No deal might mean no Franks

Lost amid the considerable hullabaloo over Javon Walker's holdout is the fact tight end Bubba Franks is unsigned, unhappy with negotiations and contemplating his own holdout.

Before the start of free agency, the Packers made Franks their transition player, giving him a one-year tender worth $2.095 million — the average of the top-10 highest-paid players at his position. Franks has yet to sign the tender, however, making him a long shot to be on the practice field when training camp convenes next week.

Friday was the deadline for other teams to make an offer to Franks. With that deadline past, Franks can only negotiate with the Packers. Those negotiations, however, seem stuck in neutral. Little movement has been made as Franks seeks the security of a long-term contract.

"I guess you can never tell until the 11th hour," Franks' agent, Gene Mato, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for Saturday's edition. "But unfortunately, it doesn't look like he's going to be there. However, he really wants to be there. To this point, I don't believe the team has stepped up."

The rhetoric, if not as venomous, sounds an awful lot like Drew Rosenhaus describing contract talks concerning Walker.

Mato, however, wouldn't go as far as to say Franks will definitely be a no-show for the start of training camp.

"We have not made that decision as of yet. Bubba's really focused on a long-term deal. Bubba's every intention has been to retire as a Packer."

Unless Franks is asking for a monster contract — Mato said the two sides are "very far apart" — the Packers' delay in coming to terms with the tight end is hard to understand. The Packers are pressed tight to the salary cap, but a long-term contract with Franks would give the team significant relief. Even though he hasn't signed the tender, Franks is counting the full $2.095 million against the cap. A long-term deal, however, likely would save the team hundreds of thousands of cap dollars since Franks could be signed to a low first-year base salary and the signing bonus would be spread over the length of the pact.

Meanwhile, an argument can be made that the Packers need Franks more than they need Walker. At least in the case of Walker, Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson are quality starters, Antonio Chatman proved a valuable reserve, and the rookies — especially second-rounder Terrence Murphy — look like they can contribute.

Behind Franks is a cast of mediocrity. David Martin, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury, has never played up to expectations. Third-stringer Ben Steele is a decent blocker but a liability in the passing game. The others, Sean McHugh, Garrett Cross and Steve Fleming, have never played an NFL down and aren't highly regarded.

The Packers rely heavily on the tight end — often using two or three at a time — and if Franks is absent, much of the playbook can be discarded.

"Put it this way: I wouldn't draft those players on my fantasy team," Mato said of the players behind Franks on the depth chart.

No doubt trying to distance this situation with the one involving Rosenhaus and Walker, Mato said: "I'm not controversial. Bubba's not controversial. We understand the business side of this. In this situation, we don't understand where the team is coming from.

"Bubba believes that he has done everything that has been asked of him from a football standpoint to be rewarded with a long-term deal. He played out his rookie contract never asking for an extension and never threatening a holdout even though he has been in three Pro Bowls. He has never complained about lack of receptions. He has always been a team player. Off the field, he has never been in any trouble."


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