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. In Part 5, we lead off with the first of the players who may or may not be restricted. Under the old collective bargaining agreement, a player with four accrued seasons would have been an unrestricted free agent. But last year, as part of the uncapped season, players with four or five years were restricted rather than unrestricted.
Starting left guard Daryn Colledge just concluded his fifth season, with the Packers giving him the restricted free agent tender of $1.96 million. He's been a tough-as-nails performer, overcoming a handful of injuries along the way to play in all 80 career regular-season games, including all 48 starts over the last three seasons.
He's also been a consummate team player. Until last year, when he finally was locked into left guard, Colledge started games at left guard and left tackle in 2009, left guard, left tackle and right tackle in 2008, started or played at left guard and both tackle slots in 2007, and started games at left guard and left tackle as a rookie in 2006.
With the annual — and, oftentimes, daily — Colledge Shuffle, it's little wonder why the former second-round pick hasn't developed like the coaching staff has desired. Colledge was miserable in 2009, giving up a career-high 8.75 sacks, according to STATS. In 2010, with first-round pick Bryan Bulaga becoming the primary backup to veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, Colledge finally got to put his full focus on left guard. He bounced back from his worst season by yielding a career-best three sacks, though his six penalties (two holding) for 40 yards matched career highs in each category.
Colledge celebrates with family after the Super Bowl.
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images
Beyond the restricted-unrestriced dilemma, the lockout is interesting in regards to Colledge's future in Green Bay. By now, the team should be nearing the end of its third week of organized team activities. While OTAs are noncontact practices, the coaches might have a reasonable gauge on whether third-year player T.J. Lang or second-year player Nick McDonald are ready to supplant Colledge — or whether smart and feisty sixth-round pick Caleb Schlauderaff could be a surprise contender after starting at left guard for all four seasons at Utah.
Other options are Bulaga and first-round pick Derek Sherrod. Bulaga was given a chance to unseat Colledge late in training camp last summer but his back acted up and the battle essentially was over before it started.
That's a lot of possibilities, but as Colledge's tender would indicate, he's the clear leader of the pack. The longer the lockout continues, the better the chances of Colledge returning and retaining his starting spot. Sometimes, the devil you know is better than the one you don't.
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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.