Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones continues to break news in free agency regarding his former teammates. Unfortunately for the Packers, Jones does not have good news regarding the team’s highest-profile unrestricted free agent.
Late Monday night, Jones reported that safety Morgan Burnett is headed to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to finalize a contract with the Steelers. Jones’ report was confirmed by his colleague at NFL Network, Ian Rapoport, this morning.
Burnett will become the first shoe to drop on the free agent safety market, which has been particularly quiet through the first week of free agency. Terms of the deal are not yet known, but we expect to hear more as the day goes along.
After the Packers re-signed wideout Davante Adams and center Corey Linsley prior to week 17 of last season, Burnett became the team’s most prominent free agent-to-be. He signed a four-year contract extension from the Packers in 2013, making the 2018 offseason his first opportunity as a free agent, at age 29. Burnett is also viewed by most analysts as the top safety remaining on the market following Tyrann Mathieu’s signing with the Houston Texans and Lamarcus Joyner receiving the franchise tag from the Los Angeles Rams.
Burnett played a versatile role for the Packers over the past two years, lining up at safety, slot cornerback, and linebacker. The team used rookie Josh Jones in a similar role last season, though they were forced to play him primarily at safety following a season-ending injury to Kentrell Brice.
The Packers’ secondary now looks like an even bigger question mark with Burnett departing, as the front office has so far failed to land any free agent signings at the cornerback or safety positions. There remain plenty of free agent safeties on the market, and a player like Eric Reid could play a similar role to Burnett’s. Meanwhile, the cornerback market is drying up, with Ross Cockrell looking like the best remaining option but seemingly drawing little interest. The Packers may be forced to look to the 2018 NFL Draft for help in the secondary, though there are a few extremely talented players like Derwin James or Denzel Ward who may be available when the Packers go on the clock with the 14th overall selection.