The Green Bay Packers might have tipped their hand about what they plan to do with strong safety Adrian Amos when he hits free agency later this month.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, Gutekunst was asked about what he considers to be the holes on the Packers’ roster heading into next season and gave an interesting answer about “a couple safeties that are moving on.”
“Right now, we only have a couple of tight ends coming back from last year. So there’s some holes there. Those guys either have to step into those roles and fill them, or we’re going to have to look other places,” Gutekunst said on March 1. “Our secondary is a little bit unsettled. We have a couple safeties that are moving on that were here last year. As a whole, I really like our nucleus coming back.”
As of now, there are only two main contributors from the Packers’ 2022 safety room that are set to become free agents this offseason: Rudy Ford — who was added to the roster at the 53-man cutdown and replaced Darnell Savage Jr. as their starting free safety for a portion of the season — and Amos, their four-year veteran starter. Either one could make a case for potentially returning on a new deal, but Gutekunst’s comments about a couple of them “moving on” makes that seem very unlikely.
Could Gutekunst Replace Amos With 1st-Round Rookie?
Gutekunst has proven in the past that he is willing to draft a first-round rookie for his secondary and put him right to work as a starter. He did so with Savage when he traded up to get him at No. 21 overall in 2019. He also did it with cornerback Eric Stokes after taking him toward the end of the first round in 2021. Given the mixed results from both of those players, though, would he consider doing it again in 2023 to replace Amos?
There is one obvious name in the class who could tempt him.
Alabama’s Brian Branch — the consensus top safety in the 2023 draft class — could be an ideal target for the Packers at No. 15 overall. According to Pro Football Focus, he tied for the most coverage stops (19) among safeties in the FBS last season with nine forced incompletions and an impressive 15.8% forced incompletion rate. He also fell into the elite category as a run defender (90.7 grade) with 24 total run stops.
It is worth noting the Packers are already showing interest in Branch, too. The former Alabama safety told reporters during his media session on Thursday that he had a formal pre-draft meeting with the Packers on Tuesday night. He has also met with the Pittsburgh Steelers and plans to meet with numerous others before the week is over.
Will Packers Explore Trade Market for Darnell Savage?
If the Packers are planning to let Amos and Ford walk in free agency, chances are good they will want to ride things out with Savage instead of completely leaving their safety room devoid of talent. After the way his fourth season in Green Bay went, though, it isn’t out of the question to think they could explore whether he has a trade market.
Savage took a major step backward in 2022, getting benched in favor of Ford midway through the season before making a solid resurgance in the final few games. To make that even worse was the fact that the Packers had already picked up his $7.901 million fifth-year option for the 2023 season, leaving them stuck with either paying him as a starter for another level or finding a trade partner who believes in Savage’s upside.