In fact, he’s started all 36 games in which he’s been eligible to play in during his short career. In doing so he has quickly developed a reputation as a reliable mainstay for the Packers and he’s blossoming into the clear leader of a fairly young group of safeties.
For a unit that has experienced more turmoil than success in recent seasons that’s nothing short of a blessing.
The Green Bay secondary has struggled mightily in recent seasons to replace the leadership and ball hawking skills of Nick Collins (who was lost to injury and then retirement in 2011) and endured the rapid decline of Charles Woodson who broke his collarbone twice and clearly lost a step as he made the transition to safety from cornerback, Burnett’s ascent, then, couldn’t have come at a better time.
Burnett, a third round draft pick in 2010 out of Georgia Tech, overcame an ACL tear early in his career to turn in his best statistical season. He registered 122 total tackles and 2 interceptions and if he continues to play at that level he should start to garner strong consideration as one of the better safeties in the NFC – if not the entire NFL.
Burnett achieved multiple performance-escalator salary incentives that were established in his contract during 2012 with his iron man campaign. And as he’s become the best safety on the roster it’s become a priority for Ted Thompson to try and lock him up with a long-term extension.
According to Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com, the Packers are in fact reportedly working on just that.
Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports sent out a Tweet early Thursday morning that Green Bay was “trying to hammer out” a “new deal” with the ex-Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.
Given Burnett’s fit in the defense, his ability to make plays and his burgeoning reliability, signing him to a lengthy deal would cement his place as the face of the safety unit and solidify a young group that desperately needs to gain consistency. Another topic for discussion which remains to be seen is who will start alongside him at the other safety spot in 2013.
In Green Bay’s base 3-4 the options are M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Sean Richardson and even rookie cornerback/safety hybrid Micah Hyde. He was drafed out of Iowa largely because of his versatility and ability to play the run.
Ultimately, if the Packers hope to shed its soft defensive reputation, keeping Burnett around for the foreseeable future to aid in that effort makes perfect sense.