Cory’s Corner: Jones and Hawk were necessary subtractions

Inside linebacker was the bleakest Packers’ position group.

Now it’s the thinnest.

After the Packers cut Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk, the team now only has Sam Barrington at the position. In two seasons as a pro, Barrington has started only seven games.

But even with the cloud of uncertainty hanging over 1265 Lombardi Ave., these were moves the Packers had to make.

Jones was a guy that most people thought could develop into something worthwhile. He had a career-high 60 tackles after starting a career-high 12 games last year. But even those things couldn’t prevent the avalanche of boneheaded plays coupled with his slow legs.

Even coach Mike McCarthy was more comfortable with the unproven Barrington over a guy that was coming off a career season. And that was after watching Jones look like a lost a JV player in the season opener at Seattle.

Hawk is a little more interesting. It’s harder to rip a guy that has been with the organization for nine years.

And granted, I’ve taken plenty of shots at the guy. But ever since he left Ohio State as central Ohio’s All-American kid, he has been held hostage by being drafted fifth overall in 2006.

No matter what he did — with long or short hair — people, myself included, always attached and compared his Packers exploits to his draft position. And that’s really not fair.

If you were to ask general manager Ted Thompson what he thought he was getting back in 2006, he’d likely tell you a dynamic playmaker that eats, breathes and sleeps football. Most of that is true. However, Hawk was never dynamic. A dynamic linebacker is Justin Houston. A dynamic linebacker is Terrell Suggs. And yes, a dynamic linebacker is Clay Matthews.

But even though Hawk had trouble getting from sideline to sideline and showed a glowing ineffectiveness when asked to defend the pass, he displayed a mastery of the playbook. His leadership was the reason he held a Packers’ locker so long. And since he was the quarterback of the defense, that’s why he still has a heartbeat as a professional football player.

Many people were frustrated by Hawk. But let’s not forget that he took a pay cut to stay in Green Bay. And he never was a cancer in the organization nor the community.

And it’s because of all the sacrifices he made to stay in Green Bay that will make him a future Packers Hall of Famer. Hawk is the Packers’ all-time leading tackler with 1,118. I realize that many of those came when he was trailing the play or that it’s just a celebration of longevity.

But my uncle used to say that ⅔ of life is just showing up and Hawk played nine years. That’s a long time for a linebacker that knows he’s going to be in a collision on nearly every play.

It was the end of the line for both guys. Is the depth chart noticeably thin now? Yes. But keeping both guys wasn’t the answer either. The Packers save $7.25 million by handing out both pink slips.

That may not be enough to retain both Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga but cutting Jones and Hawk wasn’t about money.

It was about production. It’s why Jay Cutler is sweating in Chicago even though he has an immovable Sears Tower as a contract. But that’s the beauty of the NFL. If you can’t play, you’re out. Teams have no time for a farewell tour ala Derek Jeter, and that’s why dimming NFL stars must always be on constant alert.




Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


19 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: Jones and Hawk were necessary subtractions

  1. So the inevitable has occurred. Now what to do with the windfall from the release of these two. Do you allocate that $$ to the Bulaga/Cobb re-up efforts? Do you use a portion of that to ensure that CB doesn’t become the ILB liability of the 2015 season? Do you use a portion of that to find a serviceable FA ILB that can bolster the position while whatever camp meat you decide is worthy of being developed?

    Everyone says that TT wouldn’t have made these moves unless he had a plan for the ILB corps. We’ll have to see what that plan looks like, but I sure hope it’s not the same one he used to address safety play in 2012 and 13.

    1. Well, they way TT/MM have been addressing issues since the SF playoff loss in 2012 has given me hope. First the running game. Then the safety play…. now ILB and DT.

  2. Many people were frustrated by Hawk. But let’s not forget that he took a pay cut to stay in Green Bay. And he never was a cancer in the organization nor the community.

    He took those cuts because he was not the dynamic player they drafted him for if he didn’t he would have been cut long ago!

