© Stew Milne | 2018 Nov 4
After spending more than $60 million guaranteed in free agency, then selecting a pair of first-rounders to continue overhauling their defense, the Green Bay Packers surprisingly released homegrown former Pro Bowl DT Mike Daniels on Wednesday in an apparent cost-savings move.
Daniels, 30, was slated to earn a little more than $8 million this season and appeared in a career-low 10 games in 2018 before being placed on injured reserve with a foot injury. That could help explain why GM Brian Gutekunst was unable to deal Daniels, the undersized three-technique from Iowa with 31 ½ sacks and 39 TFLs in seven seasons.
But on the open market, if his health isn’t a concern, the former fourth-round compensatory selection should garner plenty of interest. Keep an eye on the rival Seattle Seahawks, whose best pass rusher, Jarran Reed, was recently suspended six games to begin the season for what the NFL deemed a violation of its personal conduct policy.
The Kansas City Chiefs, embroiled in a contract standoff with their best inside rusher Chris Jones, and Cleveland Browns, who came up short in their pursuit of Gerald McCoy and have no shortage of front office Packers ties, are two more playoff contenders that could be logical landing spots for Daniels.
As for the logic in the Packers’ decision, they obviously think Daniels’ decline is underway and he was no longer worth the money. But he has been one of their better recent success stories on defense and a locker room leader in addition to providing strong, consistent play on the field over the past several seasons leading up to a disappointing 2018. Daniels and Kenny Clark had ascended as one of the NFL’s better interior pairings, a nice blend of size, stoutness and playmaking ability.
Perhaps this move sheds light on the rookie role of top pick Rashan Gary, who’s listed as a linebacker but projected by many draft experts — including PFW — to be best suited as an inside player in the NFL.
Mind you, the Packers also extended on Tuesday Northwestern product Dean Lowry — their second-best interior disruptor last season behind rising star Kenny Clark — and likely envision giving him and 2017 third-rounder Montravius Adams more opportunities.
Still, cutting Daniels is a risk for the Packers, who have a lot of talent defensively but finished 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (30th vs. the pass) in Year 1 of Mike Pettine taking over for Dom Capers. There’s a ton of potential on Pettine’s unit, but Daniels was one of its few proven producers.
Daniels will now undoubtedly be anxious to prove the Packers wrong.