A.J. Hawk, You’re Cut!

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A.J. Hawk

We’ve never thought much of Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. In fact, we’ve called him a bust in the past.

Then, when both Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar went down during the 2010 season, Hawk stepped in to have probably his finest season as a pro, racking up 111 tackles, 10 passes defended and three picks. We changed our tune about Hawk at the time, simply because the Packers would have been in big trouble without him.

The team’s depth at inside linebacker — Desmond Bishop also stepped in and became the team’s top performer at the position — helped propel the team to the Super Bowl. Hawk was a big part of that.

In the offseason, the Packers cut Hawk so they wouldn’t have to pay him $10 million in 2011. They re-signed him the next day to a $33.75 million, five-year deal, essentially telling him and everyone else they considered Hawk one of their starting inside linebackers for the next five seasons.

The commitment to Hawk became ever more evident when they released Barnett before training camp. So how did Hawk reward the Packers?

With probably the worst season of his career.

Not only did Hawk have a career-low in tackles with 84, but he intercepted no passes and forced no fumbles. He had only 1.5 sacks and defended only three passes. In short, he pretty much returned to his pre-2010 form — to a guy who is pretty much the opposite of a playmaker. Hawk was weak in coverage, slow-footed, took bad angles on tackles and was pretty much a poor tackler all around.

We’re not the only ones to take notice. The Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn wrote a scathing article on Hawk last weekend, questioning whether the Packers could even bring Hawk back next season. It contained statements like this.

Hawk? You’ve got to be kidding. He’s just a guy. His contract is by far the worst contract that Thompson has ever enacted.

It’s beyond me how Thompson can come back with Hawk as the starter next season. There even have been whispers among Hawk’s teammates. They know better than anyone else how little his game has to offer.

And you think we’ve been hard on the guy?

The bottom line is this. Hawk hasn’t played up to his contract at any point in his career, except when he faced adversity and was essentially benched.

D.J. Smith not only played better than Hawk in 2011, but he has more long-term potential. He may not have the prototypical size, but he knows how to make plays, is quick to react and has a nose for the ball. When you add it up — the big contract, lack of production, Smith’s future — it could land Hawk on the street this offseason.

Frankly, after this past season, we’d say it’s about time.

About The Author

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.

33 Comments on "A.J. Hawk, You’re Cut!"

  1. darrin

    Agree. There is no upside to Hawk – only more of the same mediocre-at-best play we saw this year. The upside to DJ Smith is way better, given his age and nose for the ball. He’s still weak in coverage, but that’s something that comes with experience and playing time. You can’t coach his instincts and playmaking ability.

  2. Derek

    You all need to lay off Hawk. The media hates him but the coaches love him. He is and always has been a steady, assignment sure player. The entire defense played poorly this past season but I don’t see any griping about anyone else. The problem is not Hawk, it is a defense that failed to produce. If Hawk should go, the rest of them should go as well!

  3. Crefan

    We should have known last year was a contract year and he was going to step up for his payday.
    Now he has his money he turns back into a schlub for 3 more years.

  4. The Floridian Packer Fan

    Really!? I’m pretty sure you can say the DEFENSE as a WHOLE was mediocre-at-best this past season. To single one guy out, after this past season’s horrible defensive show, is BULLSHIT. Bob McGinn can suck my left nut for that comment. The DEFENSE better get its shit together for next season, NOT JUST HAWK!!

    Fuck You Bob McGinn, I don’t know you, but your smug picture on Twitter makes me wanna kick you in your face.

    • ay hombre

      The article did spend a lot of time on Hawk but I think the bulk of the argument is the financial aspect, how overpaid he was, and how that mistake led to a domino effect where we essentially took ourselves out of the running for Cullen Jenkins.

      Granted, the story also points to Thompson for not going back after Jenkins when his value in the open market was clearly less than anticipated.

      The story also goes after Woodson for leading a secondary full of risk takers more interested in stats than stops and Capers as a no-control having has-been.

      Pretty much no one was left unscathed but Hawk took a pounding not only for his very average play over the years, but the millions TT wasted unnecessarily in re-signing him.

