With a weak free agent market considerably weaker after the first three-plus days of free agency, where do the Packers turn in search of help for their undermanned defensive line?
Well, it's a big, big step down the pecking order from Chris Canty, who the Packers liked a lot but not enough to open their checkbook sight unseen. Here are four names to remember. A fifth name just signed with Denver.
Igor Olshansky: Based on sheer physical talent, Olshansky is the top remaining 3-4 end available. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers have talked to Olshansky's agent, Leigh Steinberg. Steinberg did not return calls to Packer Report.
The 6-foot-6, 309-pound native of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, was the 35th overall selection in the 2004 draft and a fixture in the Chargers' lineup all five seasons.
San Diego runs a 3-4 defense, and Olshansky complained about his role last season. Between that and lackluster play — he had one tackle and no sacks in each of his final four games — the Chargers demoted him for two of the final three games of the season and have no interest in bringing him back.
Nonetheless, Olshansky is one of the strongest players in the league, making him a valuable run-stopper. And at 26 (27 in May), he has plenty of upside — but only if a defensive line coach like the Packers' Mike Trgovac could teach Olshansky to use technique rather than simply rely on his muscles. Of his 11 career sacks, it's probably safe to say that none came on pass-rushing moves.
"Igor is a guy I really liked coming out of college," Scout.com senior analyst Ed Thompson said. "He's incredibly strong — a guy who benched 225 an incredible 43 times at his Pro Day at Oregon — has a fiery temperament and an admirable work ethic. At 6-foot-6, 309 pounds, he's a handful. Olshansky won't put up big sack numbers because he's more strong than he is fast, but he can push an offensive linemen back toward his quarterback to help collapse the pocket. Very effective against the run, he's perfect as a 3-4 defensive end because he's fully capable of demanding attention from two blockers, opening up gaps for the linebackers to exploit."
Marques Douglas: Douglas' agent, Jonathan Feinsrod, told Packer Report that the Packers have contacted him about the former Baltimore Ravens defensive end, but said he couldn't go into details about the conversation.
Douglas, who turns 32 this month, was a reserve defensive end in the Baltimore Ravens' 3-4 defense last season. He started his career in Baltimore in 1999 and returned for 2002 through 2004.
Three other 3-4 teams are interested, as well, according to the Baltimore Sun: San Francisco, the New York Jets and Denver. The Ravens, who released Douglas on Friday, might want to bring him back at a lower price.
Douglas spent 2005 through 2007 in San Francisco — starting 47 of a possible 48 games — before signing with Baltimore during free agency last year, and he seems open to a return to the 49ers.
"That would be one of my top preferences, to come back out there," Douglas told The San Francisco Chronicle. "I never severed ties with anybody. I understand it's business. You might not be the flavor of the month, but you can come back."
Vonnie Holliday: In 1998, Holliday was the Packers' first-round pick. With Reggie White at one defensive end, Holliday burst onto the scene with eight sacks as a rookie.
Holliday never became a star, though, but he's forged a productive 11-year career. With a $1.5 million bonus due on Tuesday and with promising Phillip Merling waiting in the wings, the Dolphins released Holliday on Monday. Holliday, a team captain, had started 59 of a possible 64 games during his four years in Miami, amassing 17.5 sacks.
New Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was an assistant with the Dolphins in 2006 and 2007, and Holliday posted seven sacks in 2006. He started 15 games ahead of the rookie second-round pick Merling in 2008, and led the Dolphins' defensive linemen with 46 tackles while adding 3.5 sacks. The 33-year-old Holliday (6-5, 285) certainly would be a decent bookend to Cullen Jenkins here in 2009.
"There's no loyalty in this league," Holliday told ESPN.com. "Everybody throws that word around, but at the end of the day, it's a business. It's about numbers. I've seen it happen in this business before. I've been around a long time. Now I'm that guy. But I have no hard feelings towards the Dolphins."
Mike Wright: A source told Packer Report that the Packers have interest in Wright, a backup defensive end in the Patriots' 3-4 scheme. To the source's knowledge, no meeting had been scheduled.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Wright, who just turned 27, is a career backup who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati in 2005. His draft prospects were doomed in part by missing one season after transferring from a Division II school and another season with a knee injury.
While he has just four sacks in 54 games over four seasons, he had a career-high four quarterback pressures in the Dec. 21 romp against Arizona this past season.
Capers worked for the Patriots last season, so he has knowledge of Wright.
Ronald Fields: The 27-year-old Fields, with just nine starts in four seasons, is out of the equation after signing a two-year, $5 million deal with Denver this evening. The 6-foot-2, 315-pounder can play nose and end, with a skill set similar to Colin Cole. He'll be reunited with former 49ers coach Mike Nolan, who is the new coordinator in Denver. The Broncos, by unofficial count, now have signed about half of this year's free agents.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.