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Packers Need a Big-Time Safety in Free Agency

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Packers Need a Big-Time Safety in Free Agency

As the offseason is about to ramp up for the National Football League, the Green Bay Packers have a lot of work to do if they want to transform their roster into one that can realistically contend for a Super Bowl in 2019.

One of the first order's of business should be finding a legitimate starting safety in free agency because right now, the Packers don't have one on their roster.

Tramon Williams finished the season playing there but he's not a viable option and he didn't seem to play all that well anyways. Kentrell Brice has proven he is nothing more than a special teamer and Josh Josh has also done little to stand out after being picked in the second round two years ago.

I'll be the first to admit that it might be too early to give up on Jones, who has started 12 games in two seasons, however, the early returns aren't great.

Jones does have three sacks and seven tackles for loss, as well as a total of 122 tackles and seven passes defended. At least, he has shown some productivity but it seems he is best the closer he is to the line of scrimmage.

And while that's fine, the Packers need to find someone who can offer run support in addition to being able to help cover on the backend. 

Certainly, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst is going to look in the NFL draft for a player like this and I'd expect the Packers to select a safety at some point in the first few rounds. But regardless of whether the Packers use one of their top picks on a safety, they still need to add a veteran, someone that is actually a legitimate starter.

Of course, it's never ideal to venture into free agency needing a starter and maybe the Packers don't feel like they do, after all, there are a number of veterans hitting the market with a vast amount of starting experience. The problem is that most of them are north of 30 and over the hill.

There are, however, a few options, but they likely will cost some money. Yet, after the way poor safety play has doomed the defense in recent years, paying for a quality, starting safety sounds like a good investment.

The problem is that in free agency, you sometimes don't know what you are going to get and anytime you are signing guys and projecting how they fit in your system, it's a risk. But it's one Green Bay must take and that's why it would be great to see the Packers take a shot at signing someone like Landon Collins, Earl Thomas or even Tyrann Mathieu. Even someone like Kenny Vaccaro, who is 28, has nine career interceptions and 80 career starts would make sense. 

Just about anyone would be better than starting Williams, Jones or Brice again in 2019. It's possible that Jones can still grow into something but beyond that, the Packers should know what they at safety right now and that's basically nothing.

An impact rookie would be helpful but that alone isn't enough to solve all the issues and that's why, when free agency begins, nabbing one of the better starting safeties on the market should be a top priority. 






Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (54) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

4thand1's picture

I still think Josh Josh will turn out to a good football player.Go get Landon Collins.

The TKstinator's picture

Shirley you must be Joshing, Josh.

4thand1's picture

lol didn't anyone read the article? Chris P referred to Josh Jones as Josh Josh.

The TKstinator's picture

I thought it was meant as a term of endearment, like “Honey Pie”, “Sweet Meat”, or “Liquor Lips”.
BTW Happy VDay, everybody!

Ezra's Hotdog's picture

Maybe Josh, Josh was either Josh Jones or Josh Jackson at safety, instead of "Honey Pie" how about a Honey Badger at safety.

holmesmd's picture

LoL. Sweet meat?!:P Hhhmm?

The TKstinator's picture

You mean we haven’t ALL been called that??

dobber's picture

Not by Josh Jones.

holmesmd's picture


JonnieB12's picture

Landon Collins will either sign a long term deal with the giants or get tagged...

Slim11's picture

Jones, IMO, is probably the player the Packers hoped Oren Burks would become. Burks may yet turn into a serviceable ILB who can play three downs unlike Jake Ryan.

If Jones is moved to ILB, where he has enjoyed some success, and Burks continues to develop, Ryan becomes expendable (trade bait?). I wouldn’t mind this scenario one bit.

James Martins's picture

Ryan is a free agent. He will probably be gone this offseason.
I don't see future in either Josh or Oren Burks. They are the ones I would trade (if someone offers something worth it)

Hawg Hanner's picture

Ryan is a free agent. Jones has flashed but instead of a top tier top dollar guy why not just get a serviceable white chip type of player. We cannot afford to fill all the gaps with the red chip players. Ryan although he had a lot of tackles is just a guy and I would hope we get to a higher talent level where he would not be missed.

Monsmoy's picture

How about OBurkes moves to SS where he played at Vanderbilt? Then Jones can play ILB (or SS if good enough) and we draft a ILB in mid round where there is reputed to be a good choice of talent.

jannes bjornson's picture

Ryan is probably gone. They have to improve the inside speed.

Lphill's picture

if they sign a free agent safety then they could get Devin White and the best edge rusher first round then best tight end 2 nd round then after that best player available.

stockholder's picture

People have complained about Graham to much. Bargain safety only now! I don't think they will sign Mathews. He'll leave. I don't think they will go for White either. They will draft a safety first. Regardless. Which would be a mistake. I still want T Brown to have a shot. But the Graham signing scares off Gute. I'm going to say they won't make a big splash. Bargains, and drafting will be the resolution.

BamaPackFan's picture

Remember the sacks Matthews had taken away by penalty. He still earned them. I do not believe any of the penalties were good calls. That said, can we test him at this point. He still looks quick. 40, 3 cone etc. I would like to keep Mathews at 6-7 million and see if he can play middle linebacker like his pops. He is a natural there, with the plus of excellent blitz timing. All depends on his remaining speed. No matter what, he isn't worth 11 mil. We might be able to keep him for much less, as I really don't think he'll be a hot commodity in FA. If he can still move, and he looks like he can, I still like him. Just move him around.

dobber's picture

I agree in that I think Pettine does a good job of getting players you wouldn't expect to rush the QB shots at sacks (look at Martinez in 2018), and I agree that Matthews is still a better athlete than most give him credit for, but we give Matthews TOO much credit at ILB based on his past play there. If you go back and look at his numbers, yes, he got after the passer better than most, but he was only average (or a little below) at ILB based on most rating services. The defense got better because the other ILBs were that bad, and his playing there put a better 11 on the field. I'll agree to being curious about what Pettine could scheme for him, but I don't know what he's really worth as an ILB.

GLM's picture

I don't see any safeties in this draft worth taking in the first half of round 1. The guy from Alabama is over-rated, and will get over-drafted, unless he flops at the combine. If he has a stellar combine, some team will take him early. I just hope it isn't us...too much bad tape on him.

4thand1's picture

After HaHa forget him. Defensive backfields at Alabama benefit from a dominant front 7.

jannes bjornson's picture

Adderley and Abram are the top safeties and are projected to the second round. Abram is in the mid-20s on some boards. He will surprise as a guy with 4.45 speed and a seek and destroy attitude. Adderley is smooth covering the deep middle. Thompson another one-year wonder from the football factory.

holmesmd's picture

They will not draft a safety first. Adderley should be there at #30 if they want him. I think both Greene & Brown can be very good FS’s with a bit of experience on a healthy unit. Brown has crazy speed and can tackle.

Old School's picture

Our situation at safety isn't good. We lack the starter we'd like to have at both spots...Tramon is a 36 year old out-of-position CB who isn't a real physical guy in the run game, and Brice, who starts because he's better than the rest.

Get a free agent safety like Tre Boston. Draft a guy like Adderley. Try Jackson at safety, if necessary. We activate 4 safeties and one more on the 53. So we need to try like hell to have 4 safeties that can play. Move Tramon back to corner because he can still cover.

Of course, give Brice, Campbell, Greene, etc. a shot, but we've got to improve the safety situation.

jannes bjornson's picture

Greene stays, Brice goes.

Lare's picture

Not sure about Jones, but Brice and Pleasant both proved they can't do the job and should be released.

The two unknowns on the roster are Ibraheim Campbell and Raven Greene. If one of them or Jones can be a viable starter then the Packers should be in decent shape if they bring in a veteran free agent (i.e. Boston, Collins or Vaccaro).

Lots of young players in the defensive backfield, they need some experienced veteran leadership back there.

