Upgrading the Packers safety position will be at the top of Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst’s to do list this off-season. After shipping former starter HaHa Clinton Dix to the Washington Redskins for a fourth-round pick, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine moved veteran and former cornerback Tramon Williams to Dix’s former starting position. Williams held his own, but he can’t be considered a long-term answer. He will be 36 years old when next season begins and some would argue he would be better off at cornerback, lining up in the slot.
The other starting safety position isn’t in any better shape. Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones, Ibraheim Campbell, and Raven Greene all saw time at that position and all failed to impress. Jones, a former second-round pick, will need to show he is capable of contributing at safety. If he doesn’t start to show that, he will be considered a draft bust. With possibly needing help at both safety positions, Gutekunst will no doubt be looking for help in the draft and in free agency. One possible player who could be, and should be, on Gutekunst’s radar is free agent safety, Landon Collins.
Landon Collins is an established NFL safety, something the Packers sorely needs. While he has made a name for himself at strong safety, he did see some time at free safety his rookie season. Still, if a team is looking to sign Collins, they should expect Collins to play strong safety in their defensive scheme.
Entering just his fifth season in the NFL, Landon Collins has had success. He has made three Pro Bowls and in 2016 he was First Team All-Pro. That season, he had five interceptions (returning one for a touchdown) and four sacks. He also registered 100 solo tackles with nine of those being for a loss
Unfortunately, his play has dipped since that season. In the past two seasons, he has only two interceptions, both coming in 2017. Also, he hasn’t registered a sack since 2016. Some of his drop in production could be linked to the New York Giants overall struggles. In 2016, Collins best season as a pro, they were 11-5. Since then, the Giants have a record of 8-24. After the 2017 season, the Giants fired former head coach Ben McAdoo and his coaching staff. This past season, Collins played under current Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher for the first time.
With Collins production dropping since 2016, the money he could demand this off-season could drop as well. Collins will garner attention on the free agent market, but after seeing his production (no matter the reason) drop the past two seasons, he might not get the money that he was hoping he would. Some believe the Giants might give Collins the franchise tag. But from early reports, that seems very unlikely.
The Packers and Gutekunst need to find a long-term replacement for the one safety position Williams is holding down. There is no arguing that, but they need to address the other safety position a lot more. Brice was a disappointment last season and might not return this season. Campbell and Greene are at best backup safeties who can contribute on special teams. To think that the Packers can rely on one of those players to be the answer at one of the starting safety positions would be downright foolish.
Landon Collins still has some good seasons ahead of him. He is just 25 years old and it was just three seasons departed from being All-Pro. Playing for a defensive coordinator like Pettine and playing in his style of defense seems like a good way for him to get back to the level he played at in 2016.
Many Packers fans are clamoring for the Packers to sign veteran safety Earl Thomas. There isn’t much argument that Thomas would be an upgrade to what the Packers currently have at the safety position. Still, Collins is younger and isn’t coming off a major injury like Thomas is. Collins could be had at the right price and could be the safety that the Packers defense is in need of.