Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's better to give up on a player a year
too early than a year too late.
That's the credo most NFL personnel people live by when it comes to aging
talent but sound, lucid thinking is tough to come by when it's time to
evaluate a once-in-a-generation-type talent like Charles Woodson.
The Packers made a very difficult decision late last week when they released
the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year after a productive seven-year run
Ignore the seven All-Pro selections on Woodson's resume, however, and
understand it was the right move. The former Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan
was coming off an injury-plagued season, is 36 years old and was due a $6.5
million salary which would have counted $10 million against the cap had the
Packers exercised an option bonus for the upcoming season.
Since his brilliant 2009 season when he was regarded as a lockdown defender on
the outside, Woodson has slowly regressed, first being relegated to the slot
and then moved back to safety by Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
To his credit, the heady Woodson was still able to be a playmaker at times over
the past three seasons despite losing a step or two, but Packers general
manager Ted Thompson made the prudent decision.
Woodson was a below average safety, a position which doesn't lend itself to
trusting hunches, the veteran's last remaining difference-making
characteristic. He's probably got some gas left in the tank as a nickel corner
over the slot, but the Packers have a budding star there in 23-year-old Casey
Hayward, who recorded six interceptions as a rookie in 2012.
It was time.
Woodson was limited to just seven regular-season games in 2012 due to a
broken collarbone -- his second in three years -- although he did return to
play in Green Bay's two playoff tilts.
Give the veteran a pat on the back for suiting up against Minnesota and San
Francisco in the postseason, but his final two games in the Green and Gold
proved he is now a liability on the back end, a player Capers would have to
protect moving forward instead of the guy who had opposing offensive
coordinators cringing when drawing up their game plans.
It happens that quickly in the NFL.
"You can't replace him. You can only hope that the next person steps up and
fills those big shoes, those big boots that he has created," Packers cornerback
Jarrett Bush told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The things he has done in
his career are truly remarkable."
That's certainly true.
Woodson will go down with Reggie White as one of the most successful free-
agent acquisitions in Green Bay history. He went to four Pro Bowls and started
all 100 games he played in during his time with the Packers, who signed the
veteran playmaker in April of 2006 following his eight-year stint with the
In '09, Woodson tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions and added four
forced fumbles, two sacks and 18 passes defensed to become only the second
Packer ever to garner the league's defensive player of the year award.
He set career bests with 92 tackles and five forced fumbles the following
season, helping Green Bay to its most recent NFL title after the team's 31-25
victory over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.
"We are grateful for all that Charles has given to the Green Bay Packers over
the past seven years," Thompson said. "He has been an integral part of the
Packers' success and our Super Bowl title in 2010 would not have been possible
without his contributions."
Woodson concludes his Green Bay run owning franchise records for defensive
touchdowns (10) and interception return touchdowns (nine), while his 38
interceptions in a Packers uniform are tied for fourth in club history.
"A once-in-a-generation talent as a player, he is also a great leader and
ambassador for the organization off the field," Thompson said of Woodson.
"Charles will always be a member of the Packers family and we look forward to
his eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
They should certainly be clearing space for Woodson in Canton right now, but as
far as 2013 is concerned, Thompson was probably a year too late.
The Sports Network