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Free-agent countdown: S Chris Banjo

Jan. 14, 2014
 
Green Bay Packers safety Chris Banjo. File/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers safety Chris Banjo. File/Press-Gazette Media

Top 20 Packers free agents

20. Chris Banjo, S

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EDITORíS NOTE: Over the next three weeks, Press-Gazette Media will count down the top 20 unrestricted, restricted and exclusive right free agents the Green Bay Packers will have to decide on this offseason. The list begins with No. 20, Chris Banjo.

Chris Banjo wasnít the Green Bay Packersí first choice, but he certainly proved to be the right one.

In need of an extra safety for training camp, the Packers first called upon Sacramento State rookie Ryan McMahon, a 5-foot-11, 207-pound transfer from USC who attended Green Bayís rookie orientation in May on tryout.

He lasted the weekend, signed on a Friday and released on the following Monday.

The Packers then brought in the 5-foot-10, 207-pound Banjo, one year removed from being a productive safety at Southern Methodist.

Over the next four weeks, Banjo proved to be more than a camp body. He played his way onto the 53-man roster and wound up seeing action in all 16 regular-season games with 17 tackles and two pass deflections. He also was second on special teams with 10 tackles.

After going undrafted in 2012, Banjo bounced around NFL camps and regional combines without a contract until the Packers finally called.

ďIt tells me that Iím capable and I do have the talent to play with guys in the NFL,Ē Banjo said. ďI was able to play in some limited snaps defensively and that helps boost my confidence, as well. Thatís why Iím looking forward to being able to come back and have another opportunity to compete and grow from what I learned last year. I just feel like I do have what it takes to play in the league.Ē

Interestingly enough, the Packers gave him only a one-year deal worth $405,000 with no guarantees instead of signing him to the typical three-year contract most undrafted rookies receive.

That makes Banjo an exclusive rights free agent, meaning the Packers have until March 10 to tender him a minimum contract for the next two seasons. Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Banjo must sign the deal if he wishes to play in the NFL.

Early indications are that the Packers will do so, especially after they parted ways with 2012 fourth-rounder Jerron McMillian when the safety room grew too large near upon Sean Richardsonís activation from physically unable to perform near the end of the season.

Now, it seems to be a no-brainer to give Banjo a spot on the offseason 90-man roster, making him one of the teamís easiest free-agent projections.

Still, heís not taking anything for granted.

ďI feel like I could be back, but I know how everything works,Ē Banjo said. ďThe way the NFL works, nothing is guaranteed, so you never know. Iíve heard good things, but at the end of the day you really never know. I havenít heard from the right people, so weíll see. Itís all in Godís hands. Regardless Iím just happy with the year I was able to have. Itís crazy how fast itís gone, but I pray I have another opportunity to come back and be a part of this team.Ē

Chris Banjo, 2nd-year safety

The skinny: Exclusive rights free agent.

The snaps: 457 total (192 defense, 265 special teams).

The stats: 19 tackles, 2 pass deflections in 16 games (one start).

The 2013 salary: $405,000.

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