Monday, March 2, 2009

The Ironies of Vonnie Holliday

Both Greg Bedard and the boys over at CheeseHeadTV made mention today of the possibility of bringing in former Packer Vonnie Holliday, recently cut by the Miami Dolphins and looking for a job at the ripe old age of 33. The idea of bringing back ol' Vonnie seems to be intruiging, if for no other reason, because we just lost Colin Cole and missed out on Chris Canty.

My guess is we have the roster spot available.

Taking two other players into consideration are Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Justin Harrell. Harrell, of course, is Ted Thompson's own Jamal Reynolds, an apparent reach and bust in the first round. But, even more interesting is that Harrell's roster spot this past season was made available by cutting KGB.

The timing has some irony.

At the end of the 2002 season, the Packers were gearing up to sign Holliday, but didn't want to buck up as much as Vonnie was hoping for. He had a very strong 2001 season, and an injury-plagued 2002 finished with a surge for Holliday. New GM Mike Sherman didn't meet the offer of the Chiefs, who gave Holliday a $21.3 million, 5-year contract with $4 million guaranteed.

(sidebar: compared to the deals signed by Haynesworth and Canty, that almost seems laughable, doesn't it?)

Where does the irony come to all of this? We can debate whether or not Holliday might have been worth that huge of a contract, and we know that such contracts later became the bane of Mike Sherman's tenure as GM. But, Holliday's departure led directly to a number of other events that have affected the Packer defensive line all the way to this day.

The Packers turned around and gave a pass-rush specialist, Kabeer Gbaja Biamila, a ton of cash. The $37 million dollar, seven-year deal forced KGB to become a full-time player, and painfully exposed him as a one-dimensional player for the next five seasons. Expensively so.

He also signed an underachieving defensive tackle named Cletidus Hunt to a six-year, $25 million dollar contract. I really don't have to remind you how that situation turned out for the Packers.

Sherman then also turned around and signed another inconsistent defensive linemen in Grady Jackson, another couple-of-plays-a-game guy that struggled with his weight.

The investments made previously in Joe Johnson and Jamal Reynolds quickly proved to be failed plans, leaving the Packers even further behind in the 2003 season. KGB made the Pro Bowl that year based purely on his sack statistics, but was a liability on most of the defensive snaps not involving those 10 sacks. The depletion of the line with the departure of Johnson and failure of Reynolds to develop left the Packers defensive line very vulnerable.

Now, looking back on that contract that Sherman wouldn't match for Vonnie Holliday, it does make you think how much different our line may have been if he would have shelled out. The line reached perhaps its lowest point in the 2005 season. It was during these years that Holliday was having some of his best seasons playing along the interior for the Chiefs and the Dolphins.

Interestingly enough, with the exception of a guy named BJ Sander, it is Mike Sherman's swings-and-misses along the defensive line that spelled the end of his days as GM of the Packers. The ill-advised selection of Jamal Reynolds, the free agency pickups of Grady Jackson and Joe Johnson, the overpaying (and subsequent overuse) of KGB and Cletidus Hunt, draft picks Kenny Peterson, James Lee, Donnell Washington, Corey Williams, ...the list goes on.

And now, the idea that Vonnie Holliday could return to the Packers to finish out his career, just months after KGB was cut from the team, makes you almost wonder if there wasn't some sort of curse hovering over this team since 2003. For years, things just haven't seemed to work out along that line, whether it be injuries, lack of production, or just plain failure to launch.

Would the signing of Holliday have changed some of the subsequent moves, like Hunt or KGB? Would the Packers have been set at DE for years with Kampman and Vonnie, allowing Cullen Jenkins to remain inside with Ryan Pickett? Would KGB have remained in his destructive role as a pass-rush specialist, instead of becoming a full-time mediocre defensive end?

Those are questions we'll never know the answer to. But, if you are looking to improve our DL, bring in some veteran leadership to a new scheme, and add "Packer People" to the roster, you could do worse than bringing back Vonnie Holliday.

And if there's a chance that signing him will break a six-year jinx along the line...?

1 comment:

Hope we don't draft another WR said...

Is Offensive Line becoming the thorn that kills TT, because he's wasted far more picks at that position. At least Sherman drafted Kampmann. Colledge is the best TT lineman, and he is probably the 40th best guard in the NFL.