With questions at safety, could Woodson return?

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Charles Woodson
Charles Woodson

For seven years, Charles Woodson was everything Packers fans wanted–a leader and defensive difference-maker.

Oh, and an expensive free agent acquisition.

But scheduled to count $9,437,500 against the salary cap in 2013, the Packers opted to release Woodson and use that money elsewhere. Since then, the Packers have signed Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to lucrative contract extensions and brought in 11 players via the draft.

But one position that wasn’t addressed by the Packers in April’s draft was safety.

Alongside Morgan Burnett, the Packers’ have questionable depth at the position. Second-year player Jerron McMillian has his sights set on the starting job, and M.D. Jennings has added five pounds in hopes of being an every-down player. Sean Richardson, an undrafted rookie last season, also figures to compete for playing time.

Entering the draft, many expected the Packers to address the safety position early. But with the No. 26 pick, they turned their shoulder to Matt Elam and Jonathan Cyprien, and instead selected UCLA defensive end Datone Jones.

Safety was widely viewed as one of the deepest positions in the entire draft, with starting-caliber players available into the middle rounds. But the picks kept coming, and a safety was not among the Packers’ 11 selections.

So is the door completely shut on Woodson’s potential return to Green Bay?

Immediately upon hitting the free agent market, Woodson’s agent expressed his client’s desire to play for a Super Bowl contender. He had a visit with the San Francisco 49ers in March but nothing came to fruition. General manager Trent Baalke said before the draft that Woodson remains on the team’s radar.

“We had a great visit with Charles when he was here,” Baalke said, via 49ers.com. “We feel he can still play the game. That’s something we’ll continue to look at.”

But other than a visit with the 49ers two months ago, it’s been 2006 all over again for Woodson. But after months of minimal interest on the open market, the Packers pushed the hardest to sign Woodson and, ultimately, signed him to a seven-year contract in late April.

At this point, it’s pretty clear that Woodson won’t get anywhere near the $10 million he was scheduled to make for 2013. And if he’s only interested in playing for a contender, he’ll likely have to drastically reduce his financial demands.

If his price tag comes down far enough, the Packers could be interested. In the words of Justin Bieber–never say never.

Headed into 2012, the team’s plan for Woodson was to have him play safety in the base defense and bump up to play slot cornerback in the nickel. But after suffering a broken collarbone, which allowed rookie Casey Hayward to emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in football, Woodson’s role with the team was dramatically reduced when he was finally ready to return to the lineup.

If brought back by the Packers for 2013, Woodson would play strictly as a safety. Cornerback is perhaps the deepest position on the Packers’ roster with Hayward, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Davon House in the fold, and Woodson simply doesn’t have the necessary speed to play on the perimeter.

Woodson’s future with the Packers was in question ever since the team lost to the 49ers in the playoffs, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been in favor of bringing Woodson back all along.

“He is an important part of our football team,” Rodgers told Jason Wilde on his weekly radio show in January. “I think he adds a lot. He is still playing at a really high level. He’s very intelligent and sets a good example in preparation … Having his presence around the locker room really helps, setting an example for the young guys. It helps me out, as far as being the leader.”

Locker room leadership may be a bit overblown in today’s world of professional sports, but the team’s starting quarterback  believes younger players look up to Woodson.

Currently, the inexperienced trio competing for the starting spot alongside Burnett has two career interceptions combined. Woodson certainly isn’t the player he was when he was named 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but his 55 career picks and veteran presence could appeal to the Packers if the price is right.

Health isn’t a big issue with Woodson. Although he missed nine games in 2012 with a broken collarbone, he appeared in at least 14 games in each of his first six seasons in Green Bay. Former Packers cornerback Al Harris announced his retirement this week and said he has advised Woodson to keep playing.

“I personally think that he can still do it, so with him moving to safety, I would say ‘Go for it.'”, said Harris. “The one thing you don’t want to do is you don’t want to leave the game and think that you still had something in the tank. When you’ve emptied your tank, you’re at peace with yourself.”

Maybe Woodson ends up with the 49ers, or perhaps he’s run out of gas and played his last down in the NFL. But with the current state of the secondary, Woodson’s return to Green Bay may not be out of the question.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


24 thoughts on “With questions at safety, could Woodson return?

  1. At 9 plus million, it was the logical choice to let Woodson go. I would have liked to see us develop some more options at safety. Since the loss of Nick Collins our secondary has not been the same. Unless Jerron MacMillian steps up big time we will be looking for the pieces again next year.

  2. I think the biggest hurdle is pride. Woodson won’t want to come back at a price the Packers would be willing to pay, IMO.

    I would be happy to be wrong. I still think Woodson can make a terrific Safety. His instincts, experience and big play ability are tailor made to provide a big impact both as a near the LoS guy or as a defensive centerfielder. And while his cover ability has degraded, he’d be asked to man up on TEs and RBs more than WRs. I think he could handle that.

