Schulters could be upgrade at safety

June 1 traditionally has been a big day of NFL transactions. While most teams have done their dirty work already, one big-name player who likely will be set free — and could attract the Packers' attention — is Tennessee Titans safety Lance Schulters.

Schulters played in just three games last season before suffering a season-ending foot injury. He says he's healthy again, but the salary-cap-strapped Titans seem happy with his replacement, Lamont Thompson. With Schulters counting $4.2 million against the 2005 salary cap, the Titans likely will deem the veteran expendable.

Schulters, who turned 30 on Friday, would provide the run-stopping presence the Packers lack among their current group of safeties. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, Schulters is bigger and more physical than incumbent Mark Roman (5-11, 184) and newcomers Arturo Freeman (6-0, 195) and Earl Little (6-0, 198).

When healthy from 2000-03, Schulters averaged 80 tackles per season. In his only full season as a starter, 2002, former Miami Dolphin Freeman tallied 80 tackles but has combined for 61 during the last two seasons. While being a regular starter from 2001-04, former Cleveland Brown Little averaged 64 tackles. He is not considered strong in run defense.

Schulters has more big-play ability than the trio, as well, although it's been a feast-or-famine sort of thing. He has 15 interceptions in seven seasons. Six of those came in 1999 — his only Pro Bowl season — with San Francisco, three came in 2001 with San Francisco and six came in 2002 with Tennessee.

While Schulters has been a regular starter throughout his career — starting all 76 games he's played in the last six seasons — Freeman has 29 starts in 72 games in his five seasons and Little has 52 starts in 103 games in his seven seasons. Little has 18 career interceptions, including 15 in 2001-03, while Freeman has five career interceptions, including four last season.

One catch in landing Schulters, however, is the Packers' salary-cap situation. The Packers are about $4.6 million under the cap, and nearly all of that will be paid to the rookies. According to the NFL Players Association, the Packers are allotted $4.48 million to sign their 11 draft picks and 10 undrafted rookies. With new TV money coming into play for 2006, the cap is expected to soar many millions of dollars over this year's $85.5 million, so the Packers could strike with a modest first-year salary and a significant raise for next year.

Though he was healthy, Schulters did not participate in the Titans' postdraft minicamp. Before the camp, Titans general manager Floyd Reese and Schulters' agent elected to keep Schulters on the sideline. That signaled the Titans' likely intentions when the calendar flips to June, with neither party wanting to take a chance on Schulters suffering an injury.

"It just feels funny because you want to be out there and practice," Schulters told reporters during the minicamp. "I want to practice. I want to play. But that is out of my hands. I understand the decision and where they're coming from. They are just concerned. They know the business side and they're trying to work this out."

Schulters said he was willing to take a pay cut to stay in Tennessee, but he also considers himself a starter. He doesn't want to be a reserve — or be paid like one.

"I am willing to give a bit, but not anything drastic. ... I know my worth," Schulters said.


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