At this point in the offseason, the Green Bay Packers' plan seems to be clear: Move Micah Hyde to safety, add a draft pick or two and let them compete against Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo to be the starter opposite Morgan Burnett.
"We've got a lot of time," coach Mike McCarthy said last week at the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. "Could it be Micah? Chris Banjo? Free agency's still going on, we've got the draft coming up. We do a great job working with the guys when they get here."
If the Packers were to begin training camp today, there's a good chance that Hyde would line up with the starters.
With Sam Shields re-signed, Tramon Williams retained and Casey Hayward healthy after an ongoing hamstring injury doomed his 2013 season, the depth in the defensive backfield overwhelmingly is at cornerback rather than safety. Instead of having Hyde limited to a part-time role, a move to safety could get him into a full-time role.
"I'm going to say it again, make sure we're clear: Micah Hyde deserves the opportunity to be an every-down player on our defense," McCarthy said, speaking even more emphatically than he did at the Scouting Combine. "And as we go into 2014, that's our responsibility as a coaching staff is 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. He's a good football player and I thought he deserved the opportunity to compete to play. And it's tough to do when you're a rookie because you get into camp and you're trying to build packages … We're going to give Micah the opportunity to play on all three downs — whether that's corner, nickel, dime, safety. That's the versatility I think he brings to our football team."
Other than a couple games to cover up for some injuries, Hyde played cornerback at Iowa. His lack of big-time speed had one scout before last year's draft suggest Hyde's ultimate destination would be safety. It's interesting to note, Hyde ran his 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds at last year's Scouting Combine. This year's top safeties, HaHa Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, ran in 4.58. In fact, of Packer Report's top 10 safeties, Hyde ran faster than all but second-round options Jimmie Ward, Deone Bucannon and Terrence Brooks.
Free agency remains a possibility, albeit a long shot. Among the players available are Thomas Decoud, who was released by the Falcons, Danieal Manning, who was released by the Texans on Monday, and Steve Gregory, who was released by the Falcons. Signing a street free agent would ensure the Packers don't lose one of their free-agent compensatory picks for losing James Jones and Evan Dietrich-Smith.
Sources have told Packer Report that there's at least some marginal interest in DeCoud. At age 29, DeCoud is the youngest of that trio; Manning and Gregory are 31. He went without an interception last season but had a total of 10 in the previous two seasons.
However it's done, the Packers have to add to the position. Even if Hyde moves to safety and starts, he'd probably also be the dime defender. Thus, they'd need at least a part-time safety — unless they're convinced that Richardson or Banjo are ready to provide necessary depth.
"We're not going to line up with 11 guys on defense and everybody's going to play their position," McCarthy said. "I'm looking for players who can play different positions, give us more flexibility. And we've got to be. The scheme's there. We're not putting a whole lot of scheme in. If anything, we're taking things out. We want to get really good at the creative things that we have and make sure we're utilizing as many of our defensive players as possible."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.