Shopping Spree Leaves Safety Group Decimated

If the Packers intended to improve at safety through free agency, most of the quality options were snapped up in a shocking display of spending as free agency opened on Tuesday. Who's gone, who's left and what's the outlook for the Packers entering Wednesday and beyond?

The NFL is, indeed, a copycat league.

While there were no clones of the Seattle tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor on the market, teams threw plenty of money at the crop of safeties when free agency opened on Tuesday afternoon.

The Green Bay Packers were not among those teams.

Of Scout.com's top 10 available safeties, seven of them found new homes and two re-signed with their former teams.

It was a breathtaking display of spending, and it left the Packers in an unenviable position in the two months before the draft.

— Does general manager Ted Thompson throw a bunch of money at Chris Clemons, Scout.com's fourth-ranked safety and the only top-10 safety on the unemployment line?

— Does Thompson rifle through the bargain rack in hopes of finding someone — anyone — to upgrade one of the defense's big weaknesses?

— Will he be forced to draft a safety with a premium pick and force him into the starting lineup?

— Or will it be a battle royale in training camp between the undistinguished duo of Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo and a mid-round draft pick (and, perhaps, M.D. Jennings, who was not tendered a contract by Tuesday's restricted free agent deadline)?

What is certain is the safety group was plundered in staggering fashion during the first seven hours of free agency. Seattle's success with Thomas and Chancellor apparently is the new blueprint.

"The game of football has changed over the last five years," former Packers scout and current Chiefs general manager John Dorsey told Packer Report at the Scouting Combine. "The ability for safeties to cover means something now because they're passing and spreading the ball out a little bit more. Nick Collins was a very good player. I think Eric Berry is a very fine football player. The safety position is ... vitally important in today's football."

Heading into Wednesday, Clemons, Philadelphia's Nate Allen, Kansas City's Kendrick Lewis and Baltimore's James Ihedigbo are the top safeties remaining on the market. Charles Woodson, who was deemed no longer good enough for the Packers, might be the fifth-best safety on the market.

Here is a look at the money thrown around at safeties on Tuesday:

— Jairus Byrd (from Buffalo to New Orleans): Six years, $56 million, $28 million guaranteed.

— T.J. Ward (from Cleveland to Denver): Four years, $23 million, $14 million guaranteed.

— Donte Whitner (from San Francisco to Cleveland): Four years, $28 million, $11 million guaranteed.

— Bernard Pollard (re-signed by Tennessee before start of free agency): Two years, $6.3 million, at $850,000 guaranteed.

— Antoine Bethea (from Indianapolis to San Francisco): Four years, $26 million, unknown guaranteed money.

— Malcolm Jenkins (from New Orleans to Philadelphia): Three years, $15.5 million, $8.5 million guaranteed.

— Louis Delmas (from Detroit to Miami): One year, $3.5 million, unknown guaranteed money.

— Mike Mitchell (from Carolina to Pittsburgh): Five years, $25 million, unknown guaranteed money.

— Stevie Brown (re-signed by the Giants): Undisclosed contract.

Others off the list are Ryan Mundy (from the Giants to Chicago) and Taylor Mays (re-signed by Cincinnati).

For reference, in July, the Packers gave Morgan Burnett a contract extension that runs through the 2017 season. The total value was $26.073 million and included $8.25 million guaranteed. Byrd's guaranteed money is worth more than the entirety of Burnett's contract.


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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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