The Green Bay Packers have a little over 24 hours to shave down their 91-man roster to a 53-man roster by Tuesday’s deadline. Make that a 90-man roster, as the team has officially released punter Pat O’Donnell on Monday.
O’Donnell, after eight seasons with the Chicago Bears, signed with the Packers as a free agent in 2022. Last year, he punted 52 balls for a 44.5-yard average with Green Bay. This offseason, O’Donnell was pushed by USFL signing Daniel Whelan, an Irish national who was named the top punter in the spring league. As of now, it looks like O’Donnell will be replaced by Whelan, a 24-year-old whose only NFL experience outside of Green Bay was two months with the New Orleans Saints from May to July of 2022.
O’Donnell was due $1.2 million in base salary this season. The Packers already paid out $650,000 to the punter in the form of a roster bonus, which is one reason why this move may be seen as puzzling. According to Spotrac, Whelan is on a one-year, $750,000 deal with Green Bay that would make the UC-Davis graduate an exclusive rights free agent after the 2023 season.
The transition from O’Donnell to Whelan might foretell a youth movement for the Packers’ roster construction. Many of the roster bubble debates surrounding the team involve older special teams contributors and young, unproven undrafted rookies and draft picks. If this decision is any indication of how the next two days will unfold, expect many of those verdicts to break in favor of younger players.
Head coach Matt LaFleur stated on Sunday that he did not expect the team to make any decisions to release players before Tuesday. That plan has apparently changed, or LaFleur wasn’t in the loop. Keep an eye out for more cutdown news, as this probably isn’t the last morsel that will trickle out before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.