Packers Release Hawk, Continue Overhaul at Inside Linebacker

Packers release AJ Hawk

The Green Bay Packers announced today that they have released nine-year veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk.  Hawk reportedly failed a physical after undergoing a recent surgery on his ankle and the move will carry a “failed physical” designation.

Hawk was told of the move last week but the team chose to wait to make the official announcement.  Hawk was scheduled to count $3.5 million towards this next season’s salary cap.  Hawk was appreciative of how the Packers handled the move and has no animosity towards anyone in the organization.  Hawk was also released in 2011, but the move was more logistical and to re-sign him to a more cap-friendly deal.  There will be no repeat of that this time around.

Hawk was visibly slowed during the latter part of this past season and while no injury was reported, it was hinted to by teammates and widely speculated that he was dealing with a lower body ailment of some kind.  Hawk was regularly slow in getting to ball carriers and seen taking very deep angles in order to compensate for lost speed, something he never had to begin with.

Last week, the Packers released inside linebacker Brad Jones, who began the season as the starter in the 3-4 base defense next to Hawk.  Sam Barrington took over Jones’s starting role early in the season.  With both Jones and Hawk now out of the picture and after Packers head coach Mike McCarthy admitting that inside linebacker is the team’s biggest need last week at the Combine, we can expect to see changes in the middle of the defense in 2015.

Last year, the Packers used their first round pick to address the safety position, which was as much of a need as inside linebacker is now.  Ironically, it was rumored that the Packers preferred to select one of linebacker Ryan Shazier or C.J. Mosley with their first pick but both were off the board by the time Green Bay was on the clock.  Currently the Packers hold the 30th pick in round one and there is too much that can happen prior to that slot to say with any certainty that Green Bay can find someone able to replace Hawk.  I can assure you, however, that general manager Ted Thompson will draft one or two linebackers.  Keep an eye out for a look at the inside linebacker position moving forward right here at ALLGBP.com very soon.

While it may have been time for the Packers to find a player to take Hawk’s place, they’ll have an even more difficult time replacing the man.  Hawk and his wife Laura were very involved in the Green Bay community and he was the consummate teammate during his time with the Packers.  Hawk leaves with just over 900 tackles to his credit.  In his nine seasons, Hawk made the Pro Bowl only once, in 2010.  The only unfortunate thing about the selection was that Hawk was not able to participate in that game as he was preparing with the Packers for Super Bowl XLV.  I chose the image above as that’s the one that I think most Packers fans will carry with them of Hawk with his beefy frame and long locks.  He was a consummate “lunch pail” guy for the Packers organization.

Hawk has said that he would like to continue playing and is prepared for that to be somewhere outside of Green Bay.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.com

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  • Tundraboy

    Thrilled to see the team recognize that ILB play finally has to be addressed. 3 years too late, but they did. Time to have better than average talent in the middle. Hawk at his best was solid, but you have to have great playmaker(s) to win and his and Jones play was too much for this team to constantly have to overcome and in recent years hide.

  • Mike Sherman

    Hawk was average when he had a good ILB next to him, like Barnett or Bishop to cover all his shortcomings. Having him as a 3 down LB was suicide for our Defense. Looking at his combine #’s, ran a 4.59 dash, vertical of 40″, fast 3 cone, etc. was this guy on steroids in college? Even in his rookie year, I though his speed and athleticism looked incredibly pedestrian. Barnett was several years older, but always much faster than Hawk, Bishop was supposed to be slow, but he was the guy we always had cover the TE and RB’s, and he did a much better job than Hawk. After his second year, I figured Hawk was never going to be more than average, maybe a little better. I knew not to expect him to ever make a big play. What shocked me most in his career, was the big contract we gave him, then having him take a pay cut rather than putting him on the street. The contract was shocking, one of the highest paid ILB’s in the NFL despite never looking worthy of more than a mid-level deal at best. Hawk immediately proved he wasn’t remotely capable of living up to the deal, and we should have cut our losses. I can’t fault TT for the draft pick, but the contract and allowing him to come back from a pay cut have to be his biggest blunders as a GM. At least we can finally move on and get a real ILB!

  • Mike Sherman

    Now that Hawk is on the market, lets see how the rest of the NFL values him. We were paying him 3 million a year, I doubt he is on a roster in 2015. Maybe he gets a call if a team gets hit with injuries.

