Notes: Packers prioritize needs

The Green Bay Packers head to the NFL Combine this week in Indianapolis concentrating on defensive needs entering the NFL draft but certainly will not ignore the offense. At the same time, they are trying to re-sign left tackle Chad Clifton.<p>

Green Bay needs a successor to Brett Favre as well as interior backups on the offensive line. They could use another wide receiver and another tight end.

The Packers have the 25th pick in the first round. Last year, they selected linebacker Nick Barnett 29th overall and probably will look toward defense again when the two-day draft begins on April 24. Other areas of need include safety, cornerback, defensive end and nose tackle. The Packers do not necessarily need another starting linebacker but depth at that position is thin.

High price: One of the Packers' methods for re-signing Clifton got a whole lot more expensive with the recent release of tender-offer numbers for franchise and transition-player designations for 2004.

If the Packers were to designate Clifton their franchise player by the Feb. 24 deadline, they immediately would have to count $7.021 million against their salary cap. The transition tag for Clifton would count $6.012 million.

The franchise tag would all but remove Clifton from the unrestricted free-agent market because another team would have to send two first-round draft choices to the Packers. If the Packers used the transition tag, it would give them the right to match any offer.

Clifton's cap salary last year was $805,200. Though he will be commanding a signing bonus of around $10 million with his new long-term contract, Clifton would count much less against the Packers' salary cap this year because the signing bonus would be prorated over the length of the contract.

The Packers and Clifton have begun talks on a new deal, but all reports indicate that a deal may not be finalized until the 11th hour of the March 2 free agency deadline.

"He's a good young football player at left tackle," Mark Hatley, the Packers' vice president of football operations told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "There are a lot of things we have to get done (this offseason), and Chad is part of that. We're going to do everything we can to bring him back."

Medical watch: DE Joe Johnson is making a strong recovery from quad surgery Oct. 21 ... S Antuan Edwards doesn't need surgery for the torn hamstring that ended his season Nov. 27 ... CB Chris Johnson has a cartilage problem under his right kneecap and the Packers still aren't sure about his availability.

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