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Packers 2015 free agency preview: Is there room to retain both Nick Perry & Mike Neal at OLB?

There may not be room for everyone at outside linebacker to return if coach Mike McCarthy puts Clay Matthews back there full-time in 2016.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2015 season. Today, we examine the outside linebackers. Follow along with all of our positional breakdowns here.

The Green Bay Packers' outside linebacker unit will likely look much different in 2016 than it did this season. First of all, Clay Matthews is expected to move back to his original role as a pass-rusher rather than spending much of his time at inside linebacker. Secondly, the Packers have two key members of the position group set to hit unrestricted free agency and a third rotational and special teams player who will likely hit the market as well.

All of these factors combine to throw the position into a bit of flux for 2016.

Nick Perry

Years in NFL: 4
Status: Unrestricted free agent
Expiring contract: Four-year rookie contract, $7,499,250 total
Stats: 31 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble

Drafted in the first round in 2012 out of USC, it is fair to say that Perry never quite lived up to his draft status. He managed to avoid the "bust" tag, but he never turned into more than a role player in his four years in Green Bay. Heading into the 2015 season, Ted Thompson declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, perhaps a sign of things to come. With Julius Peppers likely to return for his third season with the Packers and Clay Matthews potentially returning to a full-time role on the outside, there may not be enough room for a guy who never grew into a starting role.

Mike Neal

Years in NFL: 6
Status: Unrestricted free agent
Expiring contract: 2 years, $8 million
Stats: 36 total tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble

Neal is finishing his second contract with the Packers. The first part of his career was plagued with injuries, but just completed his third consecutive healthy season. Neal was the biggest beneficiary in 2015 when Dom Capers decided to limit Peppers' snaps in an effort to keep him fresh. While his numbers have never jumped off the page, he filled in well when Peppers was on the sideline and Matthews was in the middle. There may not be a starting role available on paper for 2016, but he is a good depth guy to have. Beyond Peppers and Matthews, Jayrone Elliott has earned more of a look on the outside. The team also experimented with Datone Jones playing the outside in 2015. Looking ahead, it is hard to see Thompson bringing back both Neal and Perry. If the team decides to keep one, it is hard to imagine taking Perry over Neal.

Andy Mulumba

Years in NFL: 3
Status: Restricted free agent
Expiring contract: three years, $1.49 million
Stats: 4 total tackles

Mulumba, a primary special teams player, played in just six games in 2015 after tearing his ACL the year before. It is hard to project his future role with the organization, if there is one. Undrafted out of college, he has never been asked to play a major role outside of special teams. Based on Thompson's tendency to retain his own, there is a strong possibility he will be given a qualifying offer. The question remains if another team will make an offer as well.