      PS- I think McGinn rocks.

  5. Cuban

    Anyone remember the play against the bucs this year where legarrette blount was running down the sideline and jnstead of at least attacking him, hawk backpedaled from side to side for at least 10-15 yards like a retard

  6. Richard

    For the record, Bob McGinn probably has the best insight of any of the Packer beat writers. I believe he even predicted a 13-3 season in 2007 before they shocked the world, so he is pretty tuned in to the team, maybe even better than the coaches. You’re a damn fool if you’re going to bother criticizing McGinn and supporting Hawk’s diminishing ability in a single post.

  7. Walter

    Do you guys remember that United Way commercial with a group of kids running with NFL players? Hawk was in that commercial and you could see how slow he was. He was slower than most of the kids.

  8. Richard

    Too bad Hawk didn’t get a few tattoos….maybe Teddy would have gotten lucky and drafted Vernon Davis instead.

    • iltarion

      Yeah, Teddy got lucky and assembled a team that won the Super Bowl and dominated the NFL in 2011.

      I hope he keeps being lucky.

  9. iltarion

    Let’s keep it real here. Bob McGinn is a sports writer. That means he has a lot more beats to cover than just the Packers. Obviously, that limits the time he can spend on them.

    His attack on AJ Hawk made no damn sense, frankly. Let me explain. The point of his article was the analysis of how a 5th ranked defense falls to 32nd ranked the following year. McGinn proceeded to spend the first 3rd of the article on the signing of AJ Hawk.

    Well, there is an obvious problem with that. AJ Hawk was the starting middle LB to the defense that was ranked 5th. See what I mean?

    AJ Hawk started inside and called the defenses for a defense that was 5th in the league and won a Super Bowl. So, I fail to see how his resigning had anything to do with the defense’s downfall.

    Yes, he was trying to make the point that by resigning Hawk we didn’t have he money for Jenkins. Come on now, we all know that isn’t true. For one, having Jenkins or not having Jenkins had very little to do with this defense finishing 32nd. Anyone thinking Jenkins 5.5 sacks this year would have restored this defense to the elite is just delusional. Secondly, the decision on Jenkins was made long before we resigned Hawk. If TT was going to resign Jenkins, he would have done it before the season was over.

    There were 3 reasons why we let Jenkins go: CJ Wilson, Jarius Wynn, and Mike Neal. No one had any clue that all three would SUCK this season. That’s just the way it goes.

    Mike McCarthy has always preached one thing first and foremost: availability. AJ Hawk PLAYS every game. The message is pretty simple. Play every game and you’ll be rewarded. Barnett couldn’t do that; Jenkins couldn’t do that, and they got shipped out.

    Saying Hawk’s contract is one of the worst TT ever signed is ludicrous. There is only one thing I need to say about that: SUPER BOWL.

    Watch the game tape, McGinn. Hawk didn’t have a great season. Not by a long shot. But he wasn’t the problem with the defense.

    As Edgar Allen Poe once put it, the issues were “manifold and multiform.”

    • peter

      You’re an idiot… McGinn is THE Packers beat writer and probably one of the most respected in the nation a la Peter King features him all the time on si.com. He lives near the stadium and is more ingrained in what is going on in packerland than anyone. He talks with packs front office, scouts,players, etc. His article hit the mark the signing of Hawk was the domino that made us not sign Jenkins which destroyed our front line and d. Hawk sucks and we have better talent coming up get rid of the bum and cut our loses.

      • iltarion

        Yes, if I disagree with him, I must be an idiot.

        I don’t doubt McGinn knows a hell of a lot more what is going on in that locker room and front office than I do.

        I watched about 150 hours of Packer game film this season. Maybe McGinn’s job requires him to do that, probably it doesn’t.

        However, that doesn’t mean disagreeing with me makes you an idiot. It just means I have reasons to stake my opinion against his.

        Again, the Packer defense was 5th and won a Super Bowl with AJ Hawk in the middle. That doesn’t mean he is a great LB or that he shouldn’t be replaced if we have someone better behind him. It just means that if you are trying to explain the difference between a 5th ranked and 32nd ranked defense, then pointing to a position that never changed doesn’t make a lot of sense.

