"They're on the radar from a business standpoint," he said.
The versatile and talented back had played in just five games in 2005, rushing for 255 yards and catching 19 passes for 147 yards when he ruptured his quadriceps tendon, ending his 2005 season. Some wondered if he'd even be ready to play football again by the start of the 2006 season. So when he was an unrestricted free agent last year at this time, no one was beating his door down. But the Packers offered up a one-year deal estimated at roughly $2 million to keep him in Green Bay.
Green paid them back with 1,059 rushing yards while averaging 4.0 yards per carry over 14 games. Missing just two games due to a hamstring injury, he also pulled in 46 catches, second-best on the team, for another 373 yards.
Although he'll be 30 years old by the end of this week, Green still has what it takes to be the featured back on an NFL team. And although Green Bay is expected to make a strong bid to retain him, he's been waiting for almost two years to test his full market value.
The good news for the Packers is that their cap situation is in their favor with an estimated $24.8 million to spend even before paring their roster of any overpaid players. Based on figures published at Scout.com last weekend, there are only six teams with more cap room than Green Bay, and none of them are the four that were referenced during the Sirius interview.
While the Packers are rumored to covet California RB Marshawn Lynch as their top pick in this year's NFL Draft, there's no guarantee he'll still be on the board when they pick. And if they lose Ahman Green, they'll likely have to overpay for another free agent running back who won't necessarily provide the same level of production or his well-rounded skill set.
Just how aggressive will the other four teams that are likely to be in bidding against the Packers be? Let's take a look.
| Denver's Tatum Bell|
(Getty Images/Brian Bahr)
Tatum Bell contributed fumbles during each of the last three games as the Broncos stumbled out of playoff position. By contrast, in 14 games, Green fumbled just twice for the Packers. To make matter worse, Tatum Bell appeared to fade in productivity as the season progressed.
The Broncos' exciting rookie Mike Bell showed flashes of talent that should become more consistent with playing time. He and Green would be a strong pairing in Denver.
Since the Broncos will likely use their first pick in the draft to strengthen their defensive end position or to fill the gap at cornerback created by the tragic death of Darrent Williams, a free agency move for a veteran of Green's caliber would be a smart decision. But they'll need to clear some cap space to make that possible since they only have an estimated $2.6 million available.
NEW YORK GIANTS
|New York's Brandon Jacobs (Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)|
New York also seems to be leaning towards defense in the first round as their linebacker and cornerback situation is in need of help. And pairing another youngster up with Jacobs would be less than ideal. Prior to making any roster cuts to free up salary, the Giants had just over $9 million in cap room. But New York did made a few significant moves on Monday, cutting veteran linebackers LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons, as well as starting left tackle Luke Petitgout. And offensive tackle Bob Whitfield announced his retirement while Tiki Barber's became official, so the Giants are already making gains that could give them the extra space needed. It's been estimated that they cleared at least $6 million in cap space, boosting them up to more than $15 million, plenty for them to make a serious run at Barber if he's their primary free agent target.
|Houston's Domanick Williams (Getty Images/Scott Halleran)|
Quite simply, the Texans can't afford to roll the dice like they did last year, counting on Domanick Williams to be their top back. It blew up in their faces in 2006, especially after passing on Reggie Bush with the number one overall pick in the draft.
Chances are that with Williams back - and if they can re-sign Dayne - they will be content to use their top pick this year (No. 8 overall) to pick one of the top two running backs in this draft instead of overspending in free agency for Green. They could use their estimated $16.5 million in cap space to improve talent at multiple positions on their team instead.
NEW YORK JETS
|New York's Leon Washington (Getty Images/Chris McGrath)|
With Curtis Martin finally realizing that his playing days are over, the team has a ton of mid-tier running backs and only one who is showing significant upside -- 5-foot-7 Leon Washington, their fourth- round pick out of Florida State. Washington rushed for 650 yards and has breakaway speed, but he's still developing and can't be expected to carry the full load. And he could benefit from the having a veteran mentor for a couple of seasons.
There's been some talk that the team could look at San Diego restricted free agent Michael Turner, but Green would be a more reliable option for a team that went through a frustrating running-back-by-committee season.
So What's Going to Happen?
It's too early to tell until the teams make more cuts and their cap space numbers settle in. But the Jets certainly have a crying need for a back like Green and he's used to playing in the wide variety of weather conditions that can roll into the Meadowlands in December or during a late-season visit to New England. The Jets have the money to spend and should be looking for a solid, quick fix like Green that would allow them to stay on course, focusing on positions like WR and DT with their top picks in this draft.
The Giants made significant strides in a single day with their roster cuts to do
battle with the Packers for Green's services. And if the Giants push hard enough,
the Packers might just roll the dice and look to another strong, yet less expensive
alternative such as the Colts' Dominic Rhodes since they also have a relatively high
first-round pick that they could pair up with someone like Rhodes, much like
Indianapolis did successfully with rookie Joseph Addai.
The Broncos may have more motivation than the Texans to pay big for Green's services since they were so close to a playoff run, but they'll need to clear more cap space to stay at the bidding table against Green Bay and their deep pockets.
All things considered, the Packers have some serious needs to address as well at wide receiver, tight end and they could also benefit from some help at the safety position. But if they fail to re-sign Green, they'll have to add a starting-quality running back to their wish list, and one that may not be as successful in 2007 as the experienced Green who already knows the playbook, the scheme and the quarterback.
Expect the Packers to hold onto Green unless it just gets ridiculous. But Green's agent should be getting some serious inquiries from at minimum two of the four teams listed above.