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Roerdink's Hot Read

Editor's note: W. Keith Roerdink, a longtime writer for Packer Report, will be contributing a weekly web site column each Thursday. Here is his first installment:<p> It was the Packers' biggest move of the off-season. If not in importance, then surely in size. They re-signed their resident landslide, Gilbert Brown this week. The deal, however, turned out to be more in the "prime rib" range than the "value menu" price they thought they'd have to pay.<p>

Since training camp kicked off, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Green Bay would ink their longtime nose tackle to a down-and-dirty, one-year, veteran's minimum $655,000 plus a $25,000 signing bonus. That was before the Washington Redskins became interested in Brown when negotiations with their own defensive tackle, Dan Wilkinson, grinded to a halt. It would be all the leverage Brown needed and he basically negotiated his own deal.

Green Bay stuck by their base salary offer but upped the signing bonus to a reported $400,000 on a six-year contract (lengthened for salary cap purposes) to keep old No. 93 in green and gold.

Assuming they get the roughly 20 plays per game out of him they're hoping for, that would be about $3,300 per snap for the upcoming season.

Is a 32-year old player who Big Mac'd himself out of football in 2000 and missed nine games over the last two seasons with injuries worth that kind of cash? Mike Sherman & Co. said "yes."

"He does give us a big body in there and I have a plan for how we are going to utilize his talents this season," Sherman said. "And hopefully, it will be a plan that will keep him on the field, maybe more during the season but less during the game."

Truth is, the Packers couldn't afford not to pay him. Green Bay may have had the 12th rated overall defense last year, but they were tied with the Chiefs for second last in the NFL in yards allowed per rush, surrendering 4.8 yards. That's nearly half a first down every single time an opposing running back carried the ball. They also cut ties with their leading tackler from last season (linebacker Nate Wayne) and let defensive end Vonnie Holliday go in free agency. As the best run-stopper on the Packer's defensive line, and with a rookie middle linebacker starting behind him, Brown had to be brought back.

Now this isn't Gilbert Brown circa. 1996 who would grab a teams' center with one hand, the guard with the other and throw them on top of the quarterback or running back like some kind of human sandwich. But at 6-foot-2, 340-pounds Brown remains one of the NFL's most immovable objects. And while the big plays may not come as often, the signature ‘Grave-Digger' move that accompanies them still sends a charge through Lambeau Field faithful and teammates alike.

Still not convinced? Well, let's take a look at the teams' depth chart (i.e. injury report) at nose tackle: Rod Walker was the top candidate to replace Brown this year but he's watched most of training camp from the sideline after off-season shoulder surgery. Rookie fifth-round pick James Lee is nursing a sore hip. Veteran Steve Warren is coming off knee and leg problems last year and is more suited to "Eagle" tackle than nose tackle, as is third round pick Kenny Peterson who's filled in during camp. Terdell Sands, a member of the teams' practice squad last year, has turned heads in camp but turned an ankle just the other day. Recently signed "wild and crazy guy" Steve Martin has looked impressive so far, but he's also played for five teams in the past seven years, which says something in itself.

Is $3,300 a snap starting to sound like a good deal yet? It should.

To his credit, Brown is said to have been working hard with Fred Roll, his former strength and conditioning coach from the University of Kansas, this off season. It was Roll who helped rescue Brown's career after injuries and overeating forced him out of the game in 2000. Now he's got Brown primed for what could be his last training camp.

"Feels good to be here," Brown said on his first day back. "Hopefully, I can finish here and then ride off into the sunset.

So take a line from the UPS commercial and ask, "What can Brown do for you?" If he shores up the run defense, serves up a slice of veteran leadership and digs a few graves along the way, then he's well worth the price.


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