The Packers are in a new era in 2019. Second year General Manager Brian Gutekunst has wasted no time showing the Packers and the fans that he does things differently. The offseason has been filled with free agent signings and even a trade up in the draft. The moves have not stopped there though. The Packers have now decided to cut veteran defensive lineman Mike Daniels. Seeing Mike Daniels go will be hard for many Packer fans, but taking emotion out of it, releasing him makes sense and here’s why.
Daniels was a key resigning for the Packers in 2016, but since the new contract his impact on the field has declined. Daniels started his career as a situational pass rusher in 2012, and had a breakout year in 2013 when he recorded a career high 6.5 sacks. Daniels took advantage of Clay Mathews, Nick Perry, BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett, and Johnny Jolly, requiring most of the offense’s attention and made the most of his opportunities. Daniels is a high motor player, so being able to come in and have one job, get to the quarterback, allowed him to have an impact in the game. As Daniels became more of the main focus on defense, naturally his productivity went down. Unfortunately, the Packers pass rush struggled around Daniels, and didn’t capitalize on having a player like him on the field. This past season Daniels was sidelined with injuries and only managed to play in 10 games. The Packers defense has underperformed with Daniels as the leader, and changes needed to be made.
The Packers realized the need for change and made big moves this offseason. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine prefers a certain type of defensive player, and Mike Daniels does not fit the mold. The Packers signed Za’Darius Smith who is 6’4” and 272 pounds, Preston Smith who is 6’5” and 265 pounds, and drafted Rashan Gary who is also 6’5” and 277 pounds. Mike Daniels is an old school defensive lineman who is only 6 feet and weighs 300 pounds. Mike Daniels can still be a productive defensive lineman but in the right system. He doesn’t fit what Pettine wants to do with this defense, and for all of the money the Packers threw at the defense this year, if someone doesn’t fit they need to go.
The biggest reason it makes sense for the Packers to cut Mike Daniels is simple, MONEY. The Packers saved $8 million after cutting Mike Daniels which will be used in two ways. The Packers still are missing some key parts to their team, so look for the Packers to possibly sign a veteran receiver who is released or another running back to add depth to the backfield. The Packers will not be looking to add a big contract or a long term one, but most likely a short one year contract to bring in much needed help.
The biggest reason they needed to free up $8 million is to extend key players in the next two seasons. Kenny Clark is in the final year of his rookie contract, and after seeing what Grady Jarrett received it will not be cheap to extend him. David Bakhtiari, who is considered one of the best LT in the NFL, and Blake Martinez are two key players the Packers are looking to extend before they hit the open market in 2020 and 2019 respectively. The Packers already extended Dean Lowry, and with Clark, Lancaster, Gary, and Z. Smith, who can all play inside, Daniels is expendable.
Daniels was not released because he of a lack of talent. The Packers needed to free up cap space to keep the core of their roster longterm. With the resurgence of the defensive line, releases Mike Daniels makes sense for the Packers.