        I’m also saying that in watching the game tape I just don’t see the justification. Hawk was probably a C- this year. Last year, he was a C+. No big difference either way.

        I also live near the stadium, if that means anything somehow.

        • ay hombre

          -You’re not an idiot when you disagree with McGinn, but you start looking like an asshole when you disagree with anything anyone anywhere has ever said.

          “I watched about 150 hours of Packer game film this season. Maybe McGinn’s job requires him to do that, probably it doesn’t.”

          If you knew anything about this guy you would know how idiotic and arrogant you sound right now. He likely watches that much tape in a month and that’s not an exaggeration.

          -Are we to understand Cullen Jenkins only played 5.5 plays all year and that only on his sack plays does he help his team? Clay Matthews had a whopping 6 sacks all year so I guess we really wouldn’t miss him at all either. Right?

          Yet Matthews and Jenkins were near the top of the league at their position as far as quarterback pressures. Cullen Jenkins was 4th in the NFL amongst DT’s behind Suh, Geno Atkins and Kevin Williams.

          The interesting thing is Jenkins did it in 200 less snaps than Williams, and over 100 less than Suh and Atkins. Yeah…I’m sure having that type of guy around isn’t going to open things up for Matthews, Raji, and everyone else who underperformed.

          All the players said we missed Jenkins…I guess everyone is wrong! Delusional? Instead of fitting your argument to making it contradict everyone else, you might want to consider….just consider using facts and common sense because you’re not always right…and you don’t have to be.

          I await the day when Iltarion simply says, “i AGREE. WELL SAID.”

          Ain’t happening.

          • iltarion

            Fortunately, I don’t “disagree with anything everyone everywhere ever said.”

            I mean, really, could we use a bigger generalization?

            Actually, I agree with a lot of McGinn’s article, just not the part about Hawk.

            McGinn spends 150 hours in a month watching game film? You do realize that is about 40 hours a week watching nothing but game film?

            We do realize there aren’t any 3,000 pound marlins, right? I don’t think a guy is holding a fish the size of a Range Rover.

            Anyway, I was wrong to say McGinn probably isn’t required to watch the game film. I read his analysis of the Giants game just yesterday. It actually is pretty fricking good, much better than anything in the GBPG.

            You make a good argument about Jenkins’ value, except I never said that Jenkins wasn’t “missed” or that our defense wouldn’t have been better if he were still around. I simply said it wouldn’t be elite and that you can’t blame the fall to dead last in the league on him being gone.

            Lastly, this site wouldn’t be one iota better if I simply commented on how I agreed with everything. But that being said, I don’t argue for the sake of it. I don’t follow people around and contradict them like some have done with me.

            That’s fine though. I decided a while ago that if couldn’t stand the heat I’d get out of the kitchen. I’m still here. All of them are gone.

  10. Richard

    Well, I guess we’ll all spend the next 15 years hanging our hats on 2010 then. AJ Hawk sucks and he will be a weak link on this defense as long as he is healthy and getting paid.

    • iltarion

      It was just last year, dude.

      If the Packers lose at Lambeau in the playoffs next year, I will be solidly in your camp.

  11. Savage57

    Does anyone know what the cap hit would be if the Packers cut Hawk? How much of his contract was guaranteed?

    Maybe there’s some mark out there that would work a trade for a pick if the Packers ate a portion of his contract.

    Better than having to eat the whole thing.

    • peter

      No guaranteed money just a cap hit of 2-4 mil.
      Don’t think they could pull a trade if everyone knows he is going to get cut anyhow.

