The Packers released Daniels on Wednesday, one day before their first training camp practice.
While releasing the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle might have come as a surprise, he was due to make $8.5 million this season — $7.6 million base salary, $500,000 roster bonus and $400,000 workout bonus — in the final year of a four-year, $41 million contract extension signed on Dec. 13, 2015, when he looked like a future star.
While the workout bonus already would have been paid, the Packers will save $8,312,500 in salary-cap space this season. His cap charge for this year would have been $10,712,500.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said general manager Brian Gutekunst would address the move later Wednesday, but added: “I’ve been around Mike for a short period of time. I know he’s meant a lot to this community, he’s meant a lot to this football team. Obviously, having to prepare for him in the past, I still think he’s a really good player. I wish him well.
“You always want to keep good players. Unfortunately, that’s part of this business. There’s tough decisions that you have to make.”
The move came one day after the Packers signed fellow defensive lineman Dean Lowry to a three-year, $20.325 million deal.
The Packers believe they have plenty of depth on the defensive line, which is led by rising star Kenny Clark, who is under contract through the 2020 season. They also have Montravius Adams, a third-round pick in 2017, signed through 2020. They drafted defensive tackle Kingsley Keke in the fifth round this year and return backups Tyler Lancaster, Fadol Brown and James Looney — all three of whom finished last season the 53-man roster.
The Packers spent $56 million in signing bonuses in the first week of free agency, including $20 million to Smith and $16 million to fellow pass-rusher Preston Smith.
Daniels, a fourth-round pick in 2012, made the Pro Bowl as an alternate after the 2017 season. He missed two games that year because of a hip injury, and he finished 2018 on injured reserve following a foot injury that ended his season after 10 games.
Daniels did not take part in any of the offseason practices, but indicated recently that he expected to be cleared for the start of training camp.