I’m in Israel and only have about an hour to put this together, but I wanted to get some quick thoughts out there about Charles Woodson’s release.
1. Woodson is bigger than his body gives him credit for.
I have never seen another cornerback play football like Charles Woodson. While he may not have been the best pure shutdown corner in coverage, he made plays all over the field that are very rare for those at his position. When sent on blitzes, he’d get to the quarterback. He filled rushing lanes, stepping up and stuffing running backs at or beyond the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t like he would just slow them down for long enough to get help from other defenders–he’d stand them up and knock them backwards.
Another special aspect about his game was the way that he forced fumbles (he forced 29 in his career). He had this move where he was able to knock the ball out with a quick punch during his natural tackling motion. Running backs and receivers would have no idea what hit them as the ball bounced around for the taking. It was all very fluid.
See what I mean about two minutes into this video:
2. When he had the ball in his hands, there was always a chance he could score.
During his seven years in Green Bay, Woodson scored 10 defensive touchdowns (Nine interception returns, one fumble return), the most in Packers history. When he had a clear path to the endzone, nobody was catching him. He was adept at evading tacklers.
3. The Packers will of course miss his toughness and leadership.
4. That being said…
Woodson, who is now 37 years old, lost some of his explosiveness over the past three seasons. He missed tackles he used to make easily. He forced less and less turnovers. He never really adjusted to the safety position. It became substantially less likely that he could stay healthy.
The Packers are in a tough position with the salary cap right now. They need to get younger, but they also have to extend BJ Raji and Clay Matthews, whose contracts are up this year, and Aaron Rodgers, who is signed at a relative discount for two more seasons. If they get his new deal done sooner, they can spread the massive cap hit over more seasons.Woodson would have counted $10 million against the cap this season. While he might not make that much from someone else, there are almost certainly other teams that will pay him more than Green Bay can reasonably afford.
5. Quick story: when Charles Woodson was a free agent in 2006, he only signed with Green Bay because nobody else wanted him.
About two years ago, Mike Silver wrote:
“It was time to go,” Woodson says of his departure from the Raiders. “Green Bay – I was there because no one else wanted to take a shot on [me]. I had a bad rap. I was a little bit of a wild child. I enjoyed myself as a young man. I guess they were tired of it. That is one of the reasons why I was out of Oakland and why nobody wanted to take a shot on me.
“There was talk about my game declining and not being the player that I was and that I had lost a step – all of that came into play when it came to finding another team.”
Woodson continues: “It was kind of decided for me. Nobody wanted me coming out of Oakland. I tried to go to a few other places and tried calling a few other places to see if they wanted my services. Some teams returned calls, some didn’t. Green Bay was the only team that was calling my agent and trying to set up a time for us to go there and visit Green Bay and that’s how it worked out. The decision was pretty much made for me.”
Packers fans are very thankful that Ted Thompson was the only NFL GM willing to take a chance on Charles Woodson. We will look back on Woodson’s era with utmost fondness. Our best defensive player since Reggie White, he was a model citizen, on and off the field. His leadership was an invaluable part of Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV run in 2010-11.
Even though we understand that players come in and out of our lives for inevitably finite time horizons, it is always difficult when it is one of our favorites’ turn as it was two weeks ago with Donald Driver and yesterday with Charles Woodson. As my camp director says at the end of every summer: if it hurts, it means that it was done right.
While Woodson had a very productive tenure with the Oakland Raiders, he will be remembered first and foremost as a Green Bay Packer. Wherever I am and whatever I am doing in my life at the time, I will make a point to be in Canton when he inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.