Today marked the end of Al Harris' career as a Green Bay Packer. Harris, who had been on the PUP list this season due to a serious knee injury sustained in last season's win over the 49ers, was released this morning instead of being placed on the active roster.
According to head coach Mike McCarthy, the decision to release the two-time Pro-Bowler has more to do with the talent currently on the Packers roster and less to do with Harris' ability to play at an NFL level after his injury.
Charles Woodson continues his solid play, Harris' replacement Tramon Williams has been playing at a Pro-Bowl level this season, while nickel corner, undrafted rookie free agent, Sam Shields has been a pleasant surprise, especially considering the fact that he only played a single year at cornerback in college.
The depth behind Woodson, Williams and Shields is questionable, however. Big things were expected out of second-year man Brandon Underwood and 2008 second-round pick Pat Lee, but neither were able to beat out the undrafted Shields in preseason, an indication that neither are ready to play a major role in the Packer's secondary.
The Packers should know better than anyone the importance of depth in the secondary. Last season the Packers lost Harris, Lee and Will Blackmon to season-ending injuries, which in part created an inability to stop top-tier passing attacks. Now the Packers are one injury away from being put in a similar position to last season.
So why did the Packers release Harris instead of adding him to the 53-man roster?
Did they not want to pay the rest of Harris' salary for the season? Were they afraid he would have a negative influence on the locker room if did not get enough playing time? Did they not want to have to cut anyone from their 53-man roster?
Or did they feel he would impede the development of one the younger corners? Only Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy know for sure, but I can't help but think that this team would be better off with Al Harris than without him.