9

April

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: The Catch and Release of Mike Neal?

Packers Beer MugYesterday afternoon, our fellow blogger in crime Zach Kruse shared an interesting bit of information over at CheeseheadTV.com. Apparently some Green Bay Packers sources indicated to Pro Football Weekly that they “will not be shocked in the least if the team releases injury-prone DE Mike Neal after the draft.”

Neal’s recent violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy earned him a four-game suspension to start the 2012 season, and this has most likely put him on the short list in the mind of Ted Thompson. Of course, this is also just adding to the fact that, due to injuries, Mike Neal has only been active for 9 games in his first two years as a pro football player. And in only 3 of those games did he actually record a tackle.

A lot of fans have been hailing him as the second coming of Justin Harrell, though perhaps a bit prematurely. Now, though, it seems he also has a little bit of Johnny Jolly in him, too.

This is not the way to start an NFL career, especially one that carried so much promise (or “potential”) with it. Mike Neal is a second-round draft pick who showed some good flashes of ability in training camp, but not much else. A decent number of fans have already called for his release, and I’m sure they’re happy with this recent news from Pro Football Weekly. Yet the question remains:

Will Mike Neal play for the Green Bay Packers in 2012?

In this installment of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, we’ll take a look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really “half empty” or “half full.”

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

If the situation with former Packers defensive end Justin Harrell is any indicator, Ted Thompson will ride out the prospect of Mike Neal until there is simply no hope left.

While Neal’s situation is different in many ways from what Harrell went through, the similarities are enough to help us draw some conclusions about what Thompson will do. Both missed significant playing time due to injury despite the potential that came with their draft status. (Harrell was selected in the 1st Round of the 2007 NFL Draft at the 16th overall pick, while Neal was taken as the 56th overall pick in the 2nd Round of the 2010 draft.)

1

August

Free Agent Status of Former Green Bay Packers

Tracking the free agent status of Packers released this offseason, with the exception of Al Harris, who was released during the 2010 season.

 

 S Derrick Martin: SIGNED WITH GIANTS  

UPDATE: Martin and the New York Giants agreed to a one-year contract on Monday, August 15. 

The Packers released Martin on March 3.

Despite being an important special teams contributor, the Packers let go of Martin early in the offseason. Injuries likely played into the decision, as Martin suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Redskins.

Little has surfaced about team’s potential interest in Martin, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t find a team for 2011.

LB Brady Poppinga: SIGNED WITH ST. LOUIS RAMS 

The Packers released Poppinga on July 29.

UPDATE: Poppinga has reportedly agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Rams and was observing Rams practice on Tuesday night. He should get a chance to start at outside linebacker for St. Louis.

Much like Tauscher, Poppinga had similar factors working against him.

At 32 years old and coming off an ACL injury, Poppinga was due $2.34 million in 2011. For a guy that was going to be a backup and play primarily on special teams, that price tag was way too rich for the Packers liking.

He was also miscast in the Packers 3-4 defense, and he’ll likely look to team that runs the 4-3 as his next destination. Poppinga visited the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, but there was no word if a contract had been put in place.

LB Nick Barnett: SIGNED WITH BUFFALO BILLS

The Packers released Barnett on July 29, saving $5.9 million in cap room. Barnett then signed a three-year, $12 million deal with Buffalo Bills on July 31.

The Bills got a serious upgrade at linebacker, as Barnett averaged almost 110 tackles in his first seven seasons with the Packers. He’ll bring a veteran presence to a team that needs leaders on defense.

Barnett was expendable to the Packers after Desmond Bishop had a breakout season in his absence. Green Bay signed Bishop to a four-year, $19 million contract in January, putting the writing on the wall for Barnett’s eventual release.

TE Donald Lee: SIGNED WITH PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The Packers released Lee on March 3. On July 29, Lee signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

28

July

Brandon Jackson Signs With Cleveland Browns, Spitz Goes to Jaguars

Brandon Jackson signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns Thursday night.

The Green Bay Packers backfield became a little less crowded when news broke Thursday night  that Brandon Jackson signed with the Cleveland Browns. The deal was reportedly for two years and $4.5 million.

Jackson was good in pass protection and figured to see plenty of action on third downs if he remained with the Packers. Two years and $4.5 million is a reasonable deal and I’m surprised the Packers didn’t make more of an effort to keep him.

Perhaps Jackson didn’t want to battle Ryan Grant, James Starks and Alex Green for playing time and felt he would have a bigger role in Cleveland. I can’t see him overtaking Peyton Hillis anytime soon, but Cleveland’s backfield is a little less crowded than Green Bay’s.

Either way, with G Daryn Colledge gone and now Jackson, the Packers pass protection has taken a bit of a hit. Neither Colledge or Jackson is irreplaceable, but both were better players than most people gave them credit for.

