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Six Injured Players Who May Not Return Next Season

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After reading this article on players who may not return in 2011 for the Green Bay Packers, it lead me to focus on six players who are all under contract for 2011, paid like starters (whether they deserve it or not), and returning in 2011 from a season ending injury. I don't know how all these players are doing in rehab this offseason, so I'm just speculating on their health. It really doesn't matter if their physically able to play now anyway. The key for them will be their health in August. But it appears that the organization might have moved on without them.

All salaries are from JS Online. The list is from the most likely to depart to the least likely to depart.

RT Mark Tauscher. $3.681 million in 2010. It seemed unlikely he'd return to football after his season ending injury in 2008, but the team was so desperate after the failure of RT Allen Barbre that he returned mid-2009. It was a good move to re-sign him in March 2010, but that was before they knew they'd be able to draft RT Bryan Bulaga in the first round. Now they've added a second first round tackle (Derek Sherrod) in consecutive years. Maybe he's informally retired, and it will be made official after the lockout is lifted. If he does want to return, releasing him and re-signing him to a veteran minimum contract might be a good idea.

LB Nick Barnett. $5.4 million in 2010. With the emergence of LB Desmond Bishop, and the new contracts given to both Bishop and LB A.J. Hawk, he's a starter without a position. It's a great that the team to has three quality starters to choose from, but they probably can't afford to keep them all. He can still play, so he's worth a mid-round pick, but his base salary might be untradeable. 

LB Brandon Chillar. $4.281 million in 2010. He received a big contract extension in 2009 on the assumption that he'd replace Hawk in coverage on passing downs. But after Hawk's 2010 season, and his own new contract, it's not clear what role Chillar will be next season. Mike McCarthy pointed out that this was Chillar's third shoulder surgery, so his ongoing health might be the issue that leads to his release. Maybe the coaches plan on using him as the top backup, though he wasn't great during a 2010 preseason cameo at outside linebacker. They certainly won't keep Barnett and Chillar, but I'm not convinced they'll keep either player.

DE Justin Harrell. $2.151 million in 2010. It goes without saying that the injury prone player has to come back healthy this season. Do they even want to risk millions of dollars on another injury, and another lost season? Should they release him before he is hurt again? Or maybe it's worth the risk to keep him through another training camp?

LB Brady Poppinga. $2.4 million in 2010. With so many options at outside linebacker, and he hasn't been a starter since 2008, it seems like he's an easy player to release. But the coaches love him, and he could emerge from training camp as the top backup outside linebacker. Would they keep him over someone like LB Erik Walden?

RB Ryan Grant. $5.766 million in 2010. That's a big salary for someone who only played in one game last season. I expect he'll be back as the starter. But if you think RB James Starks has moved ahead of him, then it makes no sense to keep a six million dollar backup.