  12. mxz 600

    The nice thing about having iltarion on these post, is if you dont know something, you can always ask Iltarion, because he knows everything, just ask him, he’ll tell you…lol

  13. mxz 600

    The whole defense sucked….plain and simple…Maybe there is a basic summer tackling camp Capers can send these players too to learn how to tackle….How about how to cover a receiver…Tramon, Woodson…Yes, I said Woodson….Let’s hear from Charlie Peprah on the fundementals of tackling H Nicks (65 yard td catch) with a shoulder tackle and no hands. (impressive!!!)….Yes…Hawk looks like he’s running in quicksand….Funny thing was, iv’e been bitching about the defense since the Saints game….Then you had jag bags like iltarion saying “who cares…their winning”. Well they went 15-1 in the regular season iltarion…..congrats…..That and a dollar will you get you a coffee at McDonalds.

    • Kozak

      Man am I sick of the bitching by so called Packer fans. The team won 19 straight including 3 road playoff games, and a superbowl, went 15-1 swept the division and beat the Bears 4 times in one year. It was one of the greatest seasons of Packer football EVER. Yeah it ended in disappointment with a loss. Get over it. If the only way you judge a season is by Superbowl trophy, you are going to be a miserable unhappy prick 95% of your life. This is the third Golden Age of Packer football. Enjoy it while it lasts. It can be a long long time between these sweet times and the bad times. Go look up the Packers on the 70’s and 80’s to get a clue. Ask any Bear fan what decades of suck feels like. Talk to a Browns fan.
      But quit the bitching.

      • ay hombre

        Every coach, every player, every person involved on any NFL organization will tell you that only one team is happy at the end of the year. Why should the fans be any different?

  14. Pat Magroin

    AJ Hawk wasn’t the only guy that had a bad year on defense. However, most the guys on defense didn’t make 8 million dollars last year either. I think McGinn was saying that Ted could of found someone for the fraction of the cost of Hawk and got the same productivity. Then we could of used the money saved to try and plug some other holes.

  15. Xavier


    You have the wrong idea. You expect us to be fine with losing? Obviously we’re dissapointed, when your team goes 15-1 but loses in the divisional playoff game your gonna be shocked and dissapointed because you expect so much more. Had we gone 9-7 and sneaked into the playoffs no one would be shocked or as upset because we wouldnt of expected to get to the playoffs

  16. Hacksaw

    The fans that let that loss to the Giants consume them clearly shows that they have a hard time overcoming adversity. To each his own, if you want to let it effect your life go right ahead. Stress causes health problems. Now if you don’t agree that certain fans didn’t let the loss phase them enough it doesn’t mean you have to bring them down to your level. I for one was dissapointed, but the season was fun to watch. I remember the Packers in the 80’s. I would much prefer this season over that decade of misfortune.

    Go Pack!

  17. Vijay

    They’d need to draft a 3-4 middle linebacker somewhere in the draft for depth behind DJ Smith/ Bishop/ Francois if they were going to replace AJ…

    Someone like Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (if he declares)
    or Audie Cole, NC State

    Those are examples of mid round high value middle backers who excel in coverage and have a nose for the football…

  18. Kennebunk

    Agree with Kozak & Hacksaw also, (Ragnar’s a Cnt), I suffered through the 70’s, 80’s & ½ of the 90’s. I hated the Cowboys, Niners & Bears because we sucked and could not compete. This year was almost “comfortable”. Seemed destiny that the Pack would win, although we all knew the defense was playing like shyt.

    I can’t say why and surely would not point a finger at one player. I remember when TT cut/signed Hawk and was all for it. They were talking at the time how Barnett was disruptive in the huddle and Hawk was a huge improvement with his “calm” style. We had just won a SB, and a lot of credit went to Hawk.

    Would it have worked better with Barnett this year? Would Barnett call out Woodson and tell him to pull his head out of his ass & play sound defense? Who knows? All I know is I was pretty pissed-off with the Giants game, but not more than the previous Giants DP game, and it doesn’t even come close to how PO’d I was with 4th & 26, (which Barnett was involved in).

    It’s all not in the shitter. With TT always bringing in young guys, we needed to figure this missed preseason may be a problem, despite all the pundits saying it would favor the Pack. Shields needs more work as well as Burnett. Lattimore needs muscle, So’oto needs coaching smarts. All stuff they can fix next spring. Smith may already be there. We can go on but we have a good foundation to build upon, (shyt 15-1?), & the draft, let’s enjoy the next few years.

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