Door wide open for Humphrey

With Bubba Franks out of the picture in Green Bay, look for tight end Tory Humphrey to bounce back from an ankle injury and seize the backup spot behind Donald Lee.

By terminating the contract of Bubba Franks on Wednesday, the Green Bay Packers indicated what at least one of their top priorities will be this offseason - improve the depth at tight end. That's obvious and much needed.

Though Franks had a career in Green Bay worthy of Packer Hall of Fame induction, he simply has been underperforming his contract (seven-year, $28 million extension he received in 2005) in recent years, which made him expendable. Franks lost the top job last offseason to Donald Lee after seven years, sustained a knee injury in Week 6 that cost him eight games and finished with a career-low 18 catches with three touchdowns. Franks has only 68 receptions and four TDs in the last three seasons.

If the sub-par numbers weren't enough, Franks' scheduled $3 million base salary was the final nail in the coffin for his stay in Green Bay.

With Franks no longer in the picture, look for Tory Humphrey to seize a golden opportunity to back up Lee. While Humphrey missed all of last season with a broken ankle that he sustained in training camp and has played little since he signed on with the Packers in 2005, he had showed great progress last offseason in Green Bay's minicamps and Organized Team Activities practices. If he wouldn't have sustained the injury on the first day of training camp, chances are he would have backed up Lee last season, and Franks may have been released sooner.

"He's a very good athlete, he catches the ball very good, he runs well," said Packers general manager Ted Thompson of Humphrey last August. "Quite frankly, athletically I think he can hold his own with most of them. It's a shame because he had a good offseason and we were looking forward to seeing him compete."

Humphrey has played mainly on special teams. At 6-foot-2, 250, he's about the same size as Lee, a few inches shorter. But given a chance, he has all the ability to produce and be an upgrade for the Packers immediately as the No. 2 tight end.

The Packers are expected to select a tight end in the draft, and sign others in free agency to compete against Humphrey and Ryan Krause. However, if Humphrey can continue on the progress he made from last year, the Packers are already ahead of the game in their effort to improve the tight end position.

Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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