Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bent on keeping Cole

Defensive lineman key to Packers' plans

By Bob McGinn

February 22, 2009

Indianapolis - The Green Bay Packers' top priority between now and the start of the unrestricted free-agent signing period at 11:01 p.m. Thursday is the re-signing of defensive lineman Colin Cole.

Cole has attracted considerable interest from other National Football League teams and the Packers are trying hard to prevent him from leaving.

"I think he wants to see his marketability and what his value is," coach Mike McCarthy said at the scouting combine. "But I like Cole still. If any of our guys plays very square, he does. I think he can be a nose in our scheme and I think he has the ability to bounce outside and play the end. He's been a pretty versatile guy."

If the Packers lose Cole, they apparently realize he would be hard to replace. It's a poor year in the draft at the position and Cole is one of the better inside players in free agency.

Green Bay appears fairly well-stocked at linebacker in its 3-4 defense but defensive line is a whole different story. Starter Ryan Pickett is the only other legitimate nose tackle on the roster and depth at end is almost nonexistent.

The 328-pound Cole is coming off possibly his finest season since joining the Packers in 2004. He was more consistent holding his ground and had a career-high 11½ pressures in 451 snaps.

As usual, the Packers have more than enough room under the salary cap to make an early splash in free agency. General manager Ted Thompson, however, has never done that.

"We're talking about guys," McCarthy said. "Whether it happens or not . . . every year is different. Our free-agent board is no different than how we discuss the draft."

The pool of players has been diluted in the last week by teams making liberal use of franchise tags.

"I think the numbers are going to be high," McCarthy said. "I think you always have your crazy spending at first. We've had success and teams have had more and more success through the draft. It's going to be interesting to see where this free-agent market goes."

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