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Packers 2016 safety additions: A pair of undrafted free agents provided secondary with solid depth

Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans became too valuable to release during the 2016 preseason, becoming contributors well into the playoffs.

Divisional Round - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Today, Acme Packing Company continues the examination of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 roster. Each day over the next two weeks, we will break down a different position on the roster with examinations of the players on the 53-man roster in 2016, the contributions of new additions and players who signed new contracts, and players who have contracts expiring this offseason.

While the secondary proved to be the Achilles heel of the Green Bay defense, those issues largely came from the cornerback position. The play at safety, headlined by Pro Bowler Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and steady veteran Morgan Burnett, provided one of the few defensive advantages the Packers enjoyed all year. The depth behind the starters came almost exclusively from players signed during the 2016 offseason.

No. 32 Chris Banjo

Experience: Four seasons
College: Southern Methodist
How acquired: Signed as restricted free agent
2016 statistics: Seven tackles (two with Packers)

During his first three seasons with the Packers, Chris Banjo served as a key member of the special teams units and a capable backup safety. Banjo might have reprised those roles had he remained healthy in 2016, but a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve in October.

After receiving an injury settlement from the team, Banjo popped up again in New Orleans with the Saints. He saw only limited action as the team integrated him into the defense and kick coverage units.

No. 29 Kentrell Brice

Experience: Rookie
College: Louisiana Tech
How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent
2016 statistics: 26 tackles, one pass breakup, one fumble recovery

During the preseason, Kentrell Brice quickly rose from back-of-the-roster hopeful to a player the Packers felt they could not risk releasing at final cut-down. Brice offered a rare package for such an unheralded prospect: keen instincts, above-average range, and the ability to hammer receivers within the rules. He put the latter of those traits on display during his highlight-reel blowup of Dallas Cowboys wideout Cole Beasley during the divisional round.

Heading into 2017, Brice projects as the team’s top reserve safety. That role could increase should Burnett spend more of his time as a de facto linebacker in certain sub packages.

No. 25 Marwin Evans

Experience: Rookie
College: Utah State
How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent
2016 statistics: Six tackles

While Brice stole the show leading up to Week 1, fellow undrafted safety Marwin Evans had a comparably impressive preseason. While Brice spent more of his snaps working as a traditional safety, Evans showed up when utilized in the box. His robust athleticism -- superior to all but a few members of Green Bay’s rookie class -- made him a prime candidate to retain and develop on the 53-man roster.

Once the regular season began, he saw less time on defense than his first-year counterpart. However, Evans did become a familiar figure on special teams and saw action during the playoffs. During a key play in the NFC title game, he misplayed a poorly thrown pass from Matt Ryan that should have resulted in an interception. That error allowed the Atlanta Falcons to retain possession and promptly put away the Packers shortly thereafter.

Still, with Evans’ mix of athleticism and skill set, he could have a bright future in Green bay.

Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. He covers the NFL for Sports on Earth and SB Nation. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.