Packers to sign TE Wesley Walls

Free agent tight end Wesley Walls will sign a one-year deal with the Packers, ESPN radio reported Monday afternoon.<P>

The 37-year-old Walls opted for the Packers' plan over a more lucrative deal offered by the Washington Redskins, according to the report. Sources said Walls' contract with GB will include a signing bonus of $25,000 and a $755,000 base salary.

The move won't hurt Green Bay's salary cap position too much, as the NFL allows a break for teams signing veterans for the minimum. Washington's offer was believed to be about $1 million, ESPN reported.

The 14-year veteran is likely to complement, rather than compete with starter Bubba Franks, who is currently injured.

Walls was hampered by injury last season, limiting him to just 19 receptions. That broke a streak of eight straight seasons in which Walls had at least 30 receptions and at least 400 yards.

Packer fans will remember Walls from his hey-day, when he joined Carolina in 1996 and immediately helped the Panthers reach the NFC Championship game vs. the Packers in Lambeau Field. Green Bay went on to victory and a Super Bowl XXXI championship.

Walls averaged 59 receptions, 718 yards and 6.7 touchdowns per season from 1995-97. Walls' career stats include 176 games, with 113starts, 430 receptions for 5,069 yards and 53 touchdowns. He has played for the 49ers (1989-91), Saints (1992-95) and Panthers (1996-2002).

The Redskins, however, couldn't overcome the relationship between Walls and Packers quarterback Brett Favre, plus the perception by the tight end that Green Bay is the closer of the teams in terms of Super Bowl potential. The Packers also have a few players on the roster who were teammates of Walls in Carolina. Walls was released by the Panthers early this spring. Besides the Packers and Redskins, the Buccaneers also demonstrated a recent interest in Walls, but he eliminated them from consideration over the weekend. One of the game's most productive tight ends, Walls is coming off a season in which he was limited by injuries, and in which his 19 receptions represented his lowest number of catches since 1991. In 1992, Walls began a stretch of eight straight seasons in which he had 30-plus catches and more than 400 yards. Between 1995-97, he averaged 58.7 receptions, 717.7 yards and 6.7 touchdowns. For his career, Walls has played in 176 games, and started 113 of them, in stints with the 49ers (1989-91), Saints (1992-95) and Panthers (1996-2002). He has 430 receptions for 5,069 yards and 53 touchdowns. While he won't challenge starter Bubba Franks for playing time, Walls will be a boost to the Packers in two-tight end formations. Like many teams, the Packers also still feel that Walls, who has a knack for being able to create separation in close quarters, will be a very good receiver in "red zone" situations.

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