Packers: Evaluating each position on defense ahead of free agency

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Clay Matthews
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Clay Matthews /
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The biggest question for this position is if Morgan Burnett will be back. In a normal situation, he is worth more to the Packers than another team. But with the change to Pettine and not knowing the value he places on the safety position, it makes it hard to gauge Burnett’s importance to the Packers.

Each player is getting a fresh start within the defense. Burnett can still provide a major experience upgrade over what is currently on the roster. So the question then becomes at what price does Gutekunst feel comfortable with bringing him back into the fold.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took a step back this season but is still only a year removed from being a Pro Bowl safety. Many questioned his effort towards the end of last year. My hope is he uses that as fuel to a turnaround season. He still has the play-making ability to be a top safety in the NFL. It is up to him to put last season behind him and play more like the player we saw in 2016.

Kentrell Brice showed he can be a solid player for the Packers. Even though an injury cut this season short he still can carve out a role in Pettine’s D. He has better than average speed for a safety and provided some hard hits to receivers across the middle. Brice can provide depth behind Clinton-Dix and Burnett should he return and be in the mix for the other starting spot should Burnett not come back.

Josh Jones has the speed and size you want in a safety. His problem this past year was possibly having too much thrown at him at once. Jones bounced back and forth between nitro backer and safety early in the season. He was out of position far too often and lacked a feel for the deep half of the field in coverage.

Jones could also be a candidate to start should Burnett leave. He may also find himself opening up at inside linebacker. Whatever the case, his size-to-speed ratio can have an impact on this defense. If Jones can be more fundamentally sound in his all-around game, the Packers could have a difference-maker.

Marwin Evans showed promise when pressed into action and played a key role on special teams.  The Packers have a decent backup option and special teams player in Evans.

Verdict: Coaching, coaching, coaching. Whether or not Burnett is back is the big question. Burnett was a valued leader on defense and became a jack of all trades in the secondary the last two years. I feel this is where the new GM may take a hardline approach. Set his price and let him leave if he feels his value is more.

Safety is a position of growing importance in today’s game but the top pick in this draft would be better spent on an outside pass rusher or cornerback.

The Packers can’t find themselves in the same position they were in after Nick Collins‘ injury and letting Charles Woodson leave. A team with playoff aspirations can’t spend the next two to three years looking for a viable replacement for Burnett.

Jones or Brice have to step up should Burnett leave.

Clinton-Dix must also follow through on the promise of the 2016 season and put 2017 behind him.

It wouldn’t surprise me if a draft pick or veteran was brought in should Burnett leave. But overall, the continued development of those already on roster should provide the Packers with options.