Cornerback Tramon Williams and linebacker A.J. Hawk were both rewarded for their part in helping the Green Bay Packers reach Super Bowl XLV in early 2011. General manager Ted Thompson no doubt thought he was locking up two important cornerstones of his defense. Williams was an up-and-coming cornerback who was playing his best football toward the end of the season, while Hawk’s limitations were seemingly offset by his supposedly invaluable quarterbacking of the defense.
As a result, Williams signed a five-year, $38.148 million deal on November 30th of last year. The deal contained $11.074 million guaranteed, including a $6 million signing bonus. The corner can also earn $1 million roster bonuses in years two through five of the deal. He is due $2.3 million in salary in 2012 and a $2.8 million roster bonus.
Hawk, meanwhile, was cut on the eve of free agency this past offseason, only to be resigned to a five-year, $33.75 million contract. The deal included an $8 million signing bonus. He is due $4.4 million in salary in 2012 and a $300,000 roster bonus.
Looking at both of their performances in 2011, it’s hard to say Thompson is getting a good return on his investment so far.
Williams, of course, was never the same player we saw last year after injuring his shoulder in the opening game against the New Orleans Saints. Coupled with the suspect safety play he was playing alongside all year, and it’s understandable that his game would slip a bit.
But time and again we saw Williams giving huge cushions to substandard wide receivers and simply using poor technique not only in coverage but when attempting to make a tackle.
Hawk, while at least his usual serviceable self early on in the season, was absolutely terrible after coming back from the calf injury he suffered on Thanksgiving in the game against the Detroit Lions.
What was troubling when it came to Hawk this season is how little fall-off there seemed to be when rookie D.J. Smith was asked to make the calls on defense. The conventional wisdom, and I admit I was one who thought exactly this, was that Hawk was the glue that held the defense together.
Not only did Smith hold the defense together, at least well enough for a rookie seeing his first action in the NFL, but he also added a playmaking element to the inside linebacker position that has been sorely lacking since the Packers switched to a 3-4 defense under Dom Capers.
Now, there is every chance that both Williams and Hawk, with a full offseason to heal, will come back and play at their 2010 levels in 2012. Thompson no doubt hopes that is the case, because right now he hasn’t gotten much bang for his buck.