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Mike Neal Says He's Agreed to a Two-Year Deal with Packers

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Mike Neal Says He's Agreed to a Two-Year Deal with Packers

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Mike Neal took to Twitter to break the news himself that he's agreed to a two-year deal with the Green Bay Packers:

Reports since the start of free agency on Tuesday indicated that the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals were interested in Neal.

Exactly how far that interest went is up for speculation, but in re-signing Neal, the Packers will have added depth to the outside linebacker position and perhaps the defensive line.

Neal made an admirable transition to outside linebacker in 2013, dropping weight and leading the Packers with 37 quarterback hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com, although he still played occasionally as an interior pass rusher in obvious passing situations.

Whether Neal's signing might preclude any interest in other free agent outside linebacker types like Lamarr Woodley and Julius Peppers is similarly up for speculation.

Bringing Neal back in the fold perhaps lessens the need to address outside linebacker in the NFL draft.

The question now might be, if the Packers are committed to Neal at linebacker, can he take the next step and become a better player in space, such as chasing down running backs to the sideline and dropping into pass coverage?

Neal was an effective player when able to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback, making a career-high five sacks and 16 QB hits in 2013. His lateral agility was still a work in progress, however.

This past season was also an improvement for Neal from a health standpoint, playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career, starting 10. For the most part he was able to put the myriad shoulder and knee injuries behind him or fight through them. Several weeks during the 2013 season Neal was withheld from practice during the week but still managed to play on Sundays.

Details of Neal's contract have not yet been reported.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (29) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

L's picture

Hopefully, the deal isn't eye popping numbers even though its only for 2 years.

Overall though I'm glad to see him return and hope he can continue to progress well in his position change.

Alright, now it's time for him to begin losing some more weight, improve he's lateral quickness and ability to drop into coverage. I look forward to him backing up both Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.

On a side note: I still hope the Packers bring in LaMarr Woodley for a look. Adding him to the OLB mix would be awesome! Hell, it might allow the team to move Clay Matthews inside at times too in order to put a crazy amount of pass rushers onto the field at any one time... Mike Neal possibly playing DE, Nick Perry playing OLB along with LaMarr Woodley and Clay Matthews picking a lane to come after the QB from inside.

ben's picture

loosing more weight?, improving quickness in your late 20's?, learning how to drop in coverage as a veteran?............I don't look forward to him backing up clay and perry, I look forward to him getting back doing what Mike Neal does best and that's rushing the passer from the interior as a DE/DT.

#1 Priority signing, Sam Shields, check
#2 Priority signing, Melton or Neal, check
#3 Priority signing, Quarless
#4 Priority signing, EDS
#5 Priority signing, Lattimore, check
#6 Priority signing, Jolly or Al Woods

L's picture

I don't understand your reason for questioning why I stated what I did. I can't recall exactly what M.Neal was playing at last year, but I think it was stated that he dropped down to around 275-265 lbs after being up around 295-285 lbs the years before. I think ideally he'd be better off getting down to a more lean 265-255 lbs if he's going to continue being used primarily as an OLB in the 3-4 given the increased need to be quicker in general as well as improve the ability to chase from sideline to sideline. Improvement in those categories should lend improvement to an ability to cover opposing eligible receivers in the flats too. On a side note: I'd like to see Nick Perry also maintain his playing weight in this same range as I think he was playing at around the high side if not higher then that ideal range last year.