  3. The Packers will have enough to sign Cobb and Bulaga. Assuming a cap of $141.8 million and including Hawk and Jones being cut, they’ll have roughly $35 million in cap room. If you assume $2M for rookies, then that still leaves $33M left over.

    I’m now thinking the Packers will spend 2 draft picks on LBs. Perhaps even two on ILBs. If Carl Bradford stinks it up again in training camp / pre-season at ILB, then he could be cut. Jamari Lattimore will probably test free agency, so he could be gone too. Then where does that leave the Packers? Drafting one ILB — who like anyone else — could get injured, may turn the situation from bad to ugly.

    As far as Hawk goes, the league wasn’t as pass happy back in 2006. Over time, the league evolving to favor the pass, rule changes to legislate defense out, his age and lack of athleticism combined to take him down.

    1. What about all the other FA’s like Richardson,Williams,Kuhn,just to name a few?

      I like Cobb and hope he gets signed but IMO Bulaga is the main one he protects the MVP of not only the team but the NFL so he is a key signing. So get him signed and a few other FA’s that are affordable then and only then if they have enough to get Cobb signed without destroying the cap for the future then sign him.

      People are saying sign and win now no matter what but if TT did that then this team could fall in the next few years because it can not pay other key players.

      1. Fair question, although I can’t see Williams or Kuhn being back. Williams will be 32 in March and had a $9.5M salary. I know some disagree, but I feel the Packers have enough depth with Casey Heyward and Micah Hyde to move on without him.

        Kuhn will be 33 next September. It’s been a great ride, but the Packers could easily sign a FA off the street for nothing. His salary was only $1.03 million, so if he’s willing to sign for cheap, then perhaps he’s a possibility.

        Richardson would require $1.574 million tender offer, not sure if he’s worth that?

        As for Bulaga, I think the Packers will look at the whole body of work. I completely agree that he is just as critical of a signing, although he missed the second half of 2012 with his hip injury and then all of 2013 when he blew out his knee. He doesn’t seem to be a greedy guy, but given his injury history, the Packers will probably take that into account when they make him an offer.

        1. Ok but what about future rookies that will need to be signed as well such as Baktiari,Linsley,HaHa to name a few, If the Packers pay Cobb as a core player and in two years these other guys want top pay can the cap sustain it? I am not saying let Cobb walk but if it comes at the price of losing multiple future top players then I say let him walk!

          1. One thing the Packers do really well is structure contracts to be cap friendly, allowing them to keep a majority of their players. Fortunately they’re a franchise that thinks years ahead so they can keep guys like Haha and Corey Linsley.
            Also keep in mind that the NFL raises the salary cap every year. Last year it was $133 million, and on Feb. 18 the NFL notified teams that it would be between $140-143 million. That’s a big jump. Every time it jumps, it lessens a player’s cap hit.

            Take Aaron Rodgers’ contract as an example. Chat Sports had a great article, which I will cite here:
            “It may be called a five-year extension, but the Packers altered both the final years of Rodgers’ prior contract. So, in reality, Rodgers has a new seven-year deal worth just over $130 million, or around $18.7 million per season. In fact, the cap hit doesn’t rise above $18.7 million until 2016, when the NFL salary cap is expected to be over $140 million. It also never rises above $21 million in any single year, which is a far cry from Flacco’s 2017 scheduled cap hit of $31 million — though that will never happen.”

            “Finally, the Packers only raised Rodgers’ cap hit in 2013 by about $2 million. That leaves them with at least $8 million in cap space left likely left over after they sign all their draft picks. In other words, the final thing Rodgers’ contract does for the Packers is it leaves plenty of money to sign B.J. Raji and Sam Shields, or someone else, if they so choose.”

            All hail Russ Ball.


