Safety Depth Remains a Major Concern for the Packers

The Green Bay Packers addressed many of their most pressing needs in the 2022 NFL Draft with GM Brian Gutekunst even using first-round selections on an interior defensive lineman and an inside linebacker, two positions the team has historically not used top picks on.

But one position that was not taken care of in the draft was depth at safety. That remains a big need for the Packers right now and something that Gutekunst will have to address before the start of training camp.

The Packers starters are set with Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Amos is entering his fourth season with the team after signing as a free agent before the 2019 campaign. He has six interceptions in those three seasons and provides the Packers with leadership and positionally sound play that allows teammates to take some chances and make some plays. Amos doesn’t always make headlines but ask any scout or any of his teammates and they will tell you how valuable he is to the team.

Savage is entering his fourth season with the Packers and his fourth in the league. The Packers just recently announced that they will be exercising his fifth-year option so they will have him under contract through the end of the 2023 season unless they sign him to a new extension. Savage has eight interceptions in his three seasons with the Packers. He was playing at a Pro Bowl level in the second half of the 2020 campaign before struggling with his consistency last year in the new defense system of Joe Barry.

The issue for the Packers is depth. The Packers did not make a qualifying offer to last year’s third safety, Henry Black so he will not be back with the team. That leaves Vernon Scott as the third safety on the depth chart as of now. The former seventh round pick out of TCU has yet to start a game in his first two years in the NFL and did not play a defensive snap in the three games he played in last season.

None of the other players on the roster have significant NFL experience. First-year man Innes Gaines is back. He played in one game last year for the Packers after being elevated from the practice squad. He did not take a snap on defense but did play five snaps on special teams.

Shawn Davis also appeared in one game last year for the Packers and played all his nine snaps on special teams. Davis was a fifth-round pick of the Colts in 2021 who was waived on August 31 and signed to the practice squad by the Packers in mid-September.

The Packers also signed Oklahoma State alum Tre Sterling as an undrafted free agent last week. He missed most of his senior season due to injury but is a long shot to be ready to play significant snaps on defense in his first NFL season.

Gutekunst also used a seventh round draft pick on Tariq Carpenter who played safety in college. The coaching staff has already indicated that Carpenter will be converted to inside linebacker once minicamps and OTAs get under way this weekend.

The Packers have indicated that will likely have two linebackers on the field more often in 2022 after they drafted Quay Walker with the 22nd overall pick. Even if that means there will be fewer opportunities for a third safety to be on the field, the real issue is what happens if either Amos or Savage gets injured and has to miss a game or two. There are no players on the present depth chart who the Packers should feel comfortable putting in the starting lineup for an extended time.

Gutekunst still has time to sign a veteran free agent before the start of training camp in July. Additional safeties may be released after June 1st when teams will face a lower cap penalty for letting them go. The Packers could also acquire a player via trade. The Packers could also wait to see who is cut after the preseason but that would mean the player they claim would not have training camp or preseason games to learn the Packers defensive system and get used to playing with their new teammates.

Either way, the lack of depth at safety that exists right now needs to be addressed before the start of the 2022 season. Unless one of the young and inexperienced players presently on the roster takes a big step forward, the Packers will be very vulnerable if either of their starting safeties were injured. It would give the strong defense the team has been building a glaring weakness that could be very costly once the season starts.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

10 points

Comments (38)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
greengold's picture

May 05, 2022 at 12:43 pm

Hard PASS.

LOL.

Actually, I have zero concerns here, because Gutekunst’s Pro Personnel Staff are as good as any, and if they need another quality Safety, Gutekunst is that guy he said he was in turning every stone, exploring every avenue to add a replacement or an upgrade.

Was super excited about Scott, but he’s always hurt. I am a fan of Innis Gaines. Would be really cool to see him explode onto the scene. He kind of has an Amos SS profile to him. *(Innis Gaines has some fun tape if you’re interested).

https://youtu.be/KiqLMpfmUY0

Draft just fell, according to him, such that he wasn’t able to address every position. Was really hoping for any of Cine, Pitre, Cook, Joseph or Markquese Bell.

Wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t our #1 Draft need for 2023.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 05, 2022 at 02:28 pm

I was hoping for Honey Badger, but they went with Watkins after Adams bailed. They used two four picks to move up in '20 and '21that generally go to your S and ILB positions. Reap what you sow. Walker is your Cine. They finally fixed ILB , we would hope. I like Shawn Davis best of the leftover safeties.

