Packers: LB Bishop Extension & ILBs Future

Senior writer jclombardi reviews LB Bishop’s extension & ILBs.

Bishop nets 4 years $19 million deal: Continuing a trend under general manager Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers added linebacker Desmond Bishop to the nest of young, productive players signed to long-term contracts before they reached free agency. Multiple sources confirmed that the 26-year-old Bishop had agreed to a contract extension with the Packers that would bind him to the club through the 2014 season. The deal was agreed upon within the last week and believed to have been signed Tuesday. Through his Twitter account, Bishop confirmed the agreement and thanked friends for their congratulations on the new deal, saying, “I’m EXCITED! BLESSED! & glad to be staying w/ the #PACKNATION. Means more than $.” Bishop, a sixth-round pick out of California in 2007, became a starter in Week 5 after Nick Barnett was lost for the season with a wrist injury. He finished the regular season second on the team with 121 tackles (82 solo) and added three sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown. The deal Bishop signed averages exactly the same $4.75 million as the four-year deal fellow inside linebacker Brandon Chillar signed a little more than a year ago. Including Barnett, whose yearly average is $6.6 million, the Packers have three inside linebackers earning starters money through at least the ’12 season. Barnett has two years left on his deal at salaries of $6.05 million in ’11 and $6.55 million in ’12. Chillar has three years left at $2.6 million in ’11, $3.3 million in ’12 and $3.6 million in ’13. The Packers may not be done at inside linebacker either. Still in question is the status of Hawk, who is having his best year as a pro. Hawk has one year left on his contract at $10 million, but when the two sides negotiated the deal they included that high figure to force a renegotiation or a release of Hawk to the free agent market. If the two sides can’t reach a compromise in the off-season, the Packers would probably let him go. They won’t pay him $10 million next season. The biggest question if all four do come back is whether to move any of them to outside linebacker. Chillar played some there this year but wasn’t good enough against the run. Barnett has the speed to play outside but is better going sideline-to-sideline. Bishop could play the position with enough training, but he’s not as fast as the typical right linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The Packers won’t have to worry about that until next season.

Bishop sign 4 years $19 million deal: The Green Bay Packers were already facing some tough decisions at inside linebacker during the offseason. On Tuesday, those decisions got even more interesting after the team reportedly signed Desmond Bishop to a four-year, $19 million contract extension. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the deal for Bishop, who registered 112  tackles, three sacks, an interception (which he returned for a touchdown against Minnesota’s Brett Favre on Oct. 24) and two forced fumbles after taking over as the starter alongside A.J. Hawk after Nick Barnett was lost for the season to a wrist injury after four games. The team had not announced the contract extension as of Tuesday afternoon. Now, after signing fellow inside linebacker Brandon Chillar to a four-year, $22 million deal last year, the Packers must figure out what they’ll do with Barnett and Hawk in 2011, when Hawk is due a $10 million guaranteed base salary that will force either his release or an extension, and Barnett is due a $5.5 million base salary to a player that has ended two of the last three seasons on injured reserve. Bishop, 26, certainly received starter’s money in the deal, although it would appear the Packers did get a rising player at a discounted rate because of the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. While the previous CBA called for players with four years of accrued NFL experience like Bishop to become unrestricted free agents, the 2010 uncapped year pushed unrestricted free agency to six years of service. “I’m just trying to focus on keeping being productive and keeping getting better. That’s my mindset. All that other stuff will fall into place,” Bishop said when asked about the possibility of a new deal recently. “I definitely feel good about the way I’ve played. It’d be nice to be undefeated and still do good, but at the same time, individual goals are still important.” Inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said Bishop should be applauded for the way he took advantage of an opportunity he’s been begging for after three years of strong preseasons but limited playing time on defense behind Barnett, Hawk and Chillar. “Desmond’s playing at a high level. His production has been right up there with anything that Nick has done,” Moss said. “I’m very pleased with his progress. He’s doing an outstanding job. I’ll put it to you this way. The thing that I’m most pleased with is Bishop is a highly competitive person. There were situations in the past in training camp and during the offseason that he would just compete at an extremely high level. He always thrived going up against the Finleys, the Jennings, the Drivers in some special situations where he’s had to match up against those guys in coverage. You can just always see the intense competitive spirit that he had. He would always compete against those guys very well. “

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