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Packers don’t have clear option to fill Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s void

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The Packers didn’t intend to punt on the 2018 season by trading Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but they don’t have an obvious replacement for the former Pro Bowl safety on the roster.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As the dust settles on an active NFL trade deadline, the Green Bay Packers must now determine how to move forward after consummating multiple trades. One deal in particular, an exchange of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for a fourth-round pick, leaves Green Bay shorthanded at an already thin spot with no obvious replacement candidate on the roster.

Though Clinton-Dix has played inconsistently over the past two seasons, he remained a useful, play-making defensive back on a unit that struggled to field another starting-caliber safety. Kentrell Brice, who has yielded multiple long touchdowns already this season, will presumably remain in his current role as a starter. That leaves the Packers with multiple unproven or underwhelming backups as well as some corners to consider for Clinton-Dix’s vacated spot.

Jermaine Whitehead, a former undrafted free agent, has performed numerous functions during his three seasons in Green Bay due to his strong combination of intelligence and athleticism. Whitehead has stood out this season as a blitzer and occasional slot cornerback, and perhaps his play convinced defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the coaching staff that he deserves a larger role. Still, Whitehead hasn’t only started two games in his career, both as a sub-package linebacker or corner. Taking over for Clinton-Dix looks like a big ask for Whitehead, even if it seems more feasible now than earlier in his career.

Another undrafted free agent, Raven Greene has seen action in five games this year. Unlike Whitehead, Greene has focused almost exclusively as a safety and special-teams contributor. Still, he hasn’t demonstrated the ability to play Clinton-Dix’s role and likely will not receive an opportunity unless disaster strikes.

Meanwhile, the Packers still have former second-round pick Josh Jones on the roster. Jones has barely seen the field this season after losing a position battle with Brice during training camp. Jones possesses one of the best athletic profiles on the entire roster, but his play since entering the league in 2017 suggests that he struggles with the mental aspects of the game. Jones might get a shot to replace Clinton-Dix given his draft position, but he’ll have to significantly improve in order to hold onto the job.

If the Packers want to instead move a corner to fill the void, they have a few reasonable candidates, including one of its bigger free-agent additions from the offseason. Tramon Williams has played safety under Mike Pettine in the past and could move there full time. However, Williams has a rather slight build for a safety and has never excelled at tackling. That could create problems when Green Bay faces more physical offenses.

Recently acquired Bashaud Breeland could also conceivably shift to safety. Breeland spent some time at the position during his rookie year, and some scouts saw him as a future safety when he came out of Clemson in 2014. Of course, hamstring issues have kept Breeland from making his 2018 debut, and he might not return in time for the Packers’ next game.

If neither of those options appeals to the Packers, they could also consider second-round pick Josh Jackson for Clinton-Dix’s vacated spot. Jackson saw only three snaps during the team’s matchup with the Los Angeles Rams this past weekend, and the rookie could certainly see more time at the less crowded safety position. Still, asking a player with no safety experience to centerfield represents a tall task. Moving a rookie with no experience at the position begs for trouble.

Clinton-Dix trade rumors permeated long before the Packers dealt him Tuesday, suggesting the team already knows how to fill the void left by the former Pro Bowl safety. Whether Green Bay has a good plan is another matter.