The Packers were required by the National Football League to make tender offers prior to the start of free agency Sunday night. There are three levels of tenders, which carry three salary levels for restricted free agents - $712,000 (level 1); $1.55 million (level 2); $2.07 million (level 3) – plus three levels of compensation if the player is signed by a new team.
Chatman and Franz were scheduled to become restricted free agents, but now become free agents at midnight Sunday because they did not receive a tender offer. The Packers reportedly submitted offers to three of their four exclusive-rights free agents – defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Colin Cole, and cornerback Jason Horton - but decided against Thurman. Since Jenkins, Cole and Horton are entering their third seasons, their contracts are worth $385,000 each, and they can only negotiate with the Packers.
Peterson received the lowest qualifying offer, which requires the Packers to offer a one-year, $712,000 contract. The Packers have the right to retain him by matching any offer sheets he would sign with another team. If they don't, they receive a draft choice as compensation from that team equal to the round in which Peterson was selected (third round, 2003). Peterson also could remain with the Packers by signing the tender offer for 2006, or by negotiating a long-term contract with Green Bay.
Chatman served as Green Bay's main punt returner the last three seasons with mixed results. He rarely turned the ball over, but he also rarely had a game-breaking return. He finished 13th in the NFL in punt returns last season with an average of 8.5 yards per return, but that was aided by an 85-yard return for a touchdown Dec. 25 against Chicago. Chatman played a prominent role a reserve receiver last season due to injuries to Javon Walker, Terrence Murphy and Robert Ferguson. He finished second on the team in receptions with a career-high of 49 and two starts.
The Packers released Thurman at the end of training camp, then re-signed him midway through the season after he was released by the Tennessee Titans. Thurman had an opportunity as a receiver and return specialist, but literally fumbled it away. His costly fumble late in a game against Philadelphia in November allowed the Eagles to win the game. Like Chatman, Thurman is not a big, physical receiver that the Packers are seeking, which is likely another reason why they decided not to make a tender offer to him.
A restricted free agent may negotiate and sign with any team during the first six weeks of free agency for draft-choice compensation, but the player's old team retains the right to match any offer. A low tender gives the old team the right of first refusal; mid-level a first-round draft pick; and high-level a first- and third-round draft pick.