Random thoughts on Favre, free agency

Look for Favre to announce return; Williams trade; players on Packers' radar; trading for Taylor

Will he or won't he?
Some have speculated that the world is heading towards Armageddon with events that have transpired the last several years. Some Green Bay fans thought that their own Packer world was ending on Thursday, when a bogus retirement story on Brett Favre was posted on the Packers own web site. The headline was 'Favre to Retire.' It turned out to be a mistake that caused quite a bit of anxiety throughout Packer Nation.

The announcement was pulled off the web site in a manner of minutes. As team spokesman Jeff Blumb explained, "As most media outlets have done, Packers.com each year prepares its Web site to handle the traffic in case Brett Favre does retire," Blumb said in an e-mail. "The URL for this 'Breaking News' page, which also was used last year when Brett announced his return, was accidentally posted as live, when it should have been disabled until needed, if needed at all."

The story was shocking to say the least, especially since team President Mark Murphy had said Wednesday that he expected Favre to announce that he will return, and perhaps before the end of the week. General Manager Ted Thompson also chimed in on the subject.

"Obviously, it caused a lot of consternation and angst for our fans," Thompson said. "But there's nothing there. We'll look into it and see how it happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Favre is expected to make a decision next week, based on a source close to the Mississippi gunslinger. There has been some speculation in some NFL circles that Favre will indeed retire. But I don't see that happening. Yes, I'm sure that loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game still stings. But Favre still loves the game. Favre still loves the players that compete with him like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. But most importantly, Favre can still play, and play very well.

Favre was named the starting QB for the NFC this past year. The 2007 season was the best season for Favre in many years and in many respects. Under head coach Mike McCarthy, Favre has obviously improved. His completion percentage of 66.5 was the best of his career. His seven 300-yard passing games tied a career high, and his 4,155 passing yards (third-best of his career), 95.7 passer rating (third), 15 interceptions (tied for third) and 356 completions (fourth) were among the best marks of his 17-year career.

I'll bet the NFC North opponents were wishing that Favre indeed retired on Thursday. Favre is 22-10 against the Chicago Bears. Favre is 23-9 against the Detroit Lions. Favre is 17-14 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears have started 20 quarterbacks since Favre started his unbelievable starting streak (253 games, 275 including playoffs) on Sept. 27, 1992. The Lions have started 15 different QBs. The Vikings have used 12 different signal callers.

I think Favre will return. And he should. The Packers came within a whisker of getting to the Super Bowl in January. The team is young and getting better. Thompson will improve the team even more in the draft and free agency. Plus, Favre can still get the job done, and done very effectively. The arm strength is still there. Favre is less mobile as he was in the past, but still has the ability to escape a pass rush. And I think the desire is still there as well.

Free agency and other possible moves
The first move the Packers made in free agency was trading DT Corey Williams to the Cleveland Browns for a second round draft choice. The Packers now have three picks in the first two rounds. The team will chose 30th, 56th and 60th.

Thompson now has the ammunition to move up in the first round if he sees a player that he is high on selecting. The Packers deemed Williams expendable with the depth at defensive tackle. Depth like Ryan Pickett, Justin Harrell, Johnny Jolly, Colin Cole and Daniel Muir. Plus, Cullen Jenkins can also slide in there from DE.

The Packers also signed their first free agent, OT Joe Toledo. Toledo was a fourth round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2006, but hasn't seen the field due to injuries. Like a lot of offensive linemen with the Packers, Toledo is very versatile, as he can also play guard. Toledo is 6-5 and 325 pounds and played his college ball at Washington.

The Packers also are supposedly interested in a couple of more free agents. One is DE Corey Smith of the Lions, who is expected to make a visit to the Packers early next week. Smith is a reserve DE, but did start two games for the Lions and had two and a half sacks, plus three forced fumbles. McCarthy knows Smith from his days in San Francisco as Smith was with the Niners in 2005-2006.

The Packers are also interested in LB Brandon Chillar of the St. Louis Rams. According to one of his agents, the Packers were one of several teams who called expressing interest in the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Chillar, who some scouts think heads the second tier of free-agent linebackers behind Chicago's Lance Briggs and Arizona's Calvin Pace.

Chillar, who had 85 tackles, 2½ sacks, four passes knocked down and three forced fumbles in 15 games - 14 of them starts - fits what the Packers seek in a strong-side linebacker. He has size and explosiveness for playing the run and decent short-area speed for covering tight ends.

Chillar would provide competition for Brady Poppinga. The only real depth the Packers have at LB right now is Desmond Bishop, and he is more of an inside linebacker. Chiller is visiting another team on Monday and then will make a decision on whether he will go to Green Bay for a visit.

Some rumors swirling in Green Bay have the Packers talking to the Dolphins about trading for DE Jason Taylor. Do I think it's possible? Perhaps. Ron Wolf would be a perfect mediator between his protege Thompson and his good friend Bill Parcells. Parcells is trying to get the Dolphins younger and just recently released LB Zach Thomas, who turns 35 on Sept. 1.

Taylor has 117 career sacks, including 77.5 the past six seasons. The move would be similar to the move Wolf made when he acquired Reggie White in free agency in 1993. Imagine Taylor and Aaron Kampman as bookends on the Packers defensive line. Jenkins could be a 'tweener and slide between DT and DE in the rotation. If a move to acquire Taylor is made, then Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila would need to take a pay cut or possibly be released.

What would the price be to acquire Taylor? Taylor will be 34 years old on Sept. 1. I think it would probably take a third or a fourth round draft choice to make a deal. Or perhaps a couple of draft choices, like maybe a fourth and a seventh. If Wolf helps out in the negotiations, then the price may not be too severe. Besides, Thompson is pretty shrewd. Just take a look at the recent Williams deal with the Browns.

Finally, I think the Packers might look at another free agent that hasn't gotten much play in Green Bay or nationally. That would be RB Derrick Ward of the Giants. When the Packers made the trade for Ryan Grant with the Giants in the 2007 pre-season, one of the players the team inquired about was Ward. The coaching staff must feel that he can play in their system. Ward made five starts for the Giants and had 602 yards rushing, plus caught 26 passes and had 4 total touchdowns.

A move like that could re-unite Ward and Grant. Ward is a big back as well at 5-11 and 228 pounds, and is only 27 years old. Time will tell, but the Packers should make sure that their offensive backfield will have plenty of depth. Free agency can provide that. The draft can provide that. Thompson knows that a few key acquisitions can get the team to the Big Dance they barely missed this season ... the Super Bowl.

Bob Fox is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.


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