House might be toughest free-agent call

With noteworthy 2014 seasons, Bryan Bulaga, Randall Cobb and even 31-year-old Tramon Williams set themselves up nicely for free agency. Davon House? His free agent situation is part football decision and part business decision made complicated by an incomplete body of work.

As well as anyone on the Green Bay Packers’ roster, Davon House stood up to some of the NFL’s top receivers and at least one top quarterback in 2014.

When the Packers had no answer for Julio Jones in a Monday night game at Lambeau Field, House was unexpectedly called upon and made two impressive pass breakups on deep attempts to help thwart a second-half Atlanta Falcons rally.

Matching up with Calvin Johnson earlier in the season at Detroit, House never bit on a double move and made a diving interception of a deep pass by Matthew Stafford. Megatron had just one catch in three attempts with House in coverage that day.

And in a matchup game against Tom Brady, House did his part in the secondary with a team-high four incomplete passes when he was targeted by the eventual Super Bowl MVP.

With his rookie contract set to expire, House would become an unrestricted free agent March 10 and could be a target of teams looking for a starting cornerback. For the Packers, however, re-signing House is a little more complicated based purely on the body of work for the 25-year-old.

After general manager Ted Thompson locked up cornerback Sam Shields to a four-year contract last off-season, he has fellow starter Tramon Williams under consideration, as well, for a new contract this offseason. Though Williams will be 32 on March 16, he showed few signs of slowing down in 2014 and is probably the craftiest playmaker in the Packers’ secondary.

Over four years in Green Bay, House has never been able to lock down a starting spot, though many believe he has the ability. For his strong training camps, he has become known as Jordy Nelson’s “kryptonite” yet has failed to capitalize on opportunities to become a starter on the outside.

In 2012, he was vying for the No. 2 cornerback spot until a shoulder injury in the preseason opener set him back. Two years later, another shoulder injury suffered at the end of the Dec. 8 game against the Falcons sent House to the sideline for the final three games of the regular season. He returned for the playoffs but played only on special teams.

House played in 13 games this past regular season with four starts (two as the third cornerback). According to Pro Football Focus, he played 411 snaps, which was down 122 from the previous season in which he played all 16 games for the only time in his career.

House’s 14 career starts and other games where he has received extended playing time have produced mixed results. In 2012, his second year in the league, he started five of six games (four as the third cornerback) during the middle part of the season when Shields was out with an ankle injury. Playing a season-high 72 snaps on defense at Detroit, he recorded a sack, two passes defended and performed well against the Lions’ secondary receivers. But a week later, he allowed two touchdowns in a thrashing at New York (Eli Manning targeted House 11 times). He then gave up four catches and a touchdown in just 27 snaps at Lambeau Field against the Lions, and with Casey Hayward having a banner rookie season and Shields returning, House found himself on the bench. He was inactive for the final three games of the season (two postseason contests) with shoulder and hip injuries.

With Shields injured early in a Wild Card playoff game following the 2013 season, House was put in the crosshairs by the San Francisco 49ers. On a bitterly cold day, he responded admirably with three pass breakups. He was targeted eight times by Colin Kaepernick and was flagged for a holding penalty. He could have had at least two other penalties based on contact but the officials were a little more lenient that day. He also missed two tackles.

House’s best games in 2013 came at Baltimore, where he had a trio of impressive pass breakups while playing only 14 defensive snaps, and in a start the following week vs. Cleveland, when he posted his first career interception. But in extensive action late in the season against the Vikings and Lions, he had poor games. Though he did well on Cordarrelle Patterson, he gave up a touchdown pass to Rhett Ellison, and in a Thanksgiving Day debacle at Detroit, he allowed six catches in seven targets with Jeremy Ross and Kevin Ogletree scoring touchdowns. House played only a handful of snaps on defense the final month of the season before being pressed into duty in the wild-card game.

Despite never being a full-time starter, House led the Packers in touchdown receptions allowed among cornerbacks both in 2013 (five) and 2012 (four, tied with Shields). He gave up three in 2014 and was also flagged four times (all in pass coverage).

Outside of his impressive spot performances against Jones, Johnson and Brady in 2014, House also played well in extensive action against Carolina and at Miami. His start at right corner at New Orleans, where he played a season-high 68 snaps, was a disaster, just as it was for the team. House had a difficult time handling speedy wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills, had a pass interference penalty, and missed three tackles. The Packers suffered their worst loss of the season, 44-23.

In 41 career games, House has 40 passes defended but just three turnover plays to his credit and a blocked punt on special teams.

With Jarrett Bush, House and Williams scheduled for free agency, just Shields and Demetri Goodson among cornerbacks on the Packers roster at the end of the season are under contract past 2015. Hayward’s rookie deal runs only through next season. Safety/cornerback hybrid Micah Hyde is signed through 2016.

Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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