his injury—might be seeking a contract providing him with the most financial security possible, Jolly would probably be willing to accept a contract with minimal financial risk to the organization.

It wouldn't be surprising if Jolly even accepted a provision in his contract that lowers his base salary if he's placed on injured reserve, much like recent contracts signed by Packers free agents such as Seneca Wallace and Cedric Benson the past couple seasons.

The Packers don't have to sign Jolly now.

By all means, they can use the next five weeks to allow Jolly to heal and put his injury as far behind him as possible before the start of training camp.

With minicamp over, there's no reason the Packers need to use the roster spot to take a look at some potential-laden rookie, because they're not going to get an opportunity to see such a player until the start of training camp as it is.

It doesn't hurt that Jolly missed the entirety of the offseason program seeing as the Packers already know what he's capable of, and due to injury, he likely wouldn't have been able to participate anyway.

One avenue availble to the Packers to bring Jolly along slowly is to place him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list when training camp opens. They did the same with safety Sean Richardson, who had his own spinal fusion surgery between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae, last year.

Having Jolly potentially joining the Packers at mid-season could be viewed as a breath of fresh air, perhaps more than any journeyman free agent or waiver wire pickup could provide.

Doctors will have the final say on Jolly's status, but at 31 years old, he's also three years younger than fellow free agent Ryan Pickett.

The Packers have the space on their roster to add another player, and it makes sense for them to fill it with Jolly.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackerBacker's picture

Sorry, Brian. I disagree completely. You don't bring back old, broken players. No matter how good their story is. Plus I think the Packers are deviating from his body type and moving towards a smaller, faster lineman on the edge.
They gave away his number and his locker and he will not be back.

Evan's picture


Obviously if he's broken, it's a moot point. But I think the Packers could use another 320-pound+ d-lineman. And he brought an attitude and toughness to the defense last year that was (and is) sorely needed.

I'd also add that 31 is hardly old for a DL, especially one who has missed 3+ seasons.

ktn1014's picture

I keep hearing that the Packers medical staff is conservative. Is that compared to the league "average". I can't really think of any players that were released or unsigned due to purely medical issues that were signed by anyone else. Are the Pack docs really any more conservative than the other NFL medical teams?

Evan's picture

" I can't really think of any players that were released or unsigned due to purely medical issues that were signed by anyone else."

That's a good point. Who jumps to mind immediately is Chris Canty last off-season. Packers docs flagged him and he signed with the Ravens instead.

However, when it comes to the medical staff's conservative label, I think a lot of it has to do with how slowly they often bring back players from injury.

RCPackerFan's picture

I still think that Jolly might be destined to be signed, put on PUP list and brought back at midseason. Similar to Sean Richardson last year. I think it might be the best thing for him and the Packers.

He could bring a much needed attitude in the middle of the season and he should be fresh for a playoff run. Also it could be like a mid season veteran signing that could pay off big, similar to when they signed Howard Green.

Nick Perry's picture

Excellent points RC, not only attitude but the Packers at this time are pretty young up front on the DL, Jolly would and could add a little veteran leadership to that group.

Jeff Hayes's picture

As much as I like JJ and his story we really do not need to bring him back I think with the addition of Thornton and Guion they fill Jollys spot just fine and Bj is gonna play hungry this year so he can get that contract extention.

JimTaylor31's picture

For starters I really like Jolly and his comeback was a great story. Gotta love his attitude on the field. I get the feeling the Packers will go with younger guys (Raji, Boyd, Guion and Thornton) who are in better condition than Jolly and they will probably get more quality snaps per game than from Jolly. Unless there is a TC injury I just don't see Jolly coming back. I would like to see him get a shot somewhere though.

Imma Fubared's picture

If the guy can still play the Packers will know that or not. His injury situation must be more than we know. I wish the guy the best. I like him a lot but were talking football.

Duke Divine's picture

Makes sense to me...

MarkinMadison's picture

The last time Brian called one of these out the guy was signed by the end of the day. Nobody here knows JJ's medical situation, so there is nothing to talk about there. The roster moves look to me like the Packers have moved on, but big men who are good and can move are hard to find. Jolly is the used car that was driven to church on Sundays by a little old lady. He got involved in an unfortunate accident last season. If the frame is still straight then it is still worth driving.

Evan's picture

"The last time Brian called one of these out the guy was signed by the end of the day."

Refresh my memory?

DrealynWilliams's picture

I'd like to say bring 'em back (if healthy of course), for the attitude and toughness he brings alone. But how many DLs do we really need?

DrealynWilliams's picture

Unless it comes down to JJ vs Guinon (or whatever his name is).

RCPackerFan's picture

That's why i think he would be a perfect candidate to be put on the PUP list.

He will be fresh when we need him the most and by week 8-10 there will likely be a need for a fresh body on the DL.

DrealynWilliams's picture

In that scenario,who stays and who goes?

RCPackerFan's picture

Whoever maybe injured at the time. Odds are that someone will be injured and they could bring him in for them.

BubbaOne's picture

A player has to pass a physical before signing. I don't think the league/players union would allow the team to then put the player on PUP for the injury he's coming off of. PUP is for current players coming off injury who haven't passed their physical before TC.

JJ has a great story and I wish him the best but winning a SB trumps all personal stories. He's a known commodity so TT knows what he brings to the table. The current DL players need TC to be get accustomed to the new changes and each other.

PackerBacker's picture

Not much of that is true.

They can put someone on the PUP for almost any reason, if they want to. They could easily sign him or Finley and throw them on the PUP list if they thought they would be better by mid-season.

Most players are forced to pass a physical before being signed, but they don't have to. There is no rule that makes that true. It's just good business sense. Why sign a player who is injured.

Having said that, if he's injured and can't practice, they are much better off leaving him on the street and picking him up later on down the line if something goes wrong. I doubt any other team is going to take a flyer on him if the Pack doesn't.

If they need him, they can sign him in week 8 or whatever.

Bergermeister's picture

With all the injuries in this league, I think he'd be picked up by another team who's lost a DL. I also think JJ brings the "tough guy" attitude that Daniels brought up recently. I think his story is compelling but the reason his story is so great is that he did exactly what he needed to do to get back on the team. That shows hunger...I like that hunger.

cpheph1's picture

I don't know why you got 4 dislikes prior to my reply; regardless, you make good points...why sign somebody not medically cleared?...makes little sense. If he's healthy sign him, if not wait until he is...I hope he'll give Ted the chance to match any offer.

I hope Worthy will be relatively healthy this year plus I think he's more of an inside player like Raji & Daniels than outside guy. Worthy also has to stop trying to guess/time the snap count.

Again, I give you a like but expect I'll get some negative feedback from others. I don't care! They can go FORE it.

Wenis's picture

Looks like Jolly has been cleared by his doctors. Now let's see what the Packers doctor's have to say. with all the injuries we always seem to have, combined with Jolly performing quite well before injury I hope they find a place for him.

cpheph1's picture

I agree...would like to see him many very tough roster decisions Ted will have to make blows my mind! I think if Ted brings Jolly back he'll make the team because he's that good. I really think we've got 7 (8 w/ Jolly) DL that are NFL quality (includes Neal @ DL but not Peppers).

Good blog to generate discussion.

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