The Packers cleaned out their lockers today, and for some veterans, it’ll be the last time they step foot into Lambeau Field as a member of the home team. Here’s a look at seven players who figure to be elsewhere when training camps open in late July.
Chad Clifton: Thompson took a gamble by re-signing the veteran left tackle to a three-year contract worth just under $20 million in April 2010. The Packers were hoping to get two good seasons out of the former Tennessee star; they got one. But considering Clifton played a major role in bringing the Lombardi Trophy home last February, you’d have to say the gamble paid off. Now it’s time to cut the cord. Thompson can’t afford to pay the oft-injured 35-year-old over $5.5 million, and with talented youngsters Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod waiting in the wings, he doesn’t have to.
Matt Flynn: The best backup quarterback in the league will be starting for some team in 2012. It’ll be tough to watch him just walk away as a free agent, but it’s very unlikely that GM Ted Thompson will be able to tag and trade the former LSU star. With so many ex-Packer executives and coaches scattered throughout the league, there should be plenty of interest in Flynn. Three-year veteran Graham Harrell figures to go into training camp as the backup to Aaron Rodgers, but he’ll almost certainly be challenged by a rookie selected in April’s draft.
Ryan Grant: While the former 1,200 yard rusher finished the season impressively, he’s 29 and not the same player he was a few years ago. There’s always a chance Grant could be re-signed to a modest contract (there won’t be much interest in him during free agency), but it probably makes more sense for the Packers to just move on. James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine are all younger, more athletic and more versatile than Grant. There’s also a decent chance Thompson will draft a player at this position.
Howard Green: The journeyman played surprisingly well down the stretch in 2010, but his second season in Green Bay didn’t go nearly as well. The 33-year-old reported to camp overweight and he was never able to reclaim his role in the defensive line rotation. Considering how poorly the backups at this position played all season, that tells you something. Thompson figures to add a couple of young defensive linemen in the coming months, so it’ll be out with the old and in with the new.
Pat Lee: The Packers know he’s not much of a corner, so if he’s re-signed, it’ll be because of his fine work covering kicks this season. But the guess here is that Thompson would rather keep Jarrett Bush, who’s slightly better on both defense and special teams. There’s a chance Lee could return if Bush doesn’t, but the Packers are probably better off replacing him on the roster with a young player who has a chance to develop at cornerback.The former second-round draft choice hasn’t been able to leapfrog Bush on the depth chart since arriving in 2008. That says it all.
Erik Walden: We now know why three teams cut this player before Thompson signed him off the street in November 2010. The 26-year-old made a splash upon first joining the Packers, but that was with the benefit of both fresh legs and anonymity. Without those two advantages, the former Middle Tennessee State star proved to be nothing more than a decent backup linebacker masquerading as a starter. No player fell from grace as precipitously as Walden in 2011 and his fortunes don’t figure to improve any time soon. In fact, he may find himself an unwanted free agent thanks to his recent arrest.
Donald Driver: I wrote about DD’s future with the Packers, or lack thereof, yesterday.