While the roster move is yet to be made official, several sources close tot he team are now reporting that the Green Bay Packers plan to release left tackle Chad Clifton and free up some $5.703 million off the books and give them considerably more flexibility in negotiating contract extensions with other players while also taking into account what it will cost to sign their draft picks.
Clifton, the Packers starting left tackle for the past decade, had his career as a big question mark after missing ten games and the playoffs due to a couple of injuries. He tore his hamstring early in the season and just when he was about to recover, he suffered a back injury that saw him on the pine for the remainder of 2011.
Scheduled to make $5.25 million base salary plus another $500,000 in reporting and workout bonuses, it was a sound financial move for the Packers, but one that leaves the future of their offensive line up in the air.
Marshall Newhouse or Derek Sherrod are the in-house options. Newhouse started all the games that Clifton couldn’t, and he did a respectable job for a first-time starter. But he is by no means the future of their offensive line.
With this new development, many of the draft experts are scrambling to update their mock drafts. Obviously, this move has moved the offensive line high up on their draft priority list and could look to target a Jonathan Martin or Mike Adams in the first round, joining the rumors of their interest in center Peter Konz.
Martin has seen his draft stock go from top ten to now fringe first round for some reason and Adams is now considered a stretch for the first round after testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. But the problem with both of these prospects is that the Ravens and Texans, two teams whose offensive lines were gutted in free agency, pick before the Packers do. So they may not see this option. In that scenario, I could see the Pack reaching a little bit for Ole Miss standout tackle Bobby Massie, who has been shooting up draft boards the past two weeks. He’s still a little raw and isn’t a day one starter, but with some solid coaching, he projects to a long-time starter at tackle in the NFL.
Regardless of if Green Bay goes offensive line in the first or not, it is clear that the position needs some early attention. With this draft not being as deep at tackle as some previous years, look for Green Bay to look for a solution earlier, rather than later this weekend at Radio City Music Hall.