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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Safeties

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Packers by Position Offseason Preview: Safeties

A look at safety concludes Cheesehead TV's position-by-position offseason preview series, taking a peek at what's in store for the Green Bay Packers in free agency and the NFL Draft..

Overview

The Green Bay Packers received historically low production from the safety position in 2013 when all players combined failed to come up with a single interception.

After receiving a five-year, $26 million contract extension in the offseason, Morgan Burnett didn't live up to expectations, unable to produce the sought-after turnover plays and leading the secondary with 11 missed tackles, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Still, Burnett was the best of a bad group of safeties and has become a better-than-expected physical force, willing to fill run lanes and make punishing tackles when he's not missing them. The job of the Packers will be to find Burnett a better partner at safety and hope his play improves as a result.

They can certainly do better than M.D. Jennings as a starter at safety. While he's smart and assignment-sure, Jennings is too small, too slow, and simply not talented enough to be a starter in the NFL.

Evidence of Jennings' ineffectiveness is summed up by his inability to come up with a single interception, forced fumble or even a pass deflection in 855 snaps this past season. There's no reason even a rookie with the right size and speed measurables can't improve upon those numbers.

Sean Richardson started to take some playing time away from Jennings late in the season after coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list, following offseason spinal-fusion surgery.

In limited action, Richardson has shown he can be a willing tackler and physical presence in the box, but he still has a ways to go to become a complete safety, especially at covering receivers in space.

As a mid-training camp addition, the Packers could have done worse than Chris Banjo, but as undersized as he is, the ceiling is low. Banjo was a nice addition to special teams, but his contributions on defense were invisible.

One question on the minds of Packers fans this offseason is if they'll move Micah Hyde to safety. On the surface, such a transition makes sense. Hyde doesn't have the speed of the elite cornerbacks, but he does have the physical nature needed at safety.

The risk, however, is that Hyde's ideal position could be as a slot cornerback, and the Packers would get better production from him there than at safety.

 

Long-Range Free Agency Outlook

There's more support for the Packers to look for outside help at safety than any other position for a couple reasons.

For one, the current safeties in Green Bay aren't getting the job done. For another, there's several big-name safeties about to hit the open market.

And finally, the Packers' draft-and-develop mantra has taken a hit in recent seasons as general manager Ted Thompson has largely spurned free agency as a method of procuring talent. Playoff losses three in straight seasons, however, have the natives becoming restless.

Jarius Byrd of the Buffalo Bills, T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns and Donte Whitner are a couple of the blue-chip free agents in this year's class, but it's debatable whether the bidding for their services will be too rich for Thompson's blood.

M.D. Jennings––The Packers enter the offseason deciding whether to sign Jennings as a restricted free agent or not.

Jennings is not starting material to be sure, but as a potential fourth safety and special teams player, the lowest-possible tender offer would hardly break the bank.

Even if the Packers did sign him, they could always cut him at a later date and still not owe him any guaranteed money, so despite the negative public attitude toward Jennings, it wouldn't be surprising if he's tendered.

Chris Banjo––Banjo was given just a one-year contract with the Packers, so in March he becomes an exclusive rights free agent, unable to negotiate with any other team except the Packers.

The Packers have the right to tender him a contract before the start of free agency March 11 or waive his rights. Because of the minimal investment, it also wouldn't be surprising if they brought Banjo back when offseason roster size can be up to 90 players.

 

Long-Range NFL Draft Outlook

If the Packers happen to sign a free agent at safety, the need at the position becomes less in the draft, but it likely doesn't go away entirely. Depth at the position can be improved considerably.

But if the Packers don't acquire a safety in free agency, it becomes priority 1A during the draft, figuring to be addressed by Day 2 at the latest.

There's a lot of teams in the NFL with a need a safety, perhaps leading to prospects being over-drafted higher than their talent would suggest.

Players such as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville are being mentioned as some of the top safeties in this year's draft class, but it's questionable if they're worthy of being selected with the 21st overall pick.