  • Since ’61

    Tough t see AJ go, but it is time to move on and probably should have happened last season. Thanks and good luck to Hawk going forward. The Packers were in a similar situation last season at the safety position after they released Jennings and McMillan. TT came up with HHCD in the draft and solidified the safety position. This time he needs to come up with an impact ILB either via the draft or free agency. Given the Packer’s current depth at ILB he probably needs at least 2 maybe 3 ILBs. I’m confident TT has a plan but can he make it happen. We’ll see. Thanks, Since ’61

    • dobber

      My suspicion is that they’re going to give someone on the roster a chance to win Hawk’s inside “plugger” position, whether it’s Bradford, Mulumba, Barrington or Palmer. Will need at least one athletic sideline-to-sideline ILB who can cover to appear out of this year’s draft or FA…where is the next DeAndre Levy hiding?

  • mark gast

    Hawk was easy to cheer for because he has a reputation for doing good things. We could all see this coming for most of this season. Knowing that his last game was coming, I really wanted to see him get a pick 6 or run in a fumble against Seattle. It’s too bad our last memory will be AJ getting burned on the fake field goal. Still, I wish him well going forward. He has a lot to be proud of.

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    Love what TT is doing here. Reminiscent of how they handled the 2013 safety debacle. They cut the below average players they had, moved a better player (Hyde) to FS and drafted HHCD in the 1st round. That way, they were covered from 2 angles – a vet and a rook with potential.

    Seems they’re going to do the same at ILB this year. I’m really starting to think we’re going to get some action in FA AND a high draft pick (or 2).

    Very exciting.

    • Razer

      Since the Seattle game, the organization has shown a resolve to get better (or at least – not stand pat). I too like how TT and MM are giving a clear challenge to step up. Should be a good draft and a great training camp.

      • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

        I think really since 2012 finished to tell you the truth. In 2011 and 2012 when TT/MM/DC saw issues, they didn’t usually make an external (outside the organization) effort to fix the hole. Before 2013 they did (Think running game). And before 2014 same. (Safety).

        Assuming Raji, Guion, Cobb, Bulaga and House are all resigned (which is my guess), the only roster holes we have are at ILB. And they’re forcing themselves to get better there…

        2015 is going to be special.

      • Tundraboy

        Yes this is shaping up to be an exciting camp with serious competition and hopefully with more new additions, a high level of energy.. I for one can not wait to see players like Hubbard and Thomas along with Eliot making big jumps and who knows maybe even Bradford. Same on O with Janis and Neal

  • Big T

    It’s going to be weird seeing Hawk in a Vikings jersey….

    • barutanseijin

      I think he’s done. Even if some other team picks him up, as slow-n-soft as he is, do you really think he’d make their 53?

      • Big T

        I can see the Vikings taking him. Physically he sucks, mentally he is superior to anyone they have. Surround him with talent and let him run the show.

  • BubblerBoy

    If Hawk had been a 3rd or 6th round draft choice, he would have been cut long ago.

    Can’t remember a Packer player with such limited ability who has been paid so much money for so long a time.

  • SchenySchen

    Smart move by the Pack. Never lived up to his draft status but not as bad as he’s been made out to be by fans either. Always available, over 900 tackles (and not all of them 5 yards downfield). Fans should, if nothing else, be thankful he was a good citizen, both to the team and the community. GoPack!

  • White92

    I could see him coming back as a coach someday..

  • Jeff

    I get a laugh out of all the people crying over them cutting him…It is the same people that were saying the last few years we need to address the ILB position! Well now they are doing it and everyone is sad :(

  • Rossonero

    From an NFL draft standpoint, I’m fairly confident that Denzel Perryman (Miami), Benadrick McKinney (Mississippi State) and Paul Dawson (TCU) will be available by #30. It’s just a question of which one. Eric Kendricks (UCLA) is the cream of the crop, so he’ll be long gone, but it seems like McKinney’s stock has fallen. I’d be fine with the Packers taking him, even if he’d be better at OLB. The Packers could take an ILB in the 2nd round.

    If you go back to 2009, DeAndre Levy fell to the 3rd round in part because he suffered a right hamstring strain that prevented him from completing agility tests at the NFL Combine. The Lions took him in the 3rd round and never looked back.

    • dobber

      It could be that any of those three (Perryman, McKinney, Dawson) are available at #30, but each has their detractors.

      I think the thing the Packers really need at ILB is a rangy guy who can cover RBs and TEs. Doesn’t matter where you find that guy (draft, FA, transition a player on the roster to ILB). A physical, inside plugger is easy to get or to make. All three of those guys get good marks for intensity and tackling ability, but it seems that Perryman gets better (but not great) marks for coverage.