Chad Clifton’s long, proud run with the Green Bay Packers has come to an end.
The Packers released Clifton on Monday, the team announced a little after 1 p.m. News of the decision was broken earlier in the day by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who said Clifton was rehabbing from back surgery and might not play again.
“Chad is a great Packer and has been an integral part of our success over the past 12 seasons,” general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. “He was a member of some of the most prolific offenses in team history, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. We thank Chad for all that he has given the Packers on the field and in the community and wish him and his family well.”
Clifton carries a $5.25 million base salary and a salary cap number of $5.594 million. All of that will be wiped away with his release. Given the money, age (turns 36 in June) and injury history, the move is anything but a surprise, even though coach Mike McCarthy signaled recently that Clifton remained in the team’s plans.
“Definitely. There’s definitely a possibility,” McCarthy told reporters at the league meetings when asked if Clifton would be on the roster. “We haven’t taken him off, so he’s someone we’ll continue to talk about and get the reports.”
Without Clifton, the left tackle job will be contested between Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod. Newhouse started 12 games last season — including 10 at left tackle when Clifton was out with hamstring and back injuries. Sherrod, last year’s first-round pick to be groomed as Clifton’s successor, is coming off a broken leg sustained Dec. 18 at Kansas City.
“Tough to say bye to such a great teammate and more importantly a great guy,” left guard T.J. Lang said on Twitter. “Learned a lot from Cliffy and it was a true pleasure to be his teammate for 3 years. i will always be thankful for that.”
Clifton, a second-round pick in 2000, replaced Mike Wahle as the starting left tackle midway through his rookie season and became a fixture at the offensive line’s most important spot — when healthy.
In 12 seasons, he started all 16 games five times and made 15 starts on two other occasions. He started just six regular-season games last season and the playoff loss to the Giants. In all, he started 160 of a possible 192 regular-season games. Clifton played in 165 games, behind only Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg’s total of 187 among offensive tackles in franchise history.
Clifton was part of some of the best offenses in Packers history. Nine times during his career the Packers finished in the top 10 in offense. During his 12 seasons, they allowed 350 sacks — third-fewest in the NFL over that span. That includes a franchise-best 14 sacks in 2004, when Green Bay allowed no sacks in a team-record eight games. He also helped pave the way for eight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
In 2010, he was voted to the NFC Pro Bowl team for the second time in his career after making it as an injury replacement in 2007.
Meanwhile, on Monday evening, the Packers announced they had re-signed free agent outside linebacker Erik Walden. Walden started 15 games but played in a reserve role in the season-finale against Detroit and the playoff loss to the Giants. Walden provided just three sacks, two passes defensed and a fumble that he recovered for a touchdown.
Terms were not disclosed but it’s likely a one- or two-year deal with little or no guaranteed money.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.