What's next for Packers and Pickett?

Green Bay nose tackle Ryan Pickett won’t be a free agent when the market opens next week. That’s the upshot of Wednesday’s announcement that the team has placed its franchise tag on him. At this point, any other conclusion would be premature.

If nothing more happens, Pickett will play the 2010 season under a one-year contract worth $7.003 million. It’s fully guaranteed the moment he signs it.

That’s an awfully high number for someone who is essentially a part-time player, not to mention one who plays the same position as the Packers’ 2009 first-round draft choice. But as we discussed Tuesday, the Packers have several options here.

  • They could continue negotiating with Pickett on a long-term contract extension, ostensibly at a lower annual salary but with the promise of additional guaranteed money over time.

  • They could trade his rights, as they did with defensive tackle Corey Williams in 2008, in essence using the tag to guarantee a return on his eventual departure.

  • They could rescind the tag if they don’t like where negotiations are going and don’t want to pay him $7.003 million in 2010. The Packers would have to make that decision before Pickett signs the offer, however.

There are some merits to keeping Pickett on the roster. In a statement Wednesday, general manager Ted Thompson said Pickett “has been a good teammate and productive player for us on the field and also a good representative of the Packers in the community.” Pickett also provides some insurance in the event that defensive lineman Johnny Jolly is suspended in connection with an upcoming trial for felony drug possession.

And frankly, using the franchise tag in an uncapped environment carries less risk than it used to. With a salary cap, the entire franchise figure counted toward that season’s cap with no ability to pro-rate. In an uncapped scenario, there is no penalty for paying a part-time nose tackle a premium salary as long as ownership -- or, in this case, team president/CEO Mark Murphy -- is willing to pay out the cash.

Where the Pickett situation ultimately goes is uncertain, but it will be no surprise if it keeps going on for a while.