Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
We examine the former 49er safety who appears ready to test the waters of free agency to see if he could be a candidate as a rare big-name free agent signing under Ted Thompson's watch.
The Packers have been lucky enough to have a long run of talented safeties play in Green Bay over the past several years. First it was LeRoy Butler making quarterbacks' lives difficult, then Darren Sharper, then Nick Collins. It's possible that Morgan Burnett could become one of those game-changing safeties, but despite his consistently solid play he hasn't shown the big-play ability on a consistent basis.
However, there is a safety on the free agent market this year who could potentially be that player for the Packers for the foreseeable future: Dashon Goldson.
The 28-year-old Goldson played his college ball at the University of Washington, and he was a 4th round pick in the 2007 draft. He has been a full-time starter since 2009 and has missed only two games since then, in 2011. In those four years as a starter, he has recorded 14 interceptions, 31 pass defenses, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries (according to Pro Football Reference).
In 2012, Goldson was given the franchise tag by the 49ers, earning a base salary of approximately $6.2 million, but he made it clear that he did not want to be tagged a second time. As for his performance on that contract, Goldson graded out positively in 2012 by Pro Football Focus (coming in 6th among free agent safeties with a +6.5 grade) but was actually listed as being overpaid by $1.2 million according to their Performance-Based Value metric.
The key questions about Goldson involve what type of contract he would be looking for and what he would actually bring to the table for the Packers. According to reports, Goldson is looking for around $8 million per year, which would be a substantial cap hit for the Packers to absorb. Then again, he would certainly provide more value on a contract of that amount than Charles Woodson did last year with a hit around $10 million, so the value for the money would probably be there - it would then become an issue of cap room with the spectre of Aaron Rodgers' and Clay Matthews' contract extensions hanging around the front office.
With Goldson's coverage ability and ball skills in the deep middle of the field, Morgan Burnett could move back over to more of a strong safety position to help support against the run and cover bigger tight ends. He certainly did that effectively against Kyle Rudolph in Lambeau Field this season, and with Goldson manning center field it might make sense to let Burnett roam around the defense a little more and play up in the box.
I realize that many people believe that Jerron McMillian could become an excellent strong safety in the NFL, and the fact that Ted Thompson traded up to draft him is in general a very good sign. However, McMillian s only entering his second year and he still has a lot of learning to do, whereas Goldson would be able to step in as a dynamic safety immediately and allow Burnett to be the more physical starting safety. Personally, I believe signing Goldson would give a big boost to the defense, and I would fully support that signing as long as it does not affect the Packers' ability to extend Rodgers and Matthews.