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greengold's picture

May 05, 2022 at 03:00 pm

Early on I had wanted Wyatt & Cine paired with their old running mate Stokes, but Walker & Wyatt paired with Stokes might work better for what they’re trying to do.

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BirdDogUni's picture

May 05, 2022 at 06:44 pm

Still think if worse comes to worst, they can always throw Carpenter out there at Safety. It's not like he can't if needed.

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jimtalkbox's picture

May 05, 2022 at 12:29 pm

I was really surprised that Gutey didn't grab a Safety early, but I guess no point in forcing the issue. Not sure if Amos will be re-upped (although I hope they can figure something out) but they're just an injury or two from having to get desperate at the position.

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blondy45's picture

May 05, 2022 at 05:28 pm

Nice article GilMartin. Do not sleep on Tre Sterling, Safety from Oklahoma St. He is 6' 1" 207 LBS (FS). Tre was injured most of this past year. The Pack gave him a $2,500 signing bonus. He will have to earn a spot maybe on the P. S. My homer favorite is Ellis Brooks, ILB from Penn State. 6' 1" 231 LBS. The Pack gave him an $8,000 sign on bonus. Brooks was an effective ILB for Penn State. He is aggressive, sometimes too aggressive (over ran plays), very high motor on a superb defense at PSU. PSU linebackers are traditionally very good. A Parsons he is not, but rated 16th best ILB per Draft Tek pre-draft. Both RBs Goodson & Baylor did not receive a sign on bonus. One of these two has a chance too. 4 very good UDFA to keep an eye on.

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JQ's picture

May 05, 2022 at 12:32 pm

Thanks Gil! This article is an excellent starter for off-season banter!

Agree with the previous post regarding 'there is a plan.' I too believe the Packers would have drafted a safety had the board aligned. But since it didn't fall that way it will be interesting to see how Gutekunst and Company address this thin spot on the squad.

Stay tuned, film at 11...

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Straya's picture

May 06, 2022 at 02:32 am

I think Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is available...

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greengold's picture

May 05, 2022 at 01:07 pm

Big news with the Packers signing Devonte Wyatt! Wow. That was quick!

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BirdDogUni's picture

May 05, 2022 at 01:42 pm

"The coaching staff has already indicated that Carpenter will be converted to inside linebacker once minicamps and OTAs get under way this weekend."

Coaches forgot to tell Packers.com, because they have him listed as a Safety, just saying.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 05, 2022 at 03:06 pm

if you rely on packers.com for your packer nourishment, you will be sucking hind teat!

they are so conservative with their dissemination of news that all the major - and minor - outlets have it posted before packers.com gets a whiff of it.

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greengold's picture

May 05, 2022 at 03:14 pm

“We did WHAT???!!!” LOL

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Rarescope's picture

May 05, 2022 at 09:06 pm

If it ain’t on packers.com it’s a rumor. Mad respect for Wes and Hod over there, they put out a ton of great content.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 05, 2022 at 09:45 pm

When it comes to Packer news, I would rather it was right than first.

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BradHTX's picture

May 06, 2022 at 01:06 pm

Ummm… “Wes” and “Hod” are one person: Wes Hodkiewicz.

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BirdDogUni's picture

May 06, 2022 at 01:32 pm

Lol... Think he meant Mike and Wes? (I've been wrong before though...) ; )

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Johnblood27's picture

May 06, 2022 at 05:49 pm

spoffy-poo and the bed-wester?

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Johnblood27's picture

May 07, 2022 at 04:29 pm

nobody gonna touch this one for all the cheese in wiscy...

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splitpea1's picture

May 05, 2022 at 03:52 pm

Agreed--this was my only criticism of the draft. Good safety prospects were available in the third and fourth rounds and I think it would have been wise to choose one. Instead, Gute opted to go OL for two of those three picks (sandwiched around Doubs, a very solid choice).

The only counterargument you can make is that both Amos and Savage have been very durable in their respective Packers' careers, with both playing well over 90% of the defensive snaps. But that doesn't mean this will continue indefinitely, so Gute may need to pull another Douglas out of his hat should a problem arise.

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PhantomII's picture

May 05, 2022 at 04:12 pm

We don't have a real FS. Neither of them are that ball hawking guy......

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hobowilly's picture

May 05, 2022 at 08:16 pm

I respect conferences such as the Mtn West, but i really do have my doubts on Doubs and i sincerely hope i'm wrong, but I'm projecting him to be a practice squad guy. Sorry for my negativity here, however, we're very high on Watson as not only is his RAS to the moon but he appears to be wired right. If he catches 70 balls, producing 750 yds that'll be just fine, and if he does some returns (i doubt GB will risk it) or end arounds for multi-purpose yds, that'll just be a bonus. Remember who's tossing the pigskin to him!

