Despite my own personal feelings about the Steelers letting someone like Hines Ward go about a year too soon, the statistics, age, and squeeze play on the roster were evidence enough that the Steelers needed to move on without one of their most beloved and legacy players. The move certainly put other players into the spotlight with the question of ‘Is no one safe?’
The Packers on Friday released one of their best corners to ever grace that franchise. A fifteen year veteran and seven year Green Bay Packer Charles Woodson received his pink slip in a move to open up the roster for a younger, faster and more agile corner for less money. What is surprising about the move right now is that Woodson was still playing great football. An injury saddled Woodson to only playing in seven games in 2012. However, the previous year in 2011 was just one of a string of six seasons (since 2006) where Woodson recorded a large amount of interceptions, pick six’s, and some sacks. Hell, 2008-2011 Woodson was selected to the Pro Bowl. He’s one of the best corners in the league despite being over 35. He’s one of the few players that was able to use his smarts at the position when his body didn’t allow him to keep up with the top receivers. As was the case with Ward, Woodson was the soul of this defense. That you can’t replace with some new guy. Quite frankly, the Packers still needed Woodson.
The ripple effect that is sent throughout the NFL by Woodson’s release should have Steeler Nation begin to look into the mirror. There are similar situations in Pittsburgh and the day is coming soon when our own beloved will be released ‘before their time.’ In particular, someone like Troy Polamalu is more likely to end up like Woodson. Polamalu, like Woodson, is the soul of the Steeler defense. His physicality, dedication, and smarts make him the iconic defender any team would want on their roster. However, his age, decline in ability, and salary will be three strikes against him by the time he enters the final year of his contract in 2014. I know, I know. He will be 33 in 2014 – that’s not quite ‘ancient’ in the NFL, but he’s on the cusp.
Polamalu’s still a top safety in the league. But as the Packers made a decision for the future and success of their franchise, so to will the Steelers in 2014. Polamalu will be a $10 million hit on the cap (he already is this upcoming season), and the team will be over the cap – again. Do the Steelers still need someone like Polamalu beyond 2013 or even beyond his contract of 2014? I think they could find use for him to teach the young guys the team will acquire in the next couple of drafts, and they need someone playing until the young’ins are ready. But at $10 million that will be far too expensive for ‘mentor’ pay. Polamalu could restructure and take less pay, but for how little?
It will be a sad day when it happens, but Steeler Nation should see clearly what the release of Woodson very well could mean for a defensive great like Polamalu.
What are your thoughts? Is Polamalu in jeopardy of being released before the end of his contract in 2014?