On February 15 the Packers released a longtime veteran who was just as important in the locker room as he was on the field. Without even asking whether or not he would accept a pay cut Charles Woodson was unceremoniously released.
Some looked at this move with skepticism citing the fact the Packers did not have an experienced option across from Morgan Burnett at the safety position. With MD Jennings and Jeron McMillan however the Packers went with youth learning from a mistake they made just one year ago.
After winning “Dancing With the Stars” Donald Driver’s popularity was at an all-time high. Driver was coming off a season with 37 receptions, the lowest he’d tallied since 2000. It was clear that Driver’s role within the offense was declining. With options like Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, and James Jones all ahead of him on the depth chart Driver was in for a training camp battle. It was a struggle with Tori Gurley, Jarrett Boykin, and Diondre Borel all vying for a roster spot. Ultimately Driver made the roster, but that was basically the end of his highlights for 2012. Driver was reduced to a spectator for much of the season. Early in the year Driver played only three snaps in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, and his reps only diminished from there. Driver’s skill set was obviously not what it once was, he struggled with drops and was unable to separate from coverage in his limited reps on the field.
By the end of the season he was a healthy scratch on numerous occasions losing reps to street free-agents Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross. Fans clamored for him to get more time on the field but it was clear he was not better than any of the previously mentioned options or Jermichael Finley. In keeping Driver the Packers wasted a roster spot that could have been used for developing a younger player at various positions. If one were to ask General Manager Ted Thompson whether keeping Driver was a mistake he would likely admit that it was.
After looking at Driver’s final stat line for 2012, it is easy to see that a mistake was made. He had eight receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns. It is incredibly likely that a player that was cut in training camp similar to Gurley or Borel could have replicated those numbers. Even if the Packers did not keep a wide receiver they could have developed a young player along the defensive line, or in the defensive backfield where some surprising cuts were made at the end of training camp.
With Charles Woodson the Packers did not make that mistake. Instead of holding on to a veteran one year too long the Packers cut ties with him, putting a challenge on MD Jennings and Jeron McMillan. With Woodson’s prolonged free agency, and the Packers not drafting a safety early, there was speculation that Woodson could return to Green Bay for one final run. That was not the case as Woodson signed with the Raiders on May 21. Woodson will bring veteran leadership to a locker room in Oakland that is desperate for it, but not needed in Green Bay. With players like Clay Matthews becoming a veteran and AJ Hawk providing a steady presence the Packers defense will be adequate in terms of leadership. With the excitement that is now apparent in the Packers organization about both MD Jennings and Jeron McMillan Woodson simply was expendable to the Packers in a game that is about replacement. Instead of replacing Woodson one year too late the Packers moved on at the right time.
Football on the professional level is a young mans game, and the Packers served their youth learning from a mistake they had made just one year ago.
Jacob is a columnist for AllGBP.com. Follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobWestendorf