The Green Bay Packers have traded third-year defensive lineman Jerel Worthy to the New England Patriots. He was essentially traded for a late-round pick in the future, contingent on his passing a physical and making the Patriots’ 2014 roster. Whether or not he does make their roster, the Packers’ defense will be fine without him. The fact of the matter is, his injuries are far too much for the Packers to overlook and his play when he was in the game was not phenomenal enough to take the gamble of holding on to him.
To start, the Packers are already a team who seem to have injury problems. It must be some kind of a curse, but last year, Randall Cobb, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews (along with a few others) all missed serious time. Ultimately, the season was ruined in large part due to injuries. Not re-signing Jermichael Finley was a start, but getting rid of Jerel Worthy is a good call, given that the team can no longer simply wait for talented players who are constantly hurt to magically stop sustaining injuries. A torn ACL one season plus back surgery in the offseason equals a major gamble to keep around. There is no question about his talent, as he performed well in college, recording at least 30 tackles and at least three sacks in each of his years there. Unfortunately, talent does nothing from a hospital bed.
I don’t want to sound harsh or callous, or to seem like someone who advocates cutting every player who sustains a boo-boo, but Jerel Worthy is not worth the roster space to the Packers. They have a decent lineup of young defensive linemen who can do the job. B.J. Raji and Datone Jones both underachieved last year, but reports from training camp indicate that both are greatly improved, and can both play nose tackle. Other tackles Mike Daniels and Josh Boyd are more than capable at defensive end. Finally, in terms of maintaining a steady pass rush, the Packers have two utility players who can be routinely exchanged between outside linebacker and defensive end in Julius Peppers and Mike Neal.
Basically, they have plenty of choices when it comes to big gents on defense. Neal’s 2013 was an impressive breakout season, in which, after three years mostly on the bench, he stepped up, played in all 16 games and looked good, totaling 50 total tackles and five sacks. Last but not least, adding to the depth on the defensive line, rookie Khyri Thornton from Southern Mississippi has shown thus far in training camp that he has great potential for a good career in the NFL.
It would be an injustice to so swiftly say “so long” to Worthy without reviewing his play when he did make it onto the field. He managed to play in 16 total games over two years with the Packers. In that time, he managed 15 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. These aren’t terrible numbers, but nowhere near those of an elite or even good NFL defensive lineman. Obviously, outside of straight up numbers, the value of a defensive lineman lies also in his ability to plug holes and disrupt the offensive linemen’s motions. Unfortunately, while he was a nightmare to deal with in college, his prowess did not translate during his time with the Packers. This was a tough choice, no doubt, but when a player’s health is that uncertain and his numbers and performance are unimpressive, it is necessary to cut him loose.