Chillar has played sparingly over the past six weeks because of a hand injury, but this deal was more about next season. As a six-year player, Chillar would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency whether or not the NFL has an uncapped year. He’s proved to be the kind of versatile playmaker that a high-revenue team wouldn’t have minded paying for.
The Packers now have three linebackers locked into long-term contract extensions, and only one of them is a starter. Nick Barnett’s deal lasts through 2012. The same is true for Brady Poppinga.
Given the presence of those deals, you have to wonder what this means for A.J. Hawk. He technically has two years left on his contract, but the final year is a $10 million base salary that likely would be voided. That means he’s essentially heading into the last real season of his rookie contract. How many linebackers would the Packers want to pay veteran money to? Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Hawk is “absolutely” still in the team’s long-term plans, but there really isn’t anything else McCarthy could have said.
Many of you asked why the Packers would focus on Chillar rather than safety Nick Collins. But remember, Collins will be an unrestricted free agent after this season only if the NFL and its players agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. In an uncapped year, Collins will be a restricted free agent. That fluid situation makes him less of a priority. For what it’s worth, McCarthy said he thinks Collins is having an “excellent” season.