Monday, April 12, 2010

Report: Packers Interested in Free Agent Brian Westbrook

After an impressive season by the offense, thoughts of Green Bay Packers fans turned to their defense. It was pretty awful, especially in losses to Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Arizona (playoffs, or in other words, "the time the Cardinals actually tried").

It's a defense that needs improvement. The Packers have signed no one.

However, they may be looking at someone to add depth to an already-loaded offense.

Well, if you can't stop them, you better be prepared to outscore them, right?

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports -- via sources -- that the Packers are interested in free agent running back Brian Westbrook, late of the Philadelphia Eagles.
If healthy, Westbrook could provide coach Mike McCarthy with the effective third-down back he has lacked in recent years. Brandon Jackson was an outstanding blocker on third downs last year, but he was not a factor as a receiver or runner. Starter Ryan Grant has expressed an interest in playing more on third downs, and if he does, he probably would need his backup to handle some of the work on other downs.

McCarthy could also use the two backs together in order to create favorable match-ups. Westbrook played numerous positions in Reid's offense and was a threat to run or catch the ball on third downs. At 5-10, 203 pounds, his combination of size and speed made him difficult to bring down.

Much has been made of the concussions Westbrook suffered last year, the first when his helmet collided with the knee of Washington linebacker London Fletcher. The second forced him to miss the last five regular-season games.

But he was cleared for the playoffs and ankle and knee injuries suffered over the years might be what most interested teams want to examine most.

The bottom line is that the Packers need some help on defense. However, the free agent pool was quite questionable, outside of a couple star players that everyone knew would be severely overpaid.

Since we all know general manager Ted Thompson isn't going to spend wastefully on that kind of talent, it stood to reason he would add defensive help through the draft, and maybe with a trade or two right before or during training camp. That's the procedure in Green Bay, and it's served the Packers well to avoid bad contracts and big-egoed free agents who get their big paycheck and exit stage left.

Westbrook makes a ton of sense for the Packers. He allows them to keep Jackson in the fold. He also gives them someone intimately familiar with the West Coast offense, and someone who would be of immense help to Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

In a lesser role behind Grant and maybe even Jackson, Westbrook doesn't subject himself to so much intense contact. On the other hand, running him out of the slot or sending him on a lot of pass routes could also leave him more vulnerable to big open-field kill shots, and this could be more dangerous -- in some ways -- than running him between the tackles.

Thompson and McCarthy have a busy weekend coming up April 22-24 with the draft, but the addition of a relatively affordable Westbrook would probably solidify the offense in the short term. That allows them to work with Dom Capers and bolster the defense.

Without that, the Packers are going to be lucky to make the playoffs again next season, regardless of how good the offense is.

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