Packer Report continues its position-by-position preview of free agency with the fullbacks. The deadline to name franchise players is Feb. 19, and free agency begins on Feb. 27.
The Packers' needs:
Green Bay's need for a new fullback depends on coach Mike McCarthy's vision of the offense.
If he's happy with fullbacks who are decent at everything – including special teams – but aren't dominant blockers, he'll probably head into 2009 with the incumbents: Korey Hall and John Kuhn. Hall, a converted college linebacker, and Kuhn, a restricted free agent, can do just about everything, and their athleticism comes in handy on zone running plays. But neither can be counted on to open a hole on third-and-1.
But if McCarthy wants to add a more physical touch to the offense, then he might be intrigued by one of several powerful veteran fullbacks who will be available when free agency opens on Feb. 27.
— Seattle's Leonard Weaver, an undrafted free agent in 2005, headlines a list of four Pro Bowl fullbacks. The 244-pounder is a powerful blocker with good hands (39 catches in 2007, 20 in 2008). Plus, he's averaged 4.4 yards on 80 career carries. Weaver's agent, Harold Lewis, told Pro Football Weekly that he thinks Weaver can be a hybrid running back/fullback. If some team sees the same thing, Weaver will be a hot commodity.
— Ageless Tony Richardson of the Jets, whose 200-plus regular-season games ranks sixth among running backs in NFL history, is one of the best in the business at 37. With Richardson joining the Jets from the Vikings, Thomas Jones had a big season. The punishing blocker has led the way for Priest Holmes and Adrian Peterson, too. It would take a strong offer to prevent Richardson from retiring or to get him out of New York.
— Arizona's Terrelle Smith, a 250-pound battering ram, has blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in six of his nine seasons. He didn't get much of a chance to block in the Cardinals' pass-happy attack, though, as they frequently went with three receivers and one running back.
— Baltimore's Lorenzo Neal, 38, helped the Ravens finish fourth in the NFL in rushing despite not having a marquee back. The 255-pound, 15th-year pro started the season behind Le'Ron McClain, but when the Ravens needed McClain to switch to halfback, Neal capably started five late-season games.
— Heath Evans was a major reason why the Patriots' high-flying offense was so successful despite seeing its running backs hit hard by injuries. The ninth-year pro is a quality blocker who can run the ball a little. He likes New England and is expected stay there.
St. Louis' Dan Kreider spent last season with the Rams after spending his first eight games with Pittsburgh. He's a good blocker but a nonfactor as a receiver (one catch over last two seasons.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.