Green Bay Packers: M.D. Jennings

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Last year, Green Bay Packers safeties provided so few impact plays – or "splash plays," as the defensive coaching staff calls them – that any improvement from that position group this season will look prodigious.

So here are the Packers safeties through five games -- the combination of Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (with a slight contribution from Sean Richardson) -- and it's no surprise that they have already blown away last year's season-long production in almost every category.

[+] EnlargeMorgan Burnett
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioMorgan Burnett is leading a resurgent Green Bay Packers secondary.
Consider the comparisons in the following areas for the position:

  • Pass breakups: 14 all of last season to nine already this year (including four by Hyde).
  • Sacks: One this season (by Clinton-Dix) to one all of last season.
  • Interceptions: One this season (by Clinton-Dix) to none all of last season.
  • Forced fumbles: One this season (by Burnett) to none all of last season.

"I like all four of our safeties. I really do," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "We've taken a really positive step at that position. I think that it's an ascending position for us."

How bad were the Packers’ safeties last year?

The two opening day starters – M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian (for an injured Burnett) – are not even in the NFL anymore.

Burnett, who had his worst season in 2013, has benefited from his pairing – whether it be Hyde (who has started every game) or Clinton-Dix (who has played more snaps than Hyde in each of the last two games). In last Thursday's game against the Vikings, Burnett was credited with a team-high 11 tackles (eight of them solo stops) and did not have a single missed tackle, according to ProFootballFocus.com. For the year, Burnett has missed only two tackles after whiffing on 11 in 13 regular-season games last year.

"I thought Morgan played his best game of the year," Capers said. "He was involved, had a lot of production. Was around the line of scrimmage. You saw him finish off the Bears game with a couple real physical tackles, and I thought that carried over into this game. He played a physical game, so I like where he is right now."

Perhaps the best thing about the Packers' safeties is the combination they have with Burnett and Clinton-Dix, who tend to play closer to the line of scrimmage, plus Hyde's coverage ability as a converted cornerback.

"We came into this season wanting to get production, whether that was big hits, interceptions," Hyde said. "Unfortunately, they didn’t get that last year. But this year we're working every day in practice to go out there and be productive – not just do our job right and stuff like that, but to create turnovers for our defense. That's definitely something that we, all season until now, have been trying to do."

Of course, anything would look good compared to last season, when the Packers were the only team in the league that did not get an interception or a forced fumble from their safeties.

"We've only played five games," Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said. "And we haven’t done anything yet, really."

But that's more than they did last season.

Moment in Time: Fail Mary revisited

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
2:00
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SEATTLE -- As painful as the play might have been -- and probably still is -- for Green Bay Packers' fans, the famous Fail Mary touchdown in Seattle nearly two years ago will always have a place in franchise and NFL history.

It will forever be a "Moment in Time," which makes it interesting to revisit the play through the key figures involved in one of the most controversial endings pro football has ever seen. You can do that by clicking on the link above.

What you will find is anger, jubilation, humor and much more from the play's central characters, including the official who made the touchdown call.

