Meanwhile, after selecting linebackers A.J. Hawk and Abdul Hodge during the NFL draft Saturday, general manager Ted Thompson released veteran linebacker Robert Thomas. The Packers also released punter Ryan Flinn, kicker Rhys Lloyd, and wide receiver Willie Quinnie.
Thomas, who missed six of the last seven games last season, with a quadriceps injury, was acquired by the Packers during Week 1 of last season from St. Louis in a trade for cornerback Chris Johnson. Thomas started nine games at weak-side linebacker and finished with 51 tackles, one interceptions (the first of his career), and one pass defensed.
Nick Barnett is the only remaining starter to return to the linebacker corp. The Packers released strong-side linebacker Na'il Diggs in early March. Hawk and Hodge presumably will have a chance to start, but will be battling for roster spots against two linebackers selected by the Packers in the 2005 NFL draft - Brady Poppinga (fourth round) and Kurt Campbell (seventh round). Roy Manning also will be in the mix to start. He started two games and made progress throughout the season after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Woodson, 29, joins the Packers from the Oakland Raiders, where he spent the first eight years of his NFL career. Woodson is coming off a season in which he missed 10 games with a broken leg.
The Packers are giving Woodson a reported $10.5 million in the first year of his new deal.
Oakland's first-round selection (fourth overall) in the 1998 draft, Woodson has 17 career interceptions, though, he has only had one in each of the last two seasons.
"He's very athletic. He has wonderful lower body flexibility, which enables him to stay in his peddle lower than most," said Thompson. "He knows how to play the game. He has played some safety, but we anticipate him being primarily a corner and working in the slots. He's a good football player, and he thinks he's a good player, which is a good thing in my opinion. He'd like to be involved on the offensive side, maybe doing a little returning. He was that way at Michigan. That will be between him and Coach McCarthy, but we look forward to him being in our defensive backfield."
In 106 NFL games, 103 starts, Woodson has 456 tackles (383 solo), 5½ sacks, 14 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. In addition, he has two career receptions for 27 yards, and 12 punt returns for 77 yards (6.4 avg.). He played in Super Bowl XXXVII but was exploited by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden as Tampa Bay rolled to a victory.
Woodson has picked off at least one pass in eight consecutive seasons, but he only has seven interceptions in the past five years. Five of his interceptions came in 1998, when he earned the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Expected to become the sixth Heisman Trophy winner to play for the Packers, Woodson joins a group highlighted by former No. 1 overall draft choice Paul Hornung (1957-62, 1964-66) and Super Bowl XXXI Most Valuable Player Desmond Howard (1996, '99), another Michigan product. The list also includes a pair of Brett Favre backup quarterbacks, Ty Detmer (1992-95) and Danny Wuerffel – the last Heisman winner to play in Green Bay (2000). Bruce Smith (1945-48) was the Packers' first Heisman player.
One of the most highly decorated athletes in college history, Woodson led Michigan to the 1997 Associated Press national championship after claiming the Jim Thorpe, Maxwell and Bronko Nagurski awards.