Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he’s having discussions with “all” of the team’s free agents.
Speaking to reporters at the Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, Thompson said there’s “nothing to report” regarding those negotiations but the Packers maintain their policy of trying to retain as many of their players as possible.
The Packers entered the offseason with five unrestricted free agents: left tackle Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, outside linebacker Aaron Kampman, nose tackle Ryan Pickett and right tackle Mark Tauscher.
Free agency begins on March 5, so there’s one week remaining for deals to be made to prevent players from shopping their services.
Pickett has been tagged the Packers’ franchise player, but the situations involving Clifton, Tauscher and Kampman are tricky.
Kampman turned 30 in November, is coming off a torn ACL and wasn’t exactly a first-year sensation as an outside linebacker. The Packers don’t have an abundance of pass rushers, so losing him would be a big hit, but the defense didn’t suffer with rookie Brad Jones replacing Kampman.
Thompson answered in the affirmative when asked if he “definitely” wants Kampman to return.
“Oh, I think Aaron was doing very good. It's a shame he got hurt, but he was doing fine,” Thompson said. “He's physical. He can play the game. He sacks the quarterback, and that's unbelievably valuable in our league.”
Clifton turns 34 in June and Tauscher 33 in June. When those two were healthy, the Packers’ offensive line got its act together and spearheaded a drive to the playoffs. Clifton, however, is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he missed four games and left early in four others.
“I’m OK with our guys,” Thompson said.
On Wednesday, the Packers named Pickett their franchise player to essentially ensure the big run-stuffer will return in 2010.
“We feel like Ryan's a good player,” Thompson said. “We feel like he's a good teammate, a good leader of that group. I personally like him quite a bit. This gives us an opportunity to keep having some conversations and try to get something done. We'd like to do a multiyear deal with him, but there are differences where we are in the negotiations, and this was an avenue that we had to at least retain some right to be able to do that in the future.”
Without a long-term deal, Pickett will make $7.003 million next season.
Meanwhile, while Thompson handed Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Brandon Chillar contract extensions before they reached free agency, two-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins continues to wait. Barring a last-week deal, Collins will play his second season under a restricted free agent tender. Tenders are due on March 4. Because Collins earned $3.045 million last season — more than the restricted tender — he’d be eligible for 110 percent of that, or $3,349,500.
“We're working on it, and have been (for) some time,” Thompson said, adding that he was optimistic but, “the cake is not done until it's done.”
“He's a good player. A good guy, good teammate,” he added. “You guys can see. He is a marvelous athlete. He's got range, he's got hands, he's got anticipation, he's a good tackler. He's a good player. He's one of the core guys that we want to have.”
On other topics:
The future of Al Harris, who is due a $1 million roster bonus and is coming off a season-ending knee injury ...
“He’s still in rehab and we’re still trying to make sure we do the right thing for the Packers and do the right thing for Al. There’s nothing really to report there.”
Will the Packers have a self-imposed salary cap ...
“There has been a lot of conversation publicly about things like that. We will organizationally have a plan and we will go about that plan. What those internal thoughts are on that we will do or not do, I don’t think it’s for public consumption.”
On the Packers’ free agent plan ...
“We’re always looking for value. Again, we’re sort of in uncharted waters, so it’s hard to predict. We’re trying to be prepared for whatever circumstances might come out. And if we can help the Packers, we’re going to try to help ‘em.”
On if he thinks Brett Favre will play in 2010 ...
“That's an interesting question.”
On the Packers’ priorities in the draft ...
“I never rank priorities. I love them all. I think we're always going to try to get better. We're always going to try to keep pushing the throttle down so that we can go faster and do better. At the same time, I've always felt like this — and I know some our local guys probably get tired of me saying it — I think the best and most dramatic improvements you can have is from within, and that's what our offseason program has always been focused on. Now, we also place a high value on the draft, because we feel that's the future of your core players, and free agency, our own as well as maybe guys from other teams. We'll do whatever we can to try to help our team, and that's what we try to do.”
On Tim Tebow and his funky release ...
“I'm no quarterback expert, and certainly in the mechanisms of the thing. I will say this about young Tebow. There's been a lot of discussion and commenting about him and his release or his ability to play in the National Football League. Based on his history, I think that would be a little bit premature to start criticizing him and doubting his ability to play. He's been playing at a pretty high level for quite some time. Has to go down as one of the great college football players of all-time, so let's don't sell him short just yet.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.