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Packers release Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton

The decorated offensive lineman’s tenure in Green Bay has reached its conclusion.

Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For eight season, the Green Bay Packers have employed Josh Sitton, one of the best offensive linemen in the league. That run has reached its conclusion, as the team announced Sitton’s release on Saturday.

“We want to thank Josh for his contributions during his time in Green Bay. He has been an important part of the success we have enjoyed on the field,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in the team’s press release. “While these decisions are never easy, this was done with a focus on what is best for the team and the growth of the offensive line. We wish Josh and his wife, Kristen, all the best in the future.”

The reason for the divorce remains unclear, but Sitton’s contract status -- he becomes an unrestricted free agent next offseason -- likely played a role in the decision. The Packers also have three other starting linemen (David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang and JC Tretter) set to hit the open market at the same time. Sitton’s age (30) and chronic back problems may have convinced general manager Ted Thompson to invest in their younger linemen rather than the aging stalwart.

At the same time, Sitton has proven extremely reliable over his career. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2009, he has started 110 out of a possible 112 games. Sitton has also earned Pro Bowl honors three of the last four years as both a left and right guard.

Sitton ranks as the longest-tenured member of the Packers’ starting offensive line, one of the best units in the league when healthy. He appeared in all 16 games in 2015, the only starter to do so for Green Bay that year. For his efforts, Sitton earned Pro Bowl honors for the third time in four seasons.

With Sitton on of the picture, the Packers have no clear replacement candidate. The team extended guard Lane Taylor in the offseason, though he endured bouts of poor play during the preseason. Don Barclay has practiced as guard in the past, but the team could still opt to release him as it trims down the roster. Alternatively, JC Tretter could take over Sitton’s spot once Corey Linsley’s hamstring allows him to resume work at center. Another option could involve veteran Bryan Bulaga kicking inside with either Barclay, Jason Spriggs or Kyle Murphy filling in at right tackle.

Sitton’s contract would have paid him $6.85 million in 2016. He joined the Packers as a fourth-round pick in 2008 and started for the team during its successful run to Super Bowl XLV.

Jason B. Hirschhorn is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and covers the NFL for Sports on Earth and SB Nation. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.