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DE Mike Daniels, Bright Spot on Green Bay Packers' Season, Delivering on Payday

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2015

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 27: Defensive end Mike Daniels #76 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the football after an inceptions in the second quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers have not even been close to being considered one of the league's best teams in 2015, but they do feature some players who have risen to the top of their respective positions. 

Defensive end Mike Daniels is among those players, and though the team as a whole has struggled over the last 10 weeks, Daniels' motor and drive have not diminished despite the enormous strains placed upon the defense in that period of time. 

In fact, despite his recent payday, Daniels has continued to work harder, rather than become complacent. 

He is proving that he is worth every penny the Packers have agreed to pay him as part of his four-year, $41 million contract extension, which both sides agreed to on December 14. 

Packers News @PGPackersNews

Mike Daniels on staying in Green Bay: "Why would I want to go anywhere else?" https://t.co/UTg8EhPRws https://t.co/ZVqTH2ZmQc

Throughout his career, Daniels has had to continually prove that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as players such as Cameron Heyward, Fletcher Cox and Muhammad Wilkerson.

Yet he's consistently turned in performances either matching or surpassing such players, all while flying under the radar. 

As of Week 16 of the 2015 season, Daniels is ranked the No. 3 3-4 defensive end in the league, behind just J.J. Watt and Cox, per Pro Football Focus. That's fitting since, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovksy, Daniels' average of $10.5 million makes him the third-highest paid 3-4 defensive end in the league. 

Only seems fair. 

His 38 quarterback hurries on the season are third in the league among defensive ends, and he had just three missed tackles. 

His four sacks on the season are third among all Packers defensive players, which is impressive when you consider he plays on a team with linebackers such as Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. 

And Daniels has continued to produce these kinds of numbers even with his contract issue squared away; his pass defense and interception against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16 were both his first of the season. 

Green Bay Packers @packers

. @Mike_Daniels76 taking it the other way! #interception #GBvsAZ https://t.co/qqeJ9Pzsa2

"The fact that I signed a contract doesn’t change the fact that I got overlooked in high school, doesn’t change the fact that I was consistently called short coming out of the draft [and that] I’m not strong, I can’t play the run and all this other stuff," Daniels told ESPN.com's Demovsky after agreeing to his new deal. 

"It doesn’t change the fact that I had to grind to get to where I’m at. Success is just a product of the work I’m doing. I’ll just keep on working," Daniels continued. 

Indeed, Daniels has lofty goals. A member of the Green Bay Packers since he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, Daniels missed the 2010-11 Super Bowl season and the incredible follow-up of 2011's record-setting run. 

Daniels' focus is on winning a Super Bowl, and despite the struggles the Packers have experienced in 2015, no one can say they're not still in the running. Heading into Week 17, Green Bay has a guaranteed playoff berth and the chance to clinch its division. 

The defense, Daniels included, had done its part to help the Packers reach the postseason this year. Daniels is sixth among defensive ends in Pro Football Focus' pass rush productivity metric, which measures pressure on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks. 

But none of this is new. Those who have been watching Daniels become a leader for the Packers defense have known for a couple of years now how important he is to that unit.

In 2014, too, Daniels was fourth in the league in pass rush productivity, but his name likely didn't reach a national audience until it was reported how much money he will make relative to the league's other defensive end. 

And for Daniels, that's just fine; the chip on his shoulder isn't going anywhere. 

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