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Williams, Hawk Contracts Troubling After Down Seasons

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Williams, Hawk Contracts Troubling After Down Seasons

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.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (35) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremy's picture

"Coupled with the suspect safety play he was playing alongside all year"

I noticed Williams looking back to check the position of the safety many times this season. I'm pretty sure he's not supposed to be doing that. I never saw him do that when Collins was there. Williams will bounce back. Shields can improve with a real off season. Hawks not worth his contract. Smith and Francois are both younger and cheaper, Smith has a higher ceiling than Hawk.

dubsac's picture

He has to trust that is safteys will be in the same place. He aslo didn't have the same pass rush as he did last year. Pass rush is very important to cornerbacks and safteys

lmills's picture

I'm more dissapointed with the Hawk contract then the Williams contract. Williams showed his abilities during the Superbowl run last year and I think his play warranted his contract. It was obviously a down year this year but I wonder how much of that was because of playing zone instead of man. Plus the injury didn't help i'm sure. Hawk never showed that playmaking ability and yet still received a hefty contract. It seems Hawks ceiling was set quite a while ago. I agree that Smith was more of a playmaker then Hawk and with another year in the system, I can't help but think that he'd be more familiar with making calls on defense. The question is, what would/could you do with Hawk?

lebowski's picture

We must all be missing something with Hawk, as his teammates voted him a playoff captain. What it is, I have no idea.

Emory in SoCal's picture

I don't buy the problems with the Hawk contract. TT already restructured Hawk's contract for less money when he cut and re-signed him.

PackerAaron's picture

Sure, they're not paying him as much money as they would have - but they are still paying him a decent amount for not much in the way of production.

Emory in SoCal's picture

I'll agree with you that the production this year was lacking from Hawk (plus the injury won't help thoughts of longevity either), but I imagine they would not restructure his contract again... so it's simply a matter of cutting or keeping him. And I just can't see them cutting Hawk.

PackerAaron's picture

No way they cut him this year, I agree. After the 2012 season, however, his contract makes it very easy to cut him. If Ted would ever pull the trigger is another matter.

Bearmeat's picture

I read in a piece by McGinn a few days ago that Hawk plays as good as his DL lets him. If they keep him clean, he's solid - not ever great. If not... well, we saw that this year.

If the DL is improved, Hawk will improve.

As far as Tramon goes, IMO he'll be fine. The injury and crappy safety play, along with Capers asking him to play off because of no pass rush - that's what ruined his season. Those hopefully (and should all be) will be fixed by next year.

This team is going to be better next year than it ever was this year. That doesn't mean they'll win 15 games in the regular season - but they'll be better.

CSS's picture

"I read in a piece by McGinn a few days ago that Hawk plays as good as his DL lets him. If they keep him clean, he’s solid – not ever great."

You just described why Hawk belongs in a 4-3 as a weak-side linebacker where he doesn't need to worry about much coverage and can play uncovered against most lineman or TE's.

He's serviceable in a 3-4. I'm not trying to beat the guy up, he's just not a system/philosophical fit for this defense.

BTW - His contract isn't that outrageous for a 4-3 team looking for a veteran weak-side player.

Dave's picture

Great points, look how much more comfortable he is playing in the Giants-Packers 2008 playoff game in a 4-3.

KennyPayne's picture

Did you also read where McGinn has said that Hawk is such a liability in coverage that Capers has to consider replacing him? And how he just runs into blockers at the line on bliztes?

TT could have let Hawk walk, taken the money he paid Hawk and given it to Jenkins and kept Barnett -- who was already under contract.

Giving Hawk big new money was a poor move by TT, but TT seems to have a real thing for Hawk that just about everyone else fails to see.

Ruppert's picture

I'm down on our D line big-time right now, just so you all know.

Watching JJ Watt singlehandedly destroy the Bengals in the playoffs got me depressed about how really awful our defensive ends were this year. If we had a consistent pass rush from our D line this year, Tramon would have looked a lot better, along with the rest of the secondary.

Linebackers always benefit from strong defensive line play. The more blockers the linemen occupy, the more space for the backers to run around. I don't think Hawk is great. His contract is more worrisome. But I do think he would perform somewhat better with a strong D line in front of him.

This has to be a huge offseason priority for this team.

CSS's picture

Athletes across the defensive line. Thompson has it in spades on the offensive side of the ball. He has athletes in the back 7 (look at how compressed the field typically was in the red-zone for opposing QB's).

He doesn't have NFL level, well-rounded athletes, across the defensive line. Raji gives you two dimensions and could be disruptive if allowed to get vertical more often. Outside of him a bunch of guys either one-dimensional threats or with no dimension whatsoever.

He needs better athletes on the DL. That being said, big bodied athletes are rare. Neal has the ability once rested, but even Neal may be more of a nickle threat than an every down guy.

Cole's picture

Helloooooooo Eagles...

ibleedgrnngold's picture

If TT has one weak point it is in drafting dlinemen

jack in jersey city's picture

weren't they saying that about his ability to draft O-linemen a few years ago?

CSS's picture

It's not his 'ability', it's been how his teams draft board has fallen in accordance with where the prospects have been taken. Just so happens the value on his board hasn't prompted his staff to pull the trigger that often in rounds 2-5 where you can find some real talent.

Adhering to that philosophy created an offensive juggernaut, athletic back seven on defense and a large gap on the defensive line.

Rocky70's picture

Bishop's a lock on the inside in 2012. What happens if it's obvious during TC & preseason in 2012 that DJ Smith needs to be on the field?

