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Green Bay Packers go on signing spree, sealing deal with 3 rookies, 15 unsigned draft picks

Jul. 28, 2011
 

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The Green Bay Packers seemed to be silent during the first two days after the lockout ended. They were not publicly in pursuit of any veteran free agents and representatives for two draft picks said talks hadn’t even begun as of Thursday afternoon.

Things changed Thursday evening when the Packers signed several rookies, including tight end D.J. Williams (fifth-round pick), guard Caleb Schlauderaff (sixth), tight end Ryan Taylor (seventh) and 15 undrafted free agents. Agents for linebacker Ricky Elmore (sixth) and cornerback Davon House (fourth) said deals were close to completion Thursday.

Contract details for Taylor, Williams and Schlauderaff were unavailable, but all players selected in the second round or later receive four-year deals, according to the new collective bargaining agreement.

That left tackle Derek Sherrod (first), receiver Randall Cobb (second), House, linebacker D.J. Smith (sixth), Elmore and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (seventh) unsigned.

The undrafted rookies who signed are receiver Diondre Borel (Utah State), safety Anthony Bratton (Delaware), tackle Ray Dominguez (Arkansas), Sampson Genus (South Florida), receiver Tori Gurley (South Carolina), fullback Jon Hoese (Minnesota), safety M.D. Jennings (Arkansas State), linebacker Elijah Joseph (Temple), linebacker Jamari Lattimore (Middle Tennessee), cornerback Brandian Ross (Youngstown State), running back Brandon Saine (Ohio State), tackle Theo Sherman (James Madison, receiver Shaky Smithson (Utah), linebacker Vic So’oto (Brigham Young) and receiver Kerry Taylor (Arizona State).

The lack of veteran free-agent signings is no surprise. General Manager Ted Thompson builds through the draft and coach Mike McCarthy puts a special emphasis on offseason development. Last season, right tackle Bryan Bulaga (2010 first-round pick) and running back James Starks (sixth round) were starters in the Super Bowl. Second-round pick Mike Neal is expected to fill the void left by Cullen Jenkins in 2011 — once he signs elsewhere, as predicted. Third-round pick Morgan Burnett was penciled in as the starter before a torn ACL ended his season Oct. 7. Undrafted rookies Sam Shields and Frank Zombo played in a combined 17 games with 14 starts.

Greener pastures: The Packers may not have been active in free agency, but left guard Daryn Colledge, running back Brandon Jackson and guard/center Jason Spitz all signed with other teams.

Colledge agreed to a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals, with nearly $10 million guaranteed. Colledge started 76 of 80 games in his five years as a Packer.

“It is bittersweet,” Colledge said on the “Green and Gold Today” podcast. “It was an awesome opportunity. Truly one of the greatest opportunities of my life to represent the Green and Gold. Sadly I wish it didn’t come to an end. But things always change.”

Colledge said he drew interest from the Eagles, Redskins and Rams, but Arizona had an added incentive.

“This was kind of a family decision,” Colledge said. “I’ve been a West Coast kid all my life. The opportunity to come out to Arizona and be closer to family kind of tipped the scale for me. There were better offers in other places, but we wanted to do this for our family.

“They’ve got a lot of pieces right now. They’ve got a couple things that need to change and for me it’s an exciting new project. It’s an opportunity to be with a team that was doing well and hasn’t done well the last couple years. It’s a chance to help turn them around and that’s an exciting opportunity.”

The Packers expected to lose Colledge. T.J. Lang, Nick McDonald and Marshall Newhouse are likely to compete at left guard, and Bulaga or Sherrod also could be in the mix.

Jackson accepted a two-year, $4.5 million offer to join the Cleveland Browns, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Jackson was an ideal third-down back in Green Bay, but he wanted the opportunity to start. He got it last year when Ryan Grant was lost to an ankle injury in Week 1, but Jackson didn’t capitalize. He rushed for 703 yards with a 3.7 yards per carry average and started 13 games, but lost the job to James Starks in the playoffs. The Packers drafted Jackson with the No. 63 overall pick in 2007.

Grant and Starks return along with Alex Green, a third-round draft pick.

FoxSports.com’s Adam Caplan reported Spitz agreed to a multi-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Spitz was a reserve in 2010, but started 45 games with the Packers after being drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft.

Loving the night: The first two practices of Packers training camp will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The club is expected have several more evening workouts when the rest of the schedule is announced today.

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said the team has been moving in that direction.

“It’s something, I think, we kind of gradually evolved to,” Murphy said. “I just noticed in the years I’ve been here, we usually have a little better attendance at the night practices. I think more people can come. There’s not as many conflicts with work. I think players like it too, it’s a little bit cooler. I see it as a positive.

“The one issue could be the bikes. Certainly, on the way to practice, that’s not an issue. But when you have a long practice, I know it’s harder for younger kids to still be there.”

kcopeland@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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