Oh, Baby: New Dad Neal Signs Two-Year Deal

Neal (Mitch Stringer - USA Today Sports)

Coming off a breakout season, Mike Neal will remain a featured part of the defense for the next two years. Neal, playing an expanded role and staying in the lineup for the first time in his career, had twice as many tackles in 2013 as he did in his first three seasons combined.

It's been a great 48 hours for Mike Neal.

According to Neal's Twitter timeline, it appears Neal became a first-time father to a baby girl on Monday. On Wednesday, he signed a two-year contract to remain with the Green Bay Packers.

"Hi Green Bay!!! I'll enjoy your winters for two more years!!" Neal announced on Twitter.

The Packers have not announced the transaction and terms were not immediately available.

Neal, who had been courted by the Bears, was a key re-signing for the Packers. Neal, a second-round pick in 2010, looked like a big-time draft bust after two injury-plagued seasons. He played in nine games and recorded just one sack and 10 tackles during his first two seasons.

Following a four-game league suspension to start 2012, Neal emerged as the team's most productive interior pass rusher with 4.5 sacks in 11 games. In 2013, the Packers expanded to his role to be a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker. With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry in and out of the lineup due to injuries, Neal mostly played outside linebacker. He played in all 16 games for the first time in his career and tied for third on the team with a career-high five sacks. Four of those came in the final seven games. Neal tied for second on the team with 16 quarterback hits, by the coaches' count. He also intercepted a pass and forced a game-turning fumble against Atlanta.

"Just those last four years, man, I'm telling you, you dream of those," Neal said of the sack-strip of Matt Ryan. "You dream of those happening and then, when you make them, then you go, ‘OK, I can do this.' I think it builds a lot of confidence. It was probably one of the biggest plays I've made in my life."

Neal finished the season with 61 tackles. He had just 28 in his first three seasons combined.

"I think if people just step back and look at that, coming from a one- and three-technique, which is a guy lining up over the center and guard, down in the trenches and now standing up as an outside linebacker and seeing things and doing some positive things," former outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said at the end of the season. "I have a couple clips where he's carrying wide receivers vertical in our split-safety concepts. He's done some really fine things. Just a remarkable transition he's made, good kid."

Neal's versatility was key in 2013 and might be even more important in 2014, with coach Mike McCarthy looking to be more multiple to better utilize his personnel.

"We will be a little different on defense as far as how we utilize our defensive players, particularly our front players, because we do have a number of players who can play both the rush outside position and maybe make some impact from the inside position," McCarthy said at the Scouting Combine.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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