14

February

Big-name free agent targets for the “big-spending” Packers

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Feb. 12 that the Packers, armed with $30 million in cap space, are prepared to spend on outside free agents this offseason to remake the defense in Dom Capers’ image.

Capers has been in Green Bay for five seasons, so the wording is a bit confusing. Surely, the Packers haven’t given Capers a team of bobsledders and asked him to mold them into an attacking 3-4 defense. But regardless, Rapoport’s report ignited a spark of hope among Packers fans that the team would make a rare dip into free agency.

With all due respect to Matthew Mulligan and Duke Preston, the Packers haven’t made any “splash” moves in free agency since 2006 — when they signed both cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

The Packers’ offseason spending spree got off to a roaring start with Thursday’s addition of fourth-year undrafted free agent tight end Raymond Webber. That was sarcasm. But it’s rather comical that a portion of the fan base almost seems upset that Webber’s name isn’t Jimmy Graham.

Of course, the Packers’ $30 million in cap space won’t be $30 million for long, as they’ll be forced to spend about $5 million on this year’s rookie class. And with Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and others (perhaps Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb) likely to receive contract extensions, that number will continue to shrink.

But should the Packers let B.J. Raji walk — which seems more likely than not, given Raji’s production, or lack thereof, the past two seasons and his reported rejection of a contract extension that would have paid him $8 million per year — then they’ll have some financial flexibility to perhaps spend on veterans. Take into account Jermichael Finley’s cloudy future coming off major neck surgery, and the Packers could, really, become players in free agency.

As far as positions of need, the Packers could use help at every level of the defense. The opposite can be said about the offense, with the exception of tight end, at which they could still bring back Finley or opt for a cheaper option in Andrew Quarless.

Here are a few bigger-name free agents the Packers could — probably won’t — but could target once free agency hits.

18

December

Packers vs. Chiefs Preview: 5 Things to Watch

The Green Bay Packers (13-0) and Kansas City Chiefs (5-8) face off in Week 15 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 12:00 CST, Sunday, December 18, 2011.

Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO.

TV: FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; NFL Sunday Drive.

Series: Chiefs lead, 3-6-1 (Packers won last regular season game, 33-22, in Nov. 4, 2007 at Arrowhead Stadium).

Five things to watch

1. Romeo’s turn

After a 5-8 start that included five losses of 25 or more points, the Chiefs fired head coach Todd Haley this week and replaced him with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Every so often, a change in the face of the man leading a locker room adds energy that would have otherwise been stagnant. Letting go of the fiery Haley and replacing him with a player’s coach in Crennel could have that effect. Keep an eye on the first 15 minutes to see if the coaching change had any early impact.

2. Repayment 

Last season, Greg Jennings embraced a larger role in the Packers offense after Jermichael Finley was lost for the season in Week 5. Now, with Jennings on the shelf for the remainder of the regular season, Finley gets his chance to do the same. The Packers will spread it around to help compensate for Jennings’ loss, but Finley figures to be the guy to take on some of the missing targets. Let’s see if Aaron Rodgers and the “Big Fella,” as he calls him, can get on a roll before the postseason.

3. You again?

One of the first things Crennel did as interim coach was to name Kyle Orton the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, dependent on his injured finger checking out. The finger is healthy enough and Orton will start on Sunday. The Packers are well-versed on playing Orton, a seven-year pro who has started five games against Green Bay as a member of the Chicago Bears and another this season with the Broncos. In that Week 4 game at Lambeau Field, Orton completed 22-of-32 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. But he also threw three interceptions, with one taken 30 yards for a touchdown by Charles Woodson in the first quarter. The Packers won that game 49-23. Orton will need to play a perfect game that includes no turnovers for the Chiefs to have a chance at pulling off the upset.