Will the Packers Remain Uncomfortably Married to A.J. Hawk?

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AJ Hawk
Cut him or keep him? The Packers might just stay uncomfortably married to AJ Hawk.

The topic of A.J. Hawk gets debated to death by Packers fans every offseason.

Some fans view Hawk as an overpaid bust who has no business on the field. Others view him as a serviceable player even though he hasn’t lived up to his status as a high draft pick. A few delusional fans even think some other team would trade a first or second day draft choice for Hawk.

If I were in charge of the Packers, I’d release Hawk. If released after *June 1, it would save $5.45 million against the salary cap — money that could be used to extend Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji — and cut ties with a player who hasn’t forced a turnover since 2010 and didn’t break up a single pass in 2012.

Hawk has always been a ho-hum player. I believe the Packers committed to him because they weren’t sure about their other options. The Packers were the 35-year-old woman who married a guy that wasn’t quite perfect, but time was running out and the other options were iffy. Settling on Hawk was better than being left alone and vulnerable (with a house full of cats).

Here’s the big question regarding Hawk’s future in Green Bay: Are there finally some other options for the Packers this offseason?

Desmond Bishop is a high-energy playmaker. D.J. Smith is capable. Brad Jones proved his worth after Bishop and Smith got hurt. Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are young players who could emerge if given a chance. Do those players give the Packers enough confidence to divorce Hawk? What if Thompson drafts a physically gifted middle linebacker early in the draft?

On paper, you would think so. But can Ted Thompson really be swept off his feet by two guys coming off major knee injuries, a career backup (who is also a free agent), two kids who have never played a meaningful snap, or a draft pick?

Perhaps the names are a bit sexier this time around, but when you look beneath the surface, the Packers might decide to stay uncomfortably married to Hawk. He had 157 tackles last season, and he at least tries to play physical, even if he isn’t talented enough to make much of an impact.

I have a hard time seeing the Packers letting go of what Hawk does bring, especially for two hobbled guys, a career backup, a couple of kids, and (maybe) a draft pick.

Put on that fake smile once again Packers fans. There’s a good chance we’re going to have to pretend to be in love with A.J. Hawk for at least one more season.

*Note on Hawk’s cap number: If he’s released before June 1, the Packers would save only $2.25 million against the 2013 cap. If released after June 1, the Packers would save $5.45 million against the 2013 cap, but would take a $3.2 million hit against the 2014 cap. This all has to do with the prorated portion of Hawk’s signing bonus. By cutting him after June 1, the Packers could use that additional cap savings for 2013 on signing bonuses on new contracts for Rodgers, Matthews and/or Raji.


Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


52 thoughts on “Will the Packers Remain Uncomfortably Married to A.J. Hawk?

  1. What is the relationship between CM3 and Hawk. Does CM3 think the other players are ready?

    Taking a 3.2 million cap hit in 2014 needs to be calculated by the cap man.
    That can sign the majority of 2014 draft picks.

    If the cap money is needed than a 7th rnd pick or better is fine. Cinci is spending a ton of cash this year. They would jump at AJ Hawk. TT can work a deal with them.

    1. bengals already have Rey from USC who is a slightly better version of Hawk. Also, just because they are spending money doesn’t mean they want a MLB that cant do much to win games for them

  2. It is open season on AJ again. Every year, the armchair QB’s take aim at a player who is steady and consistent because he doesn’t make the flashy plays like Clay Matthews. Guys like Hawk are the ones that keep a unit together so that the flashy guys can do their thing. Find another target folks. Find one actually worth shooting.

    1. Sure, it’s players like Hawk who keep a unit together.. But that doesn’t change the fact that his contract for the season is over 7 million dollars and he does not make plays that matter. that’s a really high contract for an ILB and other ILBs at the same pay rate do both. They hold the unit together, and they make splash plays at the same time. Hawk is not a bad guy to have around, I think he could be a good player in a different system.. but he’s by no means worth the money, cause when you get paid like one of the better players at your position, you have to provide an impact to your defense. And Hawk just doesn’t. You can’t even argue that.. And you can’t tell me that Bishop (who’s getting paid 4 million less) couldn’t keep the unit together. Sure, leadership is great, but it’s not worth crap if you can’t back it up with your play.
      I wouldn’t mind Hawk on the team, but for half the money at best.

          1. HA…I failed to read the $8 million signing bonus.
            $8 million reasons to change my opinion of him.

    2. Is Hawk awful? No, but he is not worth any thing close to what he is getting paid. Every team needs glue guys that keep the team together, but at the type of money Hawk is getting paid you should be a play maker.

    3. He hasn’t forced a fumble in over two 35 games including playoffs over the last two seasons. It’s actually more if you go back to the 2010 season and find one of the two games in his ENTIRE career that he’s forced a fumble. Armchair my a$$, my 80 year old mother can see he’s below average at beat. Perhaps you should borrow her pop bottle eyeglasses Mr. Derek Williams.

