The NFL is a league fueled by wake-up calls (just ask Donovan McNabb). Barely any jobs are guaranteed nowadays. Teams are more willing than ever to sacrifice high picks in the draft to motivate others who are: A) chronically injured, or B) underperforming.
Some fight back.
After San Diego handed a $40.5 million contract to Philip Rivers in the 2004 NFL Draft, Brees didn't demand a trade in disgust. He delivered with silent vengeance. In the three seasons since the Rivers pick, Brees has thrown for 11,153 passing yards, 77 touchdowns and only 33 picks while undergoing complete reconstruction of his throwing shoulder and an entire city.
Green Bay continues to accumulate youthful depth at every position, but a handful of Mike Sherman's outcasts are still treading water … barely. They are a dying contingency that faces a do-or-die training camp. As Ted Thompson injects his own players into the team, earning one of those precious 53 roster spots - let alone starting - becomes tougher than ever for the slumping Sherman leftovers.
In three seasons, Thompson has sliced and diced the roster to a point where only 15 players remain from Mike Sherman's final season as G.M. (2004). Three holdovers particularly are at a crossroads. Each is among the team's 12 highest paid players and noticeably past their prime.
So will they flunk or flourish? The true measurement comes in just over a month. But here is some early speculation.
Numbers Game Could Doom Ferguson
In the June-to-July NFL lull, no Packer has received more buzz than Ferguson. He knows he's on the bubble. Mike McCarthy knows he's on the bubble. Even the guy fetching Ferguson's H20 knows he's on the bubble.
After six seasons in Green Bay, expect that bubble to finally burst into the waiver wire.
Ferguson changed his number, is willing to line up at multiple receiver positions, and seems to have adopted a fresh, upbeat attitude. Unfortunately, something else has changed - his competition. Unlike last summer, Ferguson doesn't have a pair of Europa-esque receivers, Marc Boerigter and Rod Gardner, challenging him.
Fighting for the three backup spots behind Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are Ruvell Martin, Carlyle Holiday, James Jones, David Clowney, Shaun Bodiford, Carlton Brewster, Koren Robinson and of course, Ferguson among a batch of others.
Unless he completely bombs in pure Maurice Clarett fashion, Jones will make the team. A surprising third round pick, Jones was obviously someone Green Bay's brass had pinpointed for quite some time.
That leaves two spots up for grabs. Training camp will tell all, but Ruvell Martin seemed to gain Brett Favre's trust over the last four games last year, unlike the oft-injured Ferguson could over six years. Heading into camp, Martin (6-4, 210) and even the intriguing Carlyle Holiday (6-2, 220) should have an upper hand on the former Aggie. Throw in the raw Clowney, the group's only true burner, and the odds are even more stacked against Ferguson. It'd sure take a lot of dropped passes for the coaching staff to cut loose Clowney's blazing track speed.
Bodiford and Brewster? Longshots, maybe. But they're hardly pushovers.
It's an annoying re-run. By now Ferguson must be fed up with the doubters. But unless he blows the team away this summer, Ferguson will be released. His kamikaze value as a special teams ace has evaporated and the vibe is that the team is cleaning house at the returner positions.
The biggest factor working against Ferguson is that Jones, Clowney, Martin, Holiday, Bodiford, and Brewster bring unknown potential. The team already knows Ferguson's ceiling … and that he's scheduled to make $1.8 million in 2007.
Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University and frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com. Dunne takes a closer look at Bubba Franks in the second part of his series on Friday on PackerReport.com.