The ninth of a 10-part position-by-position analysis of the Green Bay Packersí roster and how they should proceed during the offseason.
UNDER CONTRACT: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT: M.D. Jennings
Where they stand
Burnett played average at best and didnít live up to the rich contract he signed last year. It didnít help that he received no support from the other starting safeties -- either McMillian or Jennings.
McMillian, a fourth-round draft choice in 2012, was supposed to grasp the starting job opposite Burnett and run with it. Instead, he stumbled so badly that the Packers took the unusual step of cutting him in midseason, less than two years into his NFL career.
Jennings wasnít much better but did just enough to keep a starting job.
Richardson, who possesses size and the ability to lay some lumber, came off the physically unable to perform list late in the season after recovering from neck fusion surgery. Whether Richardson can become an impact player and starter remains to be seen.
A year ago the Packers cut safety Charles Woodson, a tough but wise decision in an NFL world that says itís better to release a player a year too early than a year too late. Despite possessing a locker room presence and veteran savvy, Woodson was clearly past his prime and the time had come to move on.
While general manager Ted Thompson merits credit for making that tough choice, he also deserves criticism for not following up with the logical next step. When you send a starter packing, youíd better be sure you have an adequate replacement ready to step in, but Thompson inexplicably failed to address a gaping hole on his roster. He didnít draft a safety and didnít sign one in unrestricted free agency. What ensued was an utter breakdown at the position with McMillian and Jennings floundering all season.
Thompson was fooled into thinking he had adequate safety talent last season. Shame on him if he doesnít act to rectify that sorry situation this year. He should either loosen up the purse strings and sign a veteran safety in unrestricted free agency, or draft one on the first or second day.
Yes, the Packers might move Micah Hyde from cornerback to safety, and either he or Richardson could develop. But Thompson cannot afford to sit back and hope that happens, like he did last year with McMillian and Jennings.
Thompson needs to take a proactive approach and bring in more talent. Assuming he does that, Jennings isnít worth keeping.