It has been an offseason of subtractions for the Green Bay Packers, but they avoided the biggest subtraction of all when Coach Mike Sherman said Thursday that quarterback Brett Favre has decided to return next season.
The question at this point is, to what sort of team will Favre be returning? The Packers couldn't get past the opening round of last season's NFC playoffs, and Sherman and new general manager Ted Thompson are yet to make a significant offseason addition.
Meanwhile, two members of Favre's offensive line are gone. One starting guard, Mike Wahle, was released in a salary-cap maneuver and signed with the Carolina Panthers. The other, Marco Rivera, signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent.
The Packers also released backup center Grey Ruegamer and two key members of the secondary, cornerback Michael Hawthorne and safety Darren Sharper. Sharper was released Thursday so the Packers wouldn't have to pay him a $2.6 million roster bonus due today. The defense was further weakened when linebacker Hannibal Navies voided his contract and became a free agent, and versatile reserve defensive back Bhawoh Jue signed with San Diego via free agency.
"The guy can still play, and it looks like he still loves to play," one NFL general manager said Thursday night of Favre. "But I don't think that team around him is moving in the right direction, at least not in the short term."
Giants, Burress Go Separate Ways
The New York Giants certainly made a strong effort Thursday to sign free-agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress, making a series of contract offers that topped out at about $24 million over six seasons, including $8 million in bonus money. That perhaps should have been enough to get a deal done, since the Giants' initial offer was for about $20 million over six years, including an approximately $4 million signing bonus, and given that Burress has generated surprisingly little interest thus far on the free-agent market.
But Burress rejected the offers, apparently still seeking more than $10 million in bonus money as part of a deal worth at least $5 million per season. The Giants made the unusual move of announcing that they no longer were interested in Burress, and he headed to Minnesota for a visit with the Vikings. The Giants apparently didn't want to allow Burress to try to use their offer as leverage in his negotiations with other clubs.
The Giants are scheduled to host wideout Corey Bradford, an unrestricted free agent from Houston, on a visit today.
Fiedler, Jets Close
The New York Jets are closing in on completing a contract agreement with free-agent quarterback Jay Fiedler, the former Miami starter who was released by the Dolphins. Fiedler would back up Chad Pennington, who's coming off shoulder surgery and isn't scheduled to begin a throwing program until June . . . .
Free-agent quarterback Brad Johnson, cut by Tampa Bay, is to meet with the Dolphins today after making visits to Detroit and Chicago this week. The Dolphins also are considering Gus Frerotte as a free-agent option to go with would-be starter A.J. Feeley . . . .
Rivera reportedly underwent surgery for a disk problem in his back after experiencing pain running on a treadmill this week in Baltimore, where he was attending an awards ceremony. He reportedly faces up to five weeks of rehabilitation. Rivera signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Cowboys last week that includes a $9 million signing bonus . . . .
The Panthers signed free-agent safety Marlon McCree, formerly of the Texans, to a one-year, $640,000 contract . . . . The Texans re-signed free-agent defensive tackle Jerry DeLoach to a four-year, $4 million deal . . . . Oakland re-signed guard Ron Stone to a cheaper contract a week after releasing him . . . . Cincinnati released safety Rogers Beckett . . . .
Free-agent cornerback Ty Law visited Pittsburgh on Thursday. The perennial Pro Bowler, released by New England in a salary-cap move, is to visit Kansas City next week, and the Jets also appear interested . . . . The Chiefs signed free-agent safety Sammy Knight . . . . Wide receiver Tim Dwight, cut by the Chargers, agreed to a one-year contract with the Patriots . . . . Denver retained tight end Jeb Putzier by matching the Jets' five-year, $12.5 million contract offer sheet to him in restricted free agency . . . .
Eagles safety J.R. Reed, who excelled as a kick returner last season as a rookie, suffered nerve damage in his leg and underwent surgery 10 days ago, reportedly after hurting himself jumping over a fence. He might not be ready for the start of training camp in the summer . . . . Free-agent quarterback Mike McMahon of the Lions visited the Eagles on Thursday . . . . St. Louis signed free-agent defensive back Michael Stone, formerly of Arizona, to help on special teams. The Rams are studying the possibility of signing Hawthorne.