Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 Mar 2011

UPDATE: Packers Re-sign A.J. Hawk

The Packers have released linebacker A.J. Hawk, who had a $10.5 million escalator clause in his contract that was due. Adam Schefter notes that the Packers may still pursue a deal at a reduced rate with Hawk.

UPDATE: The Packers have reportedly inked Hawk to a new five-year deal.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 02 Mar 2011

25 comments, Last at 05 Mar 2011, 8:51pm by spenczar

Comments

1
by battlered90 (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 6:56pm

Would this have happened if the labor deal wasn't going on? Hawk seems like a good player. I feel like the Packers are taking advantage of the limited player movement that is happening in the pre-lockout stages of the off-season.

2
by qed :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:07pm

I doubt they would have let that $10 million dollar escalator hit even if there was a CBA, but maybe they would have been more motivated to work out a deal before now.

3
by tuluse :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:38pm

Hawk always looked really average to me.

5
by Will :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 8:13pm

I'm sure a lot of teams would like an average NFL linebacker, but not at $10m.

Will

4
by lionsbob :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 7:43pm

Most likely, there was talk even before the 2010 season began about Hawk's escalating contract and how he would be cut before he saw it.

16
by AMad1 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 10:16am

10-1/2 million kick in--c'mon, that money was never going to be paid (even if he magically turned into Superman in the fourth quarter to save the game each week). Not to mention the salary cap implications. CBA existance or lack of makes no matter. Hawk made public overtures of his desire to stay there during most of last season as well. Player and team are a good match, but the contract's terms got in the way, temporarily.

6
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 8:19pm

Hawk is a liability in coverage and a poor pass rushing linebacker, so he doesn't really fit in a Dom Capers defense. His only saving grace was run support and pursuit ability (he chooses pretty good angles). He is probably average for starting ILB's in the league, but he's as good as he's going to get and he'll never be worth $10M.

Also, ILB's for a 3-4 defense are a dime a dozen. You can pick them up in the middle rounds of the draft for nuttin'.

7
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 11:16pm

yes, because lawrence timmons, james farrior, ray lewis, bart scott, david harris, jared mayo, derrick johnson, paul pozluszny, takeo spikes, karlos dansby, etc just grow on trees. Oh wait! they were almost all drafted in the first 2 rounds. my mistake.

other than punters, kickers, and fullbacks, there's no position in football that can be reliably acquired in the middle rounds. the whole "next man up" idea is a convenient fiction that hides the fact that good players are uncommon and tend to last a long time. bad players do frequently start for bad teams and occasionally for good teams, but they don't last long, and they're a huge liability.

11
by Stewart (not verified) :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 12:10am

Hawk was #5 overall and never came close to living up to it. The guy who replaced Barnett this season, Des Bishop, is a sixth-round pick and outplayed Hawk.

As for 'the whole "next man up" idea is a convenient fiction,' the 2010 Super Bowl champs say 'Hi.'

19
by ammek :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 11:32am

Hawk has had about an average early-career for a #5 pick.

Drafted in the past two decades at #5, better than Hawk:
Seau, Tomlinson, Sean Taylor, Jamal Lewis, maybe Todd Lyght.

About the same:
Q Jammer, Ricky & Cadillac Williams, Terence Newman, Sanchez.

Worse:
Levi Brown, Curtis Enis, Cedric Jones, Trev Alberts, Bryant Westbrook, Terrell Buckley, John Copeland, possibly Glenn Dorsey.

Hawk should have played MLB when Green Bay ran a 4-3 but Nick Barnett (a more natural WLB) was incumbent.

24
by LT (not verified) :: Fri, 03/04/2011 - 3:07pm

Newman and Ricky Williams have performed far better in their careers, and Cadillac Williams has probably been less productive given his injuries. That said, comparing Hawk purely to #5 picks is not really a productive exercise given that there are different success/failure rates of top picks at different positions and ignoring those picked in a similar range (say #3-8) is unnecessarily diminishing your sample size. Traditionally top 10 non-passrusher LB picks are relatively low risk/low reward.

12
by Elroy44 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 12:12am

a couple of the guys you mentioned (poz, spikes, johnson) suck, and a couple of them were drafted by 4-3 teams (poz was drafted to be a 4-3 mike for a cover 2, derrick johnson was drafted to be a SLB for a cover 2, the best years of spikes career were when he played in the bills 4-3 in 2003 and 2004, and bart scott wasnt drafted high. or at all.

