Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2015 season. Today, we examine the safeties. Follow along with all of our positional breakdowns here.
The Packers have two safeties facing free agency this season. Chris Banjo will have to see if the Packers tender an offer sheet. Sean Richardson is the player who presented the far greater ceiling in terms of ability. Richardson is 6'2", strong and athletic. Banjo is 5'10", tough and a special teams leader. Richardson has been snake-bit by injuries in his career. After patiently waiting on Richardson through his rookie contract the Packers made sure to hold on to him through offers from other teams. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett locked in as the starters, these two players are looking to land as depth in this secondary.
Years Accrued: Two
Status: Exclusive-Rights Free Agent
Expiring Contract: one year $585,000
Stats: 15 solo tackles, 1 asst., 0 PD, 0 INT
Banjo was elected a team captain for the playoffs as a representative for the special teams, where he has great value as a very good special teams player. In this role, Banjo was offered the league minimum last year. As much fun as it is to yell "Banjo!" when watching him make a great special teams play, Banjo has a limited ceiling - this is who he is. Banjo has managed 33 solo tackles and three passes defensed in three seasons.
At the end of the day, we have watched Jeff Janis surpass Banjo in flashy special teams plays. Banjo has not been a lock to make this team in any season he has played. There is realistically no free agent market for Banjo, as the Packers can retain him with a qualifying offer. If not offered, he could land on some other team, but it would only be in the same role he currently plays in Green Bay. He is worth bringing to Training Camp and he will come cheap on a league-minimum salary. Banjo is tough and he is a hard worker, but we have already seen what his best looks like.
Years accrued: Four
Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Expiring Contract: One year, $2.55 million ($1.35 million bonus + $200K roster bonus)
Stats: 4 solo tackles
Richardson ended the season on Injured Reserve, another tough blow to a player who struggled back from neck fusion surgery (the sort of thing that ended Jermichael Finley's career and Nick Collins' as well). Richardson did enough to get a fairly large contract offer from the Raiders last year, which the Packers matched as he was a Restricted Free Agent. Sadly, Richardson had more issues with his neck last year.
The Packers are known for being very careful medically. The Packers were willing to stay with Richardson through his first surgery, a recovery that was long, difficult, and far from certain. It seems a stretch to think the Packers would bring him back again. At this point, the Packers would not have to cut Richardson, just sit patiently and see if he can get back to the football field. This would be very much the approach taken with both Finley and Collins. Count on the Packers hanging back in contract negotiations.