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greengold's picture

May 05, 2022 at 10:34 pm

WR ROMEO DOUBS
Back to back 1000 yd. seasons. Great PR skills too.

INSTINCTS. COMPETITIVE. SEPARATION. ROUTES. HANDS. Sudden. Understands leveraging DBs. Strong over middle.

PRODUCTIVE: 225 rec 3322 yds 14.8 ypc 26 TDs

Do teams double Doubs or Watson? Toure? LOL

Hope you like FIREWORKS!!!

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 05, 2022 at 03:57 pm

Gil, I don't think it's a "major concern for the Packers" or BG would have addressed it before the draft--because that's what he does.

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Carpy's picture

May 05, 2022 at 04:12 pm

It seems every poster so far agrees that Safety is a big risk, in particular if injury bug attacks the Pack. In the long term interest it's also concerning, maybe more so. Can't count on re-signing a 30+ year old Amos for big money and who knows which direction Savage goes this season -- though I am cautiously optimistic that his second year in Barry's D he'll be much better. That all said, IMHO, the dearth of TE help in the off-season may be a bigger risk. They signed Tonyan, coming back from major injury, to play for maybe a half-season. Deguara has shown little so far. I'm not saying he won't develop, but there is significant risk. I love Big Dawg, but come on, how long can the guy realistically play? and he's basically a blocker. Dafney is also a blocker type. There another guy (Davis?) who some seem to like, but I don't know... Maybe a good argument is the WR department is retooled this off-season (yes, while also being greatly diminished), and with the quality RB's is there a great need for pass-catching TE's? But historically on Packer squads we know how valuable a pass-catching TE can be, especially as an outlet and in the Red Zone. And the new WR's will need time to learn and grown... OK, I digressed from Safety position. I guess it's a nice luxury to nit-pick a little knowing the core of the team is so solid, and the draft *seems* to hold much promise. Go Pack!

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Leatherhead's picture

May 05, 2022 at 04:32 pm

The TE situation is less confusing if you assume that Tonyan is going to be ready earlier in the season. I did read one article where he said he thought he could be ready by the opener.

If you have Lewis, and Tonyan, and Deguara, you're probably OK. I wanted a TE too. I actually wanted us to try to steal Hockenson from Detroit.

The safety situation is such that any injury is going to put a guy on the field who isn't nearly as good as the guy he replaced, and mistakes at the safety position can result in long TDs. I'd bet the Packers are looking at safeties that might be released.

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Gee's picture

May 05, 2022 at 05:30 pm

Man Hockenson would be awesome, never thought of going in that direction, but the idea is real good. If only Matt Millen was still G.M, all we would need a tall, lanky, wide out, I bet Gute could have got it done.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 05, 2022 at 06:32 pm

I'm a firm believer in trying to steal good players from your division rivals. Not the way Minnesota takes our over the hill castoffs that we're done with, but actually take away core pieces.....like Hockenson.

Do you think our scouting department has any film on our division rivals that they look at and say "this is a good player"? Steal their good young players or make them overpay to keep them so they can't improve in other areas.

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HawkPacker's picture

May 05, 2022 at 06:31 pm

I would love Hockenson but it won't happen unless they make a major trade.

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2022 at 06:37 pm

You are forgetting Davis. They like him more than I think is often realized. He would be our all around TE as of now I would think.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 05, 2022 at 04:33 pm

I think they picked up Savage's 5th year option because for safeties it's relatively cheap compared to other positions. It should be somewhere between $7-8 million million, which puts it around the 20th highest paid safety.

A guy that can play deep is my biggest concern at the safety spot. I wanted them to pick up Tre Boston last year. He's not much good in the box but he was good at where their depth is real thin and would allow them to do more things with Savage and Amos closer to the LOS. Who knows, he could be a whiskey swilling, cigar smoking 240 lbs by now but if he's in shape he'd be cheap insurance.

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2022 at 06:40 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a summer signing when the value proposition increases as price falls. I don’t see an obvious surprise candidate to back up deep currently on our roster.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 05, 2022 at 05:11 pm

I was over at Spotrac looking at FA safeties we might have an interest in, and I was struck by two things:

1) Good, young safeties in Free Agency are rare. And the average ones are 30ish. So if you apply that to Savage, this is a guy we'll probably try hard to hang onto.

