Chad Clifton's scheduled visit to Washington promises an interesting dilemma for both the player and for Green Bay. I thought Andrew Brandt, the former Packers executive who now operates the National Football Post, put it well via Twitter:
"Chad Clifton to visit Redskins, whose LT just retired. Chad loves GB, but can't see GBP in bidding war with them."
Yes, it's hard to imagine general manager Ted Thompson bidding against Washington owner Daniel Snyder, if it comes to that. The Redskins have bid farewell to left tackle Chris Samuels, and new coach Mike Shanahan is going to get whatever he wants from Snyder. If it's a veteran left tackle with experience in a zone blocking scheme, then so be it. Snyder won't let money get in the way.
So then you wonder if Clifton, a quiet and introverted guy who has spent his entire career with the Packers, really wants to leave Green Bay and play in Washington's annual high-profile circus. We're not privy to his last-minute negotiations with the Packers, so I don't know how close or far the sides are from a numbers perspective. But if Clifton thinks he can shake more money loose by following through with a visit, he's probably misjudging Thompson's reputation for sticking to his core beliefs.
And in many cases over recent years, Thompson has insisted on replacing veterans with younger, recently drafted players. It has worked more often than it has failed, and I've felt for some time the Packers needed to initiate a succession plan at both tackle positions.
We've discussed this dynamic thoroughly in the past few weeks, and we can only assume the Packers would replace Clifton with second-year player T.J. Lang, a fourth-round pick in 2009. I'm on board with replacing Clifton sooner rather than later, given his recent health issues, but to me it would have to be accompanied by the return of right tackle Mark Tauscher. The Packers could minimize the pain of that succession plan by proceeding gradually.
It's possible the Packers could draft a starting-caliber left tackle next month, but that wouldn't change the worst-case dynamic: Having unproven players at both tackle positions is far from ideal for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense.
We're not at that point yet, but I do think we should take Clifton's visit to Washington seriously and begin considering the repercussions of his possible departure.