The Green Bay Packers had a strong showing from their defense in 2015; in fact, it became the strength of the team, and the main reason the Packers were in the majority of their games during the latter half of the season.
The main strength of that defense was a surprisingly excellent young secondary.
This group was missing one of their members for most of the season however, someone Green Bay thought highly enough of to bring back after he hit free agency in the prior offseason. That player is Sean Richardson.
Sean Richardson 2015 stats
- 3 games played; 48 defensive snaps (4.59 percent of team total); 50 special teams snaps (11.06 percent of team total)
- 4 Tackles
Pro Football Focus Ratings*
53.9 (overall); 56.0 (coverage), 50.7 (run defense), 58.0 (pass rush)
Richardson is a talented player who’s had a nice role with the Packers in his time on the roster. He’s been a key contributor on special teams, as well as a big part of specialized packages the defense runs (specifically the “Big Okie” package, which uses three safeties). Those contributions made him worth bringing back, even though that required matching a $2.55 million deal offered by the Raiders last season; for a part-time guy, that is a bit higher of a price tag than a team might want to pay.
Price isn’t the issue with Richardson though; it is his health that is the problem.
Richardson suffered a neck injury this past season, one that required surgery. On the surface that may not seem like much — players get injured all the time all over their bodies — but neck injuries are particularly troublesome.
I’m sure most of you don’t need to be reminded, but similar injuries are what cut short the careers of Nick Collins and Jermichael Finley. It also is something that almost ended Richardson’s career before.
Coming back from something like this once is equal parts admirable and unlikely. Twice? That’s practically a pipe dream.
Still, his future hasn’t been sealed as of yet. Fortunately for Richardson, the first surgery was lower on his neck than those of Collins and Finley (when dealing with injuries to the neck and spine, lower is better). The second one appears to be the same deal.
This hopefully means he can continue his career. When healthy, Richardson is a decent player that can help allow a defense to showcase multiple looks while also contributing on special teams.
Outside of this neck problem, he’s stayed relatively injury-free (he finished off the 2013 season and all the 2014 season after returning from his initial neck problems, then only went out due to this 2nd one), so if he can put this behind him there isn’t much else to worry about on that front (based on the reports regarding it, this isn’t necessarily something that has much history of recurrence in most cases).
Should the team doctors give the go-ahead, there shouldn’t be much precluding a return.
The only questions then would be if the Packers still want him, and at what price.
As mentioned before, he had to be brought back at a pay rate higher than what Green Bay may have really wanted him at due to the Raiders offering him a contract while tendered. In light of having another neck injury crop up, they may decide it isn’t worth bringing him back at the veteran’s minimum, much less the value he garnered in restricted free agency a year ago.
They already have two stellar starters at safety in Morgan Burnett and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, and multiple players who can spend time at safety in a pinch (Micah Hyde, Damarious Randall). They also have their usual cache of draft picks, which likely includes two 4th-round compensatory picks, so they can always pursue some more cheap, young talent through those means. Don’t forget undrafted free agency as well; they’ve found countless guys there before — including Richardson himself.
If he does manage to return, I would be all for it. I have liked what he’s brought the team when he’s on the field, and overcoming a career-threatening injury not just once, but twice, is quite commendable, the kind of feel-good story we all love to see in sports.
He is facing some monumental odds however, and I’ve seen enough from this team though to know that they are extremely meticulous when it comes to injuries, especially those regarding players’ necks and spines.
Feel-good stories are nice, but if they have any inclination that this could be something that has potentially hazardous long-term problems for the man, they won’t bring him back. Since this kind of thing has already happened to him once, it is hard to sell me on the idea that that won’t weigh heavily in their decision-making.
With that in mind, Richardson’s time on the Packers is probably done.
*Pro Football Focus’ ratings go from 0-100; 0-59 = replaceable, 60-69 = backup, 70-84 = starter, 85-89 = Pro Bowler, 90-100 = Elite