Pete Dougherty and Ryan Wood discuss Brad Jones' release and a few top draft prospects the Packers expect to interview at the NFL combine. (Feb. 20, 2015)
The Green Bay Packers finally cut their losses with Brad Jones on Friday.
The team announced that it has released the veteran inside linebacker, a move that will save the Packers $3.75 million toward next year's salary cap. Jones was entering the final year of the three-year, $11.25 million deal he signed in March 2013 that included a $3 million signing bonus.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Thursday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that improving their lot at inside linebacker was going to be an emphasis this offseason. One day later, they made their first move in cutting Jones, who'll still count $1 million toward the 2015 cap in dead money.
"We thank Brad for his contributions and dedication to the Packers over the past six years," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. "We wish him all the best."
Jones, who'll turn 29 in April, came to Green Bay as a seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft draft. He struggled through injury his first three years at outside linebacker before sliding inside during training camp in 2012.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder carved out a role on special teams before being promoted to the starting lineup midway through the 2012 campaign after Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith were lost to season-ending injuries.
Facing a contract year, Jones had his best season with 77 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. His performance was encouraging enough for the Packers to cut Bishop and re-sign Jones. Bishop has played only six games since, but the decision to bring back Jones turned out to be one of Thompson's more regrettable decisions.
Jones started only 13 games over the past two seasons. He battled lower body injuries and fell out of favor after an atrocious performance in the 2014 opener against Seattle. He missed the next three games with a quad injury and never regained his starting spot.
Coincidentally, Jones still managed to finish with a team-high six defensive penalties despite playing only 217 snaps. Three of those came after the defense successfully stopped the opposing offense on third down. He finished the regular season with 18 tackles and a pass deflection.
Jones fell completely out of the defensive rotation by the NFC championship game. Although he forced a fumble on special teams, his propensity for selling out on field-goal blocks is what triggered Seattle's decision to pull off a successful fake in the third quarter, resulting in a 19-yard touchdown pass from holder Jon Ryan to offensive lineman Garry Gilliam.
With Jones off the books, the Packers soon will have to make a decision on the future of veteran A.J. Hawk, who is scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2015 and is due a $500,000 roster bonus on the third day of the new league year.
Like Jones, the 31-year-old Hawk lost his starting spot during the final stretch of the season. He remained adamant he wasn't injured, though ESPN.com reported Friday that he had surgery after the season to remove bone spurs from his ankle.
The Packers have three other inside linebackers under contract for next season in 2013 seventh-round pick Sam Barrington, 2014 fourth-round pick Carl Bradford and undrafted free agent Joe Thomas. Barrington was playing all three downs by the end of the season and should contest for a starting job in 2015 after registering 53 tackles and one sack.
The Packers have one inside linebacker, Jamari Lattimore, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. He made five starts before being placed on injured reserve in December with an ankle injury.
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