Who would have thought you would be reading stories about the Green Bay Packers on this first day of NFL Free Agency? Yes, the Packers are making news today, but unfortunately, it’s not the type you want to hear.
No, Ted Thompson didn’t go against form and dip into the free agent waters on the first day for the big fish. But then again, you knew that, right? No, the news is all bad today for the Packers.
First, Scott Wells, the one Packers free agent that fans have been saying the team “had to sign” is going to be leaving Green Bay. This hasn’t been officially announced yet, but it had been widely reported from a variety of reliable sources, including Packer Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Let me first say that I never bought into the Scott Wells Pro Bowl scenario. Wells does a lot of things well (no pun…), but he’s not outstanding at anything. He’s had two really good years where he hit his physical peak and his years of experience put him over the top from good player to very good player. But a Pro Bowl center? Not for my taste.
Wells made the most with what he had, but I hold one grudge against Scott Wells – he can’t throw a block downfield on a screen to save his life. As a freakishly deranged fan of the screen game, I can assure you I have watched enough tape of this that you can take my word for it. Not that this makes him a bad player. As I’ve already said, he’s a very good player. Do remember, however, that the Packers tried very hard to replace him with Jason Spitz a few years ago.
For my money, however, Scott Wells wasn’t worth it and I’m not surprised that Ted Thompson has gone this route. Wells is at the peak of his career right now, the worst time to give a 31year old player a career-high contract. Think about this; what is the likelihood that Wells is going to improve on last season? I would put it at 10% Instead, the odds would heavily favor a decline as the age numbers increase.
But even with all of that, I still find myself a bit sad at the news. Wells was a known quantity, and helped solidify the Packers pass protection calls when the’ Jason Spitz experiment failed and Wells got his starting job back. But we have to think big picture, Packers fans.
Ted Thompson spends his money prudently and he knows he will get more bang for his buck by using that money elsewhere. The Packers have some big contracts to extend in the next year or two. They also figure to have 10-11 draft picks this year, thanks to compensation picks from losing free agents last season. If he doesn’t trade some of those picks, that’s a lot of money he’ll need in the coffers to sign all of those rookies. And who knows, perhaps he is actually planning to dip his toes in the vast free agent ocean of 2012 and sign a mid-level player or two. Certainly more depth is needed everywhere on the defense.
And that brings us to Mike Neal, the other not so excellent reason the Packers are in the news today. Neal has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of 2012 for using performance enhancing drugs. The man that has already missed 25 games in just two seasons will now miss at least another four.
Needless to say, Neal is just adding insult to injury (no pun again…). He has left the Packers organization high and dry once again, this time of his own doing. As many have speculated, Neal was most likely looking for any edge to help his injury heal faster. While his desire to quell the whispers and the Justin Harrell comparisons might have been noble, certainly the method he chose was nothing of the sort.
It also begs the question – has Neal used illegal enhancers before? Did the “workout warrior” ever hit the “juice” before to help him amass that wall of muscle known as his body? Or was this a one-time mistake, born out of frustration and desperation? We may never know.
Finally, one also has to wonder how this plays out in the Neal family, where “God is Number One?” How does a man of such faith justify cheating? Now, I’m not trying to sound holier than thou here, but I do find it ironic when people who live for the Lord do things that they know the Lord would not approve of.
On the other hand, I do believe in second chances. Which is why I was rather surprised at all the “cut him now” sentiment being thrown around by Packers fans today. People have done much worse and gotten multiple chances to find the right road. Why shouldn’t Neal? The Packers have a big investment in Neal; why would any sane person want to throw it all away without giving him every chance to pay off on that investment?
Neal will certainly be given that opportunity by the Packers, so let’s stop the silly “cut him” talk. However, it’s surely OK to be mad. It’s surely OK to be angry with what he’s done to the team. And for now, it’s surely OK to call him a dick.