If the reports are true, another member of the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl XLV-winning team is on his way out of Titletown.
Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee tweeted Tuesday evening that, barring a trade or a restructured deal, that the Packers will likely be parting ways with ILB Desmond Bishop. It’s not clear what is propelling Green Bay to release Bishop, but Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweeted that the release is part of a “numbers game.”
Packer Nation immediately went into an uproar, judging by fans’ reactions on Twitter. Cheeseheads everywhere were stunned the Packers would release arguably their best inside linebacker. Their argument was that if Green Bay really wanted to become more tough and physical, especially on defense, cutting ties with Bishop sends the opposite signal.
It’s a valid point. The Packers were missing Bishop’s physical presence last year when he went down or the year after tearing his hamstring in the preseason. He’s also a fan favorite on defense and releasing him makes little sense to many of the Packer faithful.
That said, releasing Bishop may actually be a much better move than many think.
First is that he is still recovering from his hamstring tear. Bishop may say that he feels fine and is close to being all the way back physically, but the truth is a full tear can have a long term impact on a player’s career. Bishop, at 29, in theory should be at the prime of his career but thanks to the hamstring tear, there is a decent chance that his prime just got shorter.
Along with his recovery from injury, there is also Bishop’s cap hit to consider. His cap hit this season according to Spotrac is $4.76 million and it goes up to $4.82 million before Bishop would be an unrestricted free agent in 2015. Before his injury, he easily deserved every dollar. Now recovering from this injury while approaching his 30th birthday, the Packers apparently feel the money can be better spent elsewhere.
Yes, Bishop was a key player in Green Bay’s run to the Super Bowl XLV title and fans are pointing to that as a reason why he shouldn’t be cut. It’s understandable why fans think that’s important but keep in mind that was nearly three years ago now. That’s an eternity in the NFL.
From general manager Ted Thompson’s point of view, Bishop had a good 2010, regressed a bit in 2011 (as did the defense overall), and missed all of 2012 with an injury with potential long term complications.
Looking at it that way, it becomes clearer as to why the Packers seem comfortable letting Bishop go. It is a roll of the dice for Thompson, especially given the defense’s struggles. However, there are still pieces on the roster that can be viable replacements or perhaps even improvements.
So why not let Bishop compete in training camp? That question is tougher to answer. Perhaps the Packers are trying to help him by seeing if he can land a team before camp even opens. Now would be a better time for a team to add a linebacker than once training camp and installation of the defensive playbook has already gotten underway.
If Bishop is gone, that means Green Bay likely will go with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones as the starting inside linebackers in the base defense. On the surface, this may make many fans cringe at the thought but look at the big picture here. Hawk had his best season as a pro in 2012 and actually plays a vital role as the “mike” linebacker who calls plays for the defense.
Hawk will more likely never be a big playmaking linebacker, but with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on the outside he doesn’t need to be.
Jones, meanwhile, is the unknown element. He made the move from outside linebacker to inside last season thanks to the outbreak of injuries at the position. Jones held his own, but apparent issues with tackling left a lot to be desired in the eyes of fans.
The Packers clearly saw more in Jones than fans did. They had Hawk take a pay cut and signed Jones to a new three-year $11.75 million contract. Now they apparently want to release Bishop.
There must be something with this Jones guy.
Pro Football Focus named Jones a “secret superstar” in an article last month and said they thought he played decently in all aspects of the game. They also note that Jones deflected 6.8% of the passes thrown his way and while Jones allowed completions, he often was able to quickly wrap the receiver up resulting in a minimal gain and a successful play for the defense.
Remember that playoff blowout against the San Francisco 49ers? While the entire defense had a very poor game, Jones did have a couple key stops of Colin Kapernick that made the offense fail to convert a third down. That shows that he has the potential to help stop the run option, which coach Mike McCarthy made clear was one of his teams’ top offseason priorities.
Don’t discount sixth-round draft pick Nate Palmer either. As our own Jersey Al noted, Green Bay clearly saw something in Palmer leading up to the draft to warrant his selection. Illinois State isn’t exactly a college football powerhouse but Thompson is one of the league’s best judges of talent.
Palmer very well could come out of nowhere and surprise in training camp and the preseason, much like another sixth round pick a few years ago.
That sixth round pick’s name? Desmond Bishop.
Moves like this are always tough to deal with because the player is so popular with fans, but those same fans also know to trust Thompson’s judgment. This will be a tough one to swallow, especially given the Packers’ recent struggles on defense.
“In Ted We Trust” is being tested again. Fans will just have to wait and see if they will still rally around that mantra in 2013.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke