GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The signing of fullback Ina Liaina doesn't necessarily mean anything relating to the status of veteran fan-favorite John Kuhn, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Liaina (5-foot-11, 240) has almost no NFL experience. He was signed by the Miami Dolphins last spring as undrafted free agent from San Jose State but was released on June 13, 2013, and never went to training camp with an NFL team.
He was signed by the Packers on Monday to a reserve/futures contract.
The Packers still have a decision to make about Kuhn, who will turn 32 in September. Despite limited playing time (28.1 percent of the offensive snaps), he played a key role last season in his seventh year with the Packers. He served as the primary third-down back and also helped pave the way for rookie running back Eddie Lacy to rush for 1,178 yards, a team rookie record, when the Packers weren't in a single-back set.
“He wasn't credited for one sack this season,” said Alex Van Pelt, who coached the Packers running backs last season. “When he was in there in protection, he was outstanding. Not only in the fact he was on the right guy but he'd often make adjustments to the offensive line when Aaron [Rodgers] was out and quarterbacks may not have been as comfortable making a certain adjustment where John would see it and go ahead and relay it to the line and get it communicated. The value right there of protecting on third downs is huge.”
Kuhn also continued his role as one of the core players on special teams. He made $2.35 million (including a $1.8 million base salary) in 2013, and it's unclear if the Packers want to make a similar investment in what is essentially a part-time position.
The Packers have not reached out to Kuhn about a contract extension yet, but there's still plenty of time for that to happen given that free agency doesn't open until March 11. The Packers also brought another fullback into training camp last season, but they cut rookie Jonathan Amosa at the end of the preseason.
“You have a comfort level with John that's huge,” Van Pelt said shortly after the season. “That would be a hole we'd have to fill.”