Here are some highlights from each:
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was standing next to team security head Doug Collins while the play was being review: "And I remember talking to Doug saying, 'Hey, they're not playing the replay here. We're going to be fine.' But I had this weird feeling. It reminded me a little bit of the Immaculate Reception. I remember [referee] Wayne [Elliott] comes walking out to the boundary, and I said to Doug, 'Holy s---. He doesn't have the balls to overturn it.' He was scared to death. He looked nervous."
  • Side judge Lance Easley, who made the touchdown call: "I said, 'Oh God, please when I get over to that pile, let someone have clear possession of the ball.' I got over there and looked down, and it was like a meatball with spaghetti wrapped all around it. … By rule, I got it right. By rule, there's nothing else I could do with it."
  • Then-Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who caught the touchdown: "I actually have a bottle of wine signed by Charles Woodson that says 'Touch-ception' or something like that. M.D. Jennings signed a picture that I also have that says something, but I forgot what it says; I haven't looked at it in a while."
  • Then-Packers safety M.D. Jennings, who thought he intercepted it and said he signed autographs with the postscript "Screwed in Seattle" on pictures for Packers' fans: "It's what they wanted. I did it. The fans loved it."
  • Packers cornerback Sam Shields, who said he knew immediately who had shoved him as the ball was in the air (an act the NFL later said should have been called offensive pass interference): "It was Tate."
  • Packers cornerback Tramon Williams: "I'm looking at M.D., who's got it and has got it against his chest, and I'm saying to myself, 'We won the game.' And you look up at the referee, and you want to get that validation. You look up at the referee, and those guys are looking around like they don't know, and then they call it a touchdown, and it's like, 'No, no, this can't happen.'"
  • Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: "What I liked is Golden had the ball lying on the ground. I know he had the ball on the ground. When do you call it a catch? [Easley] looked down and that's what he saw, so he gave him a touchdown. It was a tremendous play by their guy and our guy, and that's the way he saw it."
  • Seahawks receiver Charly Martin, who also was in the scrum for the ball: "I take a lot of flak, being the white guy who can't jump, because there are some pretty good pictures out there where I am about two inches off the ground and everyone else is skyrocketing over me. I just tell them, 'Hey, they used me. They used me as a springboard.' I kind of boxed them out for Golden, and they pushed me down."
  • Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the man who heaved the pass: "Everybody was a target. I was able to find a player in the back of the end zone and hit him."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on Saturday, we will break down each position group.

Next up, the safeties.

Returning players: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo.

Gone from last season: M.D. Jennings.

New this season: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (first-round pick), Charles Clay (undrafted rookie), Tanner Miller (undrafted rookie).

Position coach: Darren Perry (sixth season).

Biggest issue: The last time the Packers got an interception from one of their safeties was Dec. 2, 2012, when Burnett twice picked off Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. They have gone 23 straight games (including a playoff) without one. Priority number one for this group is to force turnovers. That's why the Packers decided not to re-sign Jennings and made it a priority to get Hyde on the field more often. Although he played exclusively as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, Hyde spent this entire offseason working at safety. And it's why they used their first-round pick on Clinton-Dix.

Hyde
Player to watch: With much of the offseason focus on Hyde's position switch and Clinton-Dix, Richardson flew under the radar. But the third-year pro, who missed more than half of last season while recovering from neck surgery, has shown signs of his playmaking ability this offseason. During one of the open organized team activities, he picked off an Aaron Rodgers' deep pass that was intended for Jarrett Boykin during a no-huddle team period.

Medical report: This entire group is expected to be healthy heading in to training camp.

Help wanted: This is one of the few starting jobs that is truly up for grabs. Hyde worked with the No. 1 defensive throughout the offseason while Clinton-Dix learned defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme. It would seemingly be only a matter of time before the first-round pick ends up with a starting job, but Hyde has adjusted well enough to his new position that it could be a close battle.

Quotable: "He's a talented player but he's young; he still has a ways to go," Perry said of Clinton-Dix. "You don't want to get too excited now, but you saw some things that you liked from him watching the tape. Again, he's still learning and there's still a thought process that he has to go through before he can let loose. Time will allow that to happen."