  3. I think this depends on what happens with Jones above all.. If they resign him, I fully expect TT to try and trade away Hawk, or if he can’t trade him, try to renegotiate the contract and if that doesn’t work either, release him. And I think that would be a wise decision. Jones has proven that he’s a capable starter and is actually rated as the best ILB in FA this season by some.. I think that’s overblown, but he’d be a bigger impact player inside the defense than Hawk, in my estimation..

    1. Think its independent of Jones. Different position really. I think Hawk is back for one more year. Too much other uncertainty w injuries and inexperience. Don’t know who else can play his responsibility.

  4. Klausen hits the nail on the head….A job in the Packers front office awaits…Your post says it all

  5. I am not big on flat out cutting Hawk. The reason being is even though there is a lot of depth at the position key players were on IR last season. Packers know what they got in a healthy Bishop but do not know if they will have a healthy Bishop at the start of next season. Smith has not proved his body can hold up in the NFL. Jones is not signed yet. Even if he is signed he might be better suited to play a swing LB or in certain sub packages. Best case scenerio is to redo his contract to a more cap freindly one and bring him into camp for insurance.

  6. Regardless of what, we the fans think, MM and guys think highly of Hawk. I believe that unless the “Cap” is anticipated to stand in the way of signiing the big three, AR, CM3 and Raji, AJ will be the starting ILB in 2013. There is something there that Packer insiders see that the fans don’t.

    I go crazy everytime I think about him being paid top LB money to play a situational role. It should start to get interesting pretty soon.

  7. Since Hawk was drafted so high his rookie contract was substantial. Two years ago TT had to either cut ties with AJ or give him a substantial signing bonus and contract. At that time a replacement wasn’t on the team and the salary cap situation was not as crucial. There are options now if Bishop and Smith are healthy and Jones is signed. Prudent course would seem to be to wait till after the draft and at least OTA’s or training camp. If everyone is healthy, Jones is signed and maybe another ILB is drafted AJ would be a prime candidatev to be cut after June 1st.

  8. BTW, here is a short breakdown of GB’s current salary cap situation on a player-by-player basis. It does not take into account “post June 1st moves.”


    Hawk will be making just over $7 millions this year. That’s about $4.5 million more than I, as a fan, see him bringing to the field. However, as Stroh pointed out in some well-written posts in another thread, fans rarely see the entire picture regarding player responsibilities. Maybe we can rely on PFF to give us some additional insight on whether AJ is really a replaceable part, or whether he is doing a good job at handling the dirty work that we don’t see.

    1. You shouldn’t have to rely on PFF to know if Hawk is good enough or not. The EYE test works just fine. When you watch the game, do you say, “I’m sure glad we have Hawk”? Neither do I. I could care less if he was drafted 5th or was an UFA, he’s doesn’t play well. Then add the 7 million and it just makes him look worse.

      1. Eye test works for some positions, but in Hawks case where he is asked to do alot of the “dirty work” so others can make the plays, then it gets a little different. He has to do the grunt work, so I’m guessing you don’t appreciate that fact. Not defending Hawk, he’s a good player and far from great, but he’s not put in position to make noticable plays very often. So you see him making a tackle when he’s coming off a block 5 yds downfield and think he should make it in the backfield, but having to take on an OG before he can make a tackle makes it difficult to notice that he actually DID his job exactly as he was supposed to.

      2. Kinda a case where you can’t judge a book by its cover. Unless you KNOW what his responsibility is you can’t judge by the “eye test”.

        1. The eye test tells us that Hawk can’t get off blocks and is subpar in coverage. I doubt his responsibility is to be neutralized by blockers and let tight ends get open (yes, he gets the tackle stat for those plays as well). You don’t always need to know a player’s assignment to see that he isn’t a great player. If he made 1/3 or even 1/2 dog what he does I don’t think we’d be having this conversation, but at $7 million. . . .

          1. The “tackle” stat is the most useless stat if in football. It really skews a player’s “value.”

            However, the other side of the coin is that certain positions generate few meaningful “stats”, like NT in a 3-4 and the offensive line. It’s not those guys’ jobs to land in the box score, or to make splashy plays.

            When was the last time that you looked at Sitton on a pass play and said, “Wow, that guy is really worth what we’re paying him because of what a great job he did.” However, maybe he had an assignment that included double-teaming a defensive tackle with the C and then peeling off to pick up a delayed blitz from the ILB. It’s easy for us, as fans, to not pick up on these nuances of the game.

            That being said, I, as a fan, still fall in the camp of wishing that the GBP either had someone drawing a more reasonable salary at Hawk’s spot, or someone who can stand out in a good way more often if he is going to pull down that $7.05 million/year (if we can agree that is what his 2013 cap number is . . .).

