Just five years removed from being the first player chosen in the NFL draft, quarterback Tim Couch was released Sunday for the second time in less than three months.
The move came just before the NFL's 4 p.m. ET deadline for reducing rosters to the mandatory 53-player limit and after Packers officials had spent most of the day trying to trade the former Cleveland Browns starter.
Green Bay, having decided Couch was not the upgrade it had sought as Brett Favre's primary backup, will enter the season with the same quarterback depth chart -- Favre, followed by Doug Pederson and youngster Craig Nall -- that it had in 2003. It became obvious in recent weeks, as Couch struggled with a sore arm, that he would not oust Pederson from the No. 2 spot.
"We took a shot in hoping he could be the guy. I don't think
it's the first time in the league that you were wrong on somebody.
It certainly won't be my last time and it wasn't my first time,"
coach Mike Sherman said. "You hit on players and you miss on players. It
happens every day in this league.
"It's unfortunate. I'm disappointed it didn't work out. I
really thought with the tapes I studied last year, I really thought
it would work out. It didn't.
"I talked to him about it a little while ago. We're both
In June, the Packers signed Couch, 27, to a one-year, $1.25 million contract following his release by the Browns. The team must count $625,000, the amount of the signing bonus in that deal, toward its 2004 salary cap. Green Bay will recoup the $625,000 in base salary that Couch was due this season.
Where the former University of Kentucky star goes from here, and how many teams will show interest in him, remains to be seen. One of the teams said to have had discussions with the Packers on Sunday is Indianapolis, which for now has unproven Joe Hamilton and Jim Sorgi as the backups to Peyton Manning. As Couch discovered when he was released by Cleveland, there are few openings leaguewide.
Because he is a "vested" veteran, with more than four seasons of experience, Couch will be guaranteed his entire '04 salary if he is on a team's opening day roster. For that reason alone, interested teams may wait until after the first week of the season, when the salary guarantee disappears, to consider signing him.
Couch got considerable snaps early in training camp in an effort to accelerate the learning curve as he tried to assimilate the Green Bay offense. Soreness in his biceps limited him in some practices and, in three preseason contests, Couch completed just 11 of 34 passes for 96 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He has suffered from elbow problems during his five seasons with the Browns, and some suggested the soreness dated to his college career.
The release of Couch, arguably the most prominent name among the veterans jettisoned Sunday, was only mildly surprising, especially to those who had seen him play this summer.
It took Couch and the Packers nearly two months and hours of discussions to complete a deal because Cleveland officials declined early on to release him, hoping instead to persuade another team to trade for him.
For Couch, Green Bay appeared to be his best option all along. It was believed the Browns at first were seeking a second-round pick for Couch, but lowered their demands. The biggest sticking point at the time, though, was the reluctance of the first overall choice in the 1999 draft to commit to more than one year in Green Bay.
Couch visited with Packers officials in Green Bay on April 6-7. Less than two weeks earlier, he dined with coach Mike Sherman in Cleveland, only hours after the Packers had received official permission from Browns officials to meet with the five-year veteran.
The Packers staff genuinely liked Couch from the outset.
Couch's five-year tenure in Cleveland essentially ended when the club signed former San Francisco starter Jeff Garcia to a four-year, $25 million contract. The market for Couch was then very slow.
At one point in the spring, Couch attempted to participate in the Browns' offseason conditioning program, but club officials requested he not use the complex. The feeling was that, if Couch were injured during a conditioning session, Cleveland could be liable for the final two seasons of his contract and his trade value would be diminished.
That impasse led Couch to file a grievance against the team. He eventually dropped the grievance as part of the agreement that led to his release by the Browns.
In 62 appearances, 59 of them starts, Couch has completed 1,025 of 1,714 attempts, for 11,131 yards, with 64 touchdown passes, 67 interceptions and a passer rating of 75.1.
For now at least, Couch is the third quarterback from the much ballyhooed first round of the 1999 draft to be out of work, joining Akili Smith and Cade McNown in the unemployment line. There were five quarterbacks chosen among the first 12 picks of that draft.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.