The Green Bay Packers appear to be in the market for help at the safety position. Whether that happens through free agency or the draft, it is a good bet that the depth chart at that spot will look very different than it did to close the 2018 season. However, any efforts to upgrade through free agency in 2019 just got more difficult.
Last offseason, the safety market was in disarray. A single safety received the franchise tag, as the Rams elected to pay Lamarcus Joyner like an elite player at just over $11 million. However, only one player who actually reached the open free agent market got a contract worth $7 million per year: Tyrann Mathieu, who was a cap casualty in Arizona and landed on a one-year deal with the Houston Texans for that number. A few other safeties signed contract extensions in the $6 to $6.5 million per year range, but they were all entering the final year of their rookie contracts at the time. In fact, only one other free agent safety — Kurt Coleman — even exceeded $5 million, signing a three-year deal with the Saints worth $16.35 million total.
This year, however, the market is set for a massive rebound, and the first domino fell on Monday afternoon. Eric Reid, who signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Carolina Panthers a few weeks into the 2018 season, has just defined the market in 2019 by signing a new contract extension. Reid’s new contract will run for three years through the 2021 season and will reportedly pay him a bit over $22 million total — just over $7 million per season.
Suddenly, we’re looking at a bounce-back of the safety market. Admittedly, the crop of safeties hitting free agency in 2018 was a relatively disappointing one. Mathieu, Coleman, and Morgan Burnett were the highest-paid of the bunch, while many speculated that Reid’s wait to sign and low contract value were connected to his demonstrations against social injustice during the national anthem and his support for former teammate Colin Kaepernick.
In 2019, however, the situation is very different. Earl Thomas and Landon Collins, two former first-team All-Pros, are both scheduled to be free agents in March. So too is Joyner, who appears unlikely to receive a franchise tag for a second straight season, and Mathieu, who so far has not re-signed with the Texans. Other notable names like Corey Graham, Tre Boston, Mike Adams, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix should also be on the market.
For the top options like Thomas, Collins, and Joyner, they now have a data point for where to start in their negotiations with NFL teams when the negotiation window begins on March 11th. The agents for all of those players will surely value their clients above the $7.3 million per year mark that Reid’s deal will pay him, and they may all push for something north of $10 million annually.
For the Packers, that’s a hefty price to pay. However, that may just be the price of doing business with one of the top safeties in this year’s free agent class.