A big theory making the rounds on Acme Packing Company and elsewhere across the internet over the past few hours is that the Packers are going to release Charles Woodson with the intent to re-sign him to a cheaper, more team-friendly contract. I'm going to put those theories to rest right now.
It's tempting to compare Woodson's situation to A.J. Hawk's in 2011. Both players are veterans, were cut shortly before the league year begins, and were starters on the defense before their release. The problem is that those are the only similarities between these two situations.
Let's take a deeper look into the Hawk release/signing. In early 2011, Hawk was signed to a contract that guaranteed him $10.5 million as long as he was on the Packers' roster on the first day of the league year. Normally, that would be March 1st, but because there was no Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, that was pushed back to March 4th. In any case, Hawk knew that he had to renegotiate that contract, and turned the unfortunate situation into a positive - he ended up with a 5-year deal and with a signing bonus that made the total money he received in 2011 about equal to that $10.5 million he would have been guaranteed anyway.
It's also worth looking at Hawk's career trajectory at that point. Hawk was coming off arguably his best season in 2010, earning a Super Bowl ring and setting a career high with three interceptions. He was still looked at as a good, steady inside linebacker who was in his prime physically.
Now we shift gears to look at Woodson. There is no first-day guarantee included in Woodson's contract. In other words, the Packers would be free to renegotiate his contract at any time while he was on the roster and be subject to any guaranteed money. What purpose would cutting him and then re-signing him serve that couldn't be done just as well by simply renegotiating with him still on the team? There is none.
Then there's the career trajectory factor. Woodson will be 37 in 2013, far from his physical peak. You could see him struggling in coverage on slot receivers, an area in which he once excelled. The transition to safety was the only thing keeping him on the field this season, and even that could prevent his second broken collarbone in less than 24 months. Put simply, Woodson does not provide that much on-field value at this point, and certainly is projected to provide less in 2013 than Hawk was expected to in 2011.
Is it theoretically possible that Woodson could be a Packer in 2013? I guess it is, but it would take 31 other NFL teams deciding that he isn't worth a few million dollars as a veteran safety. It seems highly unlikely that no contending teams would take a chance on Chuck to help out the back end of their defenses.
Oh, and there's also this:
Asked Poston about pay cut possibility with Woodson. Agent said, "We're just going in different directions." #packers— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) February 15, 2013
In summary, it's time to come to terms with Woodson's departure because he's not coming back to Green Bay. It's a shame to see him go, but Charles, like Greg Jennings, is a professional and is not going to take this personally. I thank Woodson for choosing Green Bay several years ago and for giving Packers fans seven great seasons' worth of memories and for helping bring a fourth Lombardi Trophy to Titletown. Chuck, we wish you the best.