Mike Neal is no longer under contract with the Green Bay Packers. The door is still open for him to return, but as of Tuesday, he's able to sign wherever he wants and there appears to be at least a couple interested parties.
One of the teams courting Neal is the Packers' NFC North rival, the Chicago Bears, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
Nothing appears imminent at this point, but should he join the Bears, Neal would arguably be playing the position where he fits best as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense as Chicago looks to replace the declining production of Julius Peppers.
The Bears also happened to spend major money at the same position on the first day of free agency when they signed Lamarr Houston to a five-year $35 million deal. It's likely the Bears are waiting to see how much it will cost to bring Neal into the fold.
"Neal, 26, is listed at 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, so the Bears would have more robust book ends on the line than they have had in the past if they signed him," writes Biggs.
It's also worth noting that Neal would practically playing in his back yard if he signed with the Bears. A native of Merrillville, Ind., Neal grew up right across the border.
Also in the mix for Neal's services appears to be the Arizona Cardinals, per Mike Garofolo of FoxSports1:
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 12, 2014
With multiple teams in the mix, the Packers may have to move fast if the want to retain Neal. But there's the chance the Packers would be satisfied to potentially reap a compensatory draft choice if Neal left as well.
While Neal made an admirable transition to 3-4 outside linebacker and was able to lead the team with 37 quarterback hurries last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com (premium content), he was never a perfect fit at the position, especially when forced to play in space.
With players like DeMarcus Ware and Lamarr Woodley still available on the free-agent market, the Packers might get involved if the price is amenable for a player that's more experienced and an ideal fit for Dom Capers defense. Or the Packers could add depth through the draft as well.
Last season, former Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts, which could be a starting point for negotiations.
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