Free agent profile

As the start of free agency nears, Packer Report will profile each player on the team that is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 28. Here is a look at middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson:<p>

Player: Hardy Nickerson

Position: Middle linebacker

Status: Unrestricted free agent (March 1)

2002 salary: $1.5 million (including bonus)

2002 season summary: Nickerson, a 16-year NFL veteran, came to Green Bay last summer as one of the Packers top off-season acquisitions and earned the starting middle linebacker spot in training camp with energized and inspired effort in practice. While showing flashes of solid linebacker play at times during the season, he was inconsistent overall and did not necessarily make the kind of impact the Packers thought he would. He finished third on the team with 108 tackles, starting 15 of 16 games.

2003 outlook: At 37 years old, Nickerson's future is uncertain even with a great career to his credit. His return to the Packers is unlikely, unless his salary is reduced or the Packers have trouble trying to fill their starting middle linebacker position. Nickerson has said he would like to play a 17th year in the NFL, and it will most likely happen with another team.

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