Playoff Hero Named Must-Keep Free Agent for Packers

Packers, Darnell Savage

Getty Images Darnell Savage #26 of the Green Bay Packers (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers are projected to be over the salary cap as free agency approaches, but there’s at least one hero from the 2023 postseason run that general manager Brian Gutekunst should prioritize re-signing.

Packers safety Darnell Savage posted eight total tackles in Green Bay’s pair of playoff games, in addition to returning an interception off Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott for a touchdown in the Packers’ blowout NFC wild-card victory.

The 33rd Team lists Savage as the one free agent whom the Packers must re-sign this offseason.

“Darnell Savage has undoubtedly had an up-and-down career for the Green Bay Packers,” Marcus Mosher wrote in a February 8 story. “But his play rose during the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs, he was all over the field and had an incredible pick-six off Dak Prescott.

“The Packers don’t have many unrestricted free agents to worry about, so keeping Savage around for another year or so makes some sense.”

At age 26, Savage produced 51 total tackles with one pass breakup in 10 games for the Packers in 2023. Pro Football Focus listed Savage as the No. 15-ranked safety in the entire league, with a 75.5 overall grade.

But, as the offseason is set to begin, the Packers are projected to be approximately $6.9 million over the cap when free agency gets underway on March 13.

Gutekunst and the Packers might need to decide between bringing Savage back via free agency or prioritizing selecting a safety high in the 2024 NFL draft, which would be a more cap-friendly option with long-term upside.

Projecting Darnell Savage’s Market Value

Savage has been a mainstay, albeit an inconsistent one, in the Packers’ secondary for half a decade.

Through the first five seasons of his career, since being chosen by the Packers with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Savage has produced 302 total tackles with one sack and nine interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown.

When free agency begins in March, Savage could wind up being one of the more coveted players at the position.

According to Over The Cap, Savage could command a deal that averages $3.19 million per season.

The Packers could look to pay that premium to have a solid backstop in coverage, as A to Z Sports points out, Savage surrendered just 0.57 yards per man coverage snap in 2023. Likewise, there is value in Savage’s veteran experience and leadership presence, for a team that could be on the cusp of mounting a legitimate Super Bowl run behind ascending quarterback Jordan Love in 2024.

Who Are Packers’ Top-Ranked Safety Targets in NFL Draft?

The Packers enter the draft with two second-round draft picks, courtesy of the New York Jets trading for Aaron Rodgers. Given that there is not a clear-cut first-round safety in this year’s draft class, selecting Savage’s potential replacement could prove to be a second-round priority.

If Savage is elsewhere next season, Gutekunst and the Packers could look to add Minnesota’s Tyler Nubin, the University of Miami’s Kamren Kitchens or USC’s Calen Bullock. All three prospects have second-round grades from Pro Football Focus.


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