Packers position outlook: Safeties

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
12:00
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This is the final installment of our position-by-position look at what the Green Bay Packers have and what they need.

We can revisit this process before the draft based on what -- if anything -- general manager Ted Thompson does in free agency.

Previously, we’ve looked at quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, offensive tackles, centers/guards, defensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks.

Next up, safeties:

2014 free agents: M.D. Jennings (restricted free agent).

The good: This is going to be a short description. Sean Richardson returned from a neck injury that was once feared to be career-ending and made some late-season contributions when it became clear the Packers weren't happy with Jennings' play. Otherwise, there wasn’t much else that this group provided, so let’s get right to the next category.

Burnett
The bad: Last summer, Thompson signed Morgan Burnett to a four-year, $24.75 million contract extension that included an $8.25 million signing bonus because he believed Burnett was going to be the defense’s next big playmaker. It didn’t happen. Burnett failed to come up with a single interception -- in fact the entire safety group did not pick off a pass in 2013 -- and also gave up four touchdowns passes and allowed completions 71.4 percent of the time he was targeted, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He also missed 11 tackles, second-most on the team. As much as he struggled, his partner for most of the season, Jennings, might have been worse. He allowed completions 88.9 percent of the time he was targeted and gave up five touchdowns. He also missed nine tackles. Undersized Chris Banjo got some playing time early in the season, but didn't do enough to hold a spot. So did Jerron McMillian, who was cut late in the year.

The money: Burnett is due a roster bonus of $1.5 million in mid-March, and while it’s likely the Packers will pay it and retain him, he will count $4.9 million on next year’s salary cap. Richardson, a undrafted free agent, will make the league minimum for a third-year player ($570,000).

Draft priority: Unless Thompson makes a move in free agency, there’s probably no higher priority in the draft. In his most recent mock draft, Mel Kiper Jr. has the Packers taking Louisville safety Calvin Pryor with the 21st overall pick. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Thompson take more than one safety after ignoring the position in last year's draft.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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