Not surprisingly with the Green Bay Packers kicking off training camp on Saturday, incumbent starting safety Atari Bigby gave in and agreed to sign his restricted free agent tender.
Bigby, an impact player when healthy over the course of his three years as a starter, was given the second-round tender, worth $1.759 million. That’s an increase over the $1.545 million he earned under the second-round tender in 2009.
Bigby was pressing the team for a long-term contract extension, a foolhardy proposition for several reasons. First and foremost, Bigby hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He missed three games last season and left the playoff game early with a strained hamstring. In 2008, he played in only seven games.
Due in part to Bigby’s injury history and contract status, the Packers selected safety Morgan Burnett in the third round of April’s draft. Burnett isn’t just a safety that the Packers drafted. Rather, they gave up their fourth-round pick to move up into the third round because they had targeted the ballhawk from Georgia Tech for a couple of months.
Finally, Bigby’s 10 interceptions notwithstanding, his physical limitations were put on display whenever the defense faced a top-flight quarterback.
With all of that said, Bigby has been a difference-maker and there’s no reason to assume that Burnett is going to win the starting job. Bigby was superb in running the secondary last season. Visions of Al Harris and backup safety Derrick Martin bickering after a mix-up led to a touchdown during last year’s game at the Metrodome disappeared once Bigby was back in the lineup.
In 2007, when Bigby started all 16 games, the Packers went 13-3. In 2008, the Packers went 3-3 when he started and 3-7 when he didn’t. In 2009, the Packers went 9-2 when he started and 2-3 when he didn’t. Add it up, and the Packers’ record is 25-8 when he starts and 5-10 when he doesn’t start. That can’t be a fluke.
The news was announced by ESPN. Agent Drew Rosenhaus, who does not talk to local reporters, did not respond to a message. The Packers have not announced the transaction. Once the move is official, the Packers will have to release a player. The roster limit is 80 players and the Packers have 82; the officially unsigned Bigby and first-round pick Bryan Bulaga do not count against the 80-man limit until under contract.
Galbreath dies: Harry Galbreath, who was the starter at right guard from 1993 through 1995, died at the age of 45, according to ESPN. After serving as an offensive line coach at three schools, Galbreath returned to his alma mater, Tennessee, in 2007 to serve as the school’s association strength and conditioning coach until 2009. Galbreath, who was voted to the Volunteers’ All-100-Year Team in 1991, was an All-American lineman at Tennessee in 1987 and was an eighth-round pick by Miami.
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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.