The Packers would be wise to pay a premium for a tight end who is among the best in the NFL at this time. Franks has never missed a game as a pro, playing in 80 straight games. He has become an effective blocker and is a big target in the "red zone" for quarterback Brett Favre. He has good hands and consistently gets the job done.
Still, some argue that Franks is not worth a hill of beans. The rap against him ever since he came to Green Bay is his inability to stretch the field over the middle with long catches. He is improving that part of his game, and had some longer catches toward the end of last season. But how can he continue to work on that with Favre if he is not in camp? For now, the always-teasing-but-never-producing David Martin is getting most of the reps. Ben Steele and Sean McHugh also are in the mix, but none of the above compare to Franks.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported recently that there are three NFL tight ends with contracts averaging more than $4 million per year: Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez ($4.785 million average, $10 million in bonuses), Baltimore's Todd Heap ($4.58 million average, $9 million in bonuses) and Atlanta's Alge Crumpler ($4.429 million average, $9 million in bonuses). Gonzalez signed his deal in September 2002, Heap in June and Crumpler last October. Those are cream of the crop tight ends, but Franks is not far down the list.
Franks, 27, is a top 10 tight end in the NFL. Heck, he's one of the Packers' best tight ends ever. He need just one catch this year to surpass No. 3 Mark Chmura (188 catches) and 15 to pass No. 2 Ed West (202) on the team's all-time tight ends list. Former Pro Bowl tight end Paul Coffman had 322 catches with the Packers from 1978-85.
With all of the money that the Packers have squandered on Cletidus Hunt, or the one-dimensional Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila with potential in mind, why not pay a player who has and will be productive for years to come?
Fortunately both sides are working on a long-term deal. If Franks signs the one-year transition tag tender of $2.095 million, he will count much more against the team's salary cap than if he worked a long-term deal. Under a longer deal, his base salary could be as low as $540,000, plus the amoratized portion of his signing bonus.
While it was great for the Packers to have Walker out on the field catching passes from Favre today, it will be even better for Franks to be doing the same - ASAP.
Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.