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:
Hi Green Bay!!! I'll enjoy your winters for two more years!!
— Michael Neal (@mneal96) March 12, 2014
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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