Three’s Company: Bishop, Hawk & Barnett
If you are looking for a topic of debate for the potentially long offseason, look no further than the inside linebacker position for the Green Bay Packers.
The reigning Super Bowl champions currently have three players who could start on almost any NFL team: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, and Nick Barnett. And with the return of Brandon Chillar from rotator cuff surgery, the Packers have four solid players under contract for next season. Even in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense, which features two inside linebackers, that’s simply too much money committed to one position.
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught up with Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy at the NFL Combine, and the sixth-year coach made it clear that Desmond Bishop’s play has locked down one of the two starting positions for next season.
“Given the full opportunity to play, I thought Desmond had a heck of a year,” McCarthy said. “You always saw it in spurts. He’s probably the most instinctive guy in the defensive front seven.”
McCarthy’s proclamation leaves Barnett and Hawk to battle for the spot opposite Bishop. Both players are owed significant base salaries next season — Hawk $10 million, Barnett $5.5 million — and McGinn writes that barring a new contract, Hawk could be on his way out.
Hawk, 27, has a $10 million base salary for 2011 that’s guaranteed on the first day of the league year. A source close to Hawk said over the weekend that negotiations have gotten nowhere. If labor accord is reached and Hawk doesn’t have a new contract, he’s expected to be waived.
McCarthy remained optimistic that Hawk will remain in Green Bay.
“I’m hopeful we can work that out,” said McCarthy. “I like A.J. Everybody likes A.J. I like the year he had. I think A.J. belongs in Green Bay.”
Ultimately, Hawk’s future in Wisconsin will depend on finances. The Packers will have to make a few moves to trim down their $128 million dollar payroll, but given that Hawk was drafted by Ted Thompson and has grown into an integral part of a championship winning defense, the team may just find a way to hold on to him.