Packers release inside LB Nate Palmer

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nate Palmer (51) reacts to a play against New Orleans Saints Thursday, September 3, 2015, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

The Green Bay Packers are moving forward at inside linebacker without Nate Palmer.

The team informed the fourth-year linebacker of his release Friday. Because he has less than four years accrued, Palmer must clear waivers before he can sign with another NFL team.

Palmer, 26, started 10 games at inside linebacker last season after Sam Barrington sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the opener against Chicago. The converted linebacker had a career-high 68 tackles and one sack in 16 games, but lost his starting job to rookie Jake Ryan on Dec. 3 against Detroit.

The Packers drafted Palmer in the sixth round out of Illinois State in 2013. He converted from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker during his rookie season before shifting to inside linebacker during the final week of the 2014 preseason.

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Palmer missed the entire season after tearing his medial collateral ligament in the preseason finale against Kansas City, but returned in time for the offseason program. He beat out 2014 fourth-round pick Carl Bradford for the final spot at the inside linebacker spot despite playing with a club on his hand for most of camp.

Palmer played 534 defensive snaps last season, but had issues in pass coverage and occasionally was out of place against the run. He finished the year on special teams after falling behind Ryan in the base and nickel packages, and Joe Thomas in the dime.

The Packers are expected to move Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker next season, but return Ryan, Barrington, Thomas and Bradford in addition to whatever players they add to the position through the draft and college free agency. It's expected Ryan and Barrington will compete for at least one starting spot, though the Packers likely remain in the market for a three-down linebacker.

Palmer is the first player the Packers have cut since the 2015 season ended in January. Green Bay removes his $675,000 base salary from its 2016 salary cap, but the final year of Palmer’s prorated signing bonus ($24,724) will still count against the cap if he's not claimed off waivers.

He finishes his tenure in Green Bay with 85 tackles, two passes defensed and one sack in 24 games (12 starts). and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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