Several weeks and over 13,000 words after we started we have finally arrived at our final free agency preview, and once the signing period officially starts we will have plenty of coverage for you on all of the major transactions.
For this preview we will be discussing the Green Bay Packers. They had a rocky start to the season, but put it all together during the stretch run leading up to the post-season. Despite losing to the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs, Green Bay had a lot of success in 2009 and they have a strong foundation on which to build on for the future.
After the jump we'll take a look at the Packers impending free agents...
SS Atari Bigby (RFA: 2nd Round Tender) - Bigby's strength is supposed to be stopping the run, but he only recorded one tackle for loss in 2009. He is easily exposed in coverage, and the Packers will look for an upgrade this off-season.
CB Will Blackmon (RFA: Low Tender) - Blackmon began the season as Green Bay's primary punt and kick returner. He ended the year on IR after tearing his ACL. He was originally a fourth round pick.
LT Chad Clifton (UFA) - Clifton struggled for most of the season, but the Packers want to bring him back as insurance for next year. They could select a tackle early in the draft to replace Clifton on Aaron Rodger's blind side.
G Daryn Colledge (RFA: 2nd Round Tender) - Colledge was awful last season; easily the worst of Green Bay's starting linemen. Despite his struggles, the team appears unwilling to admit the mistake they made drafting him in the 2nd round. He will most likely have to compete for playing team in 2010.
FS Nick Collins (RFA: 1st and 3rd Round Tender) - Collins excelled at free safety for the Packers. He recorded 6 interceptions in 2009, and the team appears willing to offer him a long-term contract extension.
DE Johnny Jolly (RFA) - Jolly became a very proficient 3-4 DE in 2009. He showed excellent gap control at the position, while setting a franchise record by batting down 11 passes.
LB Aaron Kampman (UFA) - Green Bay is reported to have discussed a deal averaging $5 Million annually for Kampman. Although he is "hopeful" of returning to the Packers, Kampman is no longer a fit for their defensive scheme. He could be more productive as a 4-3 defensive end, so he could sign elsewhere in order to maximize his earning potential.
FB John Kuhn (RFA: Low Tender) - Kuhn can be useful in short yardage situation, but as a former undrafted free agent he could be acquired rather easily by another team looking for help at fullback.
DL Ryan Pickett (UFA: Franchise Tagged) - At 350 lbs Ryan Pickett does not get after the passer much, but he excels against the run. His huge frame clogs up the middle for opposing offenses, and he played a big role in the Packers number one rush defense. He received the franchise tag for 2010, and the two sides are said to be working on a long-term extension.
T Mark Tauscher (UFA) - Tauscher joined the team in mid-season and helped solidify the offensive line. He is 32 years old and has undergone two major knee surgeries, but he might still be their best option at right tackle. The Packers could also sign him to serve in a back-up role.
DB Tramon Williams (ERFA) - Williams started the season as Green Bay's nickel back, but was forced into the starting lineup when Al Harris went down with a knee injury. He played well down the stretch and should provide good depth for the Packers' secondary in 2010.
Left Tackle - Clifton is not getting any younger, and Green Bay would do well to find his replacement now. If he continues to decline, the Packers could be in serious trouble without a back-up plan. They have some solid talent at right tackle, but they absolutely need to find someone who can anchor the left side in the future.
Cornerback - Tramon Williams established himself as a potential starting cornerback in 2009, but who will take over for Charles Woodson when he moves on? Cornerback is a position of need for nearly every team in the NFL, and the Packers need to continue to acquire more talent and depth at this position.
Safety - The team appears to be set at free safety, but they need to find a more capable starter at the strong safety position. They don't have anyone they can promote in house, so they will have to search elsewhere for someone that can push Atari Bigby for the starting job. Green Bay will look to add a player with more playmaking ability.
Defensive Line - The defensive line was a strength for the Packers in 2009, but they have several impending free agents up front. If they lose any of their free agents, Green Bay will be forced to find a capable replacement on the open market or via the draft.
Outside Linebacker - Brad Jones is solid against the run, but he is not a very good pass rusher. The Packers should look to add another pass rush threat opposite of Clay Matthews in order to get more pressure on opponents' quarterbacks.
Running Back - Green Bay's running attack improved as the season progressed, but they could still look to add depth at the position. They may try to find a back with more speed to use as a change of pace, or one who can help on kick and punt returns.
In my estimation the top two priorities for Green Bay this off-season should be shoring up their offense line and adding to their pass rushing ability.
Aaron Rodgers has been criticized for holding on to the ball too long, and that is certainly an area he needs to improve upon. But, his decision making alone does not account for the Packers' struggles in pass protection. They need to find someone who can step in and replace Chad Clifton at the left tackle position. There are also questions about the interior of their line, but those should be addressed by creating competition at the guard position.
On defense, they need to find someone who can rush the passer opposite of Clay Matthews. Brad Jones is a capable linebacker, but he lacks the skills necessary to get after opposing quarterbacks. Consequently, Green Bay's pass rush became very predictable in 2009 as teams were able to key on Matthews. Look for them to add a player at this position to add an element of surprise to their defense.