Big Question: What's next for Jolly?

June, 8, 2010
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Will Johnny Jolly ever play again for the Green Bay Packers?

[+] EnlargeJohnny Jolly
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireIf the Packers are without Johnny Jolly in 2010, they may be hard-pressed to replace his production.
Jolly's long-awaited felony drug trial continues to be pushed back on a busy legal docket in Houston. It's now scheduled to be heard July 30, a day before the Packers open training camp. New details recently revealed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggest prosecutors are planning a more aggressive case than first believed, one that will paint Jolly as an active and frequent participant in the Houston drug trade.

That report intensified a question we raised when the Packers shifted Ryan Pickett to Jolly's position at left end. The Packers also drafted two defensive ends in April, including second-round pick Mike Neal.

From the outside, it sure looks like the Packers have fortified themselves enough to move on without Jolly. They re-issued his $2.521 million restricted free agent (RFA) tender last week, but RFA tenders aren't guaranteed -- meaning the Packers wouldn't owe him a dime if they rescind the offer or release him before the start of the regular season.

The issue isn't that simple, however. The fact is Jolly had a really good season in 2009 and proved well-suited for the Packers' 3-4 defense. He led defensive linemen with 75 tackles, according to unofficial team-kept statistics, and tipped a Packers-record 11 passes. His athletic interception of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler won't soon be forgotten, and he also blocked a field goal attempt at St. Louis. It was the first time since 1993 that a Packers player had blocked a field goal, recorded an interception and recovered a fumble in the same season.

Were it not for that performance, I'm guessing the Packers would have cut Jolly loose by now. As it is, coach Mike McCarthy said recently that "I'm concerned for Johnny Jolly personally," and admitted that "definitely his availability is in question." Absent a complete exoneration in his trial, it's questionable at best whether Jolly will return for a fifth season in Green Bay.

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