Previous installments

July 14: Quarterbacks

July 15: Running backs

July 16: Receivers

July 17: Tight ends

July 18: Offensive line

July 21: Defensive line

July 22: Linebackers

July 23: Cornerbacks
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.
Demovsky: If organized team activities and minicamp are any indication -- and considering they are practices in shorts and helmets, they may not be -- it would appear rookie Richard Rodgers might have the inside track. His size (6-foot-4, 257 pounds) and athleticism stood out during the offseason practices. At least once a practice, he made an eye-catching play in the passing game, and coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers at the conclusion of minicamp this week that "if there was one thing that jumped off for a rookie in the offseason program, I would say he was very productive." Now, he got more reps because returning starter Andrew Quarless did not practice at all this offseason, but Rodgers took advantage. He will have to show that he can be an effective blocker once the pads come on in training camp, but at this point he might be in the lead. Demovsky: That is one of the great mysteries of this offseason, along with why linebacker Nick Perry was sidelined. Quarless indeed finished last season healthy and was the starter after Jermichael Finley's early-season injury. Quarless never made an appearance in the locker room during the media availability periods, and McCarthy does not have to disclose injury information -- and usually does not -- during the offseason. We may have to wait until training camp to find out. Demovsky: It has to be the secondary, right? Anytime you add a first-round pick at a position, he better make an impact, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks the part so far. Even if Clinton-Dix does not start right away, the feeling is that the safety position will be upgraded if for no other reason than M.D. Jennings, who started the last 26 games at free safety, is out. Most feel Micah Hyde would be an upgrade at safety, too. Plus, the entire cornerback group has returned. If there's one major question on defense, it has to be whether the inside linebacker group can improve without any significant personnel additions. Demovsky: It's highly unlikely Randall Cobb would agree to such a deal. His agent surely knows what Cobb could attract on the open market. In fact, a recent sampling of opinions around the league by colleague Mike Sando found that Cobb would be one of the most coveted receivers in a deep free-agent class, so why would Cobb settle for that kind of contract? Now, things could change if he were to sustain another injury before he signs his next deal but at this point, it appears he will be in line for a deal with significant up-front money. Note: There will be no mailbag next week because I will be on vacation. Mailbags may be sporadic between now and the start of training camp, but there will be fresh content every day on the Packers' page so please check in on a daily basis. 
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Whatever the reasons Morgan Burnett was shut out in the interception department last season, don't blame it on the $24.75 million contract extension he signed last July with the Green Bay Packers.

The fifth-year safety insists he did not put any pressure on himself to justify that contract, which contained an $8.25 million signing bonus.

"No, not at all," Burnett said this week during OTAs. "You're obligated to come in and do a job, and that's my job as a safety, to try to come in and be the best safety that I can possibly be."

Burnett
Then why did Burnett – and the rest of the Packers' safeties – fail to come up with a single interception last season?

The Packers were the only team in the NFL that did not get an interception from a safety in 2013.

"When you turn on the film, everyone did what they were supposed to do," Burnett said. "You do your job. With interceptions, you've got to understand that's going to come. And when they come, they come in bunches. So you just stick to doing your job, staying in position, don't go chasing plays because that's when you start looking bad. So there's no pressure with that. The only thing we do is line up, play the defense, and the interceptions will come."

For their part, the Packers' coaches have backed Burnett. Safeties coach Darren Perry called Burnett “still a young player, ascending.” And earlier this offseason coach Mike McCarthy said believes Burnett will make more impact plays this season.

Perhaps the problem was that the Packers failed to find a capable safety to pair with Burnett. When they drafted him in the third round in 2010, they envisioned a long-lasting pairing with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, whose career ended because of a 2011 neck injury.

M.D. Jennings started the last 26 regular-season games next to Burnett and the Packers thought so little of his play that when he became a restricted free agent this offseason, they did not bother to offer him even the minimum contract tender. Jennings then signed a one-year, minimum deal with the Chicago Bears.

This offseason, the Packers have tried cornerback Micah Hyde at safety and used their first-round pick on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. One of those two will be expected to start next to Burnett.

However, Burnett refuses to blame anyone or anything on his inability to make more big plays.

"There's no excuses," Burnett said. "Everybody has to come in and collectively get the job done."

Packers offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Green Bay Packers' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeDom Capers
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsDespite the Packers' defense ranking in the bottom third of the league at the end of the 2013 season, the team has decided to keep coordinator Dom Capers.
Best move: Sometimes, the best moves are ones that do not get made. In this case, not firing defensive coordinator Dom Capers, whose defense collapsed late last season, could prove to be the best thing the Packers did this offseason. Instead, he and coach Mike McCarthy spent several months examining every aspect of the Packers' scheme and personnel and made some changes that could turn out to be successful. They made a commitment to becoming more multiple rather than just playing base on first down, nickel on second down and dime on third down as they did so often last season. McCarthy said he and Capers have installed safeguards that will allow them to vary their defensive packages even if injuries hit as they did last season. That's a far better plan than junking everything Capers built over the past five years and starting over.

