The Green Bay Packers will release long-time tackle Chad Clifton today, according to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter.
Packers are releasing OT Chad Clifton today. Failed a physical. Had back surgery in the off-season. Uncertain whether he will play again.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 23, 2012
Clifton is a 12-year NFL veteran, every one of them spent in the Packers organization and would have been entering his 13th year in the league in 2012.
Following a hamstring injury in early October, Clifton missed the majority of the 2011. He then aggravated a back injury while rehabbing his hamstring, pushing his recovery back further than expected.
Clifton returned for the final regular season game and the NFC divisional round playoff loss to the New York Giants but was benched in the middle of the Giants game in favor of Marshall Newhouse who played in Clifton’s place most of the regular season.
The veteran left tackle reportedly underwent offseason back surgery that alleviated pain in his back. Mike McCarthy said during the NFL’s owners meeting in March that Clifton would be back and would compete for a job if healthy.
Clifton was a two-time Pro Bowl selection following the 2007 and 2010 seasons. He’ll also be remembered fondly for the role he played in coming back from an early season knee troubles to play at a high level during the six-game winning streak to end the 2010 season including the Super Bowl, in which he gave up only one sack.
Many fans will recall a blindside hit by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Warren Sapp on Clifton back in 2002. Clifton suffered a serious injury to his pelvis and laid motionless on the ground before being taken from the game by an ambulance.
While he returned the following season, Clifton continued to battle injuries from that point onward in his career.
The release of Clifton will clear $5.7 million from the Packers salary cap. That money will go towards signing the 2012 rookie class and may also go toward signing players currently under contract to extensions.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings has a contract expiring following the 2012 season, and other elite players such as linebacker Clay Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have contracts expiring in future seasons that make them candidates for extensions as well.
This move puts the future of the offensive line in flux. The Packers could turn to Newhouse at left tackel like they did for much of the 2011 season, but Bryan Bulaga is also an option to switch over from right tackle as is last year’s first-round draft choice, Derek Sherrod if he can overcome a broken leg sustained last season.
With 12 draft choices, there’s also a good chance the Packers will address the offensive line during the NFL Draft that begins on Thursday.
The Packers made Clifton’s release official in a statement released to the press.
“Chad is a great Packer and has been an integral part of our success over the past 12 seasons,” said general manager Ted Thompson said. “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.”
It’s unknown whether the Packers asked Clifton if he wanted to retire.