Defensive back Charles Woodson’s great career in Green Bay might be coming to an end
The Green Bay Packers will be spending a lot of money in the next 15 months. A lot. That’s because the organization will need to extend the contracts of two of the best players in the National Football League (Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews) – not to mention re-sign a bunch of other key contributors (i.e. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, Brad Jones, James “TD” Jones, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett).
Considering that the salary cap isn’t expected to go up very much in the next couple of years, it’s fair to question where the Packers will find the money to keep all of these good players. Fortunately, there is an answer. By cutting the cord to a group of talented but very replaceable veterans, general manager Ted Thompson should be able to extend or re-sign the vast majority of the nine players mentioned above.
Here are the veteran players I’d be willing to sacrifice in the coming offseason. The first number in the parentheses is their scheduled base salary for 2013 and the second number is their projected cap hit for 2013):
JEFF SATURDAY ($1.35M/$3.75M): Even before the veteran center was benched on Friday, he had no chance of returning for a second season in Green Bay. Thompson probably expected the former All-Pro to play better, but he wasn’t a disaster. His shotgun snaps were flawless and he held up OK in pass protection. Unfortunately, his lack of size and athletic ability made him a major liability in the run game.
CHARLES WOODSON ($6.5M/$10M): I opined in March that the Packers should release the veteran defensive back, so I obviously feel the same way today. At 37, the future Hall of Famer is no longer able to cover quick receivers without holding them and he’s lost the explosiveness that once made him a feared blitzer. Now what the defense is getting for $6.5 million is a great leader who can bait a young QB into a mistake from time to time. To be honest, I’m not thrilled about Woodson returning this season.
JERMICHAEL FINLEY ($4.45M/$8.75M): There isn’t a suitable replacement on the current roster, but there are a number of good tight ends available in the upcoming draft. And besides, the Packers won a Super Bowl with Andrew Quarless starting at the position. While Finley is playing better of late, the comparisons to Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates ended a long time ago. Nowadays, a more suitable comparison would be to Martellus Bennett of the Giants – a nice player who’s being paid $2.5M this season.
A.J. HAWK ($4.9M/$7.05M): The former Ohio State star has bounced back from arguably the worst season of his career, but that doesn’t mean he’s worth over $5 million. For that type of money, you would expect a starting inside linebacker to make some impact plays. Unfortunately, Hawk doesn’t do impact plays – never has and never will. He is, however, extremely durable and fairly consistent. And while those are two admirable traits, they simply aren’t worth the type of money he’s set to make in 2013.
MASON CROSBY ($2.4M/$3.15M): Based on how the Packers have stood behind the slumping kicker, I’m almost expecting them to give him a raise for 2013. After all, he must have pictures of coach Mike McCarthy, right? Seriously, Crosby needs to go in the offseason. Even before this nightmarish season, his career field goal percentage of 79.3 was 3 points below the league average for the past five years. And be honest, when was the last time you felt confident watching Crosby line up to attempt a big kick?
JOHN KUHN ($1.8M/$2.6M): In this case, the money’s probably not the biggest issue. I just think it’s time for the Packers to upgrade at the fullback position. Kuhn, who will turn 31 next summer, is clearly wearing down. That’s obvious both on offense and on special teams. By finding the right replacement, the Packers can get better, younger and cheaper all at the same time. That’s the trifecta every GM is looking for.
DESMOND BISHOP ($3.5M/$5M): While I don’t expect the hard-hitting linebacker to be released, I’m including him on this list for four reasons – his age, his salary, his health and his backups. Bishop is pushing 30, he’s set to earn over $4 million (including bonuses), he’s coming off a serious hamstring injury and he was adequately replaced by D.J. Smith and then by Brad Jones. Again, I fully expect the former Cal star to be back next season. I’m just saying that he could be sacrificed if money got really tight.