We've noted that Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop hasn't been cleared to participate in organized team activities (OTAs) as he continues to recover from a torn hamstring muscle. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes the issue one step further: Does Bishop have a realistic chance at regaining his starting job whenever he does return?
The reality is the Packers have three veteran inside linebackers set to earn a starter's salary this season, two of whom had their contracts written after Bishop's injury. Brad Jones, re-signed in March, will make at least $4.2 million this season. A.J. Hawk agreed to a restructured contract that will pay him $3.6 million. Bishop, meanwhile, is set to earn $3.96 million. Together, the trio counts $12.164 million against the 2013 salary cap.
Those cash and cap figures are pretty high for the inside linebacker position on this defense, one that is known for multiple formations that often include only one inside linebacker. Would it makes sense for the Packers to have a multi-million dollar backup at the position? The loser of the competition, at the very least, would seem in line for a pay cut. That isn't going to happen for Jones and Hawk, considering how recently their deals were signed. Which leaves Bishop and his nearly $4 million salary twisting in the wind.
Inside linebackers coach Winston Moss provided a telling quote on the topic: "I think there’s a mindset that when you get on that field, you’ve got to stay on the field. Because if you come off that field, having a job waiting for you when you get back is not a sure thing. You better make well sure that you don’t give somebody else an opportunity because everybody who's gotten that opportunity has been able to take advantage of it, and that’s a credit to those guys."
You could make an argument for retaining Bishop based purely on the run of injuries the Packers have had at the position in recent years. Ailments of Nick Barnett, D.J. Smith and Bishop have brought the Packers to where they are now. But in each instance, a young -- and lower-paid -- backup stepped up to fill the void. Perhaps this season's version of Bishop, Smith and Jones will be Terrell Manning, a fifth-round draft choice in 2012.
A year ago at this time, Bishop was unquestionably the best inside linebacker on the Packers' roster. His absence was felt last season. And now, there might not be room for him on the 2013 team. Even for the NFL, that qualifies as a breathtaking development.