FA Series Pt. 3: Matt Wilhelm

At some point, there will be offseason football and decisions to be made, including with inside linebacker Matt Wilhelm, who made his mark on special teams as a midseason addition.

About this series

Packer Report is examining the Packers' 11 free agents.

Part 1: Bigby, Spitz, Hall

Part 2: Anthony Smith

At some point, whether it's by the apparently forgotten art of negotiation or a court ruling, there will be football this year. That means there will be free agency.

The Green Bay Packers have 11 free agents — six of whom are unrestricted and five of whom may or may not be restricted, depending on the verbiage of the NFL's 2011 rules.

In this series, we will look at those players and tell you who should stay and who should go.

The fifth player on our list of unrestricted free agents is inside linebacker Matt Wilhelm. A midseason addition after injuries ended the years of Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar, Wilhelm played in seven regular-season games and all four playoff games. Playing only on special teams, Wilhelm had four tackles during the regular season and five in the playoffs, including two apiece in the NFC Championship Game against Chicago and two in the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh.

Matt Wilhelm
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images
He was a key figure as the Packers' special teams smothered the Bears' Devin Hester in the regular-season finale and again in the championship game, as well as Pittsburgh's returners (18.5-yard average on six kickoffs, 1.3-yard average on four punt returns).

Wilhelm, who turned 30 just days before the Super Bowl, told the Chronicle-Telegram of Elyria, Ohio, upon his recent induction into the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame that he'd like to re-sign with the Packers and continue his career.

The Packers should do just that.

With Barnett expected to be the odd man out of a high-priced corps of four starting inside linebackers, the Packers need depth at the position behind starters A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop and presumed top backup Brandon Chillar. As a player who's primarily played inside linebacker in 3-4 schemes, Wilhelm would be the perfect backup — which is why they signed him to begin with last year. The alternatives are sixth-round rookie D.J. Smith, an undersized tackling machine at Appalachian State, practice-squad holdover Cardia Jackson or returning veteran Robert Francois, who could play inside or outside.

Barring another rash of injuries at the position, however, the fourth inside linebacker would be nothing more than a special-teams player anyway, and that's mostly been Wilhelm's calling card during an eight-year career that has consisted of merely 21 starts with San Diego and another with San Francisco.

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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

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