14

March

Packers DE Mike Neal Suspended: What Lies Ahead?

Packers DE Mike Neal

Will Mike Neal be in camp this summer?

As Al alluded to earlier, the Green Bay Packers are making headlines during the first day of free agency. Unfortunately, none of them are the good kind.

The news about Scott Wells likely leaving aside, the big topic of the day in Packer Nation is the four-game suspension of defensive end Mike Neal for violation of the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy. Neal has missed a large amount of time his first two seasons due to injury and today’s news raises a few questions.

First is a simple “why?” Neal was becoming the next Packer defender to have the “injury prone” label slapped on his forehead after the merciful departure of Justin Harrell.  Neal knew he wasn’t seeing the field that much so why take the PEDs? Was he hoping to get the upper hand over his teammates ahead of him on the depth chart?

If that’s the case, could it be time to hand him his walking papers?.  That’s not how things are done in Green Bay and Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson will not hesitate in making that message crystal clear to Neal. McCarthy and Thompson pride themselves on running their team the right way and shenanigans like this will not be tolerated one bit.

While he may deserve a second chance, he’s teetering on thin ice due to his injury history and with him entering his critical third year this is the last thing neal needed as he makes his case to remain a Packers.

The second and more important question this suspension raises is how it affects the Packers’ draft plans.  Neal was looking at some playing time next season should he have remained healthy but he was far from being a key cog in Dom Capers’ defensive unit.  Defensive end had already been identified as a position of need for the Packers (yes, Thompson drafts the best available player but he has to know the team is lacking in this area) but they may have been thinking of taking one in a later round.

Instead this forces Thompson to strongly consider using his first round pick on a defensive end.  This may have been the plan all along, but only Thompson and his team know for sure.  Regardless, the team will be down one defensive end for the first quarter of the 2012 season and that hole will need to be addressed.

14

March

All you Need to Know About Day 1 of NFL Free Agency and the Green Bay Packers

Brandon Marshall

The Bears traded two third-round picks for WR Brandon Marshall.

It’s 11:30 p.m. central time on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. I’m going to read a few pages in my book and go to bed. By the time this publishes around 7 a.m. central time on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, a bunch of other stuff might have happened and the news contained in this post might feel like it’s 10 years old.

Welcome to the start of NFL free agency.

A lot went down on Tuesday when 532 NFL players hit the open market. Let’s take a look at the developments that concern the Green Bay Packers:

  • Packers center Scott Wells is as good as gone according Packer Report. I was a big advocate for bringing Wells back, even if it meant overspending a little. Maybe it’s me accepting the fact that Wells is probably leaving, but I started changing my mind a couple days ago. Is it wise to overspend for a 31-year-old center that’s undersized and isn’t that great of a run blocker? Probably not, especially when there’s extensions for Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews coming up in the near future. The Packers will miss Wells’s pass blocking. They’ll miss his command of the pre-snap calls just as much. But it’s not a devastating loss…I don’t think.
  • And who knows? Maybe the Packers are treating Wells like they treated Clifton a few years ago, letting him explore the market to see what sort of offers are out there and hoping for an opportunity to match.
  • There’s been some scuttle that the Packers might go after Houston center Chris Myers to replace Wells. I’ll believe it when I see it. Myers would be an upgrade over Wells, but replacing his own high-priced free agent with another high-priced free agent isn’t how Ted Thompson typically operates.
  • Packers DE Mike Neal has been suspended four games for using a performance enhancing substance. The injury-prone Neal gets a lot of heat from Packers fans and this won’t make it any better. I always had sympathy for Neal. Why should we get angry at a young player just because he gets hurt? But this changes things. There’s no excuse for taking PEDs. The best thing Neal can do is admit his mistake, take his punishment like a man, and try to come back and salvage his career.