Mitchell Would Provide Safety at Decent Price

If the Packers would rather have a veteran than a rookie at safety, Carolina's Mike Mitchell would be a free agent of interest. While he had his shortcomings last season, he statistically outplayed all of the Packers' returning players combined.

The first year of Sam Shields' contract comes at a cap-friendly price of $5.625 million, which leaves the Green Bay Packers about $29.4 million under the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com.

Just how much the Packers can accomplish with that Brinks truck worth of cash remains to be seen. They have four defensive linemen under contract, their starting center is a free agent and they have a draft class to sign. And they must have some financial flexibility to sign receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to contract extensions.

With those financial concerns as a backdrop, the Packers don't seem likely to dive into the bidding war for marquee safeties Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. One more-affordable option, if the Packers want to find a veteran starter rather than take a chance with a rookie, would be Carolina's Mike Mitchell.

Mitchell, who will turn 27 in June, was a player of interest for the Packers entering the 2009 draft. Mitchell (6-0, 210) showed speed (sub-4.45 40-yard dashes), explosion (37.5-inch vertical leap) and strength (21 reps on the 225-pound bench press) at Ohio's pro day, then had a predraft visit with Green Bay.

The Raiders stunned observers by selecting Mitchell with a second-round pick. In four seasons with Oakland, he started just nine games. Carolina signed him to a one-year deal last offseason, and he became a key cog on one of the NFC's best defenses.

Mitchell played in 15 games (14 starts) and recorded career-high numbers across the board with 66 tackles, four tackles for losses, 3.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, eight passes defensed, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Using the league stats as a comparison rather than the stats kept by the Packers' coaches:

— Morgan Burnett had 93 tackles, no tackles for losses, no sacks, no quarterback hits, six passes defensed, no interceptions and no forced fumbles.

— M.D. Jennings, who was the other primary safety for most of the season, had 68 tackles, four tackles for losses, one sack, one quarterback hit, one pass defensed, no interceptions and no forced fumbles.

— Sean Richardson, Jerron McMillian and Chris Banjo combined for 32 tackles, no tackles for losses, no sacks, two quarterback hits, three passes defensed, no interceptions and no forced fumbles.

Combined, that's one sack, 10 passes defensed, no interceptions and no forced fumbles for a total of 11 impact plays. Mitchell had 17.5 by himself.

Moreover, according to ProFootballFocus.com's count, Jennings allowed five touchdown passes and Burnett allowed four, with Jennings tied for fifth-most in the league and Burnett tied for ninth-most. McMillian, who was released at midseason, gave up three and Richardson yielded one. That's an unsightly total of 13 touchdown passes allowed. Mitchell, who played more in coverage than in the box, allowed one all season.

On the other hand, Mitchell was near the bottom of the league in ProFootballFocus.com's run-stop percentage. Of the 63 safeties who played at least 50 percent of the snaps, he ranked 48th at 3.1 percent, though even that was better than Jennings' 53rd-ranked 2.9.

And Mitchell ranked as the league's worst-tackling safety, with one miss for every 4.2 tackle attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. Burnett and Jennings weren't great but they were much better; Burnett was 21st with a rate of 10.0 and Jennings was 34th at 8.1.

However, in part-time duty with the Raiders in 2012, Mitchell had a run-stop rate of 11.5 and had 11.7 tackle attempts for each miss. Had he reached the 50 percent playing time threshold, he would have ranked fourth in run-stop percentage and tied for 11th in tackling efficiency. So, Mitchell has shown he can play the run and make the tackle at a starting-caliber level.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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