The Green Bay Packers have been successful during the Ted Thompson era largely because of their ability to draft talented players and keep them under contract. Since 2005, Thompson has been adding pieces to the puzzle and locking up in the important players long-term.
But there are always difficult decisions to be made in the National Football League and the Packers made one this offseason by letting former Pro Bowler Greg Jennings walk in free agency. Sure, the team would have loved to keep him but in the world of the salary cap, it’s simply not possible.
Thompson and the Packers showed how they have maintained long-term success by smartly signing Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, the two cornerstones of the franchise, to long-term deals and now it appears they are trying to do the same thing with free-agent safety to be Morgan Burnett.
Burnett, who came to Green Bay as a third-round draft pick in 2010, established himself as the leader of the secondary in 2012 and was one of two players in the NFL to play every defensive snap.
After an injury shortened rookie season in 2010, the former Georgia Tech standout has started 32 consecutive games for the Packers, totaling 165 tackles, five interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three sacks over that span.
Now that Burnett has established himself as one of the top young safeties in the NFL, the Packers realized it’s time to get him signed to an extension and are trying to do just according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
This is another wise move by the Packers as Burnett joins B.J. Raji, Sam Shields, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Evan Dietrich-Smith, as projected 2013 starters headed for unrestricted free agency following the season.
Green Bay likely will not be able to keep all of those players, so priorities need to be established. Getting Raji signed to an extension will be essential but at this point both sides appear willing to play out the season to better establish his true market value and if a deal cannot be reached, expect him to get the franchise tag.
Since the franchise tag will likely be saved in case a long-term deal can’t be done with Raji, the Packers need to get some of these other contracts taken care of now while they have the cap space. Due to both deals with Rodgers and Matthews being fairly cap friendly, Green Bay has more than $13 million to work with and signing Burnett now would be a great step in the right direction.
With the infuse of the spread offense and more mobile quarterbacks, the safety position is becoming more important than ever and after losing Nick Collins to retirement just two short years ago, the Packers cannot allow another Pro-Bowl caliber safety to get away.
Burnett has proved that he’s essential to the Green Bay defense and established himself as a long-term building block for the franchise. He is primed for a breakout season in 2013, so the time to get a deal done is now, before the lure of a big payday as an unrestricted free agent becomes too good to pass up and he plays himself right out of the Packers’ price range.
Under Thompson, the Packers have a history of making wise decisions in terms of player contracts and I would expect nothing less here. So don’t be surprised if reports of an agreement comes across the wire soon because the Packers are smart and the deal with Burnett will get done because it’s simply good business.