With the Green Bay Packers entering a bye week and the NFL’s trade deadline bearing down on us, we have had plenty of time to think about trades that might benefit the Green and Gold. General manager Ted Thompson isn’t much of a dealer during the season, but he has made the occasional move here and there when desperation strikes.
Unfortunately for the Packers, desperation has struck at the quarterback position after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. Even more unfortunately, the Packers aren’t in a position to trade for a bone-knitting laser that would be capable of healing Rodgers’ clavicle instantaneously.
With fictional technology ruled out, we are left to speculate about events and possibilities from the real world. With Mike McCarthy’s comments that he is satisfied moving forward with Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan, it seems highly unlikely that the Packers would make a move at the quarterback position.
The only player who would seem to make some sense would be Taysom Hill, who beat out Callahan for the third-string job at the end of camp but who landed with the Saints after they claimed him on waivers. Would New Orleans offer him up for a conditional late-round draft pick? It’s possible, but unlikely.
Meanwhile, the Packers have plenty of talent on both sides of the football. However, that talent is too frequently young and inexperienced, injured, or simply not being put to use effectively enough. So what position would benefit the most from an influx of talent?
Given the injuries at the position and some disappointing play from a starter who made the Pro Bowl last year, there is an argument that the Packers can use some help at safety.
Let’s run down the players at the position right now.
- Morgan Burnett: A top strong safety who has also played well at inside linebacker and slot corner. Missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: Pro Bowler in 2016 but appears to have regressed significantly this season.
- Josh Jones: Elite athlete and in-the-box safety, but has played exclusively Nitro linebacker over the past few weeks.
- Kentrell Brice: A big-hitting strong safety whose coverage skills are lacking. Very good explosiveness (42” vert, 133” broad) and straight-line speed (4.44), but poor change-of-direction ability (4.40 short shuttle, 7.66 cone - source). He is also prone to minor injuries that take him in and out of the lineup.
- Marwin Evans: A nice depth and special teams player, but not someone you want taking significant snaps on defense at this point.
Now imagine for a moment that there were a player potentially on the trading block who is a terrific athlete, has played both free and strong safety, has a little bit of experience dropping into the slot and lining up at linebacker, and is a former Pro Bowler in his own right. Imagine if that player were on a winless team and had an expiring contract, which could make him available for a day-three draft pick, perhaps a sixth-rounder. And imagine if he had played for years under a scheme similar to Dom Capers’ defense.
That player exists: Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers.
The book on Reid
Reid, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of LSU, was asked to move from free safety to strong safety this season, both learning a different position and a new scheme as the 49ers moved from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base alignment. However, Jaquiski Tartt filled in for Reid when he was injured for a short time and took over the starting job. That shifted Reid to more of a hybrid linebacker/safety role, a role which he apparently does not particularly enjoy according to Niners Nation. However, that move appears to be an effort by the 49ers’ coaching staff to find a way to keep Reid on the field, much in the way that the Packers worked hard to keep Micah Hyde involved in multiple roles last season.
However, in Green Bay Reid could move back to strong safety as his primary position, likely providing an immediate upgrade from Brice as long as Burnett sits out. Even when Burnett returns, he would likely continue playing some significant snaps out of the slot. For example: in the two games before Burnett’s injury, Brice/Evans combined for significant snaps. Evans played 54 of a possible 61 snaps in week three, while the two combined for 53 of a possible 66 against the Bears in week four. That is plenty of snaps available for a player like Reid, and most of those would come at the strong safety position.
Furthermore, Reid’s experience playing free safety would be a benefit to the Packers, as him pairing with Clinton-Dix would likely result in the Packers playing better coverage overall on deep passes.
Reid is also an excellent athlete. His Scouting Combine workout was one of the better overall workouts by a safety in recent years, ranking better than the 50th percentile at his position in every Combine drill but the short shuttle (but notably, he still performed much better than Brice in the shuttle and cone drills). He had particularly ridiculous explosion numbers, ranking in the 94th percentile in the vertical and the 98th percentile (!!!) in the broad jump and 10-yard split time.
(Combine numbers and ranks from Mockdraftable.com)
Draft pick or one-for-one?
With Reid’s potential usefulness to the team established, let’s look at compensation. A draft pick would be possible, as the 49ers are not going to be competitive this season. Would a sixth-round pick get the job done? It certainly could.
However, even though player-for-player trades are rare, one Packer stands out in this writer’s mind as someone who would benefit most from a change of scenery, and who could be an interesting piece for San Francisco to try to develop: Kyler Fackrell.
Fackrell has been physically outmatched as an edge rusher; that much is certain. His build and playing style project better as an off-ball linebacker at this point than as an edge rusher. Conveniently, the 49ers now run a 4-3 defense, where Fackrell could use his speed and explosiveness to close on ball-carriers in space without worrying about shedding blockers.
Removing Fackrell from the Packers’ playing-time equation could come at a convenient time, as Vince Biegel is set to return from the PUP list and Ahmad Brooks gets a week off to hopefully return from a back injury. Even rookie Chris Odom is starting to steal away snaps from Fackrell with Brooks out, as the two were nearly even on Sunday against the Saints, suggesting that Biegel is likely to see at least 20-25 snaps per game when he takes the field.
All in all, a Reid-for-Fackrell swap makes sense, at least to this writer. Don’t expect it to happen, of course; Ted Thompson rarely gives up on day-two draft picks within their first two years, and trading one away for a veteran player in the final year of his contract would be unheard of. However, this move could give both players a chance to show their skill sets in a way that they are not being utilized at present, and it would help the Packers in the short term while sending an interesting athlete to San Francisco.