After missing the last two phases of OTAs, it appears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be in attendance at mandatory minicamp this week. Many had speculated that he might have avoided the last two phases of OTAs because of his contract status. He is entering his final year of his contract and there is no doubt that he wants it extended. But from all indications, his absence had nothing to do with his contract. Still, the Packers are going to have to address what to do with Clinton-Dix and if he is a part of their future. A decision looms for the Green Bay Packers on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
After allowing Morgan Burnett to depart this offseason, the Packers are relying on Clinton-Dix to be the veteran presence at the safety position. With Burnett now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Clinton-Dix will be the safety with the most playing experience. All signs indicate that second year safety Josh Jones will be replacing Burnett and playing the safety opposite of Clinton Dix.
Jones saw some action in his rookie season, but most of it came in the Packers “Nitro” package as a linebacker. When he did play the safety position, he had his struggles with blown coverages and missed tackles. The Packers will no doubt ask Clinton-Dix to help with the maturation of Jones this season, but he is also coming off a down season.
In 2016, Clinton-Dix snatched five interceptions, forced one fumble, and registered a half sack. With his play, he earned a trip to his first Pro Bowl and was second team All Pro. A lot was expected in 2017 after the season he had in 2016, but it didn’t turn out to be the season the Packers and Clinton-Dix had hoped.
As a whole, the Packers secondary struggled, and so did Clinton-Dix. Although he had three interceptions, he missed a lot of tackle opportunities. Along with that, he was a part of numerous blown coverages that led to touchdowns by the opposing team. The most glaring aspect of his down season was his occasional appearance that he was uninterested. That was the case in the Packers last regular season game against the Lions in Detroit.
The game was a meaningless one for the Packers, having already being eliminated from the playoffs. Clinton-Dix looked like a player that had already started the offseason. He shied away from tackles and his effort lacked throughout the game.
Although head coach Mike McCarthy has stated that Clinton-Dix is one of the Packers core players, his play still has to give the organization pause. In most cases, core players don’t have seasons like the type of season Clinton-Dix had last season. Still, his talent is obvious and it could be that last season was just a rarity. It didn’t help that the entire Packers defense struggled. Also, it should be pointed out that he had to play part of the season without Burnett. Not only was he missing Burnett, he also was without the Packers top backup safety Kentrell Brice, who was lost to injury.
Brice is on track to being healthy for the opening game and Jones will have a year of experience under his belt. Clinton-Dix will have the benefit of playing under a new defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine. It appeared that the defensive players had lost faith in former defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his scheme. Pettine might give Clinton-Dix a breath of fresh air with his new attacking defensive style.
A decision looms for the Green Bay Packers on Clinton-Dix, but it appears their hand might be forced. If they were to allow him to walk after this season, they don’t have a sure answer to replace him. It is hoped that Jones will lock down one safety position, but even before being injured, Brice wasn’t considered a lock to be a starter. Fellow safety Marwin Evans has good size and speed to play safety in the NFL, but he is seen more as a special teams player. When he has played on defense, he has struggled.
The Packers had the opportunity to draft the top safety in this year’s draft in Derwin James. But they chose to trade out of the 14th spot and James was off the board by the time they traded back up to 18. It’s possible the Packers could use cornerback Quinten Rollins at safety. But the transition might take some time and there is no guarantee that transition will end with Rollins being on the level of Clinton-Dix.
The Packers should know within the first several games if Clinton-Dix is worth a new deal. The probability is high that he will be. From what he displayed in 2016, Clinton-Dix is one of the top safeties in the NFL. His struggles from last season won’t be forgotten, but the whole defense struggled. To single out Clinton-Dix would be a mistake and it appears McCarthy won’t make that. The Packers need a safety with Clinton-Dix’s ability. If he starts out the season like McCarthy believes, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the decision that looms for the Packers leads to a new deal for Clinton-Dix by mid-season.