A.J. Hawk has been a fixture inside for the Green Bay Packers since he was drafted in the first round in 2006, but he has struggled to live up to that lofty status. So it's not a huge surprise that contract negotiations ended with him being cut, since the Packers did not want to pay him $10 million in salary next year. He might be brought back for a restructured contract very quickly, but it was clear the Packers didn't want to pay that much money for him.
Perhaps the biggest reason Hawk was cut was the emergence of Cal linebacker great Desmond Bishop. When Hawk and Nick Barnett got injured, Bishop stepped up and had a sterling 2010 season and playoff run, culminating with a defensive MVP-type performance in Super Bowl XLV. Bishop was rewarded with a four year, $19 million extension that seemed to place him in pole position as top linebacker for the Packers. Mike McCarthy justified that by saying Bishop is the top inside linebacker.
Bishop can't get too comfortable though. In the cut-throat world of the NFL, being good isn't quite enough. You have to be lucky, which is another way of saying you have to be healthy. Bishop will have to be able to keep himself on the field and continue performing at a high level, or he could be in Hawk's position.