There has been chatter that the Green Bay Packers are considering cutting Charles Woodson before the 2013 NFL season to save salary cap room. This would most certainly be one of the worst decisions ever made, as the last thing the Packers need is to release their star defensive back.
Woodson is owed $10 million this upcoming season, which is the only reason the Packers are thinking about letting him go. Green Bay could afford to pay him the money but the problem they are facing is that star outside linebacker Clay Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji will become free agents after the 2013 season. Not to mention, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is free to enter free agency in 2015.
The Packers do not want Matthews or Raji to go through this season unsigned and have the opportunity to think about free agency. I seriously doubt either player would want to leave Green Bay but the last thing the organization wants is for them to feel disrespected because they did not get an offer at an earlier date.
Cutting Woodson would make sense in theory because he is coming up on the end of his career while Matthews, Raji and cornerback Sam Shields (currently a restricted free agent) are rising stars. However, Woodson is the vocal and emotional leader of the football team and the players would be lost without him. He might have possibly given the most epic Super Bowl halftime speech of all time, one that willed his players to defeat the physical Pittsburgh Steelers even though he was not on the field. Every single player was prepared to lay it all out on the line for him as well as themselves because of what he said.
“I’m not really a crier, but man, that brought tears to my eyes,” Desmond Bishop said after the Super Bowl victory in 2010. “Wood is my idol and to see your idol like that motivated me to go out there in the second half and lay it on the line. To see Wood like that, it did something to me. All the years that it took him to get here, to not be able to finish with us, that hurt. But a part of him was in me when I went back out on the field.”
That may have been two years ago but to think Woodson no longer has that same effect on his teammates would be foolish. And to think he no longer can play the game at a high level is simply not true. He has dealt with injuries this season and that could be a reason why the Packers are thinking about going in a different direction. However, injuries are going to happen to a physical player who gives it his all every game over a 15-year span.
So, how can Green Bay keep their living legend while also signing Matthews, Raji and Shields? The obvious option would be to ask Woodson to take a pay cut, something he could very well be interested in doing. The reason he could go along with this is because he understands that by agreeing to less money it will allow the team to stay competitive on the field by re-signing core players. At this point, all he cares about is getting as many Super Bowl rings as possible before he finally hangs up his cleats.
If Woodson decides he is not willing to take a pay cut, the Packers still have other options besides releasing him. Center Jeff Saturday will not be coming back next season, which means $2.2 million will be freed up. Releasing tight end Jermichael Finley ($8.25 million) and linebacker A.J. Hawk ($2.25 million) would give Green Bay a combined $10.5 million to spend. Also, if Green Bay waited until after June 1 to cut Hawk, they would get an additional $3.2 million.
I understand that letting Finley go in a year that the Packers could be losing wide receiver Greg Jennings to free agency is a bit of a gamble considering he is still a huge offensive threat. Not to mention, head coach Mike McCarthy liked what Finley was doing on the field towards the end of the season and has insisted he wants the tight end on the team in 2013. However, $8.25 million is a lot of money and the Packers could certainly pick up a tight end in the early parts of the NFL draft.
Even though Hawk had the second most tackles (120) on the team in 2012, he is still someone that is expendable especially if Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith can come back from their respective injuries. Green Bay needs bigger and quicker interior linebackers anyways and that is something general manager Ted Thompson needs to address in the draft.
I would prefer to have Woodson, who consistently does his job and makes the team overall better, then to cut him in favor of players that are way too inconsistent throughout the season. The Packers must do whatever it takes to find a way to keep him while still being able to re-sign critical players.