Which RB will receive an extension?

As much as players seem to let up after signing a mega contract, they always seem to turn it on in a contract year. If that's the case, the Green Bay Packers' offensive backfield should have another solid season, despite the free agency losses of guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle.

Running backs Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Tony Fisher, and fullback William Henderson are in the final season of their contracts. Green signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension ($5 million signing bonus) prior to 2001 season. Davenport signed a one-year tender ($656,000) as a restricted free agent in April, and Fisher signed a one-year, $660,000 contract extension last December. Henderson is entering the final season of a four-year, $4.25 million contract ($1.15 million signing bonus) that he signed in February of 2002.

All four players are expected to make the Packers' 53-man opening day roster, and count on this as the final season that the four will be playing together. During the last three seasons, the Packers have featured one of the top backfields in the NFL behind the aforementioned backs. Henderson was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career and Green made the trip to Hawaii for the fourth straight season.

Who will the Packers try to keep? One, two, all or none of the backs? The hunch here is Green and Fisher. Here's why:

Fisher likely will be a no-brainer to pursue because his price tag will not be as high as Green or Davenport. Plus, Fisher is much more durable than the oft-injured Davenport, and a little more more versatile.

If Green, 28, gets off to a good start this season, he will be able to command a lucrative contract, despite the fact that he is past his peak seasons in the NFL. Green is inching toward the age of 30, which is considered over the hill for starting running backs in the NFL. Green's age probably will keep his price tag down, and that may allow the salary-cap challenged Packers a chance to retain him. Still, if Green and his agent are unable to work out an extension during the season, Green probably will be able to command more than what the Packers will offer on the open market during free agency in 2006.

Green keeps himself in excellent condition. The Packers would be wise to try to re-sign him for two to three more seasons, if they can get him at a reasonable price.

Davenport will have to prove in training camp and early in the season that he can stay clear of the training room. In his first three seasons, the talented running back has been slowed by injuries from head to toe – eye (cracked orbital bone), shoulder, hamstring, and foot. Davenport is coming off an off-season shoulder surgery, so he probably will be limited early in training camp. His big test will come during the season. Davenport can be an explosive back, and has deceptive speed when healthy. He probably could start on many NFL teams, so look for him play hard and prove that he is worthy of a big contract this season.

If Davenport, 26, displays durability and is an effective rusher, it is possible that the Packers will pursue him with an extension over Green.

Henderson isn't supposed to be playing football. Most fullbacks in the NFL are long retired by the age of 34, but big Willie is still hanging around and playing at a Pro Bowl level. Like Green, Henderson continues to keep himself in excellent shape, as he displayed in the recent June minicamp, and is a team leader. Henderson is valuable not only in the backfield but on special teams. In Henderson, the Packers have a coach in uniform. If every player on the Packers' roster had the heart of Henderson, Green Bay would be Super Bowl champions year after year.

But with backup Nick Luchey under contract for three more seasons, this probably will be Henderson's final year in Green Bay. The Packers simply will have to begin developing a younger fullback next season.

Enjoy watching Green Bay's backfield while you can. Next year it will have some new faces.


Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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