By using the protective but pricey franchise tag on defensive tackle Corey Williams, the Green Bay Packers made sure that the interior of their defensive line will be strong for at least another season. Included in the price for Williams, is time.
Keeping Williams around is good for the Packers for the following reasons:
1. Green Bay's one-year tender offer of at least $6.363 million allows the Packers time, at least till mid-July, to negotiate on a long-term contract.
2. The Packers bought themselves more time to develop Justin Harrell, the team's first round draft pick last year who had a less than impressive rookie season. Harrell may not have played at all if not for injuries to Colin Cole and Johnny Jolly.
3. Jolly, who sustained a season-ending shoulder injury, will have more time to ease back into the rotation. At the time of his injury, Jolly took over as the starter alongside Ryan Pickett, but may miss some practice time this offseason after undergoing surgery on his shoulder last December.
Williams has proven himself as a valuable interior pass rusher that last two seasons. He likely will start ahead of Jolly. Depending on how Jolly recovers from his shoulder injury, Williams could start the entire season.
If Jolly comes back strong this offseason, the Packers may opt not to negotiate a long-term deal with Williams. If Jolly does not show a lot of progress, the Packers probably will try to keep Williams around longer.
The New York Giants showed everyone in the postseason how important it is to have a strong defensive line. The Packers are much better off with Williams, who has had 14 sacks the last two seasons, than without him. If Williams continues to perform like he has the past two years, he will be well worth the money that the Packers have committed to pay him.
The jury is out on Harrell. He will need this offseason and all of next season to get stronger and develop moves that will make him more effective as an interior lineman. It takes time. Both Williams and Jolly needed their first two seasons in the league to develop, and it appears Harrell is on the same track. Harrell has the potential, but he needs to figure out how to make the most of his strengths, like his quickness, and improve on his weaknesses, like using his hands and leverage against offensive linemen.
In the meantime, Williams will be around for at least one more year, which is a good thing. He is quite vocal in the locker room, and seems to get along well with the other defensive linemen. Though it appeared that Williams was on his way out of Green Bay, the Packers did the right thing by keeping him around. In the process, they bought themselves a lot more time to insure the defensive line remains a strength.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.