Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nick Barnett: Three Key Answers

A while back, I authored an article called "Three Key Questions" about Nick Barnett, and questioned whether or not Ted Thompson OR Barnett would be able to come to a deal this off-season. Well, now that the deal has been signed, let's review those questions and provide some conjecture on how they were answered.

Question Number One: How much value do the Green Bay Packers place on Nick Barnett?

In my original article, I questioned whether or not Ted Thompson would see Nick Barnett as a part of this team for the foreseeable future, and if he'd be worth a Adalius Thomas-esque $12 million signing bonus.

Well, he got a $10 million signing bonus, quite a load for a middle linebacker that hasn't seen a Pro Bowl as yet. That isn't anything to say that Barnett isn't worth it, but it is clear in the eyes of Ted Thompson that he is.

More so, it is clear that in the eyes of Ted Thompson, Nick Barnett was worth passing up similar-sized contracts for many of this year's free agents to keep that cap space clear for Barnett. I've been scratching my head for weeks wondering how in the world the Packers were going to spend $22 million in salary cap space, and the only two things that I could conclude was the Packers were going to pay big bucks to Nick Barnett, or pay big bucks for Randy Moss.

Amusingly, as the rumors for Moss have gone from "imminent" to "still on the table" to "still a possibility" to "dead in the water", Barnett got wrapped up with the big deal he'd been wanting. Whether or not the two potential deals were related as an "or" situation, we may never know.

Incidentally, imagining that Barnett will count between $6-10 million against this year's cap, and the draft class will take up another $7 million, it doesn't leave much money left over to bring on a certain malcontent wide receiver, does it?

In one fell swoop, Thompson made one good signing, and one good non-signing with this deal.

It is also clear that Ted Thompson valued Nick Barnett more than the free agents on the market: he essentially gave an Adelius Thomas-sized contract to one of his own instead of an UFA. That speaks volumes about both Thompson's assessment of those free agents versus his assessment of Barnett.

It also makes us wonder, just a little, if signing your own good/not great player to a huge deal is any better or worse than signing the good/not great players in free agency to similar deals.

Question Number Two: What is more important to Nick Barnett, team loyalty or a big payday?

I predicted at the time that a deal for Barnett would likely cost us around $9.4 against this year's cap, assuming that Thompson had few other options to spend money elsewhere, and that, wisely, he would spend all he could today in order to preserve room for tomorrow.

While we don't know for sure yet, that number could indeed be close. And the answer to the question was one I forgot to mention: both A) and B ).

It appears that Barnett may have taken a slight hometown discount to stay in Green Bay, but rumors right now estimate that he has signed a $35 million dollar deal.

That's a pretty good deal, even though, according to Barnett's agent, that is on the "low end" of what he was expecting with a new deal.

Adelius Thomas, this season's line-backing free agent prize, signed a five year deal worth $35 million, though almost $20 million of that was guaranteed.

Now, as happy as a moment as this is for us Packer fans, let's be honest: this was an awfully good deal for a linebacker who hasn't made a Pro Bowl, and whose statistical success is measured by leading the team in tackles, not sacks, interceptions, or tackles for loss.

Barnett didn't have to choose between team loyalty or the big paycheck. He got the best of both worlds today, and Ted had the money to spend it with.

Now, of course, we can make the comparison that Barnett would have made more in free agency. Funny thing is, Adalius Thomas was given the same criticism, that he signed for less money to be in a place he wanted to be.

However, we can say that the deal Thomas got ($7M per year) is pretty even with what we're expecting from Barnett's details ($6 mil per year).

Question Number Three: How much faith do the Packers have in Abdul Hodge?

In all of this hubbub and celebration of (finally) a signing, Abdul Hodge's status is quietly going unnoticed. But don't think it is going unnoticed in 1265.

Certainly, you can never have too many good players, but you would think that if Aaron Rodgers was truly ready, and the coach and GM believed it, why would they continue to pay Brett Favre over $10 million a year?

Probably because he's not ready. And may not even be the answer.

If the Packer brass really though Abdul Hodge was the next big thing, would they have signed Barnett to a $6 mil a year contract?

My guess is, probably not. Thompson has shown incredible faith in his line-backing picks before, essentially giving Brady Poppinga every opportunity to win the strong side job in his second year, despite coming off relatively serious injury.

He apparently doesn't have that same faith in Hodge, and Barnett appears to be in the fold for many, many years as a result.

Three questions.

Three answers.

Number 56 will be patrolling the field, sideline to sideline, for the foreseeable future. Ted Thompson saw him as an important cog in the rebuilding process, and Barnett saw dollar signs being offered to keep him here, where he started and has endured probably as many negatives as positives over the past few years (revolving door of defensive coordinators, the hassles with his nightclub).

Now, the burden of proof will be on both Thompson and Barnett to make this Adalius Thomas-esque contract worth the cap space.

Barnett is being paid like a line-backing elite, and the pressure will be now on him to produce like one.

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