Riskiest move: Again, this is something the Packers did not do -- upgrade their inside linebackers. To be fair, the two players in the draft best suited to do that -- Ohio State's Ryan Shazier and Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- were gone by the time the Packers picked at No. 21 in the first round. Last year, the Packers stood pat at the safety position and hoped that they'd find a player among the returning group of M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian and Sean Richardson. It never happened, and the defense suffered because of it. Unless Jamari Lattimore or Sam Barrington made a big jump, it looks as though the Packers are going to stick with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones on the inside.

Most surprising move: You can count on two things from general manager Ted Thompson -- he does not sign flashy, expensive free agents and he will always wheel and deal on draft weekend, usually to acquire more picks. Not anymore. Two months after Thompson wrote a check for a $7.5 million signing bonus to bring in pass-rusher Julius Peppers, he stood pat and used all nine of his original selections during the draft.

Most underrated move: For a team beset by injuries three of the past four seasons, perhaps the most important thing the Packers did this offseason was enter into an agreement with the tech firm Catapult Sports, which helps teams to compile data on athletic exertion as it relates to fatigue/preventable injuries. More than a dozen NFL teams are using Catapult or a similar GPS-based system to monitor players during practice.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's get this out of the way from the top: We know Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson does not draft for need -- or so he says.

But in the months leading up to this week's draft, Thompson and his scouts have spent hundreds of hours not only discussing the prospects who will be available to them but also their current roster and its strengths and weaknesses.

With that in mind, let's break the 12 position groups that make up the roster into four parts based on the following categories of draft needs.

We will define them this way:

Part 1: Negligible -- positions where there is little or no need.

Part 2: Non-essential -- positions where there is a need but it is not paramount to fill.

Part 3: Secondary -- positions where there is a need but not at the critical level.

Part 4: Pressing -- positions where it is imperative that help be found.

On Monday, we looked at the negligible needs, Nos. 10-12. On Tuesday, it was the non-essential needs, Nos. 7-9. On Wednesday, it was the secondary needs, Nos. 4-6.

Finally, the pressing needs.

1. Safety: The Packers thought so little of their 16-game starter at free safety last season, M.D. Jennings, that they did not even offer him a restricted free agent tender, and he signed a one-year, minimum deal with the Bears. Coach Mike McCarthy has said he plans to use Micah Hyde, who played a slot cornerback position last season, at safety this season. But it remains unclear whether that's enough to ignore this position in the draft for a second straight season. The Packers remain committed to strong safety Morgan Burnett, who signed a four-year, $24.75 million contract last July, but his play must improve. There are two sure-fire first-round safeties -- Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor -- but both could be gone by the time the Packers pick at No. 21.

Possible players of interest: Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois; Terrence Brooks, Florida State; Deone Bucannon, Washington State; Brock Vereen, Minnesota.

2. Inside linebacker: A.J. Hawk is coming off perhaps his best season, and the coaches love his durability and leadership. However, the other spot, occupied most of last season by Brad Jones, could be up for grabs even if they don't draft a possible starter. Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington could get a look there. But the Packers could use some speed up the middle of their defense, a weakness that was exposed again in the playoffs by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Possible players of interest: C.J. Mosley, Alabama; Ryan Shazier, Ohio State; Chris Borland, Wisconsin; Preston Brown, Louisville.

3. Tight end: The highest-paid tight end on the roster is Andrew Quarless, who signed a two-year, $3 million contract this offseason. That's hardly starter money anymore. The coaches have high hopes for Brandon Bostick, but he remains a bit of a project. Jermichael Finley is still unsigned, having so far failed to get clearance to return from his neck injury. That still could come, but the Packers probably can't afford to sit around and wait. They'd love a crack at the top tight end, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, but he almost certainly will be gone by the time they pick.

Possible players of interest: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington; Jace Amaro, Texas Tech; Troy Niklas, Notre Dame; C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When ESPN's three days of live draft coverage finally goes off the air Saturday evening, 256 players will have been drafted.

But player acquisition will be far from over.

