The Green Bay Packers entered the 2016 season confident in their young secondary, with defensive back and impending free agent Micah Hyde a somewhat forgotten man.
Thrashed with injuries and inconsistent play in the defensive secondary early in the season, Hyde was forced into a prominent role. His “swiss army knife” type of play at safety, cornerback and punt returner was on full display as the Packers made a playoff run elevating his attractiveness to other teams for the upcoming free agent market March 9.
Sometimes accused of over-valuing their own players, it will be interesting to see what decision the Packers will make regarding Hyde. It has been suggested that the 26-year-old Hyde could be looking at a $5 million per year average, typically what a nickel back earns for their second contract.
A deal like this could raise some eyebrows among Packers faithful as Ted Thompson let cornerback Casey Hayward leave and sign with the San Diego Chargers for 3 years and $15.3 million. The fifth-year pro snagged 7 interceptions this past season for San Diego and earned his first pro bowl selection. Green Bay missed Hayward on a weekly basis after Sam Shields’ season ended in week 1 and Quentin Rollins and Damarious Randall struggled with injuries and coverage most of the season.
Though I was not as confident, many pundits felt the play of Rollins and Randall coupled with the consistent veteran play of Shields would provide the 2016 Packers with a solid group in the secondary. Pro Football Focus went as far as pre-ranking the Packers’ secondary group as the fifth best in the NFL. Much like Jordy Nelson’s injury and effect on the receivers and offense in 2015, the loss of Shields shell-shocked the entire defense and sent the cornerback unit into a spiral.
With a weekly focus and concern regarding poor cornerback play, Hyde consistently battled and continued to make plays at nickel back. While he fails to possess the speed and talent to man one of the perimeter cornerback spots full-time, he managed to fill-in admirably against the Detroit Lions in the season finale. Hyde’s performance against Detroit was cemented with a fourth quarter interception of Matthew Stafford.
The week before against the Chicago Bears proved Hyde’s impact as well as he knocked away an intended touchdown pass from Matt Barkley on third and goal. Hyde read the play perfectly and kept the Bears out of the end-zone. The Bears used the next play to kick a field goal to tie the game at 27. Aaron Rodgers then heaved a 60-yard bomb to Nelson setting up the Mason Crosby game winner. Hyde’s play was not as pretty as Rodgers’, but it was critical in winning that ballgame.
Hyde was equally as important in the playoffs intercepting Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the third quarter of the Divisional Playoffs. The interception was the product of film study and recognizing the correct read on a play. It was truly a thing of beauty as Hyde jumped a pass intended as a quick hitter to Dez Bryant and set the Packers up with excellent field position.
Even with these key plays down the stretch, the Packers will have a tough decision to make with Hyde. If Green Bay can secure Hyde for $4 million or less annually it should be considered because he has consistently made plays and shown versatility as a punt returner and a defensive back in his career. It will be a hard sell at a higher salary because the defense will still need a starter at one of the perimeter cornerback positions.
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