The Green Bay Packers saw a key free agent — probably their best player hitting the market — lured away on Tuesday. Safety Morgan Burnett reportedly has finalized a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, making him one of the first safeties to sign for 2018. However, the dollar amount of that deal should leave Packers fans scratching their heads as to why the Green and Gold did not appear to make a more significant offer.
According to Ian Rapoport, Burnett’s contract with the Steelers is for just $14.5 million over three years, an average of less than $5 million per year.
That is a stunning drop from Burnett’s earlier reported asking price of $8.5 million annually, which the Packers were unlikely to match. However, this contract value seems like a good deal for the Steelers and one should be concerning to Packers fans.
Green Bay has just over $20 million in salary cap space for 2018, according to the NFLPA’s most recent estimates. That number already accounts for the contracts given to Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson. With the understanding that the 2018 rookie class will likely account for only about $3-4 million in effective cap space, it is puzzling and surprising that the Packers were reportedly “never close” to retaining him, according to one team beat writer.
To be sure, the Packers have other needs and priorities in free agency, with cornerback remaining at the top of the list. They even appear to have a ready-made successor to Burnett in second-year pro Josh Jones, who played a similar versatile role to Burnett’s throughout much of the season. However, it remains a surprise to see a player who was universally praised in the locker room and by the coaching staff and who still played a valuable role walking away for such an affordable contract elsewhere.