Four down, six to go.
The Packers agreed to terms on a contract with four of their rookies from the 2010 NFL Draft Thursday. Fifth round tight end D.J. Williams, sixth rounders offensive guard Caleb Schlauderaff and Ricky Elmore, and seventh round tight end Ryan Taylor all signed their first NFL contracts, which will be four-year deals, due to theNFL’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Full contract details were unavailable as of Thursday night.
Williams, whose contract involved a $198,000 signing bonus, was selected with the 141st overall pick and will join a deep and talented tight end group consisting of Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree. The recipient of the 2010 John Mackey Award, given to college football’s top tight end, Williams caught 54 passes for 627 yards and four touchdowns. Undersized at 6-feet, 2-inches, 245 pounds, Williams posted a 4.59 forty-yard dash at the NFL Combine and was labeled the top H-back in his draft class by ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
The newest addition to Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal was also rewarded with the 2010 Disney Spirit Award, given to college football’s most inspirational figure, after he, his mother and siblings moved from Texas to Arkansas to escape an abusive father. Williams fits the bill of “Packer people” and will be a threat down the middle of the field. He must add size and, as will be with all rookies, will need to work on his timing in the offense.
Schlauderaff, selected with the 179th overall pick, received good personal news Thursday when free agent Daryn Colledge signed a five year deal with the Cardinals. That leaves T.J. Lang, Nick McDonald and Marhsall Newhouse to battle for the left guard position. One of Thompson’s brighter spots in the draft has been his successes with middle-round linemen (Josh Sitton, Lang, Jason Spitz, Marshall Newhouse).
The Utah left guard was a first team All-Mountain West selection and started 49 games in his career, so the experience is there. Odds are Schlauderaff will make the 53-man roster but it will be tough for him to break the starting line in his rookie year.
Taylor, listed as an H-back, won’t be replacing Finley any time soon, but he could very well make his money on special teams. Much like Korey Hall, who was signed by the Saints today, Taylor will make the roster if he can prove to be a special teams ace. During his time at North Carolina, Taylor was a special teams captain in 2008 and 2010 (he redshirted in 2009 due to a knee injury) and has seen time at linebacker as well. He takes pride in his work on special teams and, with Hall gone, the Packers could use him there.
Elmore, who dropped to the 197th pick, played defensive end at Arizona and led the Pac-10 in sacks his final two seasons (11.0 and 10.5). Despite being overshadowed by his fellow defensive end Brooks Reed, selected 42nd overall by the Houston Texans, Elmore proved to be a force off the edge and could give the Packers the pass-rusher they lacked in 2010 opposite Clay Matthews.
He will compete against Erik Walden, Frank Zombo and Brad Jones for the starting spot and, with no front-runner, has an excellent chance for early playing time. At the very least, the 6-foot, 4-inch linebacker will contribute on special teams in the wake of Brady Poppinga’s release.
With the four signings, the remaining unsigned rookies are: OT Derek Sherrod (1st round), WR Randall Cobb (2), RB Alex Green (3), CB Davon House (4), ILB D.J. Smith (6), and Lawrence Guy (7).
Training camp will begin Saturday night at Ray Nitschke Field, the team’s outdoor practice facility.