2) We actually have options. There are guys out there. If they're 29 and still in the league, they probably aren't completely useless, and there is a selection of guys that we could probably sign for a relatively modest amount.

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greengold's picture

May 05, 2022 at 05:54 pm

I’ll never forget Ron Wolf’s finishing touch on his Super Bowl XXXI Championship Team heading into that 1996 Season: S Eugene Robinson

Could easily see another addition by Gutekunst once he gets Jaire’s extension done, either at roster cuts or via trade.

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hobowilly's picture

May 05, 2022 at 08:08 pm

Yep, guys i had written prior to 28 April, GB mostly likely will hire a safety in rnd 1 and there were 3 of the top 4 available as far as i recall. 2 pts here: was rather surprised GB opted for an "off ball" LB (first since Hawk picked #5) and thus, perhaps considering the defense "layer" Barry wants to stop stuff up front, or, at least in the middle. Been calling for upgrade to middle since CM3 switched to mike when Hawk just kept running up field to make contact

Secondly, until Backes gave review of how sub par Savage was, it reminded me we need depth or more competition in that back room. I like coach Gray, must be the player.

Last, IMHO, GB hired about 4 or 5 suspected "contributors" for 2022. In order of impact I offer: Watson (despite too many doubters), Rhyan, Wyatt, Tom and lastly (hopefully) Walker (but i have my doubts as i believe he still is a reach..pray I'm wrong!) PLEASE remember you have 2 or 3 new offensive positional coaches as well and that's an adjustment

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GregC's picture

May 05, 2022 at 09:22 pm

Yeah, the depth at safety is thin, and the CB position is also a little concerning once you get past the top three. I hope they can find or develop one or two more decent DBs for those situations where the opposing team is passing on every down.

I wonder if Darnell Savage may have been affected by injuries last year. He did not miss any games, but he had a shoulder injury in the first game and a concussion in October. Maybe those injuries affected his confidence. He didn't look like the same player as the year before.

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HarryHodag's picture

May 06, 2022 at 09:10 am

Modern defense is fluid. Jobs change depending on what the offense will be from their opponent. Carpenter is likely to be a 'linebacker' in name only, playing closer to the line. If they need him at safety, he'll play there.

That is, of course, if he makes the team. But I suspect he will. That mix is size/speed is a rare find.

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PackAttack4155's picture

May 06, 2022 at 02:27 pm

I had hoped for a safety in the draft, if nothing else for depth. The backups behind the starters are unproven outside of special teams, and that doesn't particularly leave anyone with positive feelings. Savage may not be a long-term answer and Amos may not get an extension. Even with him approaching the, apparently, dreaded 30 (which doesn't guarantee a drop off in production), he's a stout, consistent player and a leader on the defense. You never hear much out of Amos; he doesn't go to social media to complain (not suggesting he has anything to complain about, he just doesn't appear to be the type), he doesn't answer interview questions about how he thinks he should make more money. It's petty but I like he's a former Bear; getting good players from divisional rivals is always welcome. A two year extension, or a four year with two years guaranteed, if affordable, would be great.

It seems like the defense wants to play more of a base 3-4. It explains a focus on ILB, both early in the draft and the amount of players drafted for the position (Walker and Carpenter). The amount of nickel defense might decrease if the coaches feel more sure of the improved capabilities and depth at ILB. I like Barnes fine but I look forward to seeing if Walker can show the fans what having a one-two punch at ILB can look like.

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golfpacker1's picture

May 07, 2022 at 08:46 pm

IF we would have picked Watson @ 28 like we should have and not panicked and had to trade up and waste #59, we could have had a safety and drafted Travis Jones who was available @ #76 in the 3rd round. Jones was a better run stopper and as good of a pass rusher. 3 safties available still in 3rd round were Kirby Joseph, Nick Cross, and my personal favorite JT Woods,6'2 200 lbs and under 4.4 speed. That why it was such a bonus to have 5 picks in the first 92, so we could hit WR,DT,OT,Safety,Edge. Not so we could waste one of the picks trading up. If anything trading back into early 2nd probably gets us another 3rd round and a later pick too. I don't mind the LB Walker but he was a reach @ 22. He is a bonus that will let us out of our other ILB contract after 2022 season. A good draft that could have been great. The late 1st round picks are a great tool to fleece teams wanting to move back into 1st round. Example Tampa Bay trading their late 1st rounder for the 1st pick in 2nd,4th,and 6th rounds.
could have been us and still get Watson @ 33.

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