The NFL trade deadline is less than 24 hours away. While many Packers fans want the team to add talent at receiver, their 3-5 record has put them behind the 8 ball in terms of competing for a playoff spot this season. According to FiveThirtyEight’s model, Green Bay only makes the playoffs about 17 percent of the time and more than three-fourths of the time they’re opening up on the road in the wildcard round. The site predicts that the Packers will finish with a 7-10 record in 2022.
With that in mind, it might be time for the Packers to be sellers, not buyers, at the deadline. One particular move makes a lot of sense for the team, if they’re willing to take a long-term view on their roster construction.
It’s time to have a conversation about safety Darnell Savage. Savage was drafted as a first-round pick to play in Mike Pettine’s blitz- and man-heavy scheme that put more coverage emphasis on the safeties as the box was supposed to handle the team’s run fits. Under new(er) defensive coordinator Joe Barry, the Packers have played a quarters-heavy scheme that involves their safeties much more in the run game, a phase of the game that Savage tends to struggle with.
Take a look at Savage attempting to “tackle” quarterback Josh Allen from Sunday Night Football.
Reminder that the Packers exercised Darnell Savage’s fifth-year option pic.twitter.com/Wm0BtqfvhR— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) October 31, 2022
The All-22 angle doesn’t look much better for Savage.
Time for a new safety, @packers. pic.twitter.com/dXhDQh2DHI— Daire Carragher (@DaireCarragher) October 31, 2022
The hope was that Savage would eventually develop into a better tackler, as his man skills were on par with a cornerback. Every offseason has come with perpetual “this is the year” hype for Savage, just for him to look like the same player once the regular season kicks off. With the change in the system and backup safety Rudy Ford looking like a solid enough player, it might be time for the team to see if they can find Savage a better home in exchange for draft compensation.
There’s precedent for this. In 2018, the Packers — then 3-3-1 — sent former first-round safety Ha Ha Clinton Dixon, who was on an expiring contract, to Washington for a fourth-round pick. Savage isn’t in the final year of his deal, as the team has picked up his fifth-year option, but they might want to avoid being on the hook for the $7.9 million guaranteed he’s due in 2023. Because Savage isn’t on a long-term contract, the only way for Green Bay to lower his cap hit without giving him an extension would be by adding void years onto his deal and converting his salary into a signing bonus. That would only push his cap hits into the future. The team has very little leverage in this situation.
For a point of reference, the Packers are already set to be over the cap in 2023 and have players like receiver Allen Lazard, offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, tight end Robert Tonyan and safety Adrian Amos set to his free agency. That nearly $8 million could go a long way for Green Bay, if they’re willing to accept the fact that they’re staring down an uphill climb to sneak into the NFC playoffs as even the seventh seed.