        2. I’m a Harvard grad and watched Tyler Varga a lot. He is easily the best Ivy RB since Ed Marinaro (2nd round choice) and Calvin Hill (1st rounder) and that was almost 40/45 years ago. I watched Hill in High School and he was off the charts.
          Varga’s mother benches 300 lbs. He’s fast and extremely tough – probably toughest RB in the draft. You have to watch him to realize he’s an Ivy but so was Hill and he’s a Hall of Famer. He will be the number 1 draft choice in the CFL.
          If he doesn’t get drafted or make a team he’s off to Med School. He is a steal if he drops to 6th or 7th round.
          Rossonero – good noticing this guy,

          1. Thanks Montana. The only knock I’ve heard about Varga is his size. I think his height is just fine, although at 227 lbs., he could stand to put on another 15-20 lbs for blocking purposes. Otherwise, he sounds like a terrific player. Did you see Zach Hodges play at Harvard? I had the Packers drafting Hodges as an OLB in the 3rd round, but it looks like he’s now projected to go in the 4th or 5th round.

            1. Hodges is solid. He played DE @ 235-240 lbs. Best Defensive player in Ivies 3 years in a row. Very smart.
              In the NFL he’s best maybe as an ILB. He played next to a LB that played at my son’s HS in Philly so I watched him a lot. He needs coaching. I think he makes an NFL team. What position the coaches will figure out
              Varga is a RB. I don’t see him as a FB. He’s a tweener but he will make a team or he goes to CFL or Med School. His pro day is 3/31 as he had a bone spur that prevented him running. Did 22 reps @ 225 lbs at the combine so he’s strong enough. His lower body is even stronger. He is very versatile and can catch. We’ll see.

  4. The Packers are $33 million UNDER the cap, so can we please stop with “the Packers don’t have enough to sign both Cobb and Bulaga” meme? If we want to say they aren’t worth that sort of cap money, that’s a discussion to have, but realistically they CAN sign all of their free agents and have money to spare. The real question is whether or not that’s a smart move.

    1. Caruso81, you are asking the right questions.

      Is Cobb worth #1 WR money instead of slot money? Most reports are ranking him with Denayius and Dez, not with the slot receivers.

      Is Bulaga worth #1 LT money to play RT in Green Bay? Again, that is how he is being ranked by reports on who is getting what kind of interest in FA.

      The question is not (and since 2006 has never been) whether the Packers have enough cap space to sign players *this* year. The cap consideration is always what this year’s signing does to your cap 3 to 5 years from now. It makes NO sense to blow your budget in 2015 if what that means is you go into rebuilding (or cut and gut) mode in 2017-2020.

      Aaron had 5-7 good years left. Let’s not waste 3of them for a ‘better’ shot in one year.

  5. With Hawk and Jones the production equation tallied ‘less though with more’ and now with the departure of both the production equation is expected to be ‘more though with less’ at least in the eyes of those who awoke everyday with the hope of reading what has happened…wishes come true and as of this moment the production equation will certainly tally ‘less is less’ is an absolute.

  6. Am I the only one who was just NEVER impressed with Brad Jones? I didn’t like the move of making him a full time starter ever since it began in 2012. He regularly missed assignments and never made a play. He was underwhelming and nothing on the tape ever showed any sign of a huge upswing. Moving this guy up was a mistake from the start IMO. I’d seriously rather consider trying out D.J. Smith and Desmond Bishop again before putting him in there, hell let’s try CASEY MATTHEWS!

  7. I realize now how scared are Packers fans. Team is leading by the best organization in NFL, not many affairs, good cap position, very good profit, one of the best roster in the NFL, few holes in that roster, TT & MM are almost always doing right things for the football operations… Why there is doubts that Packers will not be able to handle any problems along the path? When things has to be done, they are done!
    FA signings. What ever is necessary Packers organization achieves… Last year Shields was in question, Packers solved the issue, they signed in FA 2 guys we were scratching our heads why, but they showed there was reason for that. They drafted what they needed! We had team with one to 2 weak positions. This year we know they will address that weak spots. Next season will show another weak spot. Which one? We do not know. But I have no doubts Packers will solve that weak spot on time…

  8. GB could re-sign every single one of their FAs if they deem it wise to do so.
    Cobb: If he got 4yrs, $36 million, with 40% signing bonus ($14.4 million) his cap number for 2015 likely would be $5 million or so, then it would go up. I calculate that by dividing his $14.4 signing bonus by 4 yrs. to get $3.6 mill prorated. GB pays him $1 to $2 million in base pay in 2015. His cap for 2015 is $4.6 to $5.6 million. Call it $5 million. Then it would go up in later yrs. [Note that this is not unusual: Nelson’s cap for 2015 is $4.6 million.]