Swisch's picture

Good stuff, Lare. My comment is mainly in support of yours.
Keep Williams as a veteran presence at corner; sign Landon Collins as a veteran presence at safety. Draft Nasir Adderley.
Then let's hope we get our current guys to develop in the defensive backfield, as did Fackrell at linebacker.
Let's see, there's Williams, Alexander, King, and Breeland at corner, maybe Jackson, maybe a draft pick. (Please correct any mistakes.)
Then at safety there's Collins (possibly), Adderley (possibly), Campbell, Greene, Jones, Brown, perhaps Brice, maybe Jackson here instead. Maybe one of these guys can play corner.
Let's hope with some coaching up, and some better health (perhaps new ideas for keeping our players off the injured list), that some combination of at least some of these guys will turn out to be an excellent secondary.
I'm hopeful we can be outstanding in pass defense and support tackling in the next couple of seasons, with a good start in 2019.

NitschkeFan's picture

Remember Breeland is a free agent. So as well as paying a free agent safety the Pack needs to (sign) pay Breeland.

Swisch's picture

Good point NitschkeFan, and good comment below.

Monsmoy's picture

Agreed. Keep Breeland and sign a FS. Collins is a SS which is not a priority positional need (especially with his price $).

Old School's picture

Brice has his detractors...…

He starts. He starts because the coaches think he's the best we've got there. Burnett, Dix, and Whitehead all gone. He starts ahead of Raven Greene, or Ibrahim Campbell, or whoever else we have back there.

This is has been a true statement through two different defensive coordinators, two different GMs and soon his 2nd HC.

We suit up 4 safeties and one more inactive. If you think we've got 5 safeties that are better than Brice...….well, we don't.

That's why I think we need to ADD better people instead of just getting rid of guys.

We can get a FA safety. We can draft one high. Maybe they'll both stay healthy. But probably Brice is still going to be one of the 5 best safeties on the roster.

holmesmd's picture

I’m confused. Jones is a box safety, not a FS. He can’t cover at all despite his size and speed. He’s too stiff. He’s also allegedly not a MENSA Member so I think he struggled with his assignments at times. If they use him properly, he’s capable of being a devastating blitzed and run stuffer but that’s about all. That’s enough for a box safety. Tony Brown, Greene, or Campbell are my choices from the current roster to play FS. I would draft Adderley at #30 or trade back to get him if he slides at all. I think he’s going to be a star in this league pretty quickly. I wonder what his Wonderlic score will be?

Packer Fan's picture

I say go after Collins. Bring him and then draft a safety in rounds 4 or 5. Tramon Williams can be the starter opposite Collins with Jones and the rookie filling in. And pending development of Jones or the rookie, we may have good competition and improving play by years end. And sign Campbell and Green for added competition too. Someone will be left out, but we need infusion of talent and attitude.

James Martins's picture

Josh Jackson should have a shot at safety. He doesn't have the speed to be a corner and he is great at zone coverage. He would need to improve his tackling, but I think that is easier to improve than his corner technique and speed. With Breeland, King, and Alexander + one late draft pick we would be good at CB. Landon Collins would be a dream but he will probably resign with Giants. My guess is that Gute will sign a cheap veteran to compete for a SS spot with Campbell.

dobber's picture

So Josh Jackson, who ran a 4.56 - 40 at the Combine and a 4.52 at his pro day, is too slow, but Beshaud Breeland with his 4.62 and 4.57 is OK? It's too early to give up on Jackson at CB.

holmesmd's picture

Breeland plays faster than that time Dobber. Tony Brown runs a 4.35. That’s Nick Collins fast, although he’s smaller than Collins. They need to shuffle the deck chairs back there but I do believe we have some elements to get the secondary sorted out.

jannes bjornson's picture

Breeland has the experience to recognize the play. Best to keep him at CB.
Can Crazy Tony settle into a FS position? That would be an area to explore. He is an intelligent guy according to the Wonderball test. Tramon as the #6 Corner is about right. He just is not the hitter you need at the safety spot.
Gutekunst has to bring in two-three new guys.

dobber's picture

Let's give Jackson another year to see if the game slows down for him a little bit and see how his play speed changes. As he got more snaps at Iowa, he blossomed. I think we might see some marked improvement in year two. You need a lot of CBs who can play, and it's just too early to give up on Jackson at CB yet.