Losing some weight (granted the muscle strength remains) should equate to improved quickness regardless to what age you are in your 20s; plus, given that M.Neal didn't practice or do much dropping into coverage (technique and experience) in years prior to last year as an exclusive DE for the Packers it stands to reason that regardless to being a veteran in the NFL he should be able to continue improving in this department with more experience and continued technique practice. Lastly, M.Neal seemed to be able to stay healthier while playing at a lighter weight; granted, there is only one year of evidence to suggest his physical health and in turn his accountability is better off with him playing at a lower weight and as an outside linebacker verses the other but thus far the evidence does support that claim and I would argue that there is a level of common sense that goes hand in hand with that claim too.

ben's picture

just saying I love Mike Neal as a 3-4 DE/DT. He was becoming very productive there at a position that you generally don't get much production from. He has the skill set to be an exceptional Dlineman. But as far as what you must expect from an OLB in a 3-4, he is below average and never will be exceptional. I like Mike Neal for what he is not what he might be if he could do this and learned to do that. He's a Dlineman, has been his whole career, he was on his way to being very successful there, possibly great. If we need to move somebody to back-up the OLB position, move Brad Jones back, he's had success there as a rookie, he has a knack for blitzing and getting to the quarterback, he can cover, and he doesn't have much to offer as an ILB anyway.

Hopefully Mike Neal can focus on what he naturally does and has done best.

L's picture

While I agree he was showing progression at DE/DT over the years, unfortunately he also demonstrated he had accountability issues there too given that he had difficulty staying healthy and available every season. What I'm getting at is that if playing at a lower weight and at outside linebacker helps a pass rushing talent like him improve his accountability then I'm all for him progressing further almost exclusively at OLB verses DE/DT; especially, if D.Jones and M.Daniels can prove that they're more than capable DE/DTs for the Packers going forward.

Hopefully, next year has DE/DT J.Worthy returning with massive improvements from his rookie year and Josh Boyd filling-in admirably as a backup DT/NT; plus, who ever else we acquire whether through the draft or free agency can also get the job done on the DL. Personally, I hope we're able to bring back BJ.Raji and play him exclusively at NT while acquiring another big bodied NT-type such as Terrence Cody, Cam Thomas, or Antonio Johnson to compete for a time share there with Raji as they may need to be rotated in order to keep them fresh. Not to mention, maybe it'll be bringing back J.Jolly or R.Pickett or someone in the top rounds of the draft, but overall what the team truly needs is someone who can be that major clog in the middle, that NT, that demands the offensive line double block him and M.Neal really isn't that guy; therefore, I think M.Neal's effectiveness proves more valuable to the Packers as a back-up OLB and occasional DE in very special situational packages verses as an exclusive DT/DE.

ben's picture

It's not like Neal was healthy this year. He was hurt and on the injury report almost the whole year. If he was healthy this past year I sure hope you'd expect more than 5.5 sacks as a packer's 3-4 OLB. Neal has already had that kind of production, with far fewer snaps mind you, as a DE/DT. From a similar position from where BJ Raji, a top 8 pick, just put up squat. I guarantee you Brad mutha f'n Jones would have had more than 5.5 sacks if left at LOLB all year. And he wouldn't have been a complete liability in coverage while doing it.

But good for you and me, between the Dline and OLB, there should be plenty of snaps available to keep Mike Neal busy. I just hope injuries and poor personnel decisions don't dictate he play so extensively at OLB this year.

It's like playing morgan burnett as an in the box safety. It's like playing derrick sharrod as an offensive guard. It's like exclusively playing zone-coverage with corners that excel in man. It's like playing a 3-4 with 2 ILB's that can't beat a block to save their lives. It's like playing a 3-4 without a Nose Tackle for christmas sake.

ben's picture

It's like playing MD Jennings at all or like not trying Hyde at safety at all.

L's picture

In comparison to the past years M.Neal stayed considerably healthier based on the fact that he was available throughout the entire full-season and played a career-high of 751 snaps. With that said most NFL players will suffer some form of dings and dents of varying degrees throughout the season and M.Neal wasn't an exception from that aspect, but again lets not take away from the fact that he was finally accountable throughout the entire full-season -- a very important first for him.

