On Friday, we found out that star defensive back Charles Woodson would be released by the Green Bay Packers. Woodson is coming off a season where he was moved to a new position at free safety and missed 9 regular season games due to a broken collarbone. You may remember, that Woodson broke this same collarbone during Super Bowl 45. By releasing Woodson, the Packers will save $9,437,500 against their cap for the 2013 season; he made $6.5M last season (per Spotrac).
Matt Ludtke / Associated Press
Per Ian Rapoport's tweet, Woodson would like to play for a Super Bowl contender.
It's possible he's brought in by a team to help mentor a young secondary, but that seems unlikely.
Woodson will turn 37 years old on October 7th, which is week 5 of the 2013 NFL regular season. Injuries will be a concern at his age, but prior to the 2012 season Woodson had gone over four years without missing a regular season game due to injury.
Here are some of Woodson's career stats:
The former Heisman Trophy winner started his career with the Raiders in 1998. Since becoming a Packer in 2006, he more than doubled his interception per game rate and his touchdown percentage per interception rate. While in Green Bay, he was good for an interception every three games (actually, slightly better) and he turned one in every four into a "pick six".
The 11.5 sacks the last seven years highlights another skill NFL teams covet, blitzing the quarterback. Not to mention, he's shown a great ability to force fumbles throughout his career with 29.
I believe Mr. Woodson still has a few good seasons left in him. With Woodson's knowledge and talent, a team can utilize him all over the secondary and in multiple packages.
Here is a list of teams that I could see Woodson signing with and why (in order):
1. Denver Broncos - Let's not ignore the obvious, teaming up Charles Woodson with Champ Bailey in the same secondary would be awesome. The Broncos front office showed last year that they will take a risk on an aging veteran player (see: Peyton Manning).
Their current starting free safety Rahim Moore, is just not a playmaker (2 INTs in 31 games, 0 forced fumbles). Moore is young and could learn from Woodson.
Denver could use Woodson at FS or as a nickel-back. He is a great blitzer for a defensive back, which would add to an already dangerous pass rush. The intangible, will be the added veteran presence to the locker room. Players like: Manning, Bailey, and Woodson know they have a limited amount of time to win another championship (or first for Bailey), this is a move that would get them one step closer in my opinion.
2. New England Patriots - The Pats have no problem with bringing in veterans who only has a few good years left. This off-season, they've been linked to Ed Reed (also a UFA), so it only makes sense that they would take a serious look at Woodson. Belichick loves smart players and those who can be used at multiple positions.
Their secondary could takes some hits with starting corner Aqib Talib and former starting safety Patrick Chung entering free agency. Devin McCourty was moved to safety this season after playing his first two seasons at corner, he could be moved back to corner if needed. Signing Woodson gives them great flexibility on the field and in free agency/draft.
3. Baltimore Ravens - Short and sweet. This could happen if they don't bring back Ed Reed and Woodson is willing to sign a short term deal that is cap friendly. Although Reed and Woodson are in a similar situation, Reed is two years younger and would likely demand more money.
4. Washington Redskins - Their secondary was flat out awful last season. They were 30th in the NFL in passing yards allowed with 4,511 and tied for 29th in passing touchdowns allowed with 31. The bottom line is they need help. Madieu Williams who started a free safety for the Redskins in 2012 is a unrestricted free agent and is unlikely to be brought back as a starter. This season, opposing quarterbacks had a 100.2 rating when throwing into Williams' coverage (per ProFootballFocus.com).
This is somewhat of a long shot at the moment, since the Redskins are projected to be $4M over the 2013 salary cap. They have work to do with their cap, but they shouldn't be eliminated from consideration. Woodson wouldn't be the first aging veteran that Daniel Snyder has "overpaid" to come to DC.
Very unlikely, due to cap issues
5. New Orleans Saints ($14.7M over cap) - As far as contenders that have a need in their secondary, no team has a bigger need then the Saints. To say they had a "pass defense" is disrespectful to the phrase itself. They were 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed (4,681), tied for last in yards per attempt allowed (8.1), tied for 29th in pass touchdowns allowed (31), and opposing quarterbacks produced a 93.8 rating against them.
If that isn't enough, their starting safeties earned the two lowest grades from ProFootballFocus for the 2012 season. Starting free safety Malcolm Jenkins was graded as the worst safety in the NFL and starting strong safety Roman Harper was right behind him and the 2nd worst safety in the league.
Could they be any worse with Charles Woodson? I don't think so. He could also help mentor any young defensive backs they bring in through the draft. The Saints have all the pieces on offense and could be right back in the Super Bowl hunt if they can fix their cap issues and address the horrendous "pass defense".
6. Dallas Cowboys ($18.2M over cap) - Even though they drafted the very talent Morris Claiborne (CB) last season, the Cowboys pass defense still lacks play makers (to say the least). The Dallas defense was tied with the Chiefs for dead last in the NFL in interceptions at seven. That's right, seven interceptions for an entire team over a 16 game season. Three individuals players (Tim Jennings, Stevie Brown, and Richard Sherman) during the 2012 season had more interceptions than the entire Cowboys defense. On top of that, they were 29th in the NFL in passer rating allowed at 94.7.
Woodson could do wonders working with Claiborne and at the same time replace the average (at best) Gerald Sensabaugh at free safety. Like the Saints, the Cowboys have a huge cap problem and would have to work wonders before they could legitimately consider signing Woodson.
7. Seattle Seahawks - I had to include the Seahawks, since All-Pro corner Richard Sherman made this pitch for Woodson on the NFL Network yesterday (see here).
Here's a quote from Sherman to Woodson, "We'd love to have you."
Interestingly enough, the Seahawks could actually be a legit destination for Woodson. They have the cap room, a coach in Pete Carroll that likes to get creative on defense, and a GM in John Schneider who is very familiar with him during his time in Green Bay. Not to mention, long time Seattle corner Marcus Trufant will enter free agency, allowing Woodson to fill his role as a 3rd down/nickel back. Woodson would bring pass rushing and play making skills that would be an upgrade over Trufant.
I have no doubt, that wherever Charles Woodson ends up they will be better of for it. What he brings to a team can't be completely explained in statistics alone. He is a true professional who deserves to go out on top. I wish Mr. Woodson the best of luck.