Packers Urged to Sign All-Pro to Headline New-Look Secondary - Sport News

Packers Urged to Sign All-Pro to Headline New-Look Secondary

The Green Bay Packers will likely aim to overhaul the secondary this offseason, and at least one analyst believes general manager Brian Gutekunst should shop at the top of the free agent market to do so.

Packers

After allowing Darnell Savage‘s contract to void, the veteran safety in all likelihood will be elsewhere in 2024. However, ESPN’s Aaron Schatz suggests the Packers should sign Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ All-Pro Antoine Winfield Jr. as a top replacement, and upgrade at the position.

“The Packers’ top three safeties from last season are all free agents: Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford, and Jonathan Owens,” Schatz points out. “That leaves just rookie seventh-round pick Anthony Johnson and a couple of stragglers who rarely played. This presents the perfect opportunity for the Packers to refresh the position with young free agents who can hold down things on defense for the next few years.

“The best addition would be 26-year-old Antoine Winfield Jr. if Tampa Bay somehow lets him leave.”

Schatz also lists ascending star Xavier McKinney of the New York Giants, New England Patriots veteran Kyle Dugger, and New York Jets standout Jordan Whitehead as potential targets for the Packers.

Winfield Jr. is a top candidate for the Buccaneers to use the franchise tag, in order to keep the former second-round pick in Tampa, especially with reports the team has begun talks with quarterback Baker Mayfield on a long-term contract extension.

However, if Winfield Jr. hits the open market on March 13, there’s little question that he would be a plug-and-play upgrade in the Packers’ secondary.

What Antoine Winfield Jr. Would Bring The Packers

An ascending talent, Winfield is coming off the best season of his career.

“Antoine is the best player on that entire team,” an NFC Defensive Coach told Heavy, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about another team. “Simply put, he checks every single box.”

As impactful a box defender as Winfield is, posting six sacks in 2023, he’s equally consistent in deep coverage. Pro Football Focus points out that opposing quarterbacks produced a meager 71 passer rating when targeting him as receivers averaged only 12 yards per reception.

Winfield’s versatility could make him a perfect fit for Packers defensive coordinator Jeff Hatley’s scheme, which is predicated on relentless pressure from all angles.

Through the first four seasons of his career, Winfield Jr. has posted 384 total tackles — including a career-high 122 in 2023, with 15 sacks and seven interceptions.

There is little doubt that swapping Winfield Jr. for Savage would be the kind of move that elevates an entire defense.

Can The Packers Afford to Sign Antoine Winfield Jr.?

Regardless of how seamless a transition from Savage to Winfield Jr. might go, and how significant an upgrade the former Buccaneers star would be on the back end of the Packers’ defense, it will take some effort for Green Bay to be in a position to sign him.

That’s because as the new league year approaches, the Packers have just $12.45 million in cap space. Green Bay was aided significantly by the NFL announcing that the salary cap in 2024 would rise to a historic $255.4 million per club.

However, Winfield Jr. could be on the cusp of becoming the highest-paid safety in the league.

Along with announcing a higher salary cap, the NFL revealed that the franchise tag cost for safeties would come in at $17.12 million.

According to Spotrac, Winfield Jr. could command a five-year deal worth upwards of $92.25 million, while averaging $18.4 million, annually.

If Winfield Jr. is on the Packers’ radar, Gutekunst and the front office have much work to do in order to create enough spending flexibility to make one of the offseason’s biggest additions.

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