There is, however, a glut of safeties very capable of being drafted in the second and third rounds, including but not limited to Deone Bucannon of Washington State, Kenny Ladler of Vanderbilt, Ed Reynolds of Stanford, Ahmad Dixon of Baylor and Craig Loston of LSU.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (72) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

cLowNEY42's picture

Nowhere to go but up.

"F" it...
Let Raji walk.
Sign Pickett to a 1-2 year deal.
Pray that Worthy, Daniels, Boyd, and Jones develop.
Use that Raji $ to sign Ward or Byrd.
Trade up in the first to get Mosley. Even if it takes a 2 and a 3... you're probably going to get a second 3 anyhow for Jennings.
Draft another safety later on (Dixon, Loston, Brooks, Bailey).
Resign Neal.
Resign Shields (franchise if necessary).
Release Brad Jones.

That's give you a base of...

-Boyd/Pickett/Jones (rotating Worthy, Daniels, rookie)
-Perry/Hawk/Mosley/Matthews (Mulumba, Neal, Palmer, Lattimore, Barrington)
-Shields/Williams (Hyde, Hayward, House, Bush, rookie)
-Burnett/Byrd or Ward (Richardson, rookie)

I'm ok with training Hyde to play safety in a pinch... but I'd rather keep him at corner so that we have a slot guy available if/when Hayward's hammy gets hurt again.

Terrified of the DLine. I'm having a hard time putting faith in Worthy and Jones. I like Boyd but I'm not sure he's starter material. I love Daniels but think he's only a situational player in this defense. If they let Raji go they have no one to spell Pick at the nose. Would like to be able to sign Raji and put him on the nose and go with Boyd/Raji/Jones but I'd rather use that $ to keep Neal and Shields and help pay for a vet safety.

This is all possible.

Stroh's picture

No reason why Hyde can't be a starting safety AND play some slot/dime CB as well. They planned to do exactly that w/ Wood. Hyde being a safety doesn't in any way preclude him from being a slot CB. Hell they used McMillan in exactly that role. IIRC Capers actually likes having his dime CB to be a safety. Just gotta start him at Safety immediately in the offseason so he can learn as much as possible about playing the position and get proficient helping Burnett make the calls.

jeremy's picture

It's difficult to argue with this logic. It would be great to see TJ Ward in this defense. But, I don't see Drew Rosenhaus and Ted Thompson ever coming to an agreement on a contract, ever.

Stroh's picture

Your gonna... Shields ain't going anywhere. Your making Rosenhaus out to be some evil persona (personally don't care for him either). He drives a hard bargain and looks out for his clients to get them the best deal. That's what he's paid to do. Its his JOB... Thompson (or more likely Ball, since he does most of the negotiating) won't have a problem w/ Rosenhaus. They don't let it get personal like fans do. They know its just business. Sherman is the one that let the McKenzie discussions become an issue.

jeremy's picture

I hope your right!

ben's picture

nope, no your not, Franchise tag and shields is it

Stroh's picture

The franchise tag would still mean he signed a contract in GB. LOL

MarkinMadison's picture

Sure, with a gun to his head.

As far as Rosenhaus goes, some guys negotiate differently than others. His style may be a problem. I wouldn't just brush it all off by saying "they are professionals" and "it was Sherman's problem." People develop professional reputations for a reason.

Stroh's picture

I don't see Thompson/Ball letting Rosenhaus's "style" keeping them from resigning a player they want. And you can bet the WANT Shields.

Ted Thompson's picture

Daniels is not a situational player. He was second on the dline in snaps and is a starter in the 24 which he play a lot of.
There is no reason Daniels wont be a full time starter next year. He cannot take on tackles but he can deal with the interior guys no problem. Fix what is broke not what is working.

Bert's picture

I don't care what they do with Jennings as long he isn't starting next year. If he is, then our front office just stinks. Love to sign a vet FA but let's face it, not many premium FAs want to live in GB unless we way overpay. A real dilemma when you have positions (Safety, ILB, TE etc) that are in glaring need of an upgrade and no means of filling the need without overpaying.

cLowNEY42's picture

Didn't Byrd grow up in Green Bay or something?

leo's picture

Are you high?

cLowNEY42's picture

Jarius' dad, Gill, worked in the Green Bay front office from 1999 - 2003 as the Packers' Executive Director of Player Programs and Community Affairs.

