Cornerback Charles Woodson is set to make $10 million next year and that is just one reason why it would be in the Green Bay Packers best interest to part ways with the former star player.
Woodson will turn 37 next season and has a contract for two more season for a price that is far greater than his impact on or off the field. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers referred to Woodson as a "core" guy and thinks keeping him should be a priority, but the team performed better without him and he isn't among their six best defensive backs.
In their nine games without Woodson, the Packers gave up an average of 20.1 points per game, compared to the 23.3 they surrendered in nine games with him. A lot goes into that, but Woodson's individual performance was a big part of the reason.
In his nine games, opponents had an average rating of 86.9 when throwing in Woodson's direction according to Pro Football Focus, worst amongst all Green Bay defensive backs who played at least 400 snaps. Making matters worse, he was called for five penalties, tied for most on the team with Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, despite playing 113 fewer snaps than Shields and 630 less than Williams.
Of the six Green Bay defensive backs who played at least 400 snaps, Woodson had the worst rating on PFF. His decline has been steady as he received a negative grade last year and barely graded out positively two years ago.
Many believe Woodson's value comes when he blitzes, but he's graded out negatively in that area the last two years as well. His biggest contributions have actually come in run support—where he grades out as their best defensive back—but for $10 million a season, they can bring in a very good linebacker or a safety who can provide run support and coverage.
The biggest argument for Woodson is that he brings leadership to the team, but his kind of leadership is even more reason for the Packers to get him out of their locker room. I have no doubt the players in the locker room respect and listen to Woodson, but that could be bad for the team right now.
After their loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs Woodson was critical of defensive coordinator Dom Capers. This came less than a month after he went out of his way to refute Bears' receiver Brandon Marshall's claim that Capers was the most important person to the Packers' defense. Woodson has criticized Capers in the past as well, making it clear he does not like or respect his coach.
Many believe Woodson led a revolt against then Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan in 2003 as the Raiders went 4-12 a year after going to the Super Bowl. Like with Capers, Woodson had to problem criticizing his coach in public. Maybe Woodson has grown up, but the Packers can't take a chance on him turning the locker room against Capers. Bad things happen when players revolt against coaches.
Some suggest the Packers should renegotiate Woodson's contract and keep him on at a cheaper price, but—even if he is willing to take a pay cut—it seems unlikely it will be significant. It almost certainly wouldn't reflect the kind of player he is at this point in his career.
Woodson's situation isn't unlike what Donald Driver went through last offseason. He isn't one of their best defensive backs and his playing time should reflect that if he returns next season. The difference, however, is that there is no reason to believe Woodson will be OK with a reduced role, especially playing for a coach he doesn't respect.
With his salary cap number, play on the field and potential disruption in the locker room, the Packers decision on Woodson should be easy. They are best off cutting ties with him now before he can do any more damage on the field or off of it.
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