In a mild surprise, the Green Bay Packers matched the Tennessee Titans' offer sheet to restricted free agent defensive back Jarrett Bush on Monday.
Bush's agent, Derrick Fox, told Packer Report that the three-year, $4.5 million deal included a $1 million signing bonus, and base salaries of $1 million in 2009, $1.1 million in 2010 and $1.4 million in 2011. There are incentives, too, Fox said.
Bush, the Packers' leader in special teams tackles and special teams penalties last season, was the nickel cornerback for most of the 2007 season. He lost that role to Tramon Williams, however, and even though the Packers liked Bush's potential as a safety last training camp, he played sparingly on defense in 2008, even in Al Harris' and Atari Bigby's absences.
Asked if the Packers saw Bush as a cornerback, safety or a utility defensive back, Fox said he wasn't sure. Fox thinks Bush's potential lies at safety, though his other suitors – Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Baltimore, Cleveland, Tennessee and the New York Jets – all saw Bush as a cornerback.
"Jarrett has been a solid player for us," general manager Ted Thompson said in announcing the move. "We are pleased to have him remain a member of our team."
Bush's contract adds some ammunition for Williams and agent Rodney Williams in their quest for a new contract. Williams is an exclusive-rights free agent who can't shop his services. The Packers gave Williams the standard EFA tender of $460,000.
"There is no way I can go back to my player and say, ‘Hey, just play it out, it's OK, don't worry about it,'" Williams told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week.
No doubt, that feeling was only strengthened by Bush's contract. As it stands, the Packers could have a nickel cornerback playing at less than one-fourth the salary and bonus of a player with almost no role on defense.
However, Thompson saw a talented and athletic player who doesn't turn 25 until May. Bush, a 6-foot and 200 pounds, has ideal size for a cornerback, and the Packers, as Fox pointed out, have a couple of aging cornerbacks in Charles Woodson and Harris. Plus, Bush's willingness and desire on special teams make him a key cog on units that struggled last season.
The Packers recognized that – as did six other teams, including the powerful Titans – and matched the offer.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine 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. Bill also is giving Twitter a try. Find him at twitter.com/packerreport