BamaPackFan's picture

Safety is a thinking position. Experience matters, a lot. I hope we do sign a good free agent. I am okay with using a mid rounder if needed to get a guy with the skills, but far better to have an excellent mentor for him to play behind and learn from. Even if for 1 or 2 seasons only.

Monsmoy's picture

Agree. Sign some experience at FS with 3 years good play and that can lead the DB corps and then draft someone like Savage who has natural talent but needs a little development to be a regular starter.

TXCHEESE's picture

I saw something a few weeks back about Morgan Burnett wanting out of Pitt. I would be OK with him coming back. Too bad the Packers let him go and kept Dix.

pooch's picture

Sign Matt BahrTrade for Antino Brown Sign a safety a fill holes with draft

Dzehren's picture

What about Adrian Amos from the Bears?

Handsback's picture

Does it make sense to go after Vinny Curry who was just released?

albert999's picture

JOHNATHAN ABRAM from Mississippi State
Could step right in and maybe be defensive rookie of the year....Hard hitting!

Turophile's picture

Strong safety.
Worse, a SS that bites hard on fakes (see thedraftnetwork report). doesn't have the speed or instincts for FS. For where he is being projected as being drafted, I think he needs too much work.

Sure it's great to have a violent hitter, but I'd much rather see the Packers draft a safety that is more a FS, like Juan Thornhill, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Mike Bell. It's not a great year for safeties, and many that are in the draft, are more SS than FS.

Monsmoy's picture

Also Darnell Savage for FS worth considering.
CGJ would be an early pick (rd2, poss 3?) would give some great flex as he can play both Safety roles and CB.
I like Sheldrick Redwine too if he is around rd 5/6.

jannes bjornson's picture

4.45 speed is not slow. Gardner-Johnsongives you a CB/S hybrid position guy. He is interesting. Thornhill is smart. Just stay away from Thompson.

NitschkeFan's picture

Pretty much every Packer fan knows we desperately need help at Safety (and Edge and OL and TE). It seems like free agency offers some possibilities at beginning to fill couple of those holes.

Last I saw there were estimates of $40 million in cap space.

Sign Breeland and a free agent Safety (that can take up maybe $18 - $20 million).

Need around $8 million to sign the draft class.

That leaves $12 - 14 million to sign a few lower cost depth pieces. Or use a big chunk of it for a high priced OL free agent.

Focus the team's top draft picks on the other holes.

splitpea1's picture

To me, this is the best place for the Packers to spend their money because we need instant help here. How many seasons have we gone without a top tier safety? Maybe I'm a little impatient, but I'm tired of guys who can't tackle, are in the wrong position (or who are put in the wrong position), or struggle trying to grasp the defense. We're in what, the eighth season of a defensive rebuild (if you want to call it that) ? It's time to get it done now before we all turn into fossils.

CAG123's picture

They Packers need to address one of the two positions in FA and the other in the draft so if they go after Collins a strong safety then in the draft they should try for Adderly or Thompson both FS.

hhsbaseball's picture

Need a veteran at this position. Also need a player who can tackle in space. Dix was afraid of contact which was the main reason he gone!

Doug Niemczynski's picture

Just draft better

Old School's picture

I think the Packers should fix the safety situation so that Jackson can develop as a corner. Cornerbacks who can cover top receivers are critical, and rare, and he could be one if we give him a chance.

A Landon Collins type is going to be around $10/million a year. We have about $30 million in FA cash available,

You could get a starting safety, and draft another safety early. Maybe one of last year's UDFAs is better than Brice this year. Maybe Jones is a little better.

I'd rather do that. I see the defense this year as having Jackson back up King, and when we go to the nickel he'd be an outside cover while Alexander covers the slot. So essentially I see Jackson being one of our Top 3 CBs and he'll be on the field a lot.

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