Charles Woodson was released by the Packers today in a typical to-be-expected Ted Thompson move. Here are five thoughts on the release –
1) A Ted Thompson special – The pickup of free agent Charles Woodson in 2006 will always be one of Ted Thompson’s highlights. When the Oakland Raiders released Woodson, nobody in the league really wanted to sign him to a contract. There were whispers about his attitude and declining skills. The Packers were rebuilding and ridiculously young and Woodson was going to be paid more per year than all the Packers not named Favre.
In spite of all that, Woodson played seven years for the Packers at a high level and was an integral member of the team’s 80-42 record since then. I cannot think of many free agents in the league that last seven whole years. Ted Thompson is due a lot of credit for this. How many GMs in the league could have foreseen this fit and been as ahead of the curve? The drafting of Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb still rank as Ted Thompson’s two best moves to me but the Woodson signing comes pretty darn close. When Charles Woodson goes to the Hall of Fame in 2019, he better have a paragraph in his speech for Mr. Ted Thompson.
2) The timing is right – Sentimentality aside, the timing of Woodson’s release is right for the Packers. He counts $10 million against the salary cap and is 36 years old going on 37. The Packers have to find a way to re-sign and extend at least two of their core three (Rodgers, Matthews and Raji) in the next 6-12 months. They can use any cap relief that they can get. While Woodson probably has one good season left, the Packers cannot afford to risk finding out otherwise. The secondary right now is young and hungry and will likely deal with some growing pains without its vocal, experienced leader. But in the big picture, the time to ramp and grow may not be anything that other teams in the NFL don’t encounter regularly. Replenishing units with youth every 3-4 years is the cost of doing business in the NFL. I think the timing is right.
3) Versatility – What I will remember most from seven years of watching Charles (apart from his powerful stare of course) is his versatility. He was all over the field and took over games by aggressively prefetching and processing quarterback intent. He was also a mean tackler and a more than capable returner. There will not be another one like him any time soon. Versatility, thy name is Woodson. Turnovers generated is one of the statistics that has been shown to regress to the mean much more often than not. Charles Woodson is a key reason why the Packers bucked the trend a lot these last seven years.
4) Senior Statesman Rodgers – Donald Driver just retired. Charles Woodson has been released. In a matter of weeks, the Dolphins, Seahawks or Vikings will sign Greg Jennings to a lucrative free agent contract. In a flash, Aaron Rodgers will have become the oldest and most experienced starter on the roster.
Think about that for a second! It feels like yesterday when we were arguing about whether the newcomer Rodgers was a better bet than old man Favre. In five seasons, Aaron Rodgers is the old man on the roster.
Rodgers is not yet 30 and has shown great leadership skills so far. He has led on the field with his performance and off the field with his work ethic and calm. Just as he was figuring out the league, here’s his newest challenge. Past history tells me he will be up for it and guide a roster full of flux to more success. But nothing can be taken for granted and Rodgers’ next five years as the leader, elder and statesman will be a fascinating watch for all of us.
5) Unlucky number 2013 – Every NFL team faces personnel loss and churn every year. Some years, more so than others. After four successive years of making the playoffs, the time is now for the Green Bay Packers to go thru some serious churn themselves. They will have a younger, less experienced roster than most teams. They will play a tougher regular season schedule than they have in the last two years. Their margin for slip-ups and injuries just got a lot smaller.
Like I wrote earlier, making the playoffs five years in a row is really really hard. The deck is stacked against the Green and Gold. How they draft, train and reload thru these next six months will reveal a lot about whether they can make something out of a brutal 2013.
Go Pack, Go and thank you for the memories Charles Woodson…