Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia is reuniting with another one of his key contributors from his time in Las Vegas.
According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for July 25, the Packers signed former Raiders fifth-year safety Dallin Leavitt to their 90-man roster ahead of the start of training camp later this week. No corresponding moves were necessary, as Leavitt filled the roster spot that opened three days ago when the Packers waived tight end Eli Wolf.
Leavitt — who turns 28 in August — was a key contributor for Bisaccia’s special teams units over each of the past three seasons with the Raiders, playing more than 800 snaps in the third phase over that span. Last season, he played a career-high 348 special teams snaps and recorded a team-high 12 special teams tackles over 16 games. He also made his first career defensive start and finished with 35 total tackles and two fumble recoveries.
Bisaccia has been tasked with turning around the Packers’ special teams unit, which ranked among the worst in the league under Maurice Drayton in 2021. Now, he will have another familiar face from his days in Las Vegas to help him make the necessary strides for the upcoming season. The Packers also signed cornerback Keisean Nixon — who played for Bisaccia from 2019 through 2021 — earlier this offseason.
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
Leavitt Should Contend for 53-Man Roster
The Packers don’t have many holes in their defense heading into the 2022 season and could potentially have the best secondary in the league this year, partly because of the stability that returning starters Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage Jr. offer them at safety. That said, one of the most important battles for the team this summer in training camp will be to determine who serves as the backup safeties behind the two of them.
Prior to Leavitt’s signing, Shawn Davis and Vernon Scott seemed like the probable choices to be the next two safeties in the rotation. Davis was a fifth-round pick for the Indianapolis Colts in 2021 but was waived shortly after training camp and ended up spending the majority of his rookie season on Green Bay’s practice squad, playing on nine special teams snaps toward the end of the year. And Scott, a 2020 seventh-rounder for the Packers, spent each of the past two seasons on their active roster.
The biggest problem is that neither of them played a single snap of defense in 2021. Scott actually regressed for the Packers in his second year, playing in just three games and spending a number of them inactive due to injuries after being a 15-game contributor as a rookie. Even if both improve with more defensive opportunities, Leavitt has enough experience to legitimately push either of them for their roster spot.
Leavitt might not have gotten extensive reps with the Raiders defense, but his 249 defensive snaps in 2021 are still more than double what Scott and Davis have produced over their combined career thus far. Pro Football Focus also credited Leavitt with seven defensive stops and three pass breakups as a rotational player last season, which feels like more than enough to earn him roster consideration beyond his special teams value.
Who Else Could Compete at Safety?
Davis, Scott and Leavitt would seem to be the center focus of the Packers’ camp battles at safety, but there are a few other players — Innis Gaines and Tre Sterling — who could be nipping at their heels during practices this summer.
Gaines signed a reserve/future contract with the Packers in January 2021 and competed for a roster spot during 2021’s camp, missing the cut but sticking around as a member of their practice squad for the entire season. He did, however, get elevated to the game-day roster for Week 16’s home win over the Cleveland Browns and managed to record his first NFL tackle despite playing just five special teams snaps. If Gaines can prove he is worth his salt as a third-phase contributor, he could be retained as the team’s sixth safety — or even higher if he outperforms any of the other three.
The Packers also have an undrafted rookie in Sterling, who was a preseason All-American heading into the 2021 season for Oklahoma State before a wrist injury derailed his final season and badly damaged his draft stock. The good news is Sterling avoided the Packers’ PUP list when reporting for camp, so he would appear to be 100% and ready to compete in camp this summer. If he can bounce back to the player he was in 2020 — when he notched 11 tackles for loss and two interceptions — there’s no reason why he couldn’t push for one of the rotational spots as well.