Special-teams shuffle continues with Lattimore's exit
The Green Bay Packers have another special-teams mainstay to replace after inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore signed with the New York Jets on Wednesday.
Lattimore, 26, took his only known visit since free agency began last week with the Jets, who were in the market for a backup linebacker and special-teamer.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder first signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2011 out of Middle Tennessee State. He converted from a 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker during his rookie year before shifting inside in 2012.
Lattimore was a fixture on special teams throughout his tenure in Green Bay with 19 kick-coverage tackles. A playoff captain in 2012, he played in 49 regular-season games with nine starts. Defensively, he amassed 66 defensive tackles, two sacks and an interception.
The Packers felt strongly enough about Lattimore's potential that they tendered him a right-of-first-refusal contract last year worth $1.431 million. Lattimore received a crack at the starting lineup in Week 2 when Brad Jones injured his quad and started his next four games inside.
Lattimore finished with a career-high 35 tackles, but wasn't able to remedy the issues the Packers had in the middle of Green Bay's defense. He was replaced by second-year linebacker Sam Barrington against Carolina on Oct. 19 and remained on special teams until injuring his ankle against New England on Nov. 30.
He was placed on season-ending injured reserve a few weeks later when a roster spot was needed for safety Chris Banjo.
The Packers are looking to remake their roster at inside linebacker and on special teams, but appeared to show little interest in keeping Lattimore. Over the last month, the Packers have parted ways with Jones, tight end Brandon Bostick, running back/returner DuJuan Harris and receiver Jarrett Boykin.
Cornerback Davon House also departed for a four-year, $25 million deal with Jacksonville where he's expected to compete for a starting job. Those six players accounted for nearly 1,100 snaps on a special-teams unit that ranked last in the Dallas Morning News' annual rankings.
Coordinator Shawn Slocum was fired after the season and assistant Ron Zook was promoted to replace him. The unit's longest-tenured member, veteran cornerback Jarrett Bush, remains a free agent.
The Packers' linebacker situation will also take on a much different looking following the release of A.J. Hawk and Jones. The team currently has one natural inside linebacker under contract, Barrington, who has played in a regular-season game, though five-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews could also factor into that equation.
Lattimore released a statement through his agent, Tony Agnone, thanking the Packers for the past four seasons.
"I want to thank Ted (Thompson), Russ (Ball), Coach Mike (McCarthy), my LB and Special Teams coaches, Dr Pat (McKenzie), Pepper (Burruss) and all the staff as well as my teammates for a fantastic four years. I will always cherish my time in Packerland both on and off the field. The fans are GREAT and I will miss them.
"I also want to thank John Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie for picking me up from college and helping me grow as an individual. I wish them all the best of luck in all endeavors including the upcoming season. I will be rooting for them except against the JETS. God Bless all."
Along with Bush, the Packers have two other unrestricted free agents in quarterback Matt Flynn and fullback John Kuhn, who the Packers have expressed interest in bringing back next season.
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