Also, as a player who was transitioning to a new position where obvious liabilities would exist given his frame (body) and experience he managed CAREER HIGHS with 5 sacks, a team-high 46 combined QB hits/hurries/sacks, 47 tackles, 1 fumble, 1 interception, and 1 pass defensed which is pretty impressive IMO. Now, with last year as a stepping stone he'll need to continuing improving his effectiveness as a pass rusher from the outside linebacker position, but more importantly he's going to have to focus greatly on adjusting his body's ability and his technique in order to help improve his coverage ability and setting the edge against the run from that new position.

Btw, I don't agree that Brad Jones would have been able to put up similar defensive pressure numbers onto opposing QBs (referring to the 46 combined QB hits/hurries/sacks) and I doubt he would of been any better at setting the edge against the run (likely much worse), but I will agree he wouldn't have been a complete liability in coverage as M.Neal clearly was.

I do think that the initial plan was to have M.Neal available as a back-up OLB to N.Perry and C.Matthews, plus serve as a special subpackage interior pass rusher from the DL; unfortunately, injuries lead to M.Neal getting more snaps than the team expected from him at the OLB position, but the positive is that he proved he could be a major factor from that position and should continue working on his ability to serve best within that role along with maintaining the option to be moved inside on specific down and distance situations. However, I also think that the growth that M.Daniels showed last year and the expected improvement from D.Jones this coming year should help lessen the need of making use of M.Neal from that interior DL pass rush position.

While I won't argue against the comments you made about M.Burnett, D.Sherrod, MD.Jennings, M.Hyde, the Corners, ILBs, and NT as being part of questionable personnel decisions by the team I don't think it necessarily applies to M.Neal given the results from last year, which again needs to be viewed with the proper perspective of it being just his first time handling all new responsibilities.

Stroh's picture

They've already said they want to use Neal both as an OLB and as a pass rushing DT on obvious pass downs. He's got a pretty clearly defined role IMO. He'll be a backup OLB to Perry and Matthews and on pass downs they have him rushing the QB a lot. Exactly how many snaps he gets per game is probably up in the air, since he can't be expected to be a DT on run situations. They'll find as much of a role for him as they can, but I'm guessing he'll be on the field about 40-60% of snaps depending on down and distance situations from game to game.

HankScorpio's picture

I just read a tweet from Rob Demovsky that the Packers are not likely to pursue Woodley. Cut and paste job below.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Rob Demovsky ‏@RobDemovsky 2h

Was told #Packers likely not interested RT @randomrover88: any news on Lamar Woodley? Easy transition from Pit to Pack..am I crazy? #Packers

L's picture

That's too bad.

Adventuring a guess here, but maybe it's because they realize he'll demand, and can likely get, more money then they'd be willing to pay him.

4thand1's picture

The word from the Steelers wasn't to good. They sounded unhappy with Woodley as a player in the end. Gained weight, attitude, practice habits. Or of course it could be just the ridiculous amount of money.

L's picture

If that's really the case then yeah it's probably best to avoid acquiring him because the major diva players can ruin team chemistry and cause all kinds of distractions from the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. The same reason I hoped that Randy Moss and Terrell Owens were never players the Packers would have given consideration to acquiring despite their talent levels; I mean, once it became known and obvious that they were major divas they became more of a problem to overcome than anything else.

Stroh's picture

Woodley had 5 sacks in 11 starts last season. I'm thinking the Packers know that Perry and Neal can provide that kinda production. I don't remember what his injury was, but that may also play a part in his release. Pitts also has some cap issues too. He would probably be a moderate upgrade over Perry/Neal and cost a lot more, so that value just doesn't fit.

If the Packers are creating a Elephant end position for Perry, I hope its on the Left side where he's most effective. If Perry is rushing from the Right side and Neal/Daniels/Jones inside w/ Matthews on the Left, I see that as the best pass rush they can generate.

HankScorpio's picture

I can't say I follow NE very closely but things I've read here and there say they run a hybrid defense that is a 3-4 on one side and a 4-3 on the other. I'm not entirely sure how that would work but it seems like the "OLB" on one side would put his hand on the ground while the ILB on that side acts like a 4-3 OLB. Capers would have gotten a good look at that during his year in NE before becoming Packers DC.

