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By CHRIS HAVEL
But the Packers’ 33rd overall pick isn’t paid like a shutdown CB – YET
The Packers are counting on Kevin King to battle the NFL’s elite receivers at a bargain-basement cost.
His four-year, $7 million rookie contract includes slightly more than $3 million in guaranteed money.
For that, he will be expected to line up against the league’s top wide receivers, such as Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Tampa Bay’s DeSean Jackson and Dallas’ Dez Bryant. It’s a lot to ask of a rookie cornerback.
Comparatively, top shutdown corners are paid handsomely. Ex-Buffalo cornerback Stephon Gilmore signed a $65 million deal – with $18 million guaranteed – to wear a Patriots jersey.
Current Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman appears to be a disgruntled Seahawk despite his $56 million deal, which includes guarantees in excess of $10 million.
To that I ask, “Why the long face, Richard?”
Meantime, the Packers’ fans are going to be rooting like crazy for King to succeed. That’s great. What may be even greater are the expectations for him at one of the NFL’s toughest positions.
Talk about a King’s ransom. Surely, he will be paid just like the NFL’s other top cornerbacks once he becomes a proven commodity. What I hope is that fans remember to try and stay patient.
Here’s a news flash: King is going to get beat this season. In fact, he’s going to be beaten repeatedly.
It happens, especially at that position. Fans don’t have to like it, but they need to be realistic.
Frankly, I think King is going to be a hell of an NFL player.
He’s got everything a defensive backs coach could want. He’s got length (6-3), strength (15 reps at 225) and a great attitude. He’s also plenty fast (4.43 40-yard dash) and familiar with what it’s like to face the opponent’s top receiver.
Packers’ history is littered with reasonably high draft picks that flamed out at defensive back.
Terrell Buckley routinely received burnt toast in his fan mail. Before him, Vinnie Clark looked the part, but he couldn’t play.
Remember Ahmad “the octopus” Carroll? He was the late-first round choice of Mike Sherman. The Packers head coach/GM doubled down by selecting Joey Thomas in the third round.
Carroll was a powerfully built 5-10, 190-pound corner who could really run. The trouble was he couldn’t overcome his limitations: tight hips, sub-par ball skills and hands that all too often latched onto opposing receivers instead of the football.
I swear he led the league in “illegal use of hands” penalties, often in a crucial third down situation.
Thomas, the third-rounder, was a rangy, 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who had good ball skills and nice flexibility. The reason he was a third-round pick became obvious early on: He was slow as molasses in the winter time.
While the Packers’ fans were getting sick of their new cornerback tandem, Carroll and Thomas were feeling equally frustrated with each other.
They apparently blew their cool in a meeting, took to the hallway, scuffled and soon after became a fleeting memory.
It turned out neither Carroll nor Thomas were very good corners and Sherman wasn’t much of a GM, either.
Now it is King’s turn to line up at Cornerback Island.
Serious expectations also await the Packers’ Josh Jones, Montravius Adams and Vince Biegel.
The difference is that none of them are going to be asked to step in and start right away. Each will have important roles, to be sure, but they’ll also have the benefit of time to grow.
King’s growth curve began the instant he was drafted.
His great attitude may be his salvation. He seems to be exceedingly mature and accepting of his situation. In fact, he appears to welcome the challenge.
In turn, Carroll struck me as a player with a chip on his shoulder pad who didn’t have the game to back it up. It didn’t take long for Packers’ fans to pick up on it and begin hammering him over the helmet for it.
King is too talented and mature to flame out. Barring injury, he should be as close to a draft-and-play NFL corner as you’ll find.
Now comes the easy part for us and the difficult part for King. We get to sit in judgment while King is expected to stand tall and deliver.
My best guess is King will be terrific.
My best advice to everyone else: Give the kid some time to get there.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.