When Charles Woodson signed a five-year extension with the Green Bay Packers in September of 2010, it seemed easy to assume that the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year would end his career in Wisconsin. Now, of course, we know that won't be happening. Green Bay parted ways with the 36-year-old corner-turned-safety in February for reasons both age-and pay-related, but the veteran is already unsurprisingly being linked in the rumor mill to some of the league's top contenders.
That extension agreed to back in 2010 would have added about $10 million against the Packers' salary cap for the upcoming season, and the team, in the midst of an offseason of payroll-slashing -- as seen by tight end Jermichael Finley's uncertain status and the potential departure of wide receiver Greg Jennings -- decided to part ways with Woodson. Signed before the 2006 season, Woodson is arguably Green Bay's most important defensive free agent acquisition since the late Reggie White.
Also undoubtedly in Green Bay's thought process is quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- whose contract expires after the 2014 season -- and the new mega-deal signed by Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. In short, the Packers are going to need lots and lots of money lying around if they plan on making Rodgers the league's highest-paid signal-caller after the Ravens just backed up a semi for Flacco. This is not to mention linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and wide receiver James Jones; all near-future free agents.
Anyway, back to Woodson. Missing nine games during the 2012 regular season with a broken collarbone limited Woodson's impact in Green Bay's secondary, as young players such as safety Morgan Burnett and rookie corner Casey Hayward got extended playing time. In turn, it gave the Packers a glimpse of their life without Woodson, which probably was coming soonish anyway.
Still, Woodson is a career ballhawking playmaker both in the secondary and around the line of scrimmage. His reputation and presence -- the 55 career interceptions and 12 touchdowns -- are valuable commodities themselves; a threat offenses can't ignore. He of course has lost a step or two, he can get beat by either speedy backs out of the backfield or physical receivers and tight ends. But he is in the Guile and Smarts stage of his NFL life, the time where his leadership and understanding of the game, not to mention the instinctual skills and abilities remaining, are going to be worth something to someone.
But who? The one thing Woodson made clear, through his agent, was that he wants to play for a Super Bowl contending team. The day after he was let go, ESPN's John Clayton surmised that teams like the Ravens -- who could lose safety Ed Reed to free agency -- New England Patriots or Denver Broncos fall into the category of top-tier teams that could use a heady veteran in the secondary. The Dallas Cowboys should almost always be considered, but maybe more so in this case; especially if they make Woodson an offer he can't refuse.
Woodson's career stats:
Woodson may not warrant the sort of contract Green Bay had signed him to in 2010 anymore, but he is a proven legend, possessing versatility in the secondary and enough spring in his step, if he stays healthy, to bring a positive couple of years to whichever team he can come to terms with.