In a Cutdown Saturday bombshell, the Green Bay Packers released Josh Sitton as part of their effort to get down to 53 players by Saturday’s deadline.
Here are the rest of the transactions, as announced by the team:
WR: Geronimo Allison, Herb Waters
TE: Casey Pierce
G: Lucas Patrick
QB: Marquise Williams
RB: Brandon Ross
FB: Alstevis Squirewell
DT: Brian Price
ILBs Sam Barrington, Carl Bradford and Beniquez Brown
OLB Reggie Gilbert
CBs: Robertson Daniel and Warren Gatewood
S: Jermaine Whitehead
LS Rick Lovato
Injured reserve: DT Tyler Kuder, C Kyle Steuck
PUP: C Corey Linsley
Suspended: CB Demetri Goodson, DT Mike Pennel
While this is the 53-man roster, this is not the final roster. The Packers don't have a long snapper, with the release of Rick Lovato, so another move must be made.
Sitton was a second-team All-Pro last season and was voted to a few NFL Top 100 lists during the offseason. He was a leader of a strong starting offensive front. However, according to a source who talked extensively to Packer Report, Sitton was not a priority for a new contract amid a large group of pending free agents. That he's 30 and has a bit of an injury history had the team trying to shop Sitton in hopes of getting something for him now rather than losing him in free agency next offseason. Instead, word broke that Sitton would be released if a trade couldn't be made. Thus, the market disappeared. Rather than keeping a potentially disgruntled player on the roster — but at least getting a compensatory draft pick in return in 2018 — the Packers simply released Sitton.
While they won't get trade compensation or a free-agent compensatory pick, at least they'll get some cap help. The move clears $6.3 million off the team’s salary cap — critical dollars for a team riddled with cap issues. But the on-the-field questions are unavoidable.
The source said Sitton was caught off-guard by the move, learning that he was being phased out on Saturday morning.
“We want to thank Josh for his contributions during his time in Green Bay. He has been an important part of the success we have enjoyed on the field,” general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. “While these decisions are never easy, this was done with a focus on what is best for the team and the growth of the offensive line. We wish Josh and his wife, Kristen, all the best in the future.”
Who would take Sitton's place in the lineup is the big mystery. Lane Taylor and Don Barclay would appear to be the front-runners. What is certain is Corey Linsley and J.C. Tretter won't be part of that conversation. Linsley will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, where he must spend the first six weeks of the season before he can begin practicing. That means Tretter will start at center and not move to guard to fill Sitton's spot.
Another veteran to not make the team was inside linebacker Sam Barrington. That leaves only Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas at that position.
A staggering six undrafted rookies made the 53-man roster: cornerbacks Josh Hawkins and Makinton Dorleant, safeties Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans, quarterback Joe Callahan and running back Brandon Burks. Hawkins and Dorleant, who had been out with an injured hamstring, beat out Robertson Daniel in a hotly contested battle. The Packers kept a whopping six safeties as well as six cornerbacks.
In the battle to be the fifth defensive lineman, Christian Ringo emerged victorious. He beat out a pair of undrafted rookies: Brian Price, who was released, and Tyler Kuder, who was injured vs. Kansas City on Thursday night.
In the battle at wide receiver, fifth-round pick Trevor Davis made it. Undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison did not. With Davis and Janis (broken hand), the Packers kept seven receivers.
At inside linebacker, Barrington and Bradford were released. A fourth-round pick in 2013, Bradford had his best camp and made a strong push for a roster spot after spending last year on the practice squad. Barrington missed most of last season with an ankle injury and spent the second half of camp running with the first team alongside Martinez. However, Barrington and Jake Ryan, a fourth-round pick last year, started vs. Kansas City on Thursday and Ryan was the more impressive player.
The makeover of the special teams continued. After releasing punter Tim Masthay on Tuesday, Lovato was released on Saturday. Brett Goode, the former snapper, is about eight-and-a-half months past a torn ACL sustained vs. Oakland on Dec. 20 and could be an option. He recently worked out for the Packers.
Of the "final" roster as of Saturday evening, that group might not be set heading into prep for the season-opening game at Jacksonville. The Packers and the rest of the teams will be scanning the waiver wire for potential roster moves on Sunday. Given Thompson's history, he might stand pat but depth at inside linebacker, guard and defensive line could be on his to-do list.
Teams can begin signing their 10-man practice squads at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.