The Packers have locked up two defensive players, signing back up safety Derrick Martin to a two year contract and slapping the franchise tag on veteran nose tackle Ryan Pickett. Martin is one of more than 200 NFL players caught in no man's land this off-season thanks to the soon to be expiring collective bargaining agreement. Because the owners opted out of the deal, the CBA moves into an uncapped year in 2010 and without an agreement, is set to expire at the start of the 2011 season which could open a huge can of worms, namely a lockout or a strike. Meanwhile, with no cap, players will need 6 years to become unrestricted free agents. 4 and 5 year players are restricted and Martin fell into this category. While he was used sparingly in the secondary, Martin proved valuable on special teams and according to his agent, liked his year in Green Bay after getting acquired from Baltimore in a trade for Tony Moll. By resigning, he'll get just over a million dollars this season but added security with the second year. As for Pickett, he's among five players who are unrestricted free agents (Chad Clifton, Aaron Kampman, Ahman Green and Mark Tauscher the others). By using the franchise designation, Pickett is essentially taken off the market. While teams can still negoitate with him, the Packers have the right to match any offer and if Ryan would sign with another club, as a franchise player, the Packers would get not one, but two number picks in return. Don't think that will happen. Franchise players automatically get a one year contract that is the average of the top five players at the position league-wide, in Pickett's case, that's slightly over 7 million dollars this year. The Packers say they'll continue talking with Ryan on a long term deal but don't expect a quick signature. Pickett will be happy playing for a salary that is doubled from last year and still become an unrestricted free agent next year.
The NFL scouting combine is underway in Indianapolis. The top college prospects are paraded into Lucas Oil Stadium for shuttle runs, 40 yard dashes, weightlifting and broad jumps. They are measured and given complete physicals. Teams compile the information and add it to their files on their draft board. Packers general manager Ted Thompson says the medical information on everyone is the biggest benefit of the combine and he enjoys seeing the kids placed in a professional, competitive situation but most of the scouting legwork is already finished and if a player disappoints in his workout, he has another shot at the upcoming pro days at their college campus. I'll keep an eye on the combine and pass along any interesting tidbits from Indy.