    But I’m not holding out any hope it will actually happen.

      1. Woodson’s pride and declining talent are both issues.

        To come back to the Packers he would need to be willing to back up both McMillian and MD Jennings, who are *now* (in 2013) equivalent talents with better upside. That won’t happen.

        I’m a fan of Sir Charles, but the only way I see him playing for the Pack this year is as an emergency mid-season replacement after injury issues I really, really hope will never happen.


        1. Well said Ed… I’ve been preaching this for awhile. The Packers now have younger options just as good as Woodson right now w/ Jennings (who I don’t think will develop) and McMillan (who has a chance). Whats more I don’t think the Packers will even offer Woodson. They know how prideful he is and that he won’t come back after being released.

          We’re all big fans of Woodson, but his time has come and gone. Maybe another team can pick him up in or around training camp. I would like to see him play only to break the record for most defensive TD’s.

  3. I was never a big fan of Woodson, especially in his last three years with the Packers. Always lauded for his big plays but overlooked his missed picks resulting in big plays for the bad guys. Too much time was spent on the sidelines with broken collar bones, and I don’t feel he’s big enough or fast enough or strong enough to be the Packers safety.

    1. Woodson missed VERY few opportunities for INT’s. He has ball skills better then most WR. As for the collar bone… The only time he really missed was 1/2 of one game and 1/2 of a season. Hardly too much time on the sidelines!

      Woods time has come and gone tho. I would only want him to play if he could break the Defensive TD’s record. There’s no way of knowing that would happen and he’s already a HOF’er, so there’s no need really.

  4. I’d like to see Woodson back on the GB sideline…as a DB coach!

    He knows a lot of what it takes to teach younger players. He leads by example and by word. He commands a lot of respect from players and coaches alike.

    Sam Shields and Tramon Williams both benefitted from playing with Woodson. I’ve seen Shields quoted saying so and I think Williams has, too.

    Personally, I believe Woodson’s time as a player has come and gone as a player. I hope he’s open to coaching. I think he’d excel as a DB coach.

    1. Great players do not always translate into great coaches. Part of Woodson’s game (instincts) can’t be taught. However, he was a film-room junkie by all accounts and knew how to dissect an offense and its tendencies. THAT is always valuable.

  5. I would bring him back in a second, for the right price… Charles plays with heart and leads by example. Pay him 3 million and play him in a limited fashion… Maybe some of his toughness will wear off on the young bucks?

    1. I would argue that at the money it will cost to bring him back, you’re bringing him back to start, not be a passing down specialist. If you don’t see him as being a 3-down safety, why bring him back?

  6. I have faith in McMillan. He struggled at times but also flashed quite a bit. Get into camp and see how the young guys have progressed. If it looks like they are not ready bring woodson back at that point. but you have to give the young guys every opportunity to win that spot.

    1. Let’s be honest: Woodson (and Harris, as a duo in their time) drew more def. holding calls than you can shake a stick at. They also made enough big plays to cover for it…and knew when to use the penalties to save the defense.

  7. Regardless of what CWood would do, I get the feeling the Packers have moved on. Maybe if injuries occurred during the season and he was available, else I feel the Pack believe they are better off with what they have. And I would agree.

  8. I think it’s all about respect, at least I hope it is. The Packers don’t want to insult him with a much smaller contract. However I believe a much smaller number is what it’s going to take to get him in a Packers uniform this year. I love the guy and hope he gets a chance.

  9. He’s lost more than a couple of steps. He takes way to many chances, and he gets called for holding or PI way to often. It’s time to move on, he’s not coming back.

  10. Did you really quote Justin Bieber? Im glad I know none of his songs. Lol

    1. I know, Dan. I admittedly hit a new low by quoting Justin Bieber.

      I wrote “Never say never” and immediately thought “Bieber.” Shame on me.

  11. I was disappointed that the Packers did not draft a safety this year, but Woodson is no longer the answer. It’s time to go forward with the younger players and see what we have. If this defense can stay healthy for once we should be able to get past the loss of Woodson. BTW, about a million people for the last 1,000 years have said never say never before Justin Bieber, whatever he is!!

  12. They will bring Woodson back if McMillan or Jennings are disasters to begin the season or injuries hit safeties

  13. He may have lost a step but if Woodson believes Woodson can still play then why would he try if he thought he couldn’t? He has invaluable experience and intelligence for the game to make up for that lost step. If the young guys beat him out fine, if he still beats them what’s the prob? He still love’s GB, doesn’t hold a grudge and understands this is a business. At this point in his career I think he would accept a pay cut to play somewhere with a contender, most especially with the new and improved Pack. That’s where he always wanted to be and that’s where he should retire! He is a died in the wool Packer as much as any there has ever been!!

  14. It would sure blow if the Wood goes to Frisco, has a great yr and then lights up the Pack in the playoffs.

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