Clifton, 35, has an injury history over his 12-year NFL career that would suggest making it through an entire season in 2012 is unlikely. His hamstring and back injuries in 2011 limited him to just six regular season games, which put him on our previous list of budget busts.
In 2012, Clifton will be in the final year of a two-year deal with the Packers. He is scheduled to make $5.7 million, which is just more than $500,000 less than a year ago.
Nonetheless, Clifton's future could be tied to how the Packers shape up at tackle this offseason. A draft pick could be coming in late April and 2011 rookie Derek Sherrod is rehabbing from a broken leg suffered in a Dec. 18 game at Kansas City. The other tackles on the roster are Bryan Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse — the two primary starters from a season ago — and former practice squad player Chris Campbell, second-year player Ray Dominguez and three-year veteran Herb Taylor.
Driver's status as a potential budget buster could change in the coming months. He has said publicly this offseason that he would be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Packers for a 14th consecutive season.
As it stands, the last year of his contract would put his cap number at $5 million ,which includes $2.4 million in bonuses. That might be too high a price to pay for a receiver who is not expected to be a starter.
Driver, 37, was basically the team's No. 3 receiver in 2011 (based on the number of snaps played) behind Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. He might be pushed further back than that in 2012 depending on how the Packers value second-year player Randall Cobb ($729,000 cap number in 2012) as a receiver and developing practice squad players Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel. They also signed five-year veteran receiver James Jones to a three-year, $9.6 million contract in 2011.
Our Bill Huber laid out the argument on Feb. 21 on this Web site why Hawk was the Packers' No. 1 budget bust last season, namely because Hawk's ratio of impact plays made to snaps played was shockingly low. Coming off perhaps his best season in 2010, Hawk's 2011 was a major disappointment.
Hawk was temporarily cut following the 2010 season, then re-signed to a deal that included an $8 million signing bonus. In 2012, his cap number is $6.55 million ,which includes a base salary of $4.4 million, the prorated portion of his bonus and $550,000 in other bonuses. By comparison, fellow inside linebackers Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith and Robert Francois — all who outperformed Hawk on the field in 2011 during their opportunities — have a combined cap number of just over $5 million in 2012.
Hawk had just 1.5 sacks with no interceptions, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries in 960 snaps (according to Pro Football Focus). Bishop had five sacks and two forced fumbles in 916 snaps. Smith had an interception in just 267 snaps. And Francois had two interceptions and a forced fumble in just 169 snaps.
Few would argue that Pickett is a difference maker in the run game. In the two games he missed this season (concussion) — at Kansas City on Dec. 18 and vs. the Bears on Dec. 25 — the Packers had two of their worst games stopping the run all season. When they needed stops against the Chiefs late in their comeback bid to remain undefeated, they failed. And against the Bears, two backup running backs had their way against a Packers defense that allowed 199 yards on the ground (the second-worst total of the season).
Pickett's role against the run, even as he turns 33 in 2012, does not figure to change. But the Packers might not get the value out of him considering he rarely plays on predictable passing downs. He is a stalwart in the base defense, but when defensive coordinator Dom Capers goes to his nickel package, which he calls more than half the time, Pickett usually comes to the sideline. Therefore, he offers little to the Packers in the pass rush department, an area where they need a major upgrade.
Pickett's cap number in 2012 is just over $5.7 million, which is almost $1.5 million more than in 2011. He is the Packers' highest-paid defensive lineman, with B.J. Raji second with a cap number of $4.255 million in 2012.
In 2011, Woodson posted one of the best seasons statistically at age 35 that anyone at the cornerback position has ever had. His seven interceptions were tied for the league lead and he also totaled 83 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
While his numbers on paper look good, and he possesses instincts like few others at his position, Woodson has shown signs of weakening coverage skills and poor tackling. The Packers use him less and less in one-on-one coverage, and his 15 missed tackles (according to Pro Football Focus) were fourth-highest among cornerbacks in the league in 2011. Pro Football Focus also had him rated as the 37th-best cornerback in the league among those that played at least 50 percent of their teams snaps based on statistics that account for penalties, rushing the passer, and playing against the run and the pass.
Woodson is still a gamer. But in 2012, his salary cap number is scheduled to be $11.5 million, which includes a $5 million roster bonus. That represents the highest cap number on the team, $3 million more than quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It is also the highest cap number of any year on Woodson's contract, which runs through 2014.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com