Earlier today, ESPN’s Rob Demovksy, via agent Seth Katz, broke the news that the Green Bay Packers will pick up the fifth-year option for safety Darnell Savage, a first-round pick from the 2019 draft class. Savage was picked 21st overall and was the team’s second selection of the draft behind Michigan pass-rusher Rashan Gary, who according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport will also have his fifth-year option exercised.
Like Savage, Gary was a starter on the 2021 defense, flashing the potential of a Pro Bowl talent as he has gradually improved each year he has been in Green Bay. Prior to 2021, Gary recorded seven sacks and four starts over two years with the team, but the former 12th overall pick stepped up big in absence of Za’Darius Smith, who dealt with a back injury all of the last regular season. Gary broke out with a 9.5-sack season that saw Gary develop into the team’s primary pass-rushing threat in his first year as a starter.
With Smith now in Minnesota, it made sense for the team to commit another year to Gary as they likely attempt to work out a long-term contract before the 2023 regular season. Currently, cornerback Jaire Alexander is slated to play on his fifth-year option, though reports claim that the two sides are attempting to reach a multi-year deal before the season kicks off.
Heading into this offseason, there were questions about what Green Bay’s edge rushers would look like in 2022, with the potential of Preston Smith, who has started for the team over the last three seasons, becoming a cap casualty. Smith has since signed a four-year extension with the team that could have him playing with the Packers until 2027.
Depth at the position is still needed, with Green Bay picking an inside linebacker and interior defensive lineman on the first day of the draft, but there is still plenty of talent that the team can add on Day 2. While wide receiver is always going to be noted as the roster’s biggest hole, pass-rushing depth behind Gary and Smith, which was thin last year after Smith and Whitney Mercilus went down to injury, shouldn’t be overlooked as the draft continues.