    Bulaga. Assume his market is as a RT only, & his injury history reduces his guarantee to 30%. So, 4yrs at (gulp) $30 million ($7.5 mill/yr !) with $9 mill signing bonus (30%), his cap # for 2015 might be only $4-5 million.

    House: Not sure of the market for Williams or House. House: 3 yrs./$12 – $15 million? More? Cap for 2015 might be $2.5 -$3.75 million in 2015. Tramon: 2yrs. $9 mill? Cap hit again might be $3-4 million in 2015. Call it $4 mill for one of them. (CB-needy team drives up the price for them?)

    Raji: 1 yr. deal at $2-3 million cap hit for 2015. Guion, due to legal troubles, should be cheap. Perhaps a roughly $4-5 million cap hit for both in 2015.

    So, for 2015 only: $10 million cap hit to re-sign Cobb & Bulaga; $4 million for Guion and Raji; $4 million for House ($18 million so far, which I would do). $5-6 million or so to re-sign UFAs Bush, Tolzien (or Flynn), Kuhn, (each at $1 mill/yr or so) Lattimore, RFAs Barclay and Richardson. I assume that GB does not tender either Barclay or Richardson; rather GB re-signs them for less than the $1.54 mill tender. Up to $23/24 million. ERFAs Banjo and Harris would be another $1 mill. They can’t go anywhere. Up to $24-25 million. Boykin is also a ERFA. GB needs $2.5 – $3 million to sign their draft picks. I am around $27-28 million. There’s enough cap space to re-sign all the players TT might want back. It would leave only $4 to 6 million, some of which might be needed for in-season acquisitions, and the rest could be rolled over. That’s a lot less than normal for TT.

    For 2016, GB’s FAs include Daniels (big cap increase coming), Neal, Perry (Perry has an option) but I don’t see big increases coming for them unless earned on the field. Starks, Quarless, (I don’t see big pay raises in their futures either) and Hayward. Hayward’s cap is $1.053. That will go up a couple of million if he stagnates, but any huge raise will have to earned on the field. Other big increases for 2016: Nelson’s cap increases by $4.2; Shields goes up by $3 mill. Probably lose Peppers and save $8 Mill.

    Now that Hawk & Jones are gone, the only players to cut for cap savings might be Quarless ($1.575 cap savings) & Neal ($3 mill savings). Both seem unlikely cuts. Peppers could be asked to take a pay cut.

  9. I think the Pack will make some magic happen again. The coaches and brain trust there are on the job year ’round and 24/7. Just thinking out loud here, what about Mike Neal at ILB? They do have some kids who may make the jump and be able to play inside, but the run must be stuffed. I loved the Matthews switch because the O-Line never knew what was coming. TT signed Peppers when Chicago wasn’t using him correctly. What about Rollondo McClain? Does anyone think he’ll be signing for top dollar? I think Tramon Williams may hit the road unless he signs for less. That is the nature of draft and develop. I watched the championship game against Dallas on NFL Network again. ROOKIES: DaVonte Adams, Corey Lindsley, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Richard Rodgers, J. Elliot; NEW VETS: Peppers, Guion. Six out of twenty-two newbies is something when you consider it. I have no clue what will happen. I do think it might just be exciting. We all need to remember one thing about the off season. Reporters and commentators need to talk about something to keep their jobs. They will say anything to get people to call a radio show or make a comment on a blog. Anyone looking at Jesse James? I love football!

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