The Green Bay Packers are serious about elevating the competition on their defensive line. Tuesday, they signed the third veteran free agent for that position group alone.
Former Miami Dolphins defensive end Phillip Merling will join Anthony Hargrove and Daniel Muir in the race for roster spots this spring and summer. In addition to that trio, the Packers also used second- and fourth-round draft choices on defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels, respectively.
Four years ago, Merling was one of the draft's top pass-rushing prospects. But after a disappointing stint with the Dolphins, he is more likely a hedge against Hargrove's eight-game NFL suspension, which is currently being appealed.
Merling was the No. 32 overall pick of the 2008 draft but managed just 3.5 sacks with the Dolphins, and none in the past two seasons. He was waived last month. Here's what Miami Herald beat writer Armando Salguero wrote upon Merling's departure: "He missed most of 2010 after tearing his Achilles' while jogging on his own. He was always in the cross-hairs of coaches who complained he did not practice hard enough often enough. He has been missing the current offseason workout. And he didn't exactly produce on game days, either. Fact is Merling's rookie year was probably his most promising. collecting 26 tackles, an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery."
Sounds like a player who could use a fresh start.
The Packers now have 12 defensive linemen on their roster. Like Hargrove, veteran Mike Neal also has a pending NFL suspension -- the first four games of the season. Still, that's a lot of bodies for a team that uses three defensive linemen in its base defense and two when it's in nickel. May the best men win.