Rejoice, members of the anti-Justin Harrell fan club.
The defensive lineman’s era in Green Bay is finally over.
The Packers announced two roster moves Thursday afternoon, releasing veteran linebacker Brady Poppinga and the oft-injured defensive lineman Justin Harrell. The moves will save the Packers around $3 million in cap space, just one day after parting ways with inside linebacker Nick Barnett.
Harrell was plagued by injuries in each of his four years in Green Bay, limiting him to just 14 of a possible 64 games in which he totaled just 27 tackles. General manager Ted Thompson drafted the defensive tackle out of Tennessee in 2007, yet his stock had been dropping on many team’s draft boards due to a torn bicep muscle. Many questioned Thompson reaching on an injury-prone player who did not fill a need, but the defensive tackle showed signs of progress in the seven games he played in his rookie year.
That offseason the injuries began to rack up, as a back injury forced Harrell to the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, and he appeared in just one game before being sent to injured reserve. In 2009, another back injury forced him to miss the entire 2009 season, and after a promising preseason in 2010, the injury bug struck again as Harrell tore his ACL in Week 1 in Philadelphia.
While the potential is there and he shows signs of greatness on the field, those on-the-field moments have been few and far between, and Thompson realized it was time to cut his losses and label the No. 16 overall pick a bust.
According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, the Packers will save $700,000 by releasing Harrell. His $1.225 million base salary and roster bonus will come off the books, but the Packers will pay $530,000, the remaining portion of his prorated option bonus that was good for 2012.
For Poppinga, the reasoning was simple: the play on the field did not justify the salary off it.
The defensive end-turned-outside linebacker started 44 of a potential 81 games in his Green Bay career, but was better suited for a 4-3 defense and saw his 2010 injury cut short when he tore his ACL in a Week 6 loss to the Dolphins, his only start of the year.
It was the second major knee injury of his career (he also tore an ACL his rookie year in 2005) and, at 31 years old, it was clear his best days were behind him. The Packers will save an important $2.05 million base salary and $300,000 roster bonus in 2011, money that may be spent on one of defensive end Cullen Jenkins or wide receiver James Jones.