Back in 2016 Ha Ha Clinton Dix made his first Pro Bowl as a professional. It appeared that the Green Bay Packers had their defensive leader in Clinton Dix. That season he earned that honor by having five interceptions as well as a ½ a sack. The future was bright for the former 2014 first round draft pick. But after that season, Ha Ha Clinton Dix and his play declined, which led to his recent trade to the Washington Redskins.
His interceptions, three in 2017 and three this season, still stayed, but his fundamentals slipped. More and more Clinton Dix missed tackles and in some cases, it appeared that he was uninterested in making contact. Along with the missed tackles, he started to find himself out of position frequently, and in most cases, led to giving up touchdown passes.
Many will be quick to point out that Clinton Dix was stuck playing alongside former undrafted free agent Kentrell Brice this season. Playing along Brice didn’t help his play, but the full blame can’t be laid on Brice’s shoulders. Clinton Dix’s play started to slip in 2017 when he was playing alongside veteran safety Morgan Burnett. Burnett was an accomplished NFL safety but Clinton Dix’s play still slipped playing next to the veteran.
Many believed that when the Packers picked up Clinton Dix’s fifth year option on his rookie deal in the spring of 2017 that it would lead to a long-term deal. But when his play, and sometime lack of interest, occurred, the Packers started to have reservations. Those reservations became even stronger when he didn’t show up for OTAs this summer. Although he claimed that he didn’t miss the OTAs because of the contract, it did come with a wink.
That wasn’t the only time that his contract, or lack thereof, came up this season. In early October, Clinton Dix discussed with Jason Wilde of the Madison State Journal that he expected to play elsewhere next season. Although his prediction has come true, you wouldn’t expect a so-called “leader” to say something like that. Especially one whose play was rocky at best and who was playing for a new deal.
While some fans will quickly come to the conclusion that general manager Brian Gutekunst is giving up with this trade that is far from the case. True, replacing a player who creates turnovers, something the Packers lack, will be hard to replace. The time to move on was right for Gutekunst and the Packers.
Not only was Clinton’s fundamentals declining, but so was his view of playing for the Packers. When a veteran player starts to predict he won’t be with his current team during the middle of the season, the writing is on the wall. If you can’t depend on your veterans to be team leaders, you can’t have that lingering around your locker room. That was the case for Clinton Dix and that was certainly the case for Ty Montgomery.
For the present, the Packers will turn to Tramon Williams to take over as the Packers starting free safety. Williams, who had been playing cornerback for the Packers this season, has experience at safety. Not only did he play some when he played for current Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine while both were with the Cleveland Browns, but also last week in the Packers loss to the Los Angeles Rams. There is no doubt that Pettine was auditioning Williams last week, knowing that the Clinton Dix trade was coming.
While Williams won’t be the turnover machine Ha Ha Clinton Dix was, he will bring something that has been missing to the Packers safety position. He will bring a veteran presence, one that has proven leadership, to the back end of the Packers defense. Something Ha Ha Clinton Dix was expected to fill but never did. Williams also will be an improvement in pass coverage, another thing that Ha Ha Clinton Dix struggled at the past few seasons. The Clinton Dix trade isn’t a white flag for this season, in fact, it might turn out to be an improvement.
The move wasn’t just for the present, but also for the future. Gutekunst took over for Ted Thompson and it is being proven, Thompson didn’t leave Gutekunst and the Packers a plethora of talent from his past several drafts. Instead of investing millions of dollars in Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Gutekunst can look for talent at the safety position not only in the draft, but also in free agency. In just one off-season, Gutekunst has shown that he is willing to, at the very least, look for help in free agency. Something Ted Thompson rarely did.
Seeing a veteran player who has played for several seasons depart is never easy for an NFL fan. But in this case, the trade of Ha Ha Clinton Dix was necessary. Not just for the present, but also the future. The Packers very well might have some bumps without Ha Ha Clinton Dix, but they were struggling with him. When a player isn’t fundamentally sound and doesn’t appear to be interested in being there, the time is right to make a move.