Neal and Perry seem a perfect fit to play the 4-3 side. Rotate them, split snaps, whatever. It sure would be nice to see the Packers defense play to the strengths of the guys they have instead of running a system that works best with guys they don't have.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I think Neal was worth keeping around. Let's just hope TT has not inflated his salary compared to what he should be getting.

4thand1's picture

Depends on how much the Bears and Cardnals pushed up the price.

Stroh's picture

I'm really surprised they were able to re-sign Neal. I thought for sure he would be out of Thompson's price range, especially when he had interest from Chi and AZ. I'll be really curious to see what he got, but I doubt Thompson would give him much more than 4M per.

Glad to have Neal back in the fold that for sure. I think they have some definite plans for him, Perry, Jones and Matthews.

L's picture

I hope you're right about the cost being around or below 4M per.

TommyG's picture

I want to see the numbers, but if the price was right then this was a good signing.

Tarynfor12's picture

"Bringing Neal back in the fold perhaps lessens the need to address outside linebacker in the NFL draft."

Seriously?......How can this be when for the larger part of last season,the play at OLB was hurting us and that was with the 'if they didn't have the #'s 53/96 on the jersey we wouldn't have known the difference most of the time, on the squad already.

I know many have hope for the miracle duo of Perry and Neal but,can we really afford to look away in the least bit from getting a true 3-4 OLB?

Matthews is creaming a Beatles' song.."HELP!!!" I need somebody and not just anybody,won't you PLEASE HELP ME..HELP MEeeeeeee.

Stroh's picture

What TRUE OLB are you referring to in the draft? You know damn well that they are all 43 college DE's don't you? So how are they more true OLB than Perry or Neal? Every one of them is going to be a transition player, meaning they aren't True OLB anyway!

ben's picture

Kyle VanNoy, Anthony Barr, and Trevor Reilly to name 3 true 3-4 OLBs. They are definitely more true OLB than Perry or Neal, who didn't play any LB in college.

Stroh's picture

Ohh, 3 of them in the whole draft? What a plethora... Barr will be long gone, Van Noy is soft and a better fit at ILB in the NFL and the other is a described as a finesse player, again soft.

Idiot Fan's picture

I feel like I remember MM saying after the season that they never intended for Neal to play that much olb, but injuries forced them in that direction. It will be interesting to see what they intend for him under normal circumstances.

4thand1's picture

He said there will be changes.

Stroh's picture

Your correct McCarthy did say that Neal wasn't supposed to play so much OLB. They intended to use him more as a DT in pass rush. Injuries to Perry and Matthews necessitated him playing more snaps at OLB. Hopefully they'll be able to use him more as a pass rushing DT this year. Between Neal rushing inside along w/ Daniels and Jones and Perry rushing from an Elephant End position hopefully they'll be able to generate significantly more pressure.

Clay Zombo's picture

I like Mike Neal and Im glad hes back. Hopefully MM follows through on his offseason talk and makes this defense a multiple front defense so the talent they do have can thrive.

Not sure why it takes so long for TT, MM and Capers to see things that are so painfully obvious to just about everyone else. Never seen 3 guys so unwilling or unable to make adjustments quickly when things are not right.

How long did it take to get away from the zone blocking scheme, how long to have/find a 100 yrd rusher, how long to realize the defense sucks and changes need to be made. Who allows their franchise QB to get sacked 8 times in the first half of a game anyway?

That's just off the top of my head, im sure there are more examples of a lack of timely adjustments.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I am surprised. I thought someone would offer Neal 3 yrs at $6 per year, which would be too steep for me, even though I am intrigued by Neal and feel that he might get better as an OLB. I still think Perry is the answer at OLB, but I have to admit Perry has not been able (I hope due to injuries) to produce enough on the field so far.

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