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Cutting Mike Neal Pre- or Post-Draft Makes Little Sense

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Cutting Mike Neal Pre- or Post-Draft Makes Little Sense

Despite a recent report from Pro Football Weekly suggesting the Green Bay Packers may cut Mike Neal following the 2012 NFL draft, releasing the 24-year-old, third-year defensive end without seeing him in another training camp makes very little sense.

It's easy to understand the thought process behind the original idea, however.

Two injury-riddled seasons after the Packers picked Neal in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft has some thinking of former first-round bust Justin Harrell. A four-game suspension for violating the league's performance enhancers policy has others envisioning Johnny Jolly, a talented defensive end who continues to fight his codeine demons.

Neal is certainly skating on thin ice—maybe the thinnest of ice.

But if that ice is going to break, the Packers should let it happen on the warm, humid practice fields outside the Don Hutson Center. Cutting Neal anytime before—like following the NFL draft—would be doing a disservice to a roster that needs to sap every ounce of talent from the defensive players GM Ted Thompson will bring to camp.

For all of Neal's red flags, little incentive exists for Thompson to cut Neal loose before he gets the chance to stack him up against a couple of the likely picks at the position and the remaining players at the defensive end depth chart.

Get Neal into camp, see where his knee and shoulder are at physically, figure out his mindset following a tough 24 months and then make a final decision on whether or not to move forward. While the coaching staff will get a limited opportunity at those things over the next couple of months, there's no better situation to go down the check list than training camp.

If Neal shows that he can give the roster something over the final 12 games, I'd assume Thompson would find him a spot on the final 53-man. At just $490,000 for the 2012, Neal if far from a salary-cap strain.

If he's the same ineffective player he was over the final nine games of 2011, or can't keep himself on the practice field, then you make the decision to let Neal go. The bust label would be "proven," and there's little financial fallback for giving him the pink slip.

And here's the thing: Thompson is more willing to give a young player like Neal too many chances than too little. Look at Harrell. Look at Pat Lee, a fellow former second-round pick who played out his rookie contract in Green Bay despite showing very little.

At this point, even with the injuries and suspension, Neal is probably a chance short of hitting Thompson's limit. At a position so thin and starved for difference makers, it's hard to see why Thompson would change his historical course with Neal.

When push comes to shove, this decision shouldn't be made too soon.

Neal has failed the organization for two straight seasons, but he isn't yet a failure. Thompson should give Neal a chance to make something for himself in a make-or-break training camp, and then sit down to decide his fate with the Packers.

I can't see Thompson making this decision any other way.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jmac34's picture

I agree with you Brian. The Packers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by letting Neal at least come to camp.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Thanks, but Zach wrote this piece. But I agree with him too.

jeremy's picture

"Pat Lee, a fellow former second-round pick who played out his rookie contract in Green Bay despite showing very little."

Pat Lee was a pretty good player on special teams. Obviously that's not what you want out of a second rounder, but it's still considerably more than "very little".

PackersRS's picture

Lee did absolutely nothing for 3 seasons, though. I think the comparison is valid. And I completely agree with what Zach said.

jeremy's picture

If Mike Neal had played on special teams the way Pat Lee did last year, it would represent a significant step up from were he is now as a football player.

PackersRS's picture

But at the same point in his career (beggining of 3nd year) Lee had played in 5 games, with 1 pass deflection and 1 tackle to show for.

Neal has played in 9, with 1 sack, 1 FF and 5 tackles.

Too little for a second rounder, but if Lee was given the benefit of the doubt so should Neal.

jeremy's picture

I never said they shoald release Neal. I just said playing well on special teams is more than "very little".

ebongreen's picture

Well said.

Mojo's picture

I see no benefit to cutting Neal at this point in time considering he can still practice with the team prior to his suspension. Kick the tires one more time and see what you have unless there's something else we're all not aware of.

Point Packer's picture

Who's Mike Neal?

Nerd's Laptop's picture

If they cut him early, it's because he's on PEDs. There has to be more to the story for them to just cut him loose.

aussiepacker's picture

Can he train with the team While on suspension?

PackersRS's picture

IIRC yes, in the preseason.

Lou's picture

Besides Thompson's history of providing almost unlimited opportunities for his draft choices (Harrell - Lee - Giacommini) there is so little depth on the defensive line that he can't afford to cut Neal before the end of camp. This is evident with the signings of Muir and Hawthorne to be followed by draft choices and undrafted free agent signings to come soon. At least at linebacker he has "numbers" although the overall talent level is questionable. The good thing is the team was 15-1 and he knows exactly where he needs to upgrade, my guess is he does it.

Lars's picture

Cutting Neal makes perfect sense. Or, are we going to repeat the Justin harrell charade year after year. After year?

I think that suspension was the last straw with McCarthy. Neal took an enormous amount of time getting back from that injury and then complained about pain and did absolutely NOTHING the remainder of the season. Then he violates the leagues drug policy and doesn't take responsibility for his action.

Injury-prone work-out/training room warrior. Cut bait with this bust and let men who want to play football in green Bay compete for the DE jobs.

Point Packer's picture


PackersRS's picture

Just for clarification, can you provide proof that he didn't take responsibility for his actions, and that he didn't want to play football?

The way you put it it seems like Neal got injuried on purpose because he didn't want to play.

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