Wells likely to take a hike out of Green Bay
The Packers allowed free agency to begin Tuesday afternoon without a new contract for Wells, thus allowing him to shop his wares to 31 other teams. Motivated by the teamís reluctance to sign him at his price, Wells appears determined to land a job somewhere else.
According to an NFL source, the Tennessee Titans expressed interest in Wells early in the process, but reports say the Titans also are negotiating with Houston free agent Chris Myers.
Tennessee would be the perfect landing place for Wells. He lives about 15 minutes outside of Nashville and attended the University of Tennessee. The Titans are recruiting another former Volunteer named Peyton Manning, but the two did not play together in college.
Another potential landing spot for Wells is St. Louis, which released talented but overweight center Jason Brown this week. But the Packers, Titans, Cleveland Browns and others looking for centers all have other veteran options.
Besides Wells, Myers and Brown, Tampa Bayís Jeff Faine, Oaklandís Samson Satele, New Englandís Dan Koppen, Baltimoreís Matt Birk and Indianapolisí Jeff Saturday are unrestricted free agents. It may wind up being a game of musical chairs, but most people would accept that Myers and Wells are tops among that group.
The Packers will remain hopeful that the market will narrow on Wells and they can match any offer he receives, a situation similar to what happened to wide receiver James Jones last year. Jones ended up coming back to the Packers for a reasonable price after finding the market wiped out.
Wells and cornerback Jarrett Bush appear to be the teamís top two priorities in free agency. General manager Ted Thompson rarely looks outside of the draft to fill his roster, so it wasnít surprising not to hear any reports of the Packers contacting available free agents.
The Packers were $6.94 million under the $120.6 million salary cap on the first day of the new league year. That is probably enough money to sign both Wells and Bush to long-term deals without having to trim some cap dollars.
On the Bush front, the Packers are not biting on the special teams aceís contract demands and are letting him test the market. Bush is not a top-tier free agent, so some of the dust will have to clear before he gets an idea of which teams are really interested, although a league source said the Rams have shown some interest.
One thing that is clear is the Packers are not out of it. Bush has expressed a desire to return but has also said he would see where free agency would take him. There arenít a lot of cornerbacks as big as Bush, but itís unlikely anyone would sign him to be a starter.
Backup quarterback Matt Flynn, meanwhile, began playing the market, but itís likely he wonít do anything until Manning finds a team.
Once Manning is in the fold, those teams left out might feel some desperation and be willing to bid high for Flynn.
The Miami Herald reported that the Dolphins and Browns were expected to present offers to Flynnís agent soon. The Dolphins, who are coached by former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, are in the running for Manning and may be setting up Flynn as Plan B.
The Seattle Seahawks are expected to get involved at some point.
The Packersí other free agents are: running back Ryan Grant, end Howard Green, cornerback Pat Lee and linebacker Erik Walden.
Sitting well below the salary cap, the Packers donít need to make any moves with veteran contracts to clear cap space. Usually, they are faced with decisions to make around this time of year when large roster bonuses are due.
But other than workout bonuses - which are minimal and donít start until mid-April - they donít owe anything to two of their elder statesman, receiver Donald Driver and left tackle Chad Clifton, until at least the start of training camp.
If they owed one or the other a roster bonus the day the new year started, then they probably would have had to decide whether to request a pay cut or release them.
But the next large payment the Packers owe Driver is a $1.5 million roster bonus, which is due on the first day of training camp. Aside from the $200,000 workout bonus he will start earning in mid-April, there are no other payments due before that.
He also has a $700,000 roster bonus, but thatís tied to how many games heís on the 45-man active roster.
Clifton, meanwhile, is owed nothing major until the regular season starts, when his $5.25 million base salary would become guaranteed and a pair of roster bonuses totaling $250,000 and tied to being on the 45-man active would kick in.
Aside from a $250,000 workout bonus Clifton will start earning in mid-April, the Packers owe him nothing.
In Cliftonís case, having more time benefits the Packers because Clifton had back surgery right after the season and they can examine him when the off-season workouts begin to gauge his health.
The biggest payment looming is Charles Woodsonís $4 million roster bonus due in mid-April. The Packers have to decide whether to pay that as part of Woodsonís $11.5 million salary in 2012 or renegotiate. If they donít pay it, Woodson would become a free agent.