Green Bay Packers Free Agency: If Hyde Is Too Expensive, There Would Be Spot in Slot

Once again, the NFL Draft aligns nicely with the Packers’ list of free agents.

Considering the putrid state of the Green Bay Packers’ pass defense last season, bringing back free-agent Micah Hyde should be a no-brainer.

But Hyde made himself a lot of money down the stretch. According to the coaches’ count, Hyde had no interceptions and two passes defensed in the first 11 games. In the final eight games, he had four interceptions and 11 passes defensed. It’s hard to see how a bad defense can possibly get better without one of its top playmakers.

“I love this place,” Hyde said the day after the NFC Championship Game. “This place is awesome. Greatest fans in the league. Winning organization. I love this place. The rest is out of my control. I’ve tried to let it be known that I would love to stay here. If the other end doesn’t match up, there’s nothing I can do.”

Hyde brings value in terms of production and versatility. In the regular season, he tied for second on the team with three interceptions, finished fourth with 10 passes defensed and was sixth with 61 tackles. Hyde added one interceptions, three passes defensed and one sack in the playoffs. He’s played all over the field on defense and is an accomplished punt returner with three career touchdowns.

“I don’t know what position he hasn’t played outside of offense and defensive line,” coach Mike McCarthy said before the championship game. “He’s just a very talented and instinctive player. His personality has fit into the locker room. So, he’s stepped up and has played every role and has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given here. You look back at his rookie year, started out as corner, moved into the nickel, has played safety. To make that adjustment in the flow of a game without reps is something he’s been able to do the last couple of years. I can’t just say enough about the flexibility he gives us a staff.”

Hyde is Scout.com’s seventh-ranked free-agent cornerback, though, in reality, he’s really No. 5 among available corners with the Rams using the franchise tag of Trumaine Johnson and Pittsburgh’s Ross Cockrell being a restricted free agent. That should further drive up Hyde’s price tag.

As is the case at every position, the Packers’ free agents align neatly with the depth of the draft pool. Will the Packers have to replace guard T.J. Lang? There are four prospects worthy of going in the first two rounds. Will they have to replace outside linebacker Nick Perry? The edge-rushing pool runs deep. Will they need to replace running back Eddie Lacy? The backfield crop is loaded. It’s the same story in the defensive backfield. As many as 18 cornerbacks are worthy of going in the first three rounds. If the Packers are forced to replace Hyde, they’d likely be in the market for a corner with the physicality to play in the slot. That player, in turn, would battle Quinten Rollins to be Hyde’s replacement.

Perhaps the best of the bunch is Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie, who interviewed with the Packers at the Scouting Combine. His resume sounds a bit like Hyde’s. Awuzie was a jack-of-all-trades defender during his four seasons in Boulder, playing cornerback, nickel, safety and even some outside linebacker. So, he has the unusual combination of ranking fifth in school history with 35 pass deflections and first among defensive backs with nine sacks and 26 tackles for losses. As a senior, he had one interception, 13 pass breakups, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

Awuzie could be in play in the second round.

“I'm just a ballplayer,” he said. “I always have the mentality of, 'See ball, get ball.' No matter where I'm lined up, whether it's sacking the quarterback, get the ball. I'm going to tackle him. If the ball's in the air, I'm going to tackle him on a play. And that's the way my mentality is.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.

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