            But what do I know, I’m just a fan posting on a blog. Fun though, isn’t it?

  9. Excellent article, Adam. I, too, think the Packers will stay “uncomfortably married” to Hawk despite everything else. Not what I want to see, but it’s what I think will happen.

    1. Speaking of… Have you ever seen the movie “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts? This discussion reminds me of it for some reason.

      1. Movie buff are we? Are you inferring that GB dumps AJ in Mexico and see if he can avoid a Drug Czar? Or if you prefer Drug Tsar.


  10. Hawk is a crutch to the defense but in the same breath how long can Capers go on?I have watched 7 players rush and not one of those rushers is even close to a quarterback. This has gone on for three years. The scheme sucks as bad as Hawk does. I would feel the same satisfaction to watch Capers go with Hawk.

  11. I think it’s a mistake to try to judge Hawk based on his pay or draft position. The only real comparison that you can make is to who else is available. If we don’t have a viable and tested alternative, then Hawk is our guy. If TT can restructure his contract, great, but the only way he gets cut is if someone comes in and wins the starting job over him in training camp. But by all means, bring in the competition.

    1. I agree it’s a mistake to judge Hawk on his draft position, but you can absolutely judge him on his pay. They should cut Hawk (or rework his contract)for the same reason they cut Woodson, his play no longer justifies his contract.

      1. But what we’re really looking at is value – quality/cost. You’re right, pay counts, but only if you have someone at a better value. Even with Woodson, they weren’t looking at it in a vacuum, they were comparing his value to the value of the other safeties. Think about Jeff Saturday – we paid him a lot because we didn’t have much of an alternative.

        1. But I don’t think the Packers lose anything defensively if they play DJ Smith(assuming he is recovered from his injury), who is making about 600k next year, or Brad Jones, who should not cost that much to resign. Which is why I don’t think Hawk is a value any way you look at it.

          I think the Packers thought Saturday had more left in the tank than he actually did. But that being said, the Packers knew that there would be a dip in play at the center position when they let Wells go, but they were willing to take that hit in order to save some $.

  12. I think we’re all missing the most important thing. The sentence “Settling on Hawk was better than being left alone and vulnerable (with a house full of cats).” may be the best analogy in modern sports.

    1. I’m glad to hear someone else enjoyed that analogy as much as I did. Great stuff!

      I think we need to cut Hawk to show the other high-paid guys on the roster that you cannot continue to play under the level of your salary (see Williams, Tramon, and Finley, Jermichael – both guys I have hopes for but think are currently overpaid).

  13. Hawk is just a player. Nothing special. You can get nothing special all thru the draft! All I ever hear on this board is that he does his job. Really? His job is to not make ANY impact plays? His job must also be to not cover ANYBODY. As well as not tackling anybody near the line of scrimmage, but almost always 4-6 yards downfield. And he’s getting $7 million for that? The Packers would jump at a trade for a 7th round choice for him. But they won’t get any offers for him.

  14. Hawk is one of the few that can actually tackle on defense as he usually leads team in that catagory. The Lb core never stys healthy he is the exception it seems every year. Gotta keep him

  15. Its funny that Hawk generates so much emotion from fans, but almost all of the people commenting on this thread seem to agree that at best, AJ is vastly overpaid and the drop off would not be substantial if he was let go. I think the reason why Hawk is so polarizing is because so many fans have his jersey, inexplicably was voted a replacement in the pro bowl by fans, he’s in commercials and seems to be such a popular player among average fans. Anybody that follows the team and the game of football knows the guy is average at best and its annoying that we constantly have to see him get publicity while more deserving players don’t. It just seems we are all sick of Hawk and would rather see him go….. its too bad other GM’s aren’t like the common football fan in that we could actually trick a team into trading for the guy. Even I wouldn’t have made a trade that dumb and I drafted a punter in the 3rd round!

    1. “Even I wouldn’t have made a trade that dumb and I drafted a punter in the 3rd round!”

      A punter from Ohio State and a LB from Ohio State. Money, it’s gotta be the shoes…

  16. Hawk is average to above average against the run. He makes tackles but never jarring ones. He is in position but rarely makes a key stop.

    Hawk is absolutely trrrible against the pass. Not a single pass defensed in 2012. PFF rated him the 6th worst LB in the NFL in pass coverage and the worst among LBs who had as many opportunities as he had.

    In the NFL, more than 50% of all plays are passes. Thus, GB is paying one of the worst LBs over $7,000,000 (2nd highest salary on the D). He is scheduled to make even more in 2014 and 2015.

    It is long past time that TT stop paying Hawk as if he is the second coming of Ray Lewis. When certain players are paid money well beyond what their performance dictates it is not just fans who notice. Players and their agents no doubt look at Hawk and say if his mediocre, at best, play is worth $7,000,000 then player X should get his too.

