Enviable position

At least for 2006, Packers in a win-win situation

Whether the NFL Players Association and National Football League owners agree or disagree on a new labor contract by Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers will be in a win-win situation - at least for 2006. Beyond 2006, however, the Packers could be in deep trouble without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Packers are a reported $19 million to $22 million under the anticipated salary cap of $95 million. If a new CBA is reached, the cap may be even higher for 2006, which will give the Packers even more money to spend on free agents and draft picks. If the NFL owners and union fail to reach an agreement this weekend, the Packers will find themselves in the middle of a big rummage sale with only a few other buyers, namely Minnesota, Arizona and Cleveland. Green Bay will have a pocket full of cash to find some gems at a low, low price in free agency. It will be a buyers market because the rules of free agency will change somewhat, favoring the owners and encouraging a new CBA.

If that happens, Green Bay will be in position to fill many weak areas of the roster with quality veteran players without mortgaging the future of the team. Meanwhile, teams like the Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets that gambled a few years ago on a new CBA being in place now when forking over huge contracts to their players will be dumping veterans left and right.

Ted Thompson has vowed, since taking over as general manager of the Packers, not to overspend on veteran free agents. That's wise and a big reason why the Packers are where they are at today with the salary cap. If a new CBA isn't in place by Monday, he still won't have to spend big money to get quality help. The Packers are hot after Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, and probably will make a play for him with or without a new CBA. But they also could pursue a top-gun linebacker like San Francisco's Julian Peterson aside from re-signing defensive end Aaron Kampman.

Brett Favre decides to retire? No problem, the Packers may even have enough cash to pursue Drew Brees, or at least a quality veteran backup like Arizona's Josh McCown or Cincinnati's Jon Kitna. Ryan Longwell bolts for a warm weather team? The Colts' Mike Vanderjagt may be more affordable than in past off-seasons in free agency.

While it's difficult to image the NFL owners and management not eventually ironing their differences over revenue sharing, this saga may linger on for who knows how long? If it does, 2007 will be an uncapped year, thus, eliminating the tiny-market Packers any chance of spending money with the Jerry Jones's and Daniel Snyders of the league. The Packers suddenly become the equivalent of the Milwaukee Brewers trying to compete with the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.

Hopefully a new CBA will be in place by Sunday night, if not sooner. The fact that the owners and union were willing to meet this weekend after talks broke off on Thursday is an indication that they want to get a deal in place. That's the best-case scenario, not only for the Packers, but the entire league and its fans.

In the meantime, the Packers have a chance to get better in a hurry through free agency and the draft.


Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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