Nick Barnett is a good linebacker and, believe it or not, has started to grow on me. Do I wish he was more physical at the point of attack? Yes, I do. Do I wish he brought more of a sense of nastiness to the middle of the field? You bet I do. Does it bother me that he does that stupid sword chop, or whatever it is, at the wrong times? You better believe it. Does it bother me that sometimes offensive linemen overpower him, and he can't get off the blocks? Again, I have to say yes.
These are all things that may contribute to why the Packers haven't done the right thing in my mind at this time, which is extend his contract and give him a new deal. With all the things that I have mentioned that he doesn't do well, we now have to look at what he does do well. One is he stays healthy. I believe he has only missed four games in his career in Green Bay, which is pretty good. Also, he was drafted for his ability to run as well and for his coverage skills. He is still one of the best when it comes to covering backs out the backfield. Also, when it comes to making plays from sideline to sideline he is one of the best in the league. Another reason I would lock him up is the youth of the linebackers. This group could be together for a long time and the more they play together the better they will get.
The other thing I am looking at is the message that the Packers are sending. Are they saying that they value Cullen Jenkins over Nick Barnett because that's the message that I am getting, and I'm sure that's what Nick might be feeling. He has seen the Packers in the last two years throw a bunch of money at other players such Donald Driver, Al Harris, Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins and Charles Woodson. Trust me, waiting patiently sounds good, but it's easier said than done because as athletes they are always comparing themselves to others. It's the nature of the beast and unfortunately money becomes the measuring stick after Super Bowl rings and Pro Bowls.
I hope that Nick Barnett's business decision didn't or doesn't affect how the organization views him, even though it might be hard to separate them but the organization has to. What I am talking about was Nick's decision to open up a night club in Green Bay while he is still playing. It became something that I don't think Green Bay was ready for and that I don't think Nick thought through. And because he really didn't see the big picture he allowed his name and reputation to be questioned because of how he became the face that everyone saw whenever there were problems at his club. Without him realizing it or understanding it the story became about Nick Barnett, the new business owner, against Green Bay, the old school. Unfortunately, because of this there are some fans that think he doesn't deserve a new contract.
I really hope Ted Thompson does the right thing. I wasn't always a Nick fan, but he has grown on me because I finally did see some toughness when he played with the broken hand last year. Not only that, but I also saw him have a mean streak and his play got better. Plus, this team can't afford to have this guy playing in the last year of his contract because that will mess up some of the chemistry that has been formed by him, A.J. Hawk and Brady Poppinga. Players will say that contract talks don't affect them, and I will say that's a bunch of crap. Anytime you don't know your future it affects you to some degree. If we throw Abdul Hodge into the mix this team has depth and a bright future at this position. Barnett is the veteran of the group and the Packers need the leadership he provides.
Let's look at what he wants and let's ask ourselves if he being unreasonable. I would say NO. If you look at some of the money other linebackers have gotten for doing less I would think the Packers should strike now and lock him up for the future. To do that the Packers must ask themselves where Nick fits on the money tree compared to the rest of the linebackers in the league. I believe he is right at the top of the second level. The first level consist of the Urlachers, Porters, Briggs, Peters, and maybe one or two others that fit in this bracket. As you see, there aren't that many. So as you look at where Barnett fits into the mix he deserves to be paid just under these guys and I believe that's all he is asking for so WHY NOT PAY THE MAN?
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at email@example.com.