A year ago, the Green Bay Packers elected to move on from a group of veterans at the inside linebacker position, instead moving forward with a group of young players plus former outside linebacker Clay Matthews manning the position. The results were mixed, but the releases of Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk freed up both playing time and some money at the position.
Fast-forward a year to today. This afternoon, the Cincinnati Bengals announced that they have released Hawk, a native of nearby Centerville, Ohio. The linebacker was one season into the two-year contract he signed with the team last March. Hawk's deal contained no guaranteed money for 2016, and therefore Cincinnati was able to let him walk with no dead money hitting the salary cap in 2016.
Hawk's stat line in 2015 with the Bengals is a curious one. He played in all 16 games, as he has in nine of his ten NFL seasons, and even made 11 starts as the strong-side linebacker in Cincinnati's 4-3 defense. In that role, he recorded a career-low 24 total tackles (16 solo) while adding one sack. He also added one tackle in the Bengals' one playoff game.
The Packers' all-time tackles leader, Hawk had never recorded fewer than 80 total tackles in a season prior to 2015. He becomes a free agent immediately.
At this time, however, the Packers would be best served avoiding signing Hawk. He was released in 2015 with a failed physical designation, and another year of football has surely only added to any physical ailments that affected him in his Packers career.
We wish Hawk the best in the next phase of his career, whether or not that takes place on the field with an NFL team.