According to a report by ESPN Reporter Adam Schefter, citing a source within the organization, the Green Bay Packers are going to release long-time starting left tackle Chad Clifton. However, at this moment, no official statement has been issued by the team that could either confirm nor deny the move.
Clifton, who is 35 years old and was scheduled to make over $5 million in base salary to go along with a $500,000 bonus for reporting to the offseason program according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel, which is a significant number for an aging offensive tackle and may be the reason why the Packers are cutting ties with him.
The report does not come as a huge surprise, as Clifton dealt with injury problems all last season, managing to start only six games for the team, including the Divisional playoff game against the Giants, a game in which Clifton was removed by the coaching staff due to poor performance.
Earlier this offseason, when the topic of Clifton’s future with team came up, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthey had this reply according to Silverstein on the possibility of Clifton returning to the team in 2012, “Definitely. There’s definitely a possibility. We haven’t taken him off, so he’s someone we’ll continue to talk about and get the reports. He’s down in Tennessee now, so we’ll see how he recovers.”
In 13 seasons with the Packer organization, Clifton has played in a total of 165 games, starting 160 of them. He was named to the Pro Bowl on two occasions, following the 2007 and 2010 seasons.
Clifton became a Packer back in the year 2000, when Green Bay selected him in the second round of the NFL draft with the 44th overall pick. He began starting at left tackle a few games into the 2000 season and never looked back.
During his career with the Packers, Clifton’s specialty was always pass blocking. However, he was part of an offensive line in 2003 that was considered the best in football and helped pave the way for Ahman Green to smash the Packers single-season rushing record by a remarkable 409 yards.
However, the highlight of Clifton’s tenure with the Packers came in 2010, when he played a critically important role in the team’s magical run to a Super Bowl championship, serving as quarterback Aaron Rodgers blindside protector.
In his only appearance on the NFL’s biggest stage, Clifton rose to the challenge, taking on the best pass rushers the Pittsburgh Steelers had to offer and holding them in check, as the Packers surrendered just three sacks to the blitzing Steeler defense, while essentially relying on just the five offensive lineman to keep the pressure away from Rogers in the pocket.
At this time, it’s unclear if the Packers would have any interest in bringing back Clifton at a cheaper salary cap number but if he’s healthy that always remains a possibility. Again at this point, nothing is official, we will have more once the Packers release an official statement on the matter.