Ever since the Green Bay Packers drafted Darnell Savage in the first round, 21st overall in 2019, he’s been a fairly serviceable starter at Safety. As a result, without a better option available, it was a simple decision to pick up his fifth-year option. But entering that fifth year, a contract year, that “serviceable” label might not be an enough to get Savage a second contract from the Packers. This makes 2023 possibly the most important year of Savage’s career.

Darnell Savage’s fellow 2019 first round pick, Rashan Gary is likely to