The Green Bay Packers made a low-risk, high-reward move by signing defensive end Phillip Merling on Wednesday.
To make room on the roster, the Packers released quarterback Nick Hill and undrafted rookie tight end Cameron Ford.
Merling (6-foot-5, 315 pounds) was a standout at Clemson. As a senior in 2007, he became the school’s first player in six years to be a three-time ACC player of the week. During his final year, he ranked fifth in the conference with 17 tackles for losses and 10th with seven sacks.
Merling was considered a first-round prospect in the 2008 draft and went No. 32 overall — the first pick of the second round — to Miami, where he’d play defensive end in the Dolphins’ 3-4 scheme. However, he started only five of 47 career games and finished with 3.5 sacks and eight passes defensed.
His best season came in 2009, when he registered 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks. However, in July 2010, he was charged with domestic violence in a case involving his pregnant girlfriend that was dropped after the alleged victim moved out of the state. Later, he suffered a torn Achilles in 2010, which limited him to three tackles five games. In 2011, he played in 10 games with one start and finished with four tackles.
Merling's practice habits were openly questioned by Dolphins coaches. After signing his restricted free agent tender, he decided to skip voluntary workouts last month, and the Dolphins opted to cut ties with him days before this year’s NFL Draft.
Merling joins last year’s seventh-round pick, Lawrence Guy (6-4, 295) as the only players on the roster with prototypical size to play defensive end in the 3-4 scheme.
With Hill’s release, the Packers are down to Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell and seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman at quarterback. Hill, an Arena Football League standout, simply lacked the arm strength to fire the ball down the field.
With 89 players on the roster, the Packers have room to make a move there or fortify another position.
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