'Gravedigger' released

Unable to come to a contract agreement with Chad Clifton before the start of free agency, the Green Bay Packers released veteran nose tackle Gilbert Brown to create salary cap space.<p>

The Packers created about $560,000 of cap room by releasing Brown, a fan favorite who had three years remaining on a four-year contract that he signed last July. The Packers took a $200,000 cap hit based on the remaining portion of his original signing bonus, but they cleared his $760,000 base salary off the books, creating $560,000 of cap room, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Gilbert Brown has contributed significantly to the Green Bay Packers for 10 seasons, both on and off the field," Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman said. "The connection Gilbert had with his teammates and coaches is special, as well as his connection to the fans. Always the last one to leave the locker room after a practice or a game, he savored every minute he was a Green Bay Packer football player. He will be missed by everyone: coaches, players and fans alike. As a coach, I am very proud to say he was on a team I coached. I will miss him."

Brown, 33, started 14 of 16 games in 2003 at nose tackle. He played through a ruptured right biceps that he suffered early in training camp. The injury would have sidelined most players for the season, but Brown used it as a motivation for his teammates. Brown finished the 2003 season with 14 total tackles, one fumble recovery (the first of his career) and one pass defensed. In a rematch victory over Chicago (Dec. 7), Brown posted a season-high four stops, along with a pass breakup.

When Grady Jackson was signed by the Packers in early November, Brown's playing time declined. Jackson was signed to a two-year contract extension near the end of the season. With Jackson as the starter, it is unlikely that the Packers will re-sign Brown, nicknamed "The Gravedigger," at a lower salary.

As a show of respect, Brown's teammates voted him as the recipient of the 'Ed Block Courage Award' for displaying a "commitment to the principles of courage and sportsmanship," best demonstrated by his decision to play on in 2003 in spite of a torn biceps.

Brown is one of four true defensive linemen to play 10 seasons for the Packers. Only Dave Hanner (13, 1952-64), Henry Jordan (11, 1659-69) and Ezra Johnson (11, 1977-87) have played longer in a Green Bay uniform. Obtained on waivers from Minnesota during 1993 training camp, Brown has played 125 Packers games (103 starts) with 292 tackles (186 solo) and seven sacks.

Brown played in 15 Packers playoff games. Only Brett Favre (19) has played in more postseason games for the Packers.

The Packers and the agent for Clifton negotiated today on a new deal but the two sides remain apart on the signing bonus and yearly salary, according to reports. Clifton was expected to sign the $7 million franchise tender before the start of free agency today.

Offensive tackle Mark Tauscher recently restructured his contract to help the team create room under the salary cap. It is expected that Brett Favre and Darren Sharper also will be restructuring their deals to make room for Clifton.

In another move, the team waived cornerback Calvin Carlyle. Signed to a practice-squad contract Dec. 9, the rookie spent the season's last six weeks in Green Bay, then re-signed Jan. 13 as a reserve/future.

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