Free agency preview: DT

If Jackson slips away, Packers will try to sign younger Bernard

The Green Bay Packers may be looking for help in free agency at defensive tackle, especially if tackle Grady Jackson slips away. If the Packers can re-sign Jackson, they likely will hold off on obtaining a tackle until the NFL Draft, or immediately afterward.

The Packers, however, are not real excited about re-signing the 33-year-old Jackson, according to reports. Green Bay, instead, may pursue Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Bernard, who turns 27 on April 19, finished his fourth season with the Seahawks after he was drafted by then-Seahawks GM Ted Thompson in 2002.

The middle of Green Bay's defensive line is loaded with potential, so the Packers would be wise not to overpay for a veteran tackle. Cullen Jenkins, Colin Cole and Corey Williams each received starts last season and performed well. Kenny Peterson, who will be a restricted free agent, showed some flashes in a versatile backup role, and likely will be retained by the Packers. Donnell Washington, a third-round draft pick whose rookie season in 2004 was derailed by a foot injury, has yet to play a snap in a regular-season game after being activated only once last season. The jury is still out on him, but he presumably is stronger and knows the system, so he is facing a make-or-break off-season.

Jackson played in every game of the season for the first time since he was with Oakland in 2001. He was an occasional enforcer in the middle, particularly down near the goal line. He expects to be paid on par with the top nose tackles in the league, but may have to settle on re-signing with Green Bay for a modest deal beefed up with incentives.

Scout.com lists other tackles from around the league scheduled to become free agents on March 3:

• Arizona Cardinals NT Russell Davis, who becomes an unrestricted free agent, is a decent veteran worth bringing back.

• Baltimore Ravens NT Maake Kemoeatu is a big-bodied cog in the middle and has surprising quickness. The Ravens will try to keep Kemoeatu from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

• Seattle Seahawks DT Rocky Bernard collected 8.5 sacks during the regular season. He is an unrestricted free agent, who the Seahawks would like back, but they have several other key players to re-sign.

• Denver Broncos DT Gerard Warren is one of Denver's top free agents. Warren had a good season and was a solution to the Broncos' problems at defensive tackle. But Warren will probably get interest on the open market because he is athletic and strong inside, and solid defensive tackles are always in demand.

• St. Louis Rams DT Damione Lewis hasn't lived up to expectations after being the 12th overall pick in the 2001 draft. He is solid, but he will be a free agent.

• Buffalo Bills DT Ron Edwards, who has suffered two season-ending shoulder injuries, would be a risky re-signing as an unrestricted free agent.

• Baltimore Ravens DT Anthony Weaver would have had his best season except he was bothered by leg and back injuries. The Ravens will try to keep Weaver from becoming an unrestricted free agent in March.

• Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Chris Hovan is an unrestricted free agent. He led the improvement of the Bucs' run defense from 19th in the league to sixth.

• New York Giants DT Kendrick Clancy, acquired as a free agent from Pittsburgh, was a true find. He had a pair of sacks, several hurries and made unexpected penetration from the middle. An attempt to re-sign him will be made.

• Indianapolis Colts DT Larry Tripplett lost weight and showed improved quickness off the ball this season as he had four sacks as a part-time starter. He could look for a starting job elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent.

• Kansas City Chiefs DT Lional Dalton had a considerable drop-off after a promising first year in Kansas City, and his future under new coach Herman Edwards remains uncertain.

• San Francisco 49ers DL Travis Hall is not expected back next season.

• San Diego Chargers DL DeQuincy Scott saw action mostly on passing downs and responded with 4 1/2 sacks. The unrestricted free agent is expected to get an offer from San Diego.


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