Sydney Speaks! Don't be scared to play

With free agency officially under way,'s Harry Sydney offers his thoughts on what the Packers must do in this critical time of the off-season.

Free agency started bright and early this morning with teams wheeling and dealing, trying to sign that player that will take them to the promised land. Every one is chasing the Lombardi Trophy. The salary cap is set at $109 million, which is considerably larger than in past seasons, especially with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement put into place.

It will be interesting to see just how much the Packers are willing to play this game. Last year one of their best moves during this time was signing their own in Aaron Kampman, and he rewarded the team by having an incredible year. Kampman almost surpassed Reggie White's sack total for a single season. I will be the first, when they signed him for that amount, to say I was shocked, but I will be the first to say I was wrong, and I have. This was money ($21 million over four years) was well spent.

The Packer organization last year, when it came to signing people, hit more than they missed. Ryan Pickett did an outstanding job of holding down the middle of the defense, no question, but with all the good there will always be some bad which we all know was Marquand Manuel. The Packers will have to address that position this off-season whether its through the draft or free agency.

I know that the Packers already made a splash by signing Cullen Jenkins for $16 million over the next four years, including a $6 million signing bonus. I hope they are smarter with their money. I like Cullen, but I think they could have gone about getting him a different way. They could have put the second round tag on him so any other team that wanted him would have to give up a second-round pick and from there you gauge the interest. If teams come a calling, then see what you can get with that second rounder. Then if no team comes knocking on the door you can still do a deal, but it might not have cost them as much.

I feel the Packers rushed the gun because even though teams aren't supposed to talk to their own players at certain times everyone does. The Packers could have said to his agent, ‘Just give us the last chance to match what a team is going to offer.' I don't think anyone would offer Cullen the money he got from the Packers.

With the Cullen Jenkins signing, along with the Donald Driver and Al Harris extensions, how do you think Nick Barnett is feeling? He is seeing the Packers throw money at all the other players that are of value to this organization. Don't you think he must be wondering, ‘What about me?'

As I see it, even though the games officially started this morning the wheeling and dealings have already begun, haven't they? This week Nick Barnett was on the Jim Rome show and just happened to mention that he was looking for a contract extension before next year's free agency starts, or he might just test the waters. Let me translate that for you, "Pay Me Or Lose Me because once I'm out there I'm gone."

The Packers must not wait this year. They must strike and strike fast, and they should and could. They are not in the same place as last year. They aren't coming off of a 4-12 season with a new head coach anymore. There is no question that the direction this team is taking is up, especially with Brett Favre coming back, and letting the world know he's coming back in plenty of time. This is a team that went 8-8 and finished the season with an opportunity to make it to the playoffs, if certain things fell into place. The defense is attractive because it is surrounded by plenty of young talent sprinkled in with key veterans, especially at the corners. A good safety would be crazy to not want to come and play on this team.

My suggestion to the Packers is whoever they have earmarked on their board as the best safety in free agency, go get him and don't mess around. I feel the same way about the tight end position. I think that Daniel Graham is the guy and the Packers need to whine and dine him and give him what he needs to put his name on the contract.

Even though Randy Moss isn't a free agent they need to bring him into the fold as well. Look at what is happening in the NFC. If the Packers pull the trigger with these guys that I have talked about, just ask yourself who in this conference would be better? Not only that, but if you go get Moss, don't you think Graham might want to come to the Packers? Who wouldn't want to come to a team that has a chance to win it all!!!!

The Packers are very close to getting back on top of the NFC, but they have to go for it. The time for action is now. I understand that the Packers don't want to just give money away and go through what the 49ers and teams did by putting themselves behind the eight ball financially.

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have done a good job of building a solid foundation with a good mixture of young and old players when compared to the rest of the NFL. They have quality guys, but they can't stop now. My advice to the money guys is DON'T BE SCARED TO PLAY!

Harry Sydney

Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at

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