Jason Spitz will not be one of the players filling the pass protection void left by Colledge or Jackson. Spitz reportedly signed a multi-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

To summarize: Colledge, Spitz, Jackson and Korey Hall have signed elsewhere. Mason Crosby resigned with the Packers. Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga and Justin Harrell were cut. Cullen Jenkins and James Jones appear to be on their way out, but nothing is official yet. The status of Atari Bigby, John Kuhn, Anthony Smith and Matt Wilhelm is unknown.

Did I miss anyone?

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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28

July

Packers Release Poppinga and Harrell; Jones to Vikings Rumors Gain Steam

Justin Harrell's disappointing Packers career is over.

What were your favorite Brady Poppinga and Justin Harrell moments? Could James Jones soon be joining the list of former Packers to wear purple?

According to a Tweet from Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee, the Packers have told Poppinga and Harrell that they will be released. The Vikings are also sniffing around Jones as a possible replacement for the departed Sidney Rice.

Poppinga managed just 171 tackles and five sacks after being drafted 125th overall by the Packers in 2005. He missed 10 games last season after being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Harrell was (in)famously drafted 16th overall by Ted Thompson in 2007 and played in only 14 games because of various injuries.

Jones has teased us with his raw talent over his four-year career, but continues to drop touchdown passes and disappear for long stretches of play. I’ve always liked Jones and wouldn’t mind if the Packers overpay a bit to keep him, but I doubt Thompson (or Jersey Al) feels the same way.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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18

July

Bringing in the Cavalry: A Look at the Packers Injured Reserve

Ryan Grant Injury - Packers injured reserved

Ryan Grant's injury against the Philadelphia Eagles was one of the biggest blows to the offense last season.

With the NFL lockout well into its fourth month now, there has been ample talk of which teams will fare better with a limited offseason. One of those teams, of course, is the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. But it’s not their championship status that has people convinced they’ll be ready. No, most people point to the (now cliché) fact that they have “16 players returning from injured reserve.”

While this is certainly the case, I started thinking about this claim a little more in depth. I wondered: Will all sixteen of those players really be making a difference?

Sure, guys like Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant will have a HUGE impact upon their return. But what about a guy like Spencer Havner or even Brady Poppinga? What are they really going to be bringing back to the table?

Here’s a quick look at each player that ended up injured reserve last year and what their potential impact will be upon their return. They are ordered by the date of their injuries:

Josh Bell, CB

Type of Injury: Foot Sprain
When Injured:
Training Camp (August 10, 2010)
Impact for 2011:
None – The Packers offered Bell an injury settlement during camp, which he refused. After the Super Bowl ring controversy in June, it’s clear the team plans to go on without him next season.

#91 Justin Harrell, DE

Type of Injury: Knee (ACL)
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
Questionable – Harrell could actually be a big influence on the 2011 season; however, one still has to be cautious with his downright unlucky injury history. If Harrell can manage to stay active for more than a game, then he might be able to do some damage along the line. We all know how big of an “if” that is, though.

#25 Ryan Grant, RB

Type of Injury: Ankle
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
High – There’s no question that the Packers severely missed their primary running back for most of last season. Brandon Jackson just couldn’t get the job done, and James Starks, while showing a lot of promise, is still young and relatively inexperienced. Grant will provide some much-needed consistency to the ground game, even if he is splitting carries with Starks.

26

May

Who Might Not Survive the Packers Final Roster Cut in 2011?

Packers GM Ted Thompson once again put together a solid draft class a month ago, adding more talent to a roster that was already among the best in the NFL.

But with a roster full to the brim in depth, several players that are currently on the roster won’t be making it back for 2011. Here a list of the players who may not be back on the Packers 53-man roster next season.

Also, to keep this post away from free agency, players not currently under contract were excluded from this list.

 

LB Nick Barnett

His situation remains one of the trickier to assess. Are the Packers going to float his name in trade discussions? And would any team bite at a price that makes sense?

Either way, his $6 million contract and recent demotion makes him an expensive backup. The Packers have a tough decision to make regarding Barnett’s future in Green Bay if they don’t trade him. A straight up release could be in the cards.

 

T Mark Tauscher

With the Packers taking Derek Sherrod in the first round, Tauscher becomes even more expendable. And even without a high draft pick on the roster, there was a chance the Packers weren’t going to bring him back.

He’s almost 34 years old, hasn’t been healthy in three years and is owed over $4 million next season. The only chance he has of returning is if he takes a substantial pay cut.

 

RB Dimitri Nance

Nance’s future might be solely tied into the free agent dealings with Brandon Jackson. If Jackson returns, there’d likely be little-to-no chance the Packers could afford using another roster spot on a running back.

But if Jackson isn’t retained, the Packers might be able to squeeze four running backs—Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green and Nance—onto the roster. He’ll have to sit and wait. He could ultimately be a candidate for the practice squad, however.

 

TE Tom Crabtree

It pains me to say it, as he has quickly become a fan favorite, but Crabtree will have to really fight for his spot during training camp. Of course, that is nothing new to him. But the Packers did take two tight ends in the draft, and it’s possible that both D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor could bring more to the football table than Crabtree.