McKenzie still wants to be traded
Holdout cornerback Mike McKenzie, who has missed all of training camp, the preseason and Monday night's regular-season opener in a contract dispute, is expected to report to the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday, ESPN.com has learned.
The fifth-year veteran was en route to Green Bay late Tuesday afternoon. He and agent Drew Rosenhaus spoke earlier in the day with team officials, apprised the Packers that McKenzie was set to come back to work, but also emphasized that McKenzie still wants to be traded.
McKenzie will meet Wednesday morning with team officials and, if all goes well, he could rejoin the Packers for practice in the afternoon. But operating on the old adage that the easiest way to get a new job is to have an old job, McKenzie hopes the end to his lengthy work stoppage eventually gets him a new address.
"The top priority for Mike remains a trade," Rosenhaus said during a short stopover in Cincinnati, "and maybe him coming in will precipitate something. Sometimes, you have to change the strategy, to try something new. And, clearly, there was a financial factor at work here as well. Let's hope teams see that Mike is back at work and perhaps become a little more motivated to try to acquire him."
Rosenhaus said there was no connection between McKenzie ending his boycott and the fact Green Bay's defense turned in a stellar performance, including in the secondary, in Monday night's dominant 24-14 road victory over Carolina. Veteran backup Michael Hawthorne, starting in place of McKenzie at left cornerback, turned in a very nice performance, and first-rounder Ahmad Carroll also played well in the nickel and dime packages.
Hawthorne, mostly matched up against Panthers veteran Muhsin Muhammad, registered two tackles and two passes defensed. Carroll also had a pair of pass deflections. In all, Green Bay's defense played the pass well and the front seven certainly aided the secondary by blitzing Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme all night.
"If anything, Mike was excited that the guys played that well," Rosenhaus said. "He has a lot of friends on the team and wants the Packers to succeed. But he still wants a trade. That said, he intends to play hard, as he always has for the Packers."
Green Bay officials reiterated to ESPN.com on Monday night that there was no intention at present to deal McKenzie and that his contract will not be modified. Things have been quiet on the trade front, although at least one club, New Orleans, has maintained dialogue with the Packers throughout McKenzie's holdout. Green Bay was said to be asking for a first-round draft pick and a middle-rounder as well to consider a deal.
While the Packers have never confirmed that price tag, team officials have said no other team has come close to offering a package that would sway them.
McKenzie, 28, has three seasons remaining on the five-year, $17 million contract extension he signed late in the 2001 season, when he was on the cusp of restricted free agency. The former University of Memphis player apparently believes that, with some of the huge deals signed by cornerbacks in free agency this spring, his contract is now obsolete.
He is due base salaries of $2.75 million this season, then $3.43 million in 2005 and $4.1 million in 2006. McKenzie forfeited one-seventeenth of his 2004 base salary, $161,764, by missing Monday night's game. It is believed that McKenzie was being fined $5,000 per day missed in camp, the maximum permitted by the collective bargaining agreement.
Rosenhaus, who is McKenzie's fifth agent since the cornerback entered the NFL as a third-round pick in 1999, as recently as Friday has said no resolution to his client's holdout was imminent. McKenzie has not spoken at all to reporters during his absence, and spent his time at home in Memphis, taking summer classes at his alma mater there and working with a personal trainer.
In five seasons, McKenzie has started 67 of 69 appearances, posting 286 tackles, 15 interceptions and 70 passes defensed. The Packers could have him re-join the team and ask the league for a two-week roster exemption, standard in such cases, to assess his conditioning.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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