Packers shockingly release top defensive veteran on training camp eve, save millions in cap space

The Green Bay Packers have undergone a facelift over the last year or so and it continued on Wednesday morning when the team cut one of its longest-tenured defensive veterans in Mike Daniels.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media first reported the news. 

Daniels' release is a stunner because he's been with the team since they drafted him in 2012. He's one of the notable defensive veterans on a unit everyone expected to take a step forward this season and potentially equal the production that Aaron Rodgers and Co. delivered on the offensive side of the ball. 

On the other hand, maybe this makes a little more sense when you dive a little deeper into it. The defensive tackle signed a four-year, $43 million contract extension with Green Bay near the end of the 2015 NFL season. He's only 29 years old, although he had a down year in 2019 after missing six games because of a foot injury.

The former fourth-round pick had been missing in OTAs because of the foot injury and there was a report in May that he might have his snaps reduced heading into the season.

Daniels was going to count $10.7 million against the cap in 2019, and by releasing him the Packers will save $8.3 million in cap space.

So you factor in a high salary-cap number with a lot of cap relief for an aging player who is battling injuries and in the final year of his contract and it can pretty quickly equate to his team looking to move on. 

But it's still surprising to see Green Bay, in what many consider a pivotal year, get rid of such a talented player, especially when it happens right as the Packers are opening up training camp. Daniels is far from washed up -- and he was playing for a contract this year, which would have made him motivated on the interior.

Per Garafolo, the Packers tried to trade Daniels but couldn't find any suitors. Cleveland looms as a team that could continue to build depth on the defensive line by inking Daniels. 

The Browns won't be the only team looking to add Daniels. Assuming he can get his foot healthy, the 2017 Pro Bowler is going to be a sought-after veteran on the late-offseason market. 

For some team, they're going to be able to get a motivated veteran defensive lineman capable of producing pressure from the interior in late July. One team's trash is another team's treasure. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Daniels' preference would be to sign with a Super Bowl contender (wouldn't we all love that?). 

Here are some six additional (to the Browns) suitors utilizing our positional rankings chart from April:

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta is all in this year but spent virtually all of its early draft capital on the offensive line. The Falcons have a lot of talent on defense, but there is definitely a question of depth behind Grady Jarrett and Deadrin Senat. Daniels could slot next to Jarrett in the starting lineup depending on how the second-year Senat looks and it would be quite the combo on the interior.

Seattle Seahawks

They're always on the lookout for talent on the defensive line, and with Jarran Reed being suspended six games to start the season, Seattle could utilize Daniels early and then have him shift back into a depth position, or continue to start if he excels. They're not afraid to rotate on the interior of the defensive line or stockpile talent.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas is dealing with a bunch of contractual stuff, so it might not be simple for them to add another veteran player. But they definitely need more talent on the inside of their defensive line, they're definitely a Super Bowl contender and they're definitely not afraid to make a splash.

Indianapolis Colts

Indy has Margus Hunt, Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis lined up as the interior talent on defense right now. Adding Daniels would give them more depth and he fits the bill in terms of the toughness that Chris Ballard is looking for from a veteran player.

Los Angeles Chargers

I think they're probably OK in terms of depth -- Brandon Mebane, Jerry Tillery and Justin Jones is a good start, but they could certainly add another body like Daniels. Los Angeles is certainly a Super Bowl contender this year.

New England Patriots

Duh. It's not a list of teams who could use a talented, discarded veteran if Bill Belichick isn't on it. Daniels would fit nicely here and if he's trying to chase a ring, there isn't a better spot. He would obviously have to take a discount and might not get a starting role.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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