Franks, Sherman deals give team stability

Within the span of 24 hours, the Green Bay Packers stepped up to the plate and paid the going rate in the National Football League for a coach with an impressive record, and a tight end with a few Pro Bowls on his resume. It cost the Packers about $34 million to retain Mike Sherman and Bubba Franks, but it was money well spent.

The timeliness of the signings could not have worked out much better for the Packers. Both Sherman and Franks enter the 2005 season as key components of the team and, suddenly, key stabilizers.

With Sherman's future in doubt, the Packers could have left themselves open to disaster this season. Unless you're the New England Patriots, an NFL team normally faces adversity at different points of the season. If the Packers hit a rough stretch with a lame-duck coach, it would be easier for players and even assistant coaches to throw in the towel early in a season. Possibly even Sherman.

But the mild-mannered, never-too-high, never-too-low coach has displayed a way of keeping his team from falling apart. He did it during his first year as head coach. The Packers were 5-7 and coming off a Monday Night Football whipping at Carolina, but Green Bay went on to win four straight games and nearly qualify for the playoffs. Last year, the Packers started the season 1-4, but finished 10-6 and made the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Now that the team's head coach is in more of a secure position, the tendency to give up and look for a better situation next year is less likely to occur. Players and assistant coaches realize that Sherman will be around for at least two more seasons.

The Packers need Franks. That has become very obvious this preseason. He's worth every penny of his contract, especially when comparing his deal to others who underachieve (see Cletidus Hunt) or never meet expectations (see Jamal Reynolds, Joe Johnson, and in some ways, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila). The dropoff from Franks at the tight end position is great. David Martin has flashed his potential but is injury-prone and, therefore, unreliable. Ben Steele has made some progress in training camp, but nowhere near the talent level of Martin or Franks.

For such a key position in the Packers' offense, the Packers simply could not afford to negotiate much longer with Franks. They paid him an average of $4 million per season over seven years, which is what he was seeking when training camp began.

"Bubba's a big part of our offense," said offensive coordinator Tom Rossley. "People don't realize how much of a part he is in our blocking and in our run game. He's a huge part of that, and in our 'red zone' (offense)."

Retaining Sherman and Franks not only benefits the Packers now, but in the long run as well.

Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report. E-mail him with your thoughts and comments at

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