Addition by subtraction will help defense

It would be great if Pro Bowlers Ahman Green and William Henderson could go on and on with the Green Bay Packers. However, the cold, hard business side of the National Football League may dictate that the team trade one of them this off-season in order to improve its inconsistent defense.<p>

The Packers would be wise to take advantage of this trade opportunity. Both Green and Henderson have one season remaining on their existing contracts. Both the fullback and running back positions are the deepest on the team. Like it or not, a trade is in order because the depth on defense is very thin at best at each position, and especially in its front seven.

Of course, a trade always depends on what other teams are willing to offer in return, and how those players can help the Packers. But the most likely scenario for the Packers is to try and deal Henderson before Green. Henderson will be entering his 11th season in the league in 2005 and will turn 34 on Feb. 19. He still possesses many qualities that will make him attractive to other teams. Henderson is by far one of Green Bay's leaders, in great shape and very versatile, playing on a number of special teams units. He has only missed two games in his outstanding career. He easily can start two to three more years in the NFL.

While Henderson would be missed in Green Bay for his on- and off-the-field commitment to the team and community, the Packers still have Nick Luchey. Luchey, a sixth-year pro, will turn 28 on March 30. He has split time with Henderson in the backfield and has four more seasons left on his contract. Henderson has out-performed Luchey, but Luchey still is a solid blocker and has a proven ability to catch the ball out of the backfield like Henderson. In other words, there is not a lot of dropoff at th fullback position.

If the Packers are able to trade Henderson for a quality defender, the team can always replenish the position through the NFL draft.

Now consider this: If the Packers want a Pro Bowl-caliber defender, they should deal Green.

Green is the best running back the Packers have had since Jim Taylor. He is to Green Bay what Emmitt Smith was to the Dallas Cowboys. Green has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in five straight seasons and will be making his fourth straight trip to the Pro Bowl this Sunday. He is in his seventh season and turns 28 on Feb. 16.

Trade Green? It doesn't seem like a good move, but the Packers are deep at the position with Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher and desperately need help on defense.

Green will probably seek a bigger deal than his current $17 million contract when it expires after the 2005 season. He is worthy. Despite the problems he has had with fumbling, he still is a game-breaker, touchdown-maker with his explosive speed.

Also, count on the team offering Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker a big contract very soon, maybe this off-season or next summer. Plus, the Packers will be forced do everything they can to retain soon-to-be free agents Mike Wahle and Bubba Franks. Wahle is one of the top guards in the league and in the prime of his career. Franks heads a tight end corp that has no depth. Both will be commanding big contracts, so the pressure will be on Vice President of Player Finance Andrew Brandt to find creative ways to keep both players on board for years to come.

Considering that Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera, who is scheduled to become a free agent, will not be back, the Packers will probably focus on Wahle. With first-year guard Steve Morley, well qualified and less expensive, waiting in the wings, it is likely that the Packers will not make a strong push to keep the 32-year-old Rivera, though, he is a team leader and still has plenty of football left in him. It is, however, possible that Rivera may not get what he is seeking on the free agent market and opt to re-sign with the Packers.

The Packers have invested heavily in Brett Favre, Chad Clifton, Robert Ferguson and Donald Driver. Now they may be giving big deals to Wahle, Franks, and Walker this off-season. And don't forget, Ryan Longwell's contract expires after 2005 as well. The team can ill-afford to lose their Pro Bowl-caliber kicker. Can the team afford to pour more money into the offense and retain Green, too?

The time is now for the Packers to beef up the defense by trading one of their Pro Bowl backfield stars. It will be a shame to see one or both of them go, but if the Packers want to get back to the Super Bowl, they'll have to have to strike a better balance between offense and defense by striking a trade.

Note: E-mail your thoughts to Packer Report managing editor Todd Korth at packrepted@aol.com.


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