Wouldn't mind seeing some bold moves by TT/MM to shore up the Packer "D" & somehow it seems AJ Hawk has to be part of the equation.

KennyPayne's picture

Well Bishop routinely outplayed Hawk during several preseasons and still rode the bench because he was supposedly not as "assignment sure" as Hawk.

The truth is, Hawk is just not very good and never will be.

chuck's picture

Hawk could be cut at anytime, and wouldn't kill our salary cap. Smith was a pleasant surprise and I don't think anyone would be too surprised to see him rotate in some next year. At least we have someone on the team that can replace Hawk if needed. It's been done before.

Tramon will be okay, isn't like he signed a record breaking contract. An average playing Tramon is still better than most corners.

Pick and Raji are solid on the line, there is just no one else on the team that can spell them. Thompson did draft Raji and FA Pick. As always, DL are hard to find, especially young ones that rush the passer. Usually takes some time to develop one.

I see a heavy draft on defense. Wouldn't be too hard to upgrade Wynn, Wilson, Green. Use picks on DL, ORLB, safety/corner with rounds 1-3. Prefer to take an ORLB a little earlier than the 6th round this year. A decent DL will more than likely have to be found in round 1, if you want them to contribute anytime soon. Everyone takes those guys right away. An adequate safety, like Burnett, can be found round 2-3, and the leftover 2-3 pick on ORLB.

Just my hope. Besides how many offensive players are needed to draft? One OL and another TE?

redlights's picture

They'll draft at least one QB, and hopefully bring in another from UDFA; really amp the QB competition to push Harrell and make the draft pick earn his spot.

Bet on drafting at least one FB/TE type for special teams, though I really want to see both return and coverage units take it to the next level.

tony's picture

Tramon was picked on something awful the whole year. It was very disappointing. Was he maybe the beneficiary of having a Pro Bowl safety behind him? He got burned on a lot more deep routes this year, maybe because Collins being back there led to shorter, jumpable routes by opposing offenses.

Lou's picture

I try to keep track of all Packers contract, and according to my numbers, Hawk's contract outlives its usefulness after 2012 (i.e. it's more expensive to keep him than to cut him). So we're on the hook for him next year, but 2013 will be the year of DJ Smith!!!!

Lou's picture

Regarding Tramon:
Talent among CBs varies, but all of them are subject to the pass rush generated by their teams. Give a QB enough time, and Bill Schroeder is going to burn Darelle Revis. I suspect that Tramon was a similar player in 2011 as he was in 2010, it's just that the defense deteriorated around him. Fix the pass rush, and he'll back in 2012....

PackerAaron's picture

I tend to agree with this.

chuck's picture

The thing is after the 1st Detroit game I thought the old Tramon was back. He pretty much shadowed Megatron and Megatron had 4 catches for 49 yards. I don't know if it was his play changed, or more zone defense? He sure didn't handle him the 2nd game against Detroit. But we weren't playing for anything then either.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Serious question, would anybody have a problem if Ted cut bait with hawk and DJ and Desmond were our starters week one. I think I'd be fine with it.


joshywoshybigfatposhy's picture

i think a.j. might be kinda pissed.

but seriously, i wonder if part of the reason TT has kept him around is because the players really like him - there was no reason to keep poppinga as long as we did, but guys really seemed to like having him on their team, even if the only thing he did well was jump on the pile.

KennyPayne's picture

Yep, Ted would. Tom Silverstein has repeatedly intimated that it is Thompson who is enamored with Hawk and that is why he plays.

Recall the first game last year Capers only put him in for 1 play against the Eagles? AJ and his agent began complaining through the press and Capers never repeated that mistake again. TT is calling the shots on Hawk.

Bercovici's picture

I don't understand why free agency is so off the table when two of our best players on D were guys TT signed that way. Has he gotten that much more conservative since then? Or is it already clear there won't be another veteran playmaker with potential other teams don't full recognize?

Evan's picture

It's all about paying the price he sets. Woodson fell in his lap because he had no other suitors. But, if I remember correctly, he was pretty aggressive in getting Pickett. So, Pickett seems to be the one outlier.

Jay's picture

From watching the Texans this season, I take heart that a defense that was at the bottom of defensive rankings last year can go to the top with the right additions made. So maybe we aren't that far away.

This actually got me thinking about the Falcons' trade for Julio Jones. They spent a lot on him thinking that he was the final piece to push them over the edge to being an elite team. Now I think it's clear that they aren't and he won't singlehandedly get them there. But I think the Packers ARE in a position where a move like that would push them over the edge to winning another title.

NB: I'm NOT saying we will make that kind of move, nor that we should. That's a very costly move that shouldn't be made lightly. But we are in a position--where the Falcons' clearly weren't-- where that sort of move could do wonders. Just my thoughts.

redlights's picture

I think the TT would be just as stupid as Dimitroff(sp?) was. It's one thing to move up a bit in a 2 for 1 like he did with CMIII; but to mortgage just doesn't make sense. TT needs, and probably will, continue to replenish depth on the roster so we never get to a "rebuilding" stage.

My opinion is that the Raiders trade for Palmer was better than the Falcons trade to move up and draft Julio. If the Raiders would have made the playoffs, they'd still be playing.

NoWayJose's picture

The Raiders' trade for Palmer was better than the Jones trade? I thought they were both horrible, but I still strongly disagree with that. I'd concede that the jury might not be all the way back in on that yet.

FWIW, I think Ted would NEVER trade a future 1st round pick. Ever. I think he'd get night terrors just thinking about it. Just does not compute in his philosophy.

A Matthews-type trade? Sure, it's possible. But I'd rule out a Jones-level blockbuster.

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