Jarius would have been 12 when his dad started working for the Packers... pretty impressionable age.

Just sayin'.

jmac3444's picture

Byrd grew up in Missouri.

Andrew's picture

Byrd played high school ball at Pulaski. I played against him when I was a junior at De Pere.

jeremy's picture

Safeties are not highly paid, that's what is so frustrating about the lack of talent.

KennyPayne's picture

Well our front office decided to go with Jennings as the starting Safety the past 2 offseason so the front office obviously sees something in him that the rest of us are obviously not astute enough to see.

Given that TT refuses to sign FAs, either Jennings gets a lot better, Richardson becomes a player, or a rookie is drafted/signed after the draft and can decipher Capers' super-complicated D or we can expect the same great production next season.

Stroh's picture

The Packers didn't "decide" to go w/ Jennings. He was supposed to be a backup at best each season. Woodson was supposed to be playing that position in '12 and they expected McMillan to be the starter '13. Neither year went as planned. Woodson hurt a lot and McMillan despite being given every opportunity to show anything completely failed. Both years Jennings was at best the backup plan.

Woodson's injury and subsequent age/salary took him out of it. And McMillans utter failure combined to put Jennings on the field.

Packers would have preferred to have Woodson in '12 w/ McMillan getting some playing time and McMillan in '13.

ben's picture

Stroh,

MD Jennings Started last season then every single game this season right thru the last game of the season, I think the packers decided to go with MD.

idiot

Stoh also says,
"Harrison is a great player to look at when judging how players develop. He was undrafted, but he had athletic ability. However he didn’t become a starter until his FIFTH year! What it shows is that Pitts gives their players a lot of time to turn into starters. Maybe some of these Packer fans should take note of that. Almost every player on Pitts was given a minimum of 2 or 3 years to even be considered ready to become starters. Only guys like Polamalu and Woodley started before his 3rd season."

"maybe some packer fans should take note of that"?
Your sooo full of it stoh,

Roethlisgerger, LeVeon Bell, Ramon Foster, Mike Pouncey, David Decastro, Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams, Heath Miller, & will Johnson have all started since they were rookies much less by their 2nd or 3rd year.

& that’s just on offense !!!

And your the one on here telling people they’re making stuff up. Not only are you a Jerk, your laughable.

Stroh's picture

This wasn’t a discussion about offense it was about how complex the Defenses are in Pitts and GB. Haven’t you been paying attention? Polamalu didn’t start a game as a rookie, not a single game. Lamarr Woodley didn’t start a game as a rookie. Lawrence Timmons didn’t start a game a rookie and only 2 in his 2nd season (presumably as an injury replacement). Ziggy Hood didn’t start a game as a rookie. Cameron Hayward didn’t start a game in his 1st 2 seasons.

All were 1st rd picks except Woodley who was a high 2nd. Go look it up for yourself.

http://www.steelers.com/team/depth-chart.html

Stroh's picture

Like I said... Jennings started becuz Woodson was hurt in '12 and becuz McMillan was a failure in '13. That wasn't by choice, it was a lack of other options. Guess you don't know the difference and just want to argue.

ben's picture

Ok the defense then,

Ziggy hood 9 games in his 2nd year, cameron Heyward started 13 games his 1st 3 years, Steve Mclendon started his 1st 3 years, Llamar Woodley started 31 games his 1st 3 years with the steelers, chris carter started 4 games at OLB his 1st 3 years, vince williams is on pace to start 33 games his 1st 3 years, stevenson sylvest started his 1st 3 years with the steelers, Lawrence timmon started 15 games his 1st 3 years, even tarence garvin started as a rookie for the steelers, Jason Worilds started 10 games in his 1st 3 years, Jarvis Jones started 1/2 the season his 1st year in the league, william gay STARTED 18 games his 1st 3 years with the steelers, Cortez allen 11 starts, Ryan clark 1/2 the games his 1st 3 years, Shamarko Thomas started 2 games as a rookie this year, Troy polamalu start 32 games by the end of his 3rd year, Ike started 17 games his 1st 3.

it would be very difficult for you to be any more wrong, & on such a regular basis, how do you make it all add up in your brain. And hey, I'm not coming at you, your the one of accusing me and nearly everybody else of doing it is what you do. It's great that you can write complete sentences and have some basic knowledge of football, but your limited understanding doesn't privilege you in lecturing or accusing anybody here.

Stroh's picture

Ben... "it would be very difficult for you to be any more wrong, & on such a regular basis".

What was I wrong about??!! Pitts uses a complex scheme and don't start rookie often. I NEVER said they NEVER start rookie, what I DID do was say that they don't generally start players early in their careers (give a yr or 2) to develop. I used all the recent high draft picks on Defense to illustrate my point. None of which started as a rookie. Not one example I used was incorrect and in FACT I gave you the link to discuss it. I also never mentioned the offense becuz the Defense is the complex scheme. All those players I mentioned didn't start a game as a rookie. Some, maybe most started parts of their 2nd season (which I did NOT mention) and all were starting by their 3rd, except for Hood who seems to have lost his starting job to Cameron Hayward. Pitts does IN FACT give players time to develop on Defense! You mentioned 2 examples of players that started as rookies. Jarvis Jones started 8 games, did you know that Worilds missed a couple games and Woodley missed 5 games? Those missed games account for the starts that jones got I would imagine! But you didn't bother to actually look into it cuz you were in such a hurry to argue w/ me!

As for McClendon... YOU COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG!!! McClendon didn't start a game as a rookie, One start his 2nd yr, 0 (ZERO) starts in 3rd yr and became mostly a full time starter just this year (10 starts)! How could YOU BE MORE WRONG?!!

Now before you go off on another rant and MAKE Yourself look like a blithering idiot, you should look at some facts and read what I said. Not a F'in thing, not one F'in thing I said was wrong!

I suggest you take a few valium, sit down, and pay attention! But you clearly don't care about facts or having an informed opinion. You would rather stick to your ill-informed opinion and start arguments w/ me.

Now tell me who was Wrong?

Feel free to quite arguing and discussing informatively!

Bearmeat's picture

Worst starting safety tandem in the league - and that's saying something. TT really screwed the pooch on McMuffin and the Dr. Burnett sucked too....

This HAS to get fixed through FA IMO. Can't wait for a rook to develop for 3 years. Hyde and Richardson MAYBE could make the switch...

UGLY

Bert's picture

This is very ugly. I wish I was optimistic about FA but it seems like many FAs use GB to raise their price and sign elsewhere. Let's face it. Given the choice of playing in GB or most other cities, for the same $$$, where are most guys gonna go? It really stinks that we got ourselves into this mess by putting our eggs on guys like McMillan & Jennings, UDFAs and of course Burnett..

Evan's picture

Seeing as TT never gets into bidding wars or pays top dollar for free agents, I don't really see how FAs would use GB to raise their price.

Bert's picture

I meant to say that FAs agents (i.e. S. Jackson and others) have contacted GB, knowing they wouldn't play in GB anyhow, also knowing that they could use any offer extended by TT as a means to elevate their asking price with other teams. It's happened. TT tries to avoid those bidding wars knowing he'll lose the war or have to overpay. Lose-lose either way. That's the problem with trying to sustain a SB caliber team in GB. You have to use draft-and-develop out of necessity and when it fails (safeties) it fails in a big way with no immediate means to recover.

Stroh's picture

There is no proof whatsoever that Thompson ever offered anything to Jackson. Maybe talked about what he wanted, but never offered or even started negotiating. Again your Full O' Shit! Kinda like Chris Canty. He wanted an offer from the Packers, but never got one. Thompson won't offer anything until the player comes to GB. Jackson never came to town to discuss anything. Only way Thompson offers anything to a FA is if they come for a visit. You clearly don't know what your talking about!

Keep fishing, you haven't hooked anything yet.

Bert's picture

Stroh, you're an idiot. Obviously haven't been following the Packers very long. But that's OK.

Stroh's picture

Basically since I was born over 40 yrs ago. Born and raised in GB. You won't find many that know more about the Packers than I do. Trolling for another argument and have to resort to name calling, since you can't have a discussion just proves your a troll.

FWIW I'm pretty sure everyone here knows your the idiot!

4thand1's picture

So lets say TT made a play for S.Jackson and overpaid. Then passed on Lacy in the draft. In the beginning of the year everyone would have said WTG TED!!! After Jackson pulled his hammy and our running game sucked, can't even imagine.

Bert's picture

Look. The point is that we will have to overpay in most cases to get a decent FA safety. All things being equal GB cannot compete with the warm weather or metro areas for the premium guys. Therefore, our business model is draft and develop. Doesn't always work out but it's just the way it is. I was born in Eau Claire in 1950. Started going to packer games with my dad in 1958. Doesn't matter really. The fact is we are a small market team and not the place of choice for most players or most anybody else for that matter. Heck I live in AK now. Getting FAs in GB is about like trying get a FA in Anchorage. You pay extra.

4thand1's picture

Reggie came to GB because of Favre. This where you have to be a salesman. We have Rodgers and have a really good chance of winning it all with some help. You sign with us and get a ring.

Bert's picture

Sorta. Reggie came to GB because "God told him to" "because of Favre" and because we offered him the most money. Take your pick. There are opportunities to get rings in many cities besides GB. Most of these guys are married. If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Just the way life is.

Arlo's picture

Bert --- Don't take Stroh or Strohman too seriously. He gets booted from every forum/blog he visits. Here's from a blog from about a year ago.

"The issue is your demeanor and attitude on this site. Count the thummbs down to your posts, Stroh. It’s not just me. Tone it down or find another site and group of fans, fans of YOUR SAME TEAM, to belittle. Not here!"

Arlo's picture

Do a search.
"Packers Stroh Strohman"

Hilarious results.

Arlo's picture

Oh, BTW, Stroh and 4thand1 are most likely the same person. (at least many believe this)

Stroh-Hater's picture

I hate the Strawman. HATE.

The TKstinator's picture

Jesus tells us not to hate.

Stroh-Hater's picture

Jesus who? Can he play safety?

The TKstinator's picture

Shuttlesworth. But he plays basketball.

4thand1's picture

So Bert, if your assessment is right about FA's not wanting to come to GB, we're -ucked. Or anyone else for that matter as you put it. GB is one of the most successful sports franchises there is. In the end its all about money to these players. Most of em would play in Siberia if the price was right.

Bert's picture

4thand1: I'm not saying "all" FAs don't want to come to GB. There are exceptions. I'm saying that all things being equal most FAs will chose the large metro warm weather over GB. Just like most anybody else for that matter. There aren't that many guys today that care a whole lot about tradition. We have an uphill battle when bidding for FAs. Always have.

Stroh's picture

Players want to get paid, but they also want to win SB. Only a handful of teams have a QB capable of doing that. The chance to win a SB trumps weather. You think a player would sign w/ TB or Miami over GB? They don't have a QB to get them a legitimate SB chance. Some FA might take the weather, but far more often they would go to GB and Rodgers.

Arlo's picture

"You think a player would sign w/ TB or Miami over GB?"

Stroh
Do you ever really look up anything to support your ridiculous statements? ---- Try this:

http://www.buccaneers.com/news/article-1/Free-Agent-Signings-Bolster-Buc...

http://www.thefinsiders.com/blog/2013/2013-free-agent-signings

Stroh's picture

Arlo... Yeah those teams signed some FA. Were the Packers in a conversation w/ any of those players? Were the Packers competing for ANY of those players? Just cuz they signed w/ TB or Miami doesn't mean they CHOSE those teams over the Packers! But good job trying to start an argument! Be willing to bet that IF the Packers offered any FA a contract similar to one of those teams they would CHOSE GB over those teams for a chance to win a SB!

Arlo WRONG again and clearly trolling!!!

Bert's picture

Thanks Arlo. I haven't been posting here very long but I do enjoy the banter with other knowledgeable Packer fans. The idea of "you won't find many that know more about the Packers than I do" is ridiculous. Seems like either Stroh and "4thand1" are either same guy or they just need to reinforce each other. Kinda sad.

4thand1's picture

Not even close. Arloser is the biggest pessimist in here. Don't believe he's a Packer fan period. Now he's playing school yard polotics trying to turn poster against poster. What a loser.

Arlo's picture

"Oh, BTW, Stroh and 4thand1 are most likely the same person. (at least many believe this)"

I stand by this. And it is, kinda sad.

Stroh's picture

Not!

4thand1's picture

You're entitled to you're opinion. No matter how wrong you are, and you are wrong most of the time. You know so little about football. Maybe you should post on a soccer site.

Stroh's picture

More likely Arlo and Archie are the same person don't you think 4th and 1?

4thand1's picture

pretty much. By the way I live in upper Mi.

Stroh's picture

I live in AZ.

4thand1's picture

Also Bert, we've got a few years on most of these guys. I'm from the 50's too and have seen my share of ups and downs over the decades.

Bert's picture

4thand1: Good to hear that another member of the 50's club is around. I do recall watching Jim Taylor as a rookie. He quickly became my favorite all-time Packer when I got to meet him in person in 1959 training camp. Him and Eddie Mathews of the Braves. Geeez. Those were the days for WI sports!!
Ok. We all agree our safeties stink. On to the next topic!!

4thand1's picture

Right on . Or should I say Groovy. lol.

The TKstinator's picture

I think the safeties played pretty badly last season.

4thand1's picture

We have the most athletic, young, promising group of safeties in the NFL. Blessed with great hands and speed. Also they are great tacklers in the open field.

The TKstinator's picture

Yin....yang?

Phatgzus's picture

Reverse psychology on the Universe.

CtSharpeCheddar's picture

Speaking of old Packer Safties it looks like Pick Magnet is in a lot of trouble

Evan's picture

Who? Oh, you mean former Viking Darren Sharper?

CtSharpeCheddar's picture

He's up on rape charges.suspended with out pay from NFL network. He was drafted by the Pack, you know 4and 26 and the TO touchdown against the 9ers

Evan's picture

I know. I was joking.

The TKstinator's picture

I had ya, Evan!

RC Packer Fan's picture

Simple the worst position on the team. This position badly needs upgrade in players.

If the Packers can get Clinton-Dix at 21, I would do it. I am not sure about Pryor. I heard some say 1st round I heard some say 2nd round.

A guy I like in the 2nd/3rd round area is Kenny Ladler from Vanderbilt.

This is one position though that I think Thompson needs to go outside of his norm and tap into free agency for better talent. I would love to see them sign a veteran player and then draft a player.

I do think that Hyde could be a good safety. He could play the role similar to Woodson. What I like about Hyde playing safety, is they wouldn't have to go to the nickel package as often because he could slide down and cover the slot. This would keep a more stout front to help stopping the run.

MarkinMadison's picture

I've been on board with the idea of going FA for a safety. They are relatively cheap. TT did go out and get Woodson and Pickett when the defense needed a boost years ago. You can't cover everything in the draft. Safeties take a few years to develop - DL you maybe need a good off-season in the weight room, and some guys are ready right away. And this is not a great safety crop. I think everything is aligned for it to happen this year.

Stroh's picture

If they use FA at all I would go Safety as well. They need another Safety to get Jennings off the field/roster and a veteran w/ decent skills would help eliminate a lot of the blown coverages and miscommunications. Even a high pick on a rookie and your still looking at rookie mistakes and probably more miscommunication and coverages missed. Fix the backend quickly. Find an ILB in the draft to challenge or beat out Jones, who have good coverage ability. ILB is easier to fix in the draft. Safety in the top of the draft still won't be a fix for a year or more.

mark's picture

"Jesus tells us not to hate."

"Jesus who? Can he play safety?"

LOL.

4thand1's picture

If you don't post for a while, we'll know your computer got hit by lightning in the middle of winter.

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