Charles Woodson is on the market.
The Green Bay Packers released the 36-year-old defensive back Friday with two years left on his contract.
“We are grateful for all that Charles has given to the Green Bay Packers over the past seven years,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “He has been an integral part of the Packers’ success and our Super Bowl title in 2010 would not have been possible without his contributions. A once-in-a-generation talent as a player, he is also a great leader and ambassador for the organization off the field.”
The Packers clear about $10 million in cap space by releasing Woodson. Carl Poston, Woodson’s agent, said the veteran wasn’t done yet.
“The Packers told Charles they’re going in a different direction,” Poston said. “Charles told me he still wants to play _ for a Super Bowl contender.”
Woodson signed a five-year deal before the 2010 season that was worth as much as $55 million. He missed nine games during the 2012 regular season because of a broken right collarbone and played in two postseason games for the Packers in his seventh year with the franchise.
“We had a good run,” Woodson wrote to ESPNWisconsin.com in a text message.
Woodson was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998. He spent the first eight years of his career with the Oakland Raiders, who drafted him out of Michigan with the No. 4 overall pick.
He’s the only player in NFL history with touchdowns off interceptions in six straight seasons, a feat he pulled off each year from 2006 to 2011, and leads the league with nine touchdowns off interceptions since 2006. He went to the Pro Bowl every year from 2008-11.
Woodson was productive for the Packers, but they have some tough decisions to make this offseason to manage the salary cap. Woodson had a year left on his lucrative deal and linebacker A.J. Hawk is under contract next year for a team that probably wants to give long-term deals to receiver James Jones, linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji because each of the relatively young standouts could potentially be free agents following next season.
Despite his age and recent injury, Woodson will likely be an in-demand free agent. He was injured last October, bounced back in time to defend two passes in the playoffs.
“Charles has been a stud in this league for 15 years, so whenever he’s on the field with us, he’s always a huge threat,” Hawk said in January. “Not only is he a threat to make huge plays throughout the game, but quarterbacks, I think they know where he’s at every single play. He seems to know what receivers are running before they do. And I think he has an intimidation factor as well.”
Woodson had a career-high nine interceptions in 2009 and picked off seven passes in 2011 and made one interception in seven games during last year’s injury-shortened season.
The 1997 Heisman Trophy winner led Michigan to the 1997 national championship and has donated more than $2 million to the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital, where he supports pediatric clinical research. With the Packers, he was a leader as one of the best players on the team and as a mentor to younger players.
“He’s like a big brother to all of us,” former Green Bay safety Nick Collins once said.
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