Photo by Kyle Engman
Packers coach Mike McCarthy has clearly identified inside linebacker as the position in which he wants to see the most dramatic changes in personnel ahead of the next NFL season. The announcement that AJ Hawk has been released by the team follows hot on the heels of last week’s news that Brad Jones had also been shown the door. With the Packers having come so close to reaching their first Super Bowl since 2011 last season, there was always going to be some upheaval. But few would have predicted that the devastating NFC Championship defeat to Seattle would result in such major defensive changes.
Hard to Replace
Hawk and Jones were the Packers’ starting inside linebackers last season and to let them both go at the same time seems like a significant risk. At 31 and 28-years-old respectively, the two men should have been at the peak of their powers. They may have been coming towards the twilight of their NFL careers but their experience will be hard to replace. It has to assume that the decision to release them was in a large part dictated by the significant salaries that they both earned and the salary cap that can be made available. Indeed, releasing Hawk apparently frees up $3.5million and Jones frees up $3.75m. Hawk was released in 2011 only to be re-signed on a lower salary a day later. However, it looks unlikely that will happen again this time.
Whilst losing Hawk and Jones will mean sacrificing a total of 15 years of NFL experience, all gained with the Packers, it will give Green Bay the opportunity to restructure their defence and to bring in some fresh ideas. Having taken such a bold decision, it is to be hoped that the Green Bay management have a clear plan of action and that there is a strategy in place for ensuring defensive stability next year and ensuring that Green Bay remain among those who attract interest with bettors at the likes of betfair.
Key to any plan that may be in place will be successful defensive recruitment through the draft and, although the Packers only have 30th draft pick overall, they will certainly have a number of key men in mind. NFL general manager Charley Casserly recently highlighted two players who will be high up the Packers list of targets. These two players are Denzel Perryman, who has impressed at Miami, and Paul Dawson of TCU. If the Packers can secure either of these men in the draft, then they will be confident that Hawk and Jones can be replaced.
Green Bay will certainly miss their two veteran linebackers, and the decision to let them go is a gamble, but it might just turn out to be the kind of bold move that turns a Divisional Championship winning side into Super Bowl champions.