With uncertainty over the collective bargaining agreement, the Packers were set to enter this offseason with very few high-profile unrestricted free agents.
Cross one player off that list.
The Packers and Brandon Chillar agreed to a four-year contract extension on Monday, keeping the versatile inside linebacker in Green Bay through the 2013 season. The four-year deal is worth $21 million and includes $9.5 million to be paid this season and in 2010.
The deal has not been announced by the team but was confirmed by coach Mike McCarthy.
“I think it’s great for Brandon and the Green Bay Packers,” McCarthy said at his Monday news conference. “I’m excited to be able to continue to work with Brandon. It’s something that’s definitely well-deserved.”
The players were given Monday off so Chillar was not available for comment.
While not a starter, Chillar has emerged as a vital cog in coordinator Dom Capers’ defense. He’s one of the best coverage linebackers in the league, which has allowed Capers to be creative with his scheme with packages like “Big Okie,” which has Chillar essentially playing safety in a grouping with three linemen, five linebackers and three defensive backs. He also was on the field in the new “Psycho” package, which had Chillar among five linebackers, five defensive backs and one lineman.
“He’s a good football player, he’s a good pro, high-character individual,” McCarthy said. “His flexibility, his versatility, to play him in different sub packages, really, his skill-set, what he brings to the table, he’s been playing outstanding.”
The Packers are now invested heavily at inside linebacker. According to a source with access to NFL salary data, A.J. Hawk is due $4.61 million next season in Year 5 of his six-year rookie contract, and Nick Barnett is due $4.55 million as part of a six-year extension inked in April 2007.
Hawk, who won a game ball for his play on defense at Chicago but has been nothing more than steady as the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft, remains in the team’s plans. While he remains the starter, he lost the lion’s share of the defensive snaps in some games before Chillar sustained a broken hand.
“You cannot have enough good football players,” McCarthy said. “I think that’s shown every single year in the National Football League. Injuries are the No. 1 variable you cannot control as you go through the season. We’re trying to do the best we can to keep as many good football players as we can.”
If a new collective bargaining is not struck by March 1, the experience level to become an unrestricted free agent will move from four years to six years. In that case, the Packers’ unrestricted free agents would be left tackle Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, nose tackle Ryan Pickett and right tackle Mark Tauscher.
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