In fact, some NFL personnel executives have said the most stressful part of draft weekend is the process of signing undrafted free agents as soon as the seventh round finishes.

In a matter of a few hours, some teams sign as many as 20 undrafted rookie free agents. It's a process the Green Bay Packers take seriously. It's why they use many of their allotted pre-draft visits on players likely to go undrafted. They consider it part of the recruiting process.

But they aren't the only ones who actively recruit potential rookie free agents. The Seattle Seahawks distributed a 12-page brochure to agents showing them how the team covets and strongly considers undrafted free agents for its roster.

Among the charts in the brochure is one that shows preseason playing time for undrafted free agents and another with the percentage of undrafted free agents who make the 53-man roster.

In terms of playing time, last preseason, the Seahawks led the league in playing time percentage by undrafted rookies at 36.2 percent, according to their research. The Packers were second at 33.6 percent.

On that page, the Seahawks noted: "If your client doesn't get on the field in the preseason, he'll have a tougher time making that team's roster or any roster at all. Last season, the Seahawks ranked No. 1 in total offensive and defensive playing time by undrafted rookies."

When it comes to making the roster, the Seahawks said 22 percent of their undrafted free agents since 2010 have spent time on their active roster, which ranks eighth in the NFL, and according to the brochure, “the Seahawks have been selective in the number of UDFAs they sign each year. The team has signed 68 of them, which ranks 17th."

The Packers actually have a higher percentage of undrafted free agents who appeared on their active roster at various points during the season since 2010, according to the chart, at 24 percent, which is tied for fourth in the NFL.

The Packers have had at least three undrafted free agents make their opening-day roster each of the last four years. In that time, 13 undrafted free agents have made the Week 1 roster, which is tied for the third most in that span behind only St. Louis (17) and Cleveland (16), according to the Packers.

Here are the undrafted free agents that have made the Packers' roster coming out of training camp the last four years:

2013: S Chris Banjo, OLB Andy Mulumba, Lane Taylor.

2012: T Don Barclay, WR Jarrett Boykin, OLB Dezman Moses, S Sean Richardson.

2011: S M.D. Jennings, LB Jamari Lattimore, OLB Vic So'oto.

2010: G Nick McDonald, CB Sam Shields, OLB Frank Zombo.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Pick after pick crawled across the bottom of television screens last April 25, 26 and 27 and those wondering when the Green Bay Packers would draft a safety got their answer when the 254th -- and final -- pick in the 2013 NFL draft was announced.

Three safeties went in the first round, but none to the Packers.

Two more came off the board in Round 2, but neither was a Packers pick.

[+] EnlargeHa Ha Clinton-Dix
AP Photo/Rogelio SolisHa Ha Clinton-Dix may be available to the Packers when they draft in the first round.
Seventeen more were drafted on the third and final day, yet the Packers still had not filled one of their biggest needs.

That's not to say they went into last year's draft wholly convinced that they didn't need help at the position. But when it came time to exercise each of his selections, there wasn't a safety sitting there that intrigued general manager Ted Thompson enough to make that call.

Thompson liked a few of the safeties in the draft, but the ones he was sold on were either already off the board or would have been a reach at the time of his pick.

So here are the Packers, nearly a year later, and Thompson still has not put pen to paper on a contract for a new safety of any consequence. (And no, street free agent Chris Banjo does not count.)

That has to change next month, when Thompson will take nine selections into the May 8-10 NFL draft, doesn't it?

If Thompson fails to land one of the top, say, five or six safeties in this draft -- be it Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Calvin Pryor of Louisville, both of who are locks to go in the first round; or possible second- and third-round picks like Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois, Deone Bucannon of Washington State or Terrence Brooks of Florida State -- then he will be handcuffing defensive coordinator Dom Capers in much the same fashion he did last season.

Last summer, Capers and coach Mike McCarthy opened the competition at free safety to a pair of second-year players, Jerron McMillian (a 2012 fourth-round round pick) and M.D. Jennings (an undrafted free agent the same year). It was a close competition, more so because neither one stood out, and when strong safety Morgan Burnett was unavailable for the season opener because of a hamstring injury, that duo started Week 1 at the two safety spots.