13
by Elroy44 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 12:14am

also, ray lewis spent the best seasons of his 20s as a mike in a 4-3, and dansby was drafted in rd3 to be a 4-3 olb.

15
by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 5:31am

Case study of the Steelers: They got James Farrior, who is their highest-drafted player(!) on the roster, cheap from the Jets (don't remember if by trade or as a UFA), drafted Larry Foote in the fourth round, drafted Lawrence Timmons at around #16 (the very first new player of the Tomlin regime, second highest pick of the millennium after Roethlisberger), and drafted Stevenson Sylvester, originally an OLB in college, somewhere around the fifth round.
I think you could call that a mixture of very high importance players and developmental prospects. My assumption is that they want one exceptional player who can be LeBeau's 'coach on the field' (Farrior, soon Timmons) and one adequate, cheaper player (Foote, maybe Sylvester in the future).

21
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 4:56pm

here's a quick breakdown of, as best as a few minutes on wikipedia can tell, the draft position of the starting 3-4 linebackers in the nfl. We see, by round,
10 first round, 7 second round, 2 third round, one fourth round, and 6 undrafted free agents. I'm not sure if I missed anyone or incorrectly included anyone because this might reflect depth chart changes due to free agency.

Still, when we look at it, it appears to be pretty clear to me that nfl teams don't think inside linebackers can be easily found outside of the first 2 rounds because they continue spending top picks on inside linebackers and almost never start middle-round picks. Even if there are a number of players who were originally in 4-3 defenses, the fact that teams are going to those same highly drafted players to fill 3-4 inside linebacker posts, particularly given that a large number of these players were re-signed or acquired later in their careers as free agents specifically to play in the 3-4 of their current teams, strongly suggests that the paul posluszny effect is small.

The large number of undrafted free agents might be one reason why it can be suggested that these players are available late, but I strongly suspect this result is due to 2 factors. 1) the ravens are just strange. 2) there are so many undrafted free agents that we should expect a few to slip through the cracks even though the success rate is abysmally low. It's also notable that even the 3 guys listed from the third and fourth round suck (bradie james, akin ayodele) or were top talents who nonetheless had major issues coming out of college (crowder).

first - keith brooking (dal), ray lewis (bal), lawrence timmons (pit), james farrior (pit), jared mayo (ne), derrick johnson (kc), nick barnett (gb, free agent), aj hawk (gb), takeo spikes (sf), patrick willis (sf)

second - brandon spikes (ne), kevin burnett (sd), david harris (nyj), karlos dansby (mia), paul posluszny (buf), daryl washington (ari), rocky mcintosh (was)

third - channing crowder (mia), akin ayodele (buf)

fourth - bradie james (dal)

UFA - bart scott (nyj), jameel mcclain (bal), jovan belcher (kc), stephen cooper (sd), paris lenon (ari), london fletcher (was)

20
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 3:13pm

Spikes was very good for the niners last year and has been a great player over the course of his career.

25
by spenczar :: Sat, 03/05/2011 - 8:51pm

Seconded - I stopped reading when I saw that you thought Spikes sucks.

8
by Peregrine :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 11:19pm

Can't wait to see what crafty split-scheme jersey Brady Quinn's sister wears next season... assuming her brother is still in the league.

9
by Zeb (not verified) :: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 11:34pm

Desmond Bishop looked like a better player, and at about 1/4 the price.

22
by Arkaein :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 9:03pm

Bishop signed a new deal this season for about $5 million per year.

10
by Dice :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 12:01am

Maybe the Bills or another recent 3-4 converting D picks him up?

14
by Xian :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 2:06am
17
by Jimmy :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 11:07am

I thought Barnett was the better player, especially in Capers' scheme. Bishop plays better than either of them though.

18
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 11:13am

Barnett was a better player. But he's been seriously injured 2 of the last 3 years and is older than Hawk. They may carry both Hawk and Barnett, but I think they'll keep Bishop, Hawk, and Chillar, then either use a low draft pick or find a cheap FA (rookie or vet) for reserve and special teams.

23
by AC lo (not verified) :: Thu, 03/03/2011 - 9:09pm

Hawk also hasn't been knocked out of the lineup much due to injury. I think that was his deal coming out of OSU, he'd never missed so much as a practice. He's gotten nicked up a bit in GB, but overall is pretty reliable. Now I've just jinxed the shit out of him.