Outside linebacker Mike Neal is still sitting out there. A free agent with, as far as we can tell, no deal in sight.
What we do know is Neal won’t be back with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are well-stocked at outside linebacker for 2016.
Any slim chance that Neal had to return was dashed when the Packers chose Kyler Fackrell in the third round of this year’s draft.
Neal says he’s not bitter, although his comments seem to suggest otherwise. In a rambling interview with Michael Cohen, Neal says the Packers never offered him a contract of any sort.
“The Packers never offered me a contract, and I think that’s one of the things that people get the misconception of. There’s things that I hear people saying, “Well they say they want you back. Hopefully they can get you back.” But there was never a deal offered. It was pretty much a phone call (from my agent saying) we want to work a deal. “Well, let’s just wait and see.” A call back (again from my agent) asking can we get something done. “Well we’ve got these other free agents that we want.” After that, I told my agent there’s no need to call back. I’m obviously not a priority for them. I mean, my feelings aren’t hurt by it. That’s just the way that the organization works. They decided to go one way, and I’m here. They never offered me a deal for me to turn down. If they would have offered me a deal, I would have been back in Green Bay.”
This is an interesting situation.
First, we are not surprised the Packers didn’t offer Neal a deal. Even though he started 15 games in 2015, Neal wasn’t very good.
That may even be an understatement.
Neal had the most snaps among the Packers’ outside linebackers in 2015 and despite that, he managed to register just 36 tackles and four sacks. By comparison, Nick Perry played around half as many snaps and came up with 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Similarly Jayrone Elliott, who played even fewer snaps, had 24 tackles and three sacks.
To put it bluntly, Neal’s production (or lack thereof) won’t be missed.
It’s interesting that Neal sounds like he would have taken whatever offer the Packers queued up for him. Interesting because Neal visited the Seahawks and the Lions during free agency and left both places without a contract.
Since he doesn’t have an extensive injury history — Neal has played in all 16 games the past three seasons — that would suggest he was asking for too much. Teams rarely bring in free agents for visits that they have no intention of signing.
Neal should have left one of those stops with a new contract.
There’s definitely something else at play here.
Perhaps Neal’s history with performance-enhancing drugs?
We may never know the full story here, but Neal clearly isn’t happy about it. Unfortunately for him, it was in the Packers’ best interests to move on.