It took a little longer than expected, but the Green Bay Packers finally released Chad Clifton on Monday afternoon. The veteran left tackle missed 10 games last season with a severe hamstring injury and then underwent minor back surgery in February. He reportedly failed his physical upon arriving for the start of offseason workouts last week. Whatever the reason, moving on from Clifton is absolutely the right thing to do.
Clifton, who was originally drafted in the second round in 2000, started 140 games for the Packers and went to a pair of Pro Bowls. His excellent play in 2010 helped Green Bay win Super Bowl XLV, but his re-emergence as a premier left tackle was short-lived. The former Tennessee standout looked to be running on fumes early last season – even before getting hurt in week 5. His run blocking – never a strength – was worse than ever, and he was even struggling to hold up against mediocre defensive linemen in pass protection. Clifton returned from injury in time to start the playoff game against the Giants, but he was pulled early due to ineffectiveness.
Clifton, who was among former general manager Ron Wolf’s best draft picks, had been one of only two players on the current roster who pre-dated Ted Thompson’s arrival from Seattle in 2005 (wide receiver Donald Driver is now the last man standing). Here’s what the team’s current general manager said following today’s somewhat surprising announcement: “Chad is a great Packer and has been an integral part of our success over the past 12 seasons. He was a member of some of the most prolific offenses in team history, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. We thank Chad for all that he has given the Packers on the field and in the community and wish him and his family well.”
With Clifton now out of the picture, youngsters Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod (if fully healthy) figure to compete for the starting job at left tackle. But as I wrote a few months ago, moving Bryan Bulaga from right tackle still makes the most sense. We’ll find out whether that’s even an option being discussed by Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy once on-field practices begin next month. The No. 4 tackle is currently Chris Campbell, a raw but very talented third-year player. Look for the Packers to add at least one draft choice to the mix by the end of the week.