    If we want to sign ARod, Clay and other performers AJ needs to go and go now.

  17. Donald Driver Review: 5 posts
    AJ Hawk: 36 and counting

    Packers fans love to hate players more than they love to love players.


    1. What’s there to debate with DD?

      Great Packer, a great human being.

      He didn’t do much this year simply because his body simply got old on him.

      There are only so many ways of saying it.

  18. Very creative and accurate way of putting the hawk conundrum, Adam. Maybe the best I’ve ever read. TT fell in love with the farm girl prom queen and she got fat and lazy. He tried to ply her with gifts and she responded by getting fatter and lazier.

    Hawk’s a stiff and the sooner his contract is off the books the better. (post June 1.) Just trade Hawk in for the younger, stronger, faster, more passionate football model—Kevin Minter— and be done with it already.

    1. So you would trade one 2 down ILB in for another one who has the same issues? Minter doesn’t have the speed and quickness to play coverage IMO. And Minter is far from proven in the NFL, at least Hawk has proven he is an NFL LB, if not a playmaker. No debating, he’s over-paid too, but if we don’t need to drop his salary yet I would bring him back for one more year, then move on w/ Bishop in Hawks position and Manning next to him. Unless we draft Ogletree thats the best ILB group we’ll be able to field.

      1. This is the usual refrain regarding hawk—“if you don’t need the money”—they do need the money to re-sign players who actually make a difference—CM 3, Raji and in a year or so Rodgers.

        On Minter—we KNOW Hawk can’t do it (watch the 49’er, Giants or Vikings games). Minter would be ideal, because unlike Hawk, he actually gets into the backfield to make plays and he has the speed w/r to pass coverage. The other benefit is a savings of around $5 million re: the cap.

        Hawk’s durability is a direct result of his soft, pile-jumping play.

        1. Minter was surrounded by the best college Defense around, except maybe Bama. He will test much slower than Hawk did 6 years ago. You certainly DON’T know what Minter can do in the NFL, cuz he’s never played in the NFL. Hawk showed great instinct at OSU and alot more athleticism than Minter will show. Hawk takes on OG so Bishop or whoever is playing Weak ILB can make plays and he still is in the game every week after taking on OG all day!

  19. There is one thing that can be said about Hawk. He is durable. Is he worth the money he’s paid? No,but on a team that seems to get more than its share of injuries,Hawk is there game after game.Restructuring his contract would be the thing to do.He’s not a bad player,just not the player he was drafted as.

  20. I’ve read thru the entire comments section and all I really see in defense of A.J. is he’s regularly available, knows his responsibilities and might be doing “dirty work” we fans are unaware of. What!?! The whole point of a 3-4 is for the DL to tie up the OL so the LB’s can make plays. Forget where he was drafted and how much money he makes! Can he range sideline to sideline? Can he cover a TE in the seam or pick up a RB out of the backfield? Does he get off blocks and stop inside running plays for a 2-3 yard gain (as opposed to 5 or 6 yards)?

    The answer to these questions is a resounding “No”. Having established that, how could the Packers be worse by giving any of the other ILB’s (Manning, Lattimore, Jones) on the team his position? I’m willing to gamble Hawk’s assignment-sure availability for somebody (anybody!) who might be able to make a game-changing play or get us off the field on third down!!!

  21. AJ’s time has come and gone. He never lived up to his potential. I think the LB group as a whole could do just as good a job as AJ did for alot less money. Unless you want to dabble in the FA market, which is not likely. Money is needed to resign AR,CM, and even BJ to new contracts so you can set the team up not only for future talent but for future cap space

  22. I don’t see Packers cutting Hawk unless they can’t renegotiate his contract–Bishop’s coming back–BUT BISHOP WON’T TAKE HAWK’s place–he’ll take his position back from FA Walden and Smith. Smith may or may not crack starting lineup–that may depend on whether Hawk stays–and Packers need DEPTH at LB–LB is more valuable in their system than D-lineman, so Hawk stays IF GB gets a friendly contract negotiated. Packers need an upgrade at the position but need QUALITY over QUANTITY and they’re not consistently getting it from Walden or Jones, both FA’s this season.

  23. “The Packers were the 35-year-old woman who married a guy that wasn’t quite perfect, but time was running out and the other options were iffy. Settling on Hawk was better than being left alone and vulnerable (with a house full of cats).”
    WOW. So the only analogy you could come up with is one that implies a woman is old and desperate, and vulnerable at 35, and a houseful of cats is her only option other than “settling”. Let me see, Farve was 40, Driver was 37, as were Ray Lewis, Ronde Barber, Jeff Saturday, and more last season. Lousy analogy, sexist and ageist comment.

    1. Nothing, in that I have five right now, and have had up to nine. But if you have never heard of “a cat lady” you must be living in a cave.

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