LaDarius Gunter, Packers vs. Texans

Green Bay Packers cornerback LaDarius Gunter stops Texans wide receiver Will Fuller from making a catch in a game in December 2016 at Lambeau Field. The Packers released Gunter on Tuesday.

STEVE APPS, Lee Newspapers

GREEN BAY — One game into the 2017 season, the Green Bay Packers’ reshaping of their 53-man roster continues.

The team released veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois and cornerback LaDarius Gunter on Tuesday, continuing a trend that has seen them add and subtract multiple players since the end-of-training-camp roster reduction on Sept. 2.

Gunter’s release appeared on the NFL’s official transaction wire Tuesday evening, but Francois’ did not. ESPN first reported the Francois move, which figures to become official on Wednesday.

The decision to cut the 30-year-old Francois, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Packers in March after being released by the Washington Redskins, is a bit surprising because, by having the vested veteran on the roster for last Sunday’s regular-season opener against Seattle, the Packers owe him his full $1.25 million base salary for 2017.

In addition, the Packers cut two of their younger, cheaper and more promising defensive tackles – Brian Price at the end of training camp and Christian Ringo last week – and kept Francois, only to cut him now. Price was claimed by the Dallas Cowboys after his release; Ringo was claimed by the Cincinnati Bengals, although he was released by the Bengals Tuesday.

Just last week, Francois was talking about how he’s told many of the young players that the Packers take better care of their players than other NFL teams he’s played for.

“Everything you get here? Many organizations don’t do that. Here, they take care of players – physically, mentally, rest, food, whatever,” Francois said at the time. “They take care of them. Many organizations don’t do that. That’s why you have a team that’s been to the playoffs so many years – eight, nine years in a row.

“Like I said to a lot of the guys when we came out of camp, ‘I don’t feel like I was in camp.’ Most other teams, we were banging, we were getting after it. This is the first where I came out of it and I didn’t feel like I was in Week 10. I’m fresh and ready to go.”

The move also seems like a strong indicator that the Packers medical staff feels good about rookie third-round pick Montravius Adams’ progress after his July 28 foot injury and subsequent surgery, and that the coaching staff likes what it saw during last Thursday’s in-pads practice from recently added defensive tackle Quinton Dial, whom the team signed after he was cut by the San Francisco 49ers. Dial just turned 27 in July and is 3 1/2 years younger than Francois.

Francois was one of seven veterans signed since last season ended to bolster a draft-and-develop roster that is usually almost exclusively homegrown. Francois visited the Seahawks before visiting the Packers this spring.

Gunter served as the team’s No. 1 cornerback down the stretch last season – including in the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons, the team’s opponent Sunday night – when Sam Shields suffered what turned out to be a season-ending concussion in the opener and fellow third-year cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins struggled. Gunter had an inconsistent training camp but made a strong push at the end of the preseason, intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Packers apparently decided they felt better about two younger, unproven cornerbacks – Josh Hawkins, who played sparingly as an undrafted rookie free agent last season, and Lenzy Pipkins, who made the team as an undrafted free agent this summer.

Cutting Gunter immediately opens up a roster spot for wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who served a one-game NFL suspension during the opener for a misdemeanor marijuana arrest in November and is eligible to return.

Jason Wilde covers the Green Bay Packers for the Lee Newspapers Wisconsin group.


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