There is an old adage that says it is better to be proactive than reactive. As the Green Bay Packers move closer to the start of training camp, they would do well to heed that advice with their safeties.
Last preseason, it was perplexing to many writers at APC how unconcerned the Packers appeared to be with the position during training camp. Five mostly youthful safeties — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones, Raven Greene, and Jermaine Whitehead — made the final 53-man roster. Despite the numbers at the position, the amount of professional experience behind Clinton-Dix was troubling and those issues began to rear their ugly heads already in the preseason. Still, the Packers did not add a veteran safety despite players like Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro, and Tre Boston remaining available for a considerable amount of time.
In the end, it cost Green Bay dearly as the team was forced to become overly reactive. Whitehead was released in November. Clinton-Dix was traded midseason. Greene was placed on injured reserve in early December. Brice battled through nagging injuries while Josh Jones struggled. The Packers added reinforcements, but settled for street replacements in Ibraheim Campbell and Eddie Pleasant while moving Tramon Williams from cornerback to safety.
While Green Bay might have made the correct decision in moving on from Morgan Burnett, who was allowed to sign a free agent deal elsewhere following the 2017 season (and was released this spring after one season in Pittsburgh), his versatility to play either safety position as well as slot corner was a hybrid role that the Packers struggled to replace.
The Packers still have an opportunity to ensure that their issues in the back end of the secondary is not repeated in 2019. But despite the additions of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, the predicted starters this upcoming season, safety is still a position filled with unproven players. Jones could be on his way out after reportedly demanding a trade earlier this offseason, while Greene has worked in Jones’ former hybrid linebacker role in certain packages. Behind them, it is Mike Tyson and Tray Matthews, both young players in their first few NFL seasons. If Jones is indeed traded, there is not a surefire fill-in on the roster with only three known commodities.
While versatility at defensive back is a desirable trait and the Packers may be able to make do with a cornerback like Williams in a pinch, Green Bay cannot afford to leave it to chance again. Several free agents are still on the market, including Eric Berry, Tre Boston, and Glover Quin. While Berry’s contract demands may be a sticking point for the Packers, all three players would represent highly experienced veteran options who could even compete for a starting role. In the event of injury to either Savage or Amos, who is able to play either safety position, Green Bay would be insured. On a one-year deal, there is little to lose.
So far, Savage is turning heads and Amos should have plenty of motivation in essentially being swapped with Clinton-Dix. The Packers are assumed to be sitting in a much more enviable seat than last year at the position. But questions still remain behind the starters and Green Bay cannot let history repeat itself, with Josh Jones on board or not.