Unit by unit: Special teams

Longwell poised to sign with warm-weather team in free agency

Kicker - Ryan Longwell
Punters - B.J. Sander, Ryan Flinn, Jon Ryan, Ryan Dutton
Long snapper - Rob Davis
Kickoff returners - Ahmad Carroll, Terrence Murphy, Andrae Thurman
Punt returner - Antonio Chatman

The Green Bay Packers will likely make a strong attempt to re-sign veteran kicker Ryan Longwell in free agency, but the chances of him returning to Green Bay for a 10th season are slim. Longwell resides in the Orlando area in the off-season and has made it no secret to those within the organization that he wants to kick in a warmer climate.

With Tampa Bay seeking a kicker, and his friend and former holder Josh Bidwell on the Buccaneers roster, Longwell seems poised to sign with Tampa Bay this off-season. Longwell has said all the right things regarding a new contract with Green Bay, but also knows that it is next to impossible to earn a spot on a Pro Bowl roster kicking half the season in Lambeau Field. Longwell, an avid golfer, probably will accept less money to kick more often in warmer weather than to return to Green Bay for more money. Bidwell did just that in 2004 when he signed with the Buccaneers and it has paid off in the form of a Pro Bowl berth.

Longwell is coming of his least productive season (90 points, 25th in the league) in a franchise-record-setting career. He missed seven of 27 field goal attempts, his highest number of misfires since he had a career-high 11 misses in 2001.

Veteran long snapper Rob Davis, another free-agent-to-be, had a rare bad snap that resulted in a costly extra-point miss by Longwell in a 17-16 loss to the Buccaneers.

B.J. Sander, a controversial third-round draft pick by then-GM Mike Sherman in 2004, struggled in his first season handling the punting chores. His gross average of 39.2 yards and net average of 33.9 ranked him 30th and 31st in the league, respectively. To make matters worse, he suffered a season-ending knee injury on a nasty hit during a punt return Dec. 19.

Ryan Flinn, who had been bartending in Florida, wasn't any better the last two games with gross and net averages of 36.3 and 29.3.

Jon Ryan, whom the Packers signed last week, led the Canadian Football League in punting last year, and, suddenly, is a favorite to handle the punting duties in 2006 for the Packers.

Antonio Chatman is sure-handed and had an 85-yard runback for a touchdown in the Christmas Day loss to Chicago, but he wasn't spectacular in 2005. He averaged 8.5 yards per punt return to rank in the top half of the league.

The early-season injuries to Terrence Murphy and Najeh Davenport made for a mess with the kick-return unit, which averaged a league-low 18.9 yards.

The Packers' coverage units were generally solid, with safety Marviel Underwood (23) and linebacker Brady Poppinga (22) ranking leading the team in special teams tackles.

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