Charles Woodson, in my opinion, is one of the Green Bay Packers all-time great players. His dedication to his craft, leadership, and ability to get the job done on Sundays positions him alongside the likes of Leroy Butler and Willie Wood in the annals of Packers history. His willingness to tackle and his nose for the ball made the Packers defense better each and every game.
The Packers released Woodson in February. As of today he remains a free-agent. The San Francisco 49ers kicked the tires on Woodson earlier in the offseason and some reports state that he is still on their radar. Many argue the Packers should bring Woodson back. I believe it is in the best interest of the team to move forward without him.
In 2012, the Packers struggled with parting with another all-time great Packer, Donald Driver. Some may argue that Driver still had some good football in front of him. I’ll be frank; I am not one of them. Not to take anything away from the career contributions Driver made to the Green Bay Packers, but the game had passed him by.
It seemed to me that Driver’s decreased playing time and diminished role had a negative effect on the team. Driver was not happy, but he handled a difficult situation with class. Several weeks Driver was not a part of the active roster, including the NFC Wild Card game against the Minnesota Vikings. Then the following week against the San Francisco 49ers Driver was activated. Driver had even gone as far to state that he would play special teams against San Francisco. To me the move to activate Driver was a sign of weakness that rippled through the locker room. It implied that there was a significant chance that the Packers may lose and it is best for the organization to have Donald Driver on the active roster.
When the Packers released Woodson in February it was reported that the Packers did not even attempt to bring him back at a reduced salary. From the outside looking in I believe this was very much intentional by Ted Thompson and the Packers. They learned from the 2012 experience with Donald Driver and did not want to repeat this scenario with Woodson.
Just like many believed Driver had something left in the tank, the same is thought about Woodson. I don’t doubt that there are still interceptions to be made and ball carriers to be brought down by Charles Woodson. But his ability to compete at a high level each and every down no longer exists. He has lost a step – maybe two – and his health, specifically his collarbone, is a liability.
Sooner or later the Packers had to say goodbye to number 21. This is never easy with iconic players. Keeping Woodson around for the 2013 season stunts the growth of young players like Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, and Sean Richardson. It creates unnecessary drama and simply does not make the team better.
Ted Thompson has been tasked with parting ways with a number of Packer greats. He handled the Driver scenario well, but probably should not have brought him back in 2012.
Fresh off that situation, Thompson simply tore off the proverbial bandage. It smarts at first, but then the healing begins. The Packers are better for it and I think Charles Woodson will find himself in a better situation as well.