The Packers are releasing former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Mike Daniels, a veteran entering his eighth NFL season, ESPN.com reported, citing an unidentified source.
His release, though termed a “(s)urprise” in the report, was foreshadowed this offseason by the types of defensive linemen that Packers GM Brian Gutekunst added to the roster: Rashan Gary, Kingsley Keke, Z’Darius Smith and Preston Smith.
“These are big men with length and power and speed,” Gutekunst told PackersNews.com in April. “I felt we needed to get bigger in the front, and we have. Those are the body types we’re looking for.”
Long the heart and soul of the Packers’ front seven, Daniels — at just over 6 feet and 310 pounds — didn’t fit the model Gutekunst had set for his defensive linemen.
Daniels, 30, is two seasons removed from making the Pro Bowl but now becomes a free agent whose “preference would be to sign with Super-Bowl contender,” per ESPN.
Surprise of day: Green Bay is releasing former Pro Bowl DT Mike Daniels, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 24, 2019
He played in only 10 games in 2018, the fewest in his seven-season career, after suffering a foot injury in Week 11 and landing on injured reserve on Dec. 1.
He was entering the final year of a four-year, $41 million deal and due to make $7.6 million. Releasing him clears more than $8.3 million in cap space for Green Bay.
Rising young star Kenny Clark, 23, is the Packers’ anchor in the defensive middle now and, and according to PackersNews.com, is going to be signed this year or next to a lucrative multi-year extension that will far exceed what Daniels got four years ago.
Still, Daniels made the Pro Bowl after the 2017 season in which he started in the 14 games in which he appeared and registered a career-high 72 tackles (42 solo), 11 tackles for a loss (tied for second on the team), five sacks (third on the team) and had 14 quarterback hits.
He was an alternate for the Pro Bowl after the 2016 season, when he started all 16 games and had 44 tackles (29 solo) and four sacks.
Those kind of credentials could make him a valuable commodity, if his foot is healthy and he fits in the particular team’s scheme.
He had been a prominent part of the Packers’ defensive line rotation since his second season in 2013, initially serving as one of the featured interior rushers in the team’s nickel defense.