Release of Brad Jones is a Green Bay Packers step toward re-signing of Julius Peppers


The Green Bay Packers Friday announced the release of inside linebacker Brad Jones, a move that will net the franchise about $3.75 million toward their salary cap – a move that will have an impact on the re-signing of others of need on the team – including one Julius Peppers.

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On Thursday, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he couldn’t understand why everyone kept asking him if Peppers would be back.

Well, the answer to that question was simple: Peppers contract calls for him to make nearly $10 million in 2015 and $12 million in 2016.

To see him back in Green and Gold this coming season, the Packers will have to make some moves that would help them pay for his services – moves that would require them to release some high-priced, non-productive players such as Jones.

They took that first step on Friday.

"“We thank Brad for his contributions and dedication to the Packers over the past six years,” Packers GM Ted Thompson said. “We wish him all the best.”"

While the kind words are fine, it’s the reasons behind the cut that will help the Packers long-term, and a step in helping them bring back players that make a difference – like Peppers.

When asked specifically about whether he thought Julius Peppers would be back in Green Bay in 2015, McCarthy seemed to know some things that we don’t:

"Yes, I do. I must be the only one who doesn’t understand why that question keeps coming up. Yeah, I definitely believe Julius Peppers is going to be here. He was very comfortable. He had a great year. He made an impact both on the field and in the locker room. It was unique to get to know Julius Peppers through the process of once he signed as a free agent. I think he looks great in green and gold."

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In addition to his seven sacks and two interceptions returned for touchdowns in 2015, Peppers also recorded 34 tackles and 20 assists. He also had six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

McCarthy was right – Peppers found new life in Green Bay and helped to revitalize a defense that was mediocre at best and downright bad at worst in 2013.

But to get him back in Green and Gold in 2015 the Packers have to continue to be creative in their offseason moves.

Does that mean also cutting ties with A.J. Hawk, the other maligned inside linebacker who is not only the franchise’s all-time leading tackler, but has done it consistently and quietly. Though he seemed on the downside of his career in 2014, he played every game while suffering from bone spurs in his ankle.

Green Bay Packers inside linebacker A.J. Hawk. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers said late in the year when Hawk’s snap count was diminishing that Hawk was playing hurt. Hawk denied it, but the fact that he had ankle surgery immediately following the season leads one to believe that he wasn’t himself.

Cutting Hawk will net the Packers another $3.5 million of cap space, which would give the franchise an additional $7 million or so in cap space – dollars that would help the team to not only bring back Peppers, but would give them flexibility in re-signing the likes of Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga – not to mention other players like Tramon Williams and Davon House.

With Hawk expected to receive a roster bonus in excess of $500,000 in the coming weeks, the Packers’ hand will be forced. No doubt a decision will be made soon.

So, the bottom line question is whether the Packers already have their map drawn out and have figured out a way to bring Peppers back with a restructured deal or they have decided who is going to stay and who is going to walk in free agency.

McCarthy may have tipped their hand a bit by indicating emphatically that Peppers will be back – but that’s OK.

I don’t think there will be a Packers fan anywhere who will be complaining to see #56 back on the field for the team in 2015.

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