Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company will break down the Green Bay Packers’ 2018 roster position-by-position, providing our grades for each spot and looking ahead to free agency. Today, we continue with the safeties.
To say the safety play this year was a disappointment might be an understatement. Lack of quality play and injuries ravaged the roster throughout the year. The Packers traded away Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and were forced to grab a couple veterans who were trying to find their footing with a team midway through the 2018. While they did bring depth, none filled the void at strong safety after Kentrell Brice proved he was a liability at the position.
The biggest positive for the safety position is that the Packers have Tramon Williams coming back, at least for now. Williams was vital in filling in at Clinton-Dix’s free safety position after the trade and brought some stability to the back end of the secondary. There are several high prices free agents hitting the market and that might lead to the Packers having to make a decision on Williams but, at least, he have one player to feel confident about.
The Packers do have three raw prospects on the roster as well. Raven Greene was on the roster all season and contributed on special teams mostly before going on injured reserve in early December. The Packers also have two intriguing prospects coming back from the practice squad in Jason Thompson and Tray Matthews. Thompson is considered an excellent athlete from his time at Utah and even started his college career as a quarterback at Wyoming. Matthews was a multi-year starter at Auburn and considered a big hitter. Both were signed to the practice squad in early December and were signed to future’s contracts after the season.
Here is where the Packers will have to make some decisions.
NFL Experience: Three years
FA Status: Restricted Free Agent
Expiring Contract: Three years, $1.62 million
2018 Stats: 14 games, 10 starts, 50 tackles, one sack, two passes defended
Kentrell Brice came into the year looking to make the jump to start opposite HaHa Clinton-Dix. He had performed well in previous seasons on special teams and the Packers gave him his opportunity. He did not grasp that opportunity.
Brice had the reputation as a big hitter and was expected to be a run stuffing safety but his missed tackles piled up over the season. Brice also proved that he was a major liability in coverage as he would routinely get beat deep and take bad angles in trying to help in coverage near the boundary. After ten weeks of missed tackles and bad reads the Packers decided to remove him from the starting position.
All that said, Brice is a restricted free agent in March. The Packers will have to decide if they want to tender him an offer but, based on his play in 2018, that might not happen. According to Over the Cap, the restricted tender amounts are expected to be:
Rights of first refusal: $2.035 million
Second-round: $3.110 million
First-round: $4.429 million
The Packers would be foolish to offer a first or second round tender. They might go for a rights of first refusal but that might be a stretch as well. In a more realistic scenario, if they bring Brice back it will be on a lower amount in hopes that he keeps playing well on special teams and can continuing to develop at the safety position.
NFL Experience: Four years
FA Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Expiring Contract: one year, $705,000
2018 Stats: Eight games (three with Packers), one start, 19 tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble
Ibraheim Campbell bounced around in 2018. In started the season in Dallas, was claimed on waivers by the Jets and then claimed again by the Packers after the Jets let him go. While he bounced around, he did play fairly well in his short stint with the Packers. Campbell played three games, including one start, with Green Bay and got all his stats except one tackle while in Green Bay.
Coming to Green Bay was a nice fit for Campbell. It paired him with Mike Pettine who was the head coach that drafted him in Cleveland. At the end of the day, Campbell was a nice pickup as he adapted to Pettine’s defense quickly and gave a solid option for the Packers while looking to fill the safety void. Unfortunately for Campbell and the Packers, he was injured in the Cardinals game and ended up on injured reserve.
Being an unrestricted free agent gives Campbell the opportunity to look for another team in 2019 but I think the Packers would be wise to keep him around. While he was injured before he was able to prove himself over the last part of the season, I think he played well enough for the Packers to take a chance on him. I would fully expect another one-year contract, similar to what he signed this year, and that will give the Packers an opportunity to evaluate him a little longer. At that price, it also won’t be a big financial commitment to get rid of him if he does not make a good impression in training camp.
NFL Experience: Six years
FA Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Expiring Contract: One year, $790,000
2018 Stats: Six games (five in Green Bay), one start, eight tackles, one tackle for loss
Eddie Pleasant had a similar story to Campbell. He was brought in for a veteran presence and safety depth. Pleasant started the year in Arizona and came to the Packers the week before they played the Cardinals. On top of adding depth, I’m sure the idea there was to get a little insight to the Cardinals operations. Unfortunately, Pleasant helped his former team more than hurt them as he dropped an interception on the drive the Cardinals kicked the game winning field goal.
Going into 2019, Pleasant is an unrestricted free agent. In an easy decision, I think the Packers pass on bringing Pleasant back. Pleasant is 30 years old and I don’t see much potential going forward in his game. The Packers have three young safeties that can play special teams and fill the back end of the depth chart. I would rather see them develop than waste a roster spot on an aging veteran that would rarely play.