The Packers thought so little of their performances that they cut McMillian late last season and did not even bother this offseason to offer Jennings a restricted free agent tender, which would not have cost them any guaranteed money.

"Obviously we didn't get the production that we wanted from that [free safety] position," safeties coach Darren Perry said this offseason.

To be sure, the Packers need Burnett to show that Thompson wasn't misguided when he signed him to a four-year, $24.75 million contract last summer.

"I think he's fully capable of doing it," McCarthy said this offseason. "Morgan's going to do everything he can. He needs to be more assertive in play-making opportunities."

In order for Burnett to flourish, he can't be worried about the player lined up next to him. That player was supposed to be Nick Collins, the three-time Pro Bowl safety whose career was cut short in 2011 by a neck injury. At age 30, he still would have been in the prime of his career last season.

If the Packers don't find another Collins, they must at least come close.

Since the team's resurgence in the early 1990s, they have enjoyed a strong group of safeties -- from LeRoy Butler to Darren Sharper to Collins; all were Pro Bowl selections during their time in Green Bay.

The dynamic of the position has changed in recent years. Whereas Butler was a fierce hitter, today's safeties are judged just as much on speed and ball skills as anything else. What NFL teams need now are safeties than can cover chunks of yardage in milliseconds and knock passes away or, better yet, intercept them. The Packers were the only team in the NFL last season that didn't get a single interception from a safety.

"The intimidator isn't necessarily needed anymore," ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said. "The big hitters, you don't need that."

Kiper doesn't believe Clinton-Dix will be around when the Packers come up at No. 21 in the first round, but Pryor very well could be available.

Even if Pryor is gone or Thompson passes on him, he will have other options, says Kiper.

"Jimmy Ward from Northern Illinois you could make an argument is the best cover safety in the draft," Kiper said. "He's coming off the [foot] injury but he had a very good career, has great ball skills, real good hands for the interception. And Ward is a decent tackler, but he doesn't have tremendous size [5-foot-11, 193 pounds].

"The days of that big, intimidating safety are just about over. Terrence Brooks from Florida State would fill that void at that point as a safety that could come in and help you right away."

No matter what Thompson does in the draft, Capers and McCarthy plan to work cornerback Micah Hyde at safety this offseason. Perhaps the fifth-round pick out of Iowa last year will be the full-time answer; he certainly showed enough as a rookie to warrant more than the 39.4 percent playing time he got last year. But if the Packers think Hyde can allow them to concentrate on other areas of need in the draft, they'd better be right.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If there's a common denominator among the Green Bay Packers' free agents that remain unsigned, it's that none played more than 50 percent of the team's snaps last season.

That's in contrast to the six unrestricted free agents the team has re-signed in the last month. Of the six, four were on the field more than half the time last season.

Six of the Packers' unrestricted free agents remain on the market.

In order of playing time from last season, they are:
  • Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (535 snaps, 48.0 percent of the defensive plays)
  • Quarterback Matt Flynn (324, 27.3 percent of the offensive plays)
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (287, 25.7 percent)
  • Tight end Jermichael Finley (252, 21.3 percent)
  • Quarterback Seneca Wallace (58, 5.0 percent)
  • Linebacker Robert Francois (12, 1.1 percent)

Pickett was the only one to appear in every game but he will turn 35 just a month into this coming season, so his time could be over. Flynn is expected to re-sign, and Jolly could too if he recovers from his neck surgery as expected. Francois is still recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon. Finley still has not received medical clearance following his neck surgery, and Wallace will not be re-signed.

Of their own free agents that they re-signed, only two were on the field less than half of the time. They were:
  • Fullback John Kuhn (333 snaps, 28.1 percent of the offensive plays)
  • Running back James Starks (235, 19.8 percent)

Four played well over half the plays. They were:
Also, of the five former Packers' players who signed with other teams, three played more than half the snaps last season.

They were:
The other two were:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The addition of the 34-year-old Julius Peppers might be a short-term fix for the Green Bay Packers' defense.

Peppers
But when it comes to next month's NFL draft, the Packers' most significant free-agent signing since Charles Woodson in 2006 allows general manager Ted Thompson more flexibility with his early-round selections.

So says ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.

"I think it does," Kiper said. "It gives them that hole filler and that pass-rusher that you need."

Even if Peppers is only a one- or two-year player, it gives the Packers the ability to address other areas of need, especially on defense.

"I think safety, tight end, inside linebacker are positions they could address and could end up falling their way and could fill those major needs," Kiper said.

Let's start with safety, a position the Packers have largely ignored over the past year. They're looking for a playmaker to fill a crater-sized hole at free safety. Two players who started at safety last season, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, aren't even on the roster anymore. The Packers let Jennings walk as a restricted free agent and cut McMillian before last season ended.

Kiper believes one of the consensus top-two safeties in the draft could be available to Thompson when the Packers pick at No. 21.

"You look at Calvin Pryor from Louisville; I don't think [Alabama’s Ha Ha] Clinton-Dix will be there, but Calvin Pryor could and he's a heck of a football player," Kiper said.

While Kiper said he doesn't think the top tight end, Eric Ebron of North Carolina, will be there when the Packers pick, it's possible the top inside linebacker, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, will be there.

"You can make an argument he'll go a little earlier," Kiper said of Mosley. "If Mosley and Pryor are there, those would be two guys that fill areas of need and are good football players."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Micah Hyde played only a part-time role last season. Casey Hayward played virtually no role at all.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy expects that to be different this season.

Hayward
Hyde
That could be the next step toward fixing the problems that hampered the secondary last season.

As a rookie, Hyde played 39.4 percent of the defensive snaps, and almost all of it came as either the nickel or dime defensive back covering or blitzing from the slot.

He rarely stepped foot on the field when defensive coordinator Dom Capers employed his base 3-4 scheme.

That, apparently, will change.

"Micah Hyde deserves the opportunity to be an every-down player on our defense," McCarthy told reporters this week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. "And as we go into 2014, that's our responsibility as a coaching staff to create those competitive opportunities for him to get that done. I got to a point in the season where Micah was standing on the sidelines too much."

Hyde has shown a penchant for finding the football even though he dropped what could have been a game-changing interception in the final moments of the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. That's something the Packers lacked, especially from their safeties last season. The Packers were the only team in the NFL last season that did not get an interception from a safety.

They already are assured of fielding a new starting free safety this season. They let 16-game starter M.D. Jennings walk in free agency, opening the door for Hyde to play that spot at least some of the time. He could assume a role similar to the one Charles Woodson played in his final season with the Packers in 2012, when he played safety in the base defense and as a slot corner in the sub packages.

"We're going to give Micah the opportunity to play on all three downs -- whether that's corner, nickel, dime, safety," McCarthy said. "That's the versatility I think he brings to our football team."

Like Hyde, Hayward played almost exclusively in the slot as a rookie in 2012. After leading all rookies with six interceptions in 2012, his second season was a washout. He played only three games because of a recurring hamstring injury that he first pulled on the eve of training camp and which finally ended his season on Nov. 23.

In an interview just days after this past season, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said he had no doubt that Hayward also could line up on the outside as a true cover corner in addition to playing in the slot.

"And he will be given the opportunity to do that," Whitt said.

That plan remains intact.

"I look for Casey to come in and try to compete to be on the field for three downs," McCarthy said this week. "He had a heck of a rookie year. He missed all of last year with an injury. My understanding is he'll be full go once he comes back. But I won't know until we put those guys through physicals when they come back the 22nd [of April for the offseason program]. I would think he'd be ready to go."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Sometimes, NFL players outperform their contracts.

Without tearing up those deals, there is a way for players who fit that description to earn more money. It’s called the NFL's performance-based pay distribution in which each team can allot a total of $3.46 million in additional play to its players.

It typically benefits players in their first NFL contracts or minimum-salaried free-agent signings who become key contributors.

For example, Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick with a base salary of $405,000 last year, will receive an additional $256,882.22 in performance-based pay, according to documents obtained by ESPN.com. Bakhtiari started every game last season as a rookie. He received the largest pay increases among Packers' players. According to the NFL, those payments will be made on April 1, 2016.

The smallest distribution to a Packers' player went to backup tackle Derek Sherrod, who will receive $2,154.55. He was active for seven games but only took six snaps on offense all season.

Here’s a list of the top-10 and bottom-10 performance-based bonuses on the Packers’ roster:

Top 10
Bottom 10
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – It won't soothe fans clamoring for the Packers to make some free-agent moves, but they should know general manager Ted Thompson did not take this week off.

In fact, it sounds like he has been rather busy -- or busier than usual in free agency.

At least two more players who signed with other teams this week revealed that they had drawn interest from the Packers. Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Al Woods was scheduled to visit the Packers on Thursday but he never made out of it Tennessee, according to the Tennessean newspaper, because he agreed to a deal with the Titans.

Likewise, former Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday, told FoxSports.com that the Packers were among the teams that expressed an interest.

Earlier in the week, new Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Red Bryant, who was released by the Seattle Seahawks, revealed he also had a visit scheduled with the Packers that he never made.

Here's a recap of the rest of the Packers-related happenings from Day 2 of free agency, with a little perspective added in:
  • At the start of Day 2, the Packers were one of 12 teams that had not signed another team's free agent. By day's end, that list was down to seven, including the Packers.
  • The Packers set up one visit for this week. Former Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels is scheduled to come to Green Bay. Daniels played collegiately at nearby Wisconsin. He's coming off a broken leg that ended his 2013 season after only five games.
  • M.D. Jennings' departure -- he signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears on Wednesday -- ensured the Packers will have a new starting free safety next season. Jennings, who started every game last season, wasn't even offered a restricted free agent tender by the Packers, meaning his departure was not a surprise.
  • The Packers re-signed another of their own free agents, outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal. He agreed to a two-year deal. His return could give the defense more flexibility because of his versatility.
  • There was no word out of Seattle about the visit by tight end Jermichael Finley on Wednesday. The Seahawks were expected to put Finley through a medical exam to see whether they would clear him following his neck fusion surgery from last fall. It's unclear whether the fact that he wasn't immediately signed had anything to do with his medical situation.
Jennings
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's official: The Green Bay Packers will have a new starting free safety next season.

We don't know who it will be, but we know it won't be M.D. Jennings.

After starting every game for the Packers last season, Jennings wasn't even offered a restricted free-agent tender before Tuesday's deadline. On Wednesday, he signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears.

Given how ineffective Jennings was last season, the decision not to tender him was expected. Although Jennings was a full-time starter last season, the Packers tried to replace him at various points, using Chris Banjo early in the season and Sean Richardson late in the year.

Jennings was part of a safety group that failed to come up with a single interception last season. The Packers were the only team in the NFL that did not get an interception from one of their safeties in 2013.

Jennings, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent from Arkansas State, will be best remembered for being on the wrong end of the Fail Mary play against the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. Jennings thought he intercepted a pass that instead was ruled the game-winning touchdown by Golden Tate.

The Packers were not involved in any of the first wave of safeties to sign shortly after free agency opened Tuesday. Six safeties -- Donte Whitner, T.J. Ward, Antoine Bethea, Malcolm Jenkins, Jairus Byrd and Mike Mitchell -- all signed significant contracts within the first 24 hours of free agency with Byrd's deal (six years, $64 million with the New Orleans Saints) topping the market.

Last month at the scouting combine, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Micah Hyde likely will play some at safety this season, but it's unclear if the second-year defensive back will make a full-time transition from cornerback.

Jennings might not be the only Packers player on the Bears’ radar. According to the Chicago Tribune, they have interest in Packers outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Also on Wednesday, the Packers set up their first free-agent visit. Former Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels will meet with the Packers. Daniels, who played at the University of Wisconsin, was released by the Texans last week in a cost-cutting move. Daniels missed all but five games last season because of a broken leg.

The Packers are in the market for a tight end because they could lose both Jermichael Finley (who is visiting the Seahawks) and free agent Andrew Quarless.

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