Packers Franchise Tag Ryan Pickett
In the case of Green Bay Packer Ryan Pickett, the statistics bear out the kind of unsexy position defensive tackle can be. In 2009, Pickett posted just 33 tackles in 13 games, the lowest total since he became a full-time starter in 2002. He was held without even half a sack for the second time in his career.
That said, he might have been the Packers' defensive MVP. As he prepared for a foray into free agency, the Packers are prepared to pay him like an MVP.
Green Bay announced Wednesday that it will place the franchise tag on Pickett before he hits free agency. The tag mandateg a one-year deal at just over $7 million for Pickett.
Money is not an issue for the Packers. They have positioned themselves well for this offseason, both because of a large number of free agents on the team and the uncapped year the NFL is facing. General manager Ted Thompson will virtually have free reign to spend what is needed to keep key players in the fold. His job will be to determine which free agents to prioritize.
No matter how you try to put together such a list, Pickett is on top. He was a key player in Dom Capers' 3-4, plugging the middle of the defense and freeing guys like Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk to make plays in space. Despite a low statistical output, Pickett was the most important player on a defense that led the league in stopping the run.
As B.J. Raji enters his second NFL season, look for the huge lineman to be used on the outside, especially if Johnny Jolly's legal situation doesn't play out well for him. Pickett's presence will be needed in the middle, and at 31, it's not like his age makes him cost-prohibitive.
Of course, the Packers could use the franchise tag to secure Pickett while they negotiate terms on a longer-term deal. The other option is to keep Pickett on the one-year contract as a means of motivation. It might not look like it, but Pickett kept himself in very good shape last year. His conditioning wasn't a problem once he got into a flow during training camp.
A long-term deal for a guy like this comes with the risk that he'll eat himself out of the lineup when he isn't motivated to maintain some sort of conditioning. Only the Packers know if Pickett can truly be trusted here, and you can expect Thompson to tread carefully if he isn't sure.