The Green Bay Packers added 13 players in the NFL Draft and GM Brian Gutekunst tried to address the team’s many needs up and down the roster. But even after the draft, there is one position that remains the most unsettled on the roster: safety.
As of right now, the Packers lack clear cut and proven starters at the position and there is much uncertainty regarding who will play what role.
Heading into the draft, safety was considered a major need for the Packers, but this year’s class at safety was not considered very strong. The Packers had a chance to draft Brian Branch of Alabama, the top-rated safety in this year’s draft in the second round with either the 42nd or 45th picks. They instead chose tight end Luke Musgrave with the first pick and then traded the 45th selection to the Lions who chose Branch at that point. Branch apparently didn’t meet the athletic standards Gutekunst prefers especially in the early rounds of the draft.
The Packers did add one safety in the draft, but it wasn’t until the final round when they added Anthony Johnson, Jr. of Iowa State. While he was a great value at pick 242, it would be asking a lot of Johnson to start in his rookie campaign in the NFL.
The Packers eight other players on the roster who are listed at safety and that doesn’t include last year’s 7th round pick, Tariq Carpenter, who will be moving to inside linebacker.
As of now, the two at the top of the depth chart are Darnell Savage and Rudy Ford. Savage is a former first-round draft pick who started as a rookie and has really had his ups and downs since joining the Packers.
The Maryland alum was at his best in the second half of the 2020 season when he was consistently making big plays and looking like a potential Pro Bowler. But since then, his play has tailed off and he has been more inconsistent.
By the midway point of the 2022 season, Savage was benched for poor tackling and poor play in the secondary. He returned to the lineup after injuries struck and played a little better in the final few games of the year, but he is on shaky ground at best as a starter. In addition, Savage is now playing on his fifth-year option and may not be back with the team in 2024 if he doesn’t pick up his game.
The other starter potentially right now is Rudy Ford. Ford got six starts late in the season when Savage was benched and had a career-high three interceptions. While he showed some flashes of ability, the six starts were also a career high and prior to 2022, Ford was considered more of a special teams ace. Even last season, opposing quarterbacks had a 106.7 quarterback rating when throwing to receivers covered by Ford according to pro-football-reference.com.
The other safeties on the roster are all either inexperienced and/or have played only on special teams. Right now, they include Dallin Leavitt, Tarvarius Moore, James Wiggins, Christian Morgan, Benny Sapp III and Innis Gaines.
The Packers may look for veteran help. After the draft, Gutekunst indicated he may even bring back last year’s other starter, Adrian Amos, who had a down year in 2022 after three solid years as a starter for the Packers.
When asked after the draft about the possibility of bringing back Amos, who remains an unrestricted free agent, Gutekunst said, “We’re not going to close the door on that. Obviously, he’s done such a nice job for us in the last four years. We’ve been in communication with him along the way, and we will see where that goes. Adrian, he’s played at a high level for a long time and played at a high level for us last year, so we won’t close the door on that.”
The problem is, the Packers don’t have a lot of cap space so would Amos be willing to come back and play for much less money than he’s earned previously?
Other players may be cut after June 1st or even in training camp which may give Gutekunst other options, although none of them would know the Packers defense as well as Amos does.
While the Packers addressed most of their needs in the draft, safety remains a big question mark as they head into OTAs.
As head coach Matt LaFleur said, “Time will tell. That’s another position that is going to be fluid, I’m sure. We are always going to try to do what’s best for us to go out and compete at our best level and win football games.”
The NFL Draft is over, but the safety position remains unsettled.
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