Less than two months after trade rumors swirled before Day 3 of the NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers have released Desmond Bishop, the team made official on Monday.
“So much fun, so many memories (and) friendships forged in Green Bay,” Bishop said on Twitter. “Ups (and) downs, wins (and) losses! Even a (Super Bowl) XLV championship. Forever grateful.”
According to a league source, the Minnesota Vikings are at the front of the line of teams interested in acquiring the hard-hitting linebacker. According to the source, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has been "laying in wait" on the Packers' decision.
In fact, according to ESPN Milwaukee's Jason Wilde, Bishop will be visiting Minnesota on Tuesday. The Vikings' minicamp starts on Tuesday, so there's a good chance Bishop will not leave town.
The decision, even after weeks of speculation, is stunning in light of the Packers’ defensive shortcomings in 2012 and their desire to create more big plays on that side of the ball in 2013.
Even while missing three games with an injured calf in 2011, Bishop had a team-high 142 tackles, including 109 solos. Morgan Burnett was a distant second with 107 total tackles. Moreover, Bishop produced five sacks and two forced fumbles. From 2008 through 2011, Bishop forced seven fumbles. On the current roster over the past four seasons, only Clay Matthews had as many, Burnett had four and no one else forced more than one.
Bishop missed all of last season with a torn hamstring sustained in the preseason opener at San Diego. While he maintained he was 100 percent healthy, the Packers never cleared him to participate in offseason practices.
In the interim, Brad Jones emerged as a productive player. D.J. Smith started the first six games in Bishop’s place before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. Jones started the final 10 games and was the every-down inside linebacker. In those games, he tallied 99 tackles (69 solos), including two sacks and the only fumble forced by the inside linebacker group.
A free agent, Jones returned to Green Bay with a three-year deal worth $3.75 million per season, including $3 million guaranteed. Plus, the Packers re-worked A.J. Hawk’s overpriced salary, reducing the remaining three years to $3.53 million with $2.21 million guaranteed.
Thus, the Packers likely considered Bishop too high-priced (two years remaining, with cap numbers of $4.464 million in 2013 and $4.822 million in 2014), too injury-prone and too old (he’ll turn 29 two days before camp starts on July 26), even with his playmaking, hard-hitting style.
Bishop had prorated signing bonus amounts of $800,000 for each of the next two years, meaning the Packers will swallow $1.6 million in dead money.
Along with Hawk and Jones as the projected starters, the Packers have numerous options. Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore are two of the team’s top special teams players, three draft picks were used to move up in the fifth round in 2012 to get Terrell Manning, and a seventh-round selection was used in April on Sam Barrington.
Before the draft, Packer Report was told that the Bears, Giants and Saints had expressed interest in Bishop. Chicago, without retired Brian Urlacher, and NFC North-rival Minnesota have holes at middle linebacker.
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