A Little more help at safety

The Green Bay Packers signed veteran free agent safety Earl Little on Friday. Little is in his eighth year in the NFL, having played six of his seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns after being signed by New Orleans in 1997 as a non-drafted rookie free agent.<p>

Little, 32, started 11 games and played in all 16 for Cleveland last season, making 81 tackles and one interception.

It is believed that Little received a one-year contract for the veteran's minimum of $665,000. However, he will count $455,000 against the Packers' 2005 salary cap because of the veteran's salary-cap exemption in the collective bargaining agreement.

The Packers also officially announced that they signed veteran safety Arturo Freeman to a one year contract. Freeman also will count $455,000 against the team's salary cap.

Freeman, 28, has spent his five NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He played in all 16 games last season and started eight, including the last seven of the season. He had 38 tackles and four interceptions.

A fifth-round draft pick of Miami in 2000, Freeman played there under new Packer defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who held that post with the Dolphins for 4 1/2 years before taking over as coach for the last seven games of last season following the firing of Dave Wannstedt.

Little says he is familiar with the Packers' defense under Bates, which is one of the reasons he signed with Green Bay.

"They were a little shocked that I knew the terminology about their defense," Little told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "My rookie year I was in training camp with the Dolphins and I knew some of the terminology then. I live down in Miami, too. I know some of their coverages."

Both Little and Freeman will compete for the starting job at free safety. The Packers also are expected to select a safety in the upcoming NFL Draft. Mark Roman is the only starting safety to return, but his job also will be on the line after he struggled last year.

"As I told coach (Mike) Sherman, all I'm asking for is an opportunity, a chance to compete," Little said. "Nothing has been handed to me. I've earned everything I've gotten. Even if they do hand it to me, I still have to fight and keep my position. My goal is to be the starting free safety for the Green Bay Packers and nothing is going to distract me from that."

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