Packers solidify long-term WR depth

Updated: June 29, 2004, 3:42 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

If the Green Bay Packers keep ensuring the viability of their wide receiver corps, having taken another step in that regard on Tuesday, they may find that quarterback Brett Favre might never want to retire.

Robert Ferguson
Ferguson

The Packers on Tuesday signed three-year veteran wide receiver Robert Ferguson, whose initial NFL contract was set to expire following the 2004 season, to an extension through the 2008 campaign. Complete financial details were not yet available, but league sources confirmed that Ferguson will earn base salaries of $455,000 (for 2004), $545,000 (2005), $1.4 million (2006), $1.8 million (2007) and $2.2 million (2008).

The deal with Ferguson means that Green Bay has each of its top three wide receivers under contract through at least the 2006 season, all at relatively palatable salaries.

Donald Driver, considered the Packers' lead receiver, signed an extension midway through the 2002 season that ties him to the club through 2007. Javon Walker, the club's first-round choice in 2002, is signed through 2006.

With sufficient cap room to address Ferguson and his future status, a proactive approach by Green Bay vice president Andrew Brandt proved fruitful and probably wise. Ferguson is one of the Packers' young offensive building blocks and the club has a large contingent of veteran players eligible for free agency after this season.

Whoever is starting at quarterback for the Packers a few years down the road should have a still-young and explosive wide receiver corps on hand.

A second-round pick in 2001, Ferguson emerged as a starter in 2003, after struggling for much of his first two seasons in the league. Part of his early problems were injury-related and others were attributable to lack of experience and problems in adjusting to the Green Bay offense and to the intensity required at the NFL level.

Ferguson, 24, appeared in just one game as a rookie and, over his first two seasons, the former Texas A&M standout totaled only 22 catches for 293 yards and three touchdowns in 17 games. In 2003, however, Ferguson won the starting spot at split end in camp, and started in 12 of 16 appearances.

He had 38 receptions for 520 yards and four touchdowns, despite having to play through a variety of injuries. Although elevated to the starting lineup, Ferguson continued to play on special teams and was one of Green Bay's top performers on kick coverage units, as he posted 17 tackles.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.