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Safety Dance: Adding a Veteran Could be Possibility for Packers

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Safety Dance: Adding a Veteran Could be Possibility for Packers

Now that the NFL Draft has come and gone, and the Green Bay Packers didn't take a safety over the course of seven rounds and 11 picks, the position––at least on paper––stands as one of the thinnest on the team.

Reading between the lines, the Packers are putting a lot of faith in last year's fourth round draft pick, Jerron McMillian, and to a lesser extent M.D. Jennings and Sean Richardson.

Relying on Morgan Burnett is a given. He's been a full-time starter the past two seasons and coming off the best year of his career in 2012. There's little uncertainty with Burnett, but there is at the spot opposite him.

To be sure, there's reason for optimism regarding McMillian. His 27 tackles and one interception last season were a step in the right direction considering his limited playing time and small-school pedigree.

Above all else, however, it's McMillian's aggressive nature and ability to stop the run that comes as his most outstanding trait. His pass coverage still needs work if he hopes to become a three-down player in the NFL, but there's reason to think he'll develop into that type of defensive back with a little seasoning given his athleticism.

Whereas McMillian's strength is his in-the-box physicality, Jennings' is his fluidity in pass coverage. But weighing in at less than 200 lbs., he seems better suited for a backup role than a week-in, week-out starter.

Richardson could actually be the wildcard in the bunch. If healthy, his combination of size and speed presents a dimension unseen in other safeties on the team. But of course, there's the underlying health concerns.

This offseason Richardson underwent surgery for a cervical disc herniation. Coming back from such a potentially serious injury is no sure thing. But as long as he's given the green light by the Packers, you perhaps start to understand why they stood pat at safety during the draft.

It's still somewhat surprising, however, that the Packers didn't select a player at what was said to be one of the deepest positions in this year's draft class.

By no means was it disappointing to see the Packers address the defensive line in the first round at what was considered another obvious area of need. And it would have been pretty damn hard to pass up Eddie Lacy in the second round.

Even if the Packers have the utmost faith in McMillian, it's hard to believe they wouldn't have wanted to add competition––or at the very least, depth––at a position considered one of the biggest question marks in Green Bay.

Earl Wolff, Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas were all available to the Packers in the fourth round or later, and all have the potential to be starting safeties in the NFL.

Even in undrafted free agency, the Packers went the route of taking a flier on a small-school project in Ben Ericksen of Illinois State (a native of Greendale, Wis.).

Including Ericksen, the Packers have six safeties currently on the roster, but among them, there's not a lot of proven commodities, perhaps lending credence to the notion that they could add a veteran at the position.

Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said as much in a recent article recapping the Packers' draft.

"It wouldn't be unexpected if the Packers signed a veteran safety (Gerald Sensabaugh, Kerry Rhodes, probably not Charles Woodson) to assuage their unfinished business," wrote McGinn.

Seeing as the Packers probably aren't looking for a starter, Woodson does seem unlikely despite his leadership and knowledge of Dom Capers' defense.

Sensabaugh and Rhodes are younger and more athletic options. Rhodes, in particular, was an All-Pro in 2006 and grabbed four interceptions in both 2010 and 2012.

Two former Packers are also available as free agents––Atari Bigby and Charlie Peprah––if they're are looking for someone with familiarity  in Capers' system.

Assuming the Packers sign the 10 undrafted free agents listed at the Journal Sentinel, the roster will stand at 84 players, meaning there's six spots still to fill. Most of the open roster berths will be filled by more undrafted college players, some of whom will try out for the team during their rookie orientation camp.

There's still room for at least one veteran player, and the Packers would be wise to add someone with experience at safety. That player might not be starter or even make the 53-man roster, but it's worth having an insurance policy just in case a player like McMillian gets hurt or doesn't pan out.

Brian Carriveau is the author of "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 [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (35) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Satori's picture

Excellent work as always Brian

You did a great job of laying it all out at Safety. TT has grabbed a veteran safety in the past- Anthony Smith and I think one other so its not unprecedented. Veteran savvy and injury insurance suggest an addition before TC.

tundravision's picture

So much of the issues in the secondary isn't just not having depth at safety, its not having the right kind of safety. Even if Burnett had a decent season statistically, he's not the prototypical free safety the entire Packers defense needs to bring it all together.

As soon as Nick Collins went down, so did all of the cohesiveness of the defense, not just the secondary. Think Eugene Robinson and Nick Collins: the Packers haven't won a Super Bowl without a quarterback of the defense back there, putting guys in the right position to make plays and having the vision to respond to what's happening in front of them.

Now, Collins took almost four full seasons to mature into that role (remember, we were going to bench him after 2008),so there's still hope for Burnett. But the rise of the opportunistic defense in 2009-2010 correlates directly to the rise and departure of Nick Collins. If you want that back, you need a true free safety, not the "interchangeable, physical safeties" that Thompson and McCarthy keep steering towards.

Ma Linger's picture

It would be very surprising to me considering I read the Rams cut a 32 year old safety forgot the name) who is a tough tackler and would give the Packers some strength at the position and he would come cheap and fit under the cap.
That was last week and haven't heard a word that they acquired anyone matching that description.

Jay's picture

OJ Atogwe

BradHTX's picture

The return of Charlie Peprah could well be imminent. "We like that Charlie is assignment-sure..." God help me, but I actually think this is more likely than adding a non-former-Packer veteran.

Big Al's picture

If they sign a veteran to play if the young players don't work out that would be fine, but i would be against bringing in a player that would interfere with there development.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"Atari Bigby and Charlie Peprah"

Just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Point Packer's picture

Just threw up in my mouth a lot.

Denver's picture

I went ahead and went full projectile.

Chris Davis's picture

I fell off my chair, got concussion, suing the NFL!

Irish_Cheesehead's picture

I'd rather resign Woodson.

I bleed Green More's picture

Oh that is to much!!!!!!

Bearmeat's picture

McMillan is the only hope we have. I don't trust Richardson's back to hold up, and MD plays like a wimp. As McGinn has repeatedly said, "A couple size and speed exceptions are no problem - but Green Bay has a roster full of them." Tramon doesn't tackle. Shields can't tackle. Hawk is too slow. Bishop was (is?) injured. Perry hasn't had a chance to develop yet. And CM3 can't do it all by himself.

We need McMillan to become average in coverage and keep his physicality. And most importantly, Burnett needs to develop into an All Pro caliber player who makes an impact every game. Otherwise the unit that can't get off the field on 3rd downs and that hemorrages yards will make an unsightly return in 2013.

C.D. is right on. The Defense has not recovered yet from losing the playmaking QB of the unit in game 2 of 2011.

Lucky953's picture

Despite denials, I wonder if they won't be looking at Micah Hyde as another guy who might fit in at safety, but another "project" doesn't solve the problem. I like Richardson, first time I heard he had neck surgery. Not likely to survive the violence. I'm hoping Ted could do the unthinkable and pull off a trade using our surfeit of running backs as bait.

jmac34's picture

Well now safety dance is going to be stuck in my head all day.

Seriously though Kerry Rhodes is by far the most interesting prospect out of the remaining free agents and please no Charlie Peprah or Atari Bigby

al's picture

brain with richerson his injury is like nick colons ?

NashvillePacker's picture

Will the gay rumors affect Rhodes? I don't see TT risking the distraction.

cow42's picture

there will be no signing of a veteran.

never understood what everyone seems to "see" in Richardson. he's just a guy. no better or worse than McMillian or Jennings. they're all just guys.

improved safety play will have little to do with whoever's lined up next to Burnett and everything to do with Burnett, himself. If he becomes a stud - the guy next to him will look good. if he's reached his peak, then so has his running mate.

Jake's picture

This could prove to be very true. Look what the safety play of Collins did to make Charle Peprah look competant.

...And Collins didn't really hit his stride until he was a few years in the league. Hopefully we can see the same kind of development in Burnett.

jeremy's picture

Yep, Charlie Peprah looked like a decent safety next to All-Pro Nick Collins in 2010. Put him next to a (basically) second year safety Morgan Burnett in 2011 and all of a sudden he's a liability in coverage.

Richardson and Jennings are just guys. I think McMillan can be more than just a guy. He has all the physical characteristics, I'm just not sure about the mental ones. Hopefully his low Wonderlic score is more of a reading problem like Collins was and he just needs some time to learn to play a pro defense. Many times last season he just looked lost. Not much different than Nick Collins, or Darren Sharper at the beginning.

Point Packer's picture

I hope they go for Rhodes, think he'd be a reasonably priced addition and offer depth/leadership at the safety position. Where as of now, we need both.

hayward4president's picture

I kinda think they might be considering Hyde at the safety position. Great ball skills but could use a little help in coverage (@ corner). Maybe he is more suited @ safety. Or maybe....I'm just being optimistic.

Turophile's picture

No new vet safety will be there in the final 53 cutdown.

How many times in the past have fans and media thought a guy would be acquired, only to see TT and MM go to war with what they had. This has played out before at CB, LB and OL.

We have to accept this team does the draft and develop thing. The Packers will expect someone already on the roster and man the position.

I expect that to be Burnett and McMillian. Only an injury to one of these might cause the Pack to get a new veteran guy.

ricky's picture

Micah Hyde has the size to be shifted to safety. Also, his ability to cover, being a college CB, bodes well for the defense.

markinmadison's picture

He is small for a safety right now. Bob Saunders may not have been much bigger, but he was also injured every season, when he was able to play at all. If the plan is to put Hyde at S, they need to beef him up first.

jeremy's picture

Bob Sanders weighted 206, he was constantly injured because of the way he played.

Hyde's listed at 197 right now. His 40 times "look" slow but but his 10 and 20 splits are even better than Nick Collins, and his shuttle was comparable. If he can put on 5-10 pounds and maintain his quickness he can move to safety.

Fish/Crane's picture

line pressure makes safeties...and that's about all there is to it.

Jamie's picture

Any vet FAs willing and able to play STs?

If a guy falls into that category, then I could see it. Otherwise, give a young guy a chance that'll work is azz off and maybe make an impact on STs at the very least.

al's picture

for those of you dont no packers just sign OL #5 in cfl draft andy mulumba 6,4 264 lbs lol i dont no what brain dose but heres your scoup !!!!

al's picture

i dont know about anybody else but i think the packers are alot better now except safty think brai

al's picture


Jamie's picture


Bugeater's picture

I know I shouldn't laugh. But I am. A LOT!

Lou's picture

Bigby is James Starks on defense, a lower body injury just waiting to happen and like Starks one decent "partial" season on his resume. Peprah has special teams and backup wtitten on his forehead. No one either one comes back to Green Bay. Just read where Jennings told the Journal/Sentinal he is 200 pounds now, bet he still looks like 150. McMillon's benching during the stretch run was not a good sign. The net is they need a starter, they don't have one on the roster.

hump's picture

hmmm.......kenny phillips,michael huff,adrian wilson,louis delmas,laron landry,dawan landry,charles woodson,bernard pollard,glover quinn anyone of these quality safetys could be had between 2 and 5mil per yr !!!! wHAT THE F.....K THOMPSON!!!!! Same bullshit as last year,when he thought jarret bush could start at conerback(see game one san francisco, at least they figured it out right away after that game) or any game in his life,for that matter, he COULDNT!!! and neither can MD JENNINGS AT SAFETY!!!!! or MCMILLIAN!!!! GET OVER THE FCKN EGO AND ADMIT YOU HAVENT DRAFTED OR SIGNED A NFL CALIBER SAFETY BESIDES BURNETT !!!!!! THIS BULLSHIT IS COSTING US WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!!!! hate to sound like COW 42,but its the FACTS!!!!

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