Draft plans likely same after re-signing Walden

GREEN BAY, Wis. — In a bit of a surprising move, the Packers have re-signed outside linebacker Erik Walden. This, however, likely will have zero effect on what general manager Ted Thompson plans to do in the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday.

Walden started the first 15 games of the 2011 season at right outside linebacker but lost his starting job in the final week of the regular season to Brad Jones. Walden finished the year with 60 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown.

It was midway through last season, however, that Walden was arrested on charges of domestic dispute and was kept in a local jail over the Thanksgiving weekend. Though the charges later were dropped and Walden was not suspended by the team, it was an unwelcome distraction for the Packers as they attempted to go undefeated for the entire regular season. Green Bay was 11-0 at the time.

While the terms of Walden’s new contact are not yet known, it is most likely a one-year deal for the minimum amount. That is the same type of deal to which Thompson signed defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove earlier this offseason.

Given the lack of production at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews last season, the Packers know what they’d be getting if the plan was to enter 2012 with the same combination of Walden, Jones and Frank Zombo. The lack of a consistent pass rush was a major reason why Green Bay’s defense was the worst in the NFL in passing yards allowed last season.

It is for that reason that Thompson still will enter the draft looking for an outside linebacker who excels at rushing the quarterback. The re-signing of Walden won’t change that. Finding a pass rusher is widely considered the Packers’ biggest need entering the draft.

Walden, a sixth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, first signed with the Packers in 2010.

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