Hannibal expected to roam the middle

Free agent linebacker Hannibal Navies signed a three-year, $3 million contract with the Green Bay Packers today. Navies will fill the vacancy at middle linebacker for the departed Hardy Nickerson, according to the Packers.<p>

Navies (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) received a $500,000 signing bonus and will reportedly make about $1.75 million over the first two years of his deal, with the third year voidable. For the Packers, who are about $5 million under the $75 million salary cap that's good because they are trying to re-sign defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and linebacker Na'il Diggs to long-term contracts. Both are restricted free agents and drawing attention from other teams. If another team signs either of the two to an offer sheet, the Packers have seven days to match. If they don't, they would receive a fourth round draft pick as compensation for Diggs and a first-round pick in this year's draft for Gbaja-Biamila based on the tender offers each player received.

Navies has been plagued by injuries since entering the league in 1999 when Carolina drafted him in the fourth round. He has missed 26 of 64 regular-season games due to injuries. Last season he missed five games because of an ankle injury, and in 2001 he opened the season as the starting strong-side linebacker but broke his right forearm and missed the rest of the season. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee early in training camp in 2000 and missed the entire exhibition season and the first three games. In 1999, he was inactive for the first seven games with bruised cartilage in his right knee suffered in practice prior to the season opener.

The Packers were unable to obtain Cincinnati linebacker Armegis Spearman, a restricted free agent, when the Bengals matched Green Bay's three-year offer on Monday.

Navies, who turns 26 on July 19, mainly played weakside linebacker with the Panthers, but he also has the size to play in the middle.

"He can play all three positions, strong, weak-side and middle," said Reggie McKenzie, the Packers' director of pro personnel, "but we're planning to start him out at middle linebacker."

Navies played in 11 games in 2002, posting 45 tackles - 25 of them solo - before sitting out the last five contests with an ankle injury.

Navies' first career interception came off of Packers quarterback Brett Favre in the Panthers' 31-14 Monday Night Football victory over Green Bay on Nov. 27, 2000.

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