Manuel deserves second chance

PackerReport.com's Todd Korth explains why Packers general manager Ted Thompson was wise to pass on overpaying for Deon Grant

If there was one sign that the Green Bay Packers are content with Marquand Manuel, it appeared last night when free agent safety Deon Grant agreed to a multiyear contract with the Seattle Seahawks.

Grant received a six-year, $30 million deal that clearly indicates that he was the best among available safeties in free agency this off-season. Grant, according to some reports, received a signing bonus of $11.1 million, the biggest given to a safety in NFL history.

Whoa! That's a lot of money for a player who had 60 tackles, two interceptions, and no sacks in 2006 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Grant, who turns 28 next Wednesday, has never been named to the Pro Bowl and is entering his eighth NFL season.

While many Packers fans are whipping on general manager Ted Thompson for his lack of moves in free agency, they should be patting him on the back. Thompson is sticking to his philosophy of not overpaying for free agents, and in the case at safety, rightfully so.

It was a year ago today that the Packers signed Marquand Manuel to a five-year, $10 million contract. Since then, Manuel also has come under heavy criticism, and in many cases rightfully so, because of his play on the field. Early in the 2006 season, Manuel was seemingly AWOL in the Packers' defense, and opponents cashed in with touchdowns.

However, as the season progressed, Manuel improved with the defense as the lines of communication began to take root. Still, the position that Manuel plays remains a weak link in the eyes of many, but not Thompson.

Thompson has said, without uttering a word, that he is willing to give Manuel a second chance this off-season and early in training camp to show that he should remain a starter in the Packers' secondary. Remember that Manuel was bothered by a groin and calf injury last off-season that prevented him from practicing with the defense till mid-August. He watched, but missed participating with the defense in minicamps and the first two, very crucial, weeks of training camp. When the season began, Manuel was ready to play, but obviously not on the same page as others in the secondary. The same can be said for cornerback Charles Woodson.

Manuel finished with a career-high 103 tackles and started all 16 games at strong safety. He led the defense with 1,034 plays (99.0 percent), according to the Packers, and returned a deflected pass for a touchdown. With those numbers, Manuel could have gotten a better deal than Grant in free agency this year, but, instead, Packer fans want his head chopped off.

Give him a chance. Let him continue to prove, like he did in the second half of last season, that he is the answer, not the problem. If he is unable to follow through by the second week in camp, then the Packers, no doubt, will insert a safety that they select in the NFL draft. Who knows, maybe that safety will be Florida's Reggie Nelson, who had an outstanding workout earlier this week in Gainesville.

In the meantime, bear with Thompson and Manuel. Believe it or not, many Seahawks fans actually miss Manuel and are happy to see Ken Hamlin go. Maybe that's why the Seahawks overpaid for Grant. Cut Manuel a little slack this off-season. He is healthier than last off-season and is more familiar with the defense. Cut Thompson some slack, too. Why pay players who have no chance of being difference-makers the kind of money that difference-makers get?


Todd Korth

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


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