The Green Bay Packers released veteran inside linebacker A.J. Hawk on Wednesday.
The Packers announced the move on their official website and provided comments from general manager Ted Thompson:
A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons. He was a durable and consistent contributor to our success, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. The Packers are grateful for all that he has done on the field and in the community. We wish A.J., his wife Laura, and the rest of their family all the best.
Tom Silverstein of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported more on what led to Hawk's release:
FOX Sports' Mike Garafolo added that releasing a player via failed physical is actually beneficial for the player because they can collect injury protection money if he doesn't sign with another team.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recorded the key comments Hawk made about his time in Green Bay:
Hawk also commented on when the Packers told him he would be released, per Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette:
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport analyzed the salary-cap implications:
Packers right guard T.J. Lang reached out after he received word of Wednesday's news:
Despite the longstanding association, the split between Hawk and the Packers seems amicable enough. As the news release mentioned, Hawk is Green Bay's all-time franchise leader in tackles, serving as part of a defense that won Super Bowl XLV.
Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier offered up a brief explanation on why Hawk's time in Green Bay was so polarizing:
There's now a huge void to fill in the heart of the Packers' front seven. Depth at inside linebacker is a luxury the reigning NFC North champions don't have, so Thompson will have to prioritize the position through the draft and first in free agency.
By freeing up some cap room through Hawk's release, Green Bay can either pursue a lucrative free-agent option or strike a bargain in the first round of the draft. Possible draft targets include Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State and Miami (Florida) standout Denzel Perryman.
The 31-year-old Hawk has been a productive player in the league for years. His championship experience and intangibles that kept him with the Packers for so long should garner considerable interest from other teams on the open market.