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Burnett, Clinton-Dix Calm Amid Chaos

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Burnett, Clinton-Dix Calm Amid Chaos

As the 2016 season wore on, the Green Bay Packers found themselves once again staring down an injury report that seemed only to grow longer and longer each week. Green Bay’s stable of defensive backs was absolutely ravaged throughout the year, and the Packers would use 12 different players in that group alone before all was said and done. Of course, that kind of turnover often leads to less than desirable results, and the Packers eventually found themselves severely overmatched and on the wrong end of an NFC Championship blowout. Still, through all the injury madness, two players provided stability in the secondary: Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

While Micah Hyde grabbed headlines for his versatile play throughout the final stretch of the season, Burnett proved to be just as willing to play different spots over the course of 2016. From his usual safety spot, Burnett migrated to inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and cornerback – in various capacities and personnel groupings – with consistently good results. Leading the team with 93 tackles as well as recording a career high three sacks, Burnett proved to be an asset regardless of where he lined up.

As for Clinton-Dix, Packer fans hope his 2016 campaign was just the beginning of what could be a long and extremely productive career. His 80 tackles and career best five interceptions earned him his first Pro Bowl nod and a spot on the NFL’s 2nd-team All-Pro list. Despite compiling the fewest tackles in his three years as a pro, Clinton-Dix seemed to be more opportunistic in 2016, strengthening his reputation as a versatile safety who can play in the box or in a centerfield role.

Perhaps the biggest reason for their play was that Burnett and Clinton-Dix were simply available. Burnett played in 15 regular season games, missing only the week three contest against Detroit with a groin injury, and all three of the Packers’ postseason games. Clinton-Dix achieved perfect attendance for the season, playing all of Green Bay’s 1,236 defensive snaps in the regular season and playoffs. He was one of only four defensive players league-wide to perform such a feat.

Between the release of Sam Shields and the sophomore slump trifecta comprised of Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter, the Packers have to, and no doubt will, hunt for answers at cornerback. The position proved to be a liability throughout most of 2016 and fully collapsed in the most important game of the year. Mostly due to injuries – Sam Shields and his concussion issues in particular – the inability to field a shutdown corner on a consistent basis has plagued the Packers in recent years.

Fortunately, Green Bay has a solid foundation to build around in the secondary, at least for now. Clinton-Dix is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract, and the Packers will have the choice to pick up his fifth-year option after the 2017 season, though it seems more likely Green Bay would offer the 24-year old safety a new deal before they reach that point.

Burnett, however, is a different story. He is entering the final year of the 4-year, $24.75 million extension he signed in 2013, meaning he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after next season. That could put the Packers in a precarious spot, as 2018 would be Burnett’s age 29 season, though his performance in 2017 will obviously determine his value as a free agent. His future could also depend on what the Packers do with Micah Hyde this offseason, as Hyde offers a similar versatility in the secondary. Regardless, Green Bay will probably be looking to bolster the safety position in the not-too-distant future, even with the exciting potential Kentrell Brice brings to the table.

For now, though, the Packers should be thankful they have two ultra-reliable horses in the stable. Burnett has played in 90 percent of possible games since 2011, while Clinton-Dix has yet to miss a game in his young career. Within a position group whose recent play has been cringe-worthy more often than not, that kind of stability should not be taken for granted.

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

Since '61's picture

The Packers safety position group has come a long way since 2013. Last season was probably the best year for that position group since 2010 which was Nick Collins last full season before his career ending injury. Also, Chris Banjo was on IR last season and if he returns healthy he brings even more depth to the safety group.
Signing a FA CB and picking one or two CBs in the draft should go a long way to stabilizing the CB position and creating a solid Defensive backfield for the 2017 campaign. Add a good pass rusher and we should be on our way in 2017. What TT will actually do is the X-factor now. Thanks, Since '61

dobber's picture

It was just a couple years ago that we were lamenting that Burnett was utterly replaceable and couldn't hold down the fort without a good safety playing next to him. I think the addition of HHCD has done nothing to dispel that. Still, if the Packers are still weak at CB, it might force the GM (could be just about anyone at that stage) to re-up Burnett just for the stability so he can pursue bodies elsewhere. Whatever the case, they'll pay HHCD but I wouldn't be too sure on Burnett.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Banjo was given an injury settlement. He is not on the packers' roster. He is a RFA with NO currently. They probably won't tender Banjo, but if I were Banjo, I would not come back to GB unless I was out of other options.

al bundy's picture

I think Hyde and Perry are gone unless Ted goes nuts spends the bulk of his money keeping them and Lacy too and then uses the excuse, oh no money for free agents.
Nothing is going to change on this team. Ted is not going to go free agent and fill needed holes. His draft and development (cheap ball) stays in place.
If Hyde and Perry leave, it means we spend years getting these guys into the prime so they can play elsewhere, thus your draft and development is working well, were developing people to leave.

al bundy's picture

I think Hyde and Perry are gone unless Ted goes nuts spends the bulk of his money keeping them and Lacy too and then uses the excuse, oh no money for free agents.
Nothing is going to change on this team. Ted is not going to go free agent and fill needed holes. His draft and development (cheap ball) stays in place.
If Hyde and Perry leave, it means we spend years getting these guys into the prime so they can play elsewhere, thus your draft and development is working well, were developing people to leave.

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