Packers getting defensive

The Green Bay Packers took a good look at free agent quarterback Billy Volek, but are focused on beefing up their defensive secondary. After meeting with Cincinnati safety Mark Roman and Volek on Monday, the Packers are scheduled to meet with Pittsburgh safety Mike Logan and Kansas City cornerback William Bartee today in Green Bay.<p>

The Packers are believed to be about $1 million under the $80.5 million salary cap, which might prohibit them from signing Volek as a possible future starter when Brett Favre retires. Volek has started in one game in four seasons as Steve McNair's backup in Tennessee, but could command a contract similar to the two-year, $4 million deal Carolina gave Jake Delhomme last off-season.

With a deep crop of quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL draft, the Packers may opt to groom a future successor to Favre, if Favre plays for a few more seasons.

"I'm hoping he'll play another four or five years," offensive coordinatory Tom Rossley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I'm going to play golf and talk with him and make sure he does come back. So much of the season all we're talking about are fronts and coverages and blitzes.

"I want to step back and talk to him. We might talk about what we're doing and where we're going, talk about our plans and what changes we might make. What's good, what's bad. We'll just relax and play golf."

Volek has already visited with the Atlanta Falcons and has a scheduled visit this week with the Denver Broncos. The Buffalo Bills also have reportedly shown interest in Volek.

A converted cornerback, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Roman is a small safety by today's NFL standards. But he is regarded as a quality cover guy because of his quickness and instincts that allowed him to break up eight passes, including an interception, last season.

Roman also has played for Packers linebackers' coach Mark Duffner, who was the Bengals' defensive coordinator in 2001 and '02. Injuries limited Roman, who turns 27 on March 26, to 13 games in each of those seasons.

Duffner also is familiar with Logan, who spent the first four years with Jacksonville, then signed with the Steelers in 2001.

Unlike Roman, the 6-1, 212-pound Logan excels playing close to the line and stopping the run. He was a full-time starter for the first time last season at strong safety and ranked among the Steelers' leaders with 93 tackles (75 solo). He had a sack and a forced fumble and collected five pass breakups.

It is uncertain if the Packers will pursue versatile defensive back Michael Hawthorne, an unrestricted free agent who joined the team midway through the season. And the Packers probably will not injury-prone safety Antuan Edwards. So, the Packers are looking at Bartee as a possible replacement in the nickel and dime coverages.

Bartee broke into the league with the Chiefs in 2000, when Kurt Schottenheimer, now the Packers defensive backs coach, was their defensive coordinator. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, Bartee has the size to step up and take on receivers at the line in press coverage. However, he's without an interception in 57 pro games, 22 of them starts.

Other available defensive backs, particularly at safety, who could merit a look from the Packers in the coming days are Miami All-Pro Brock Marion, Seattle's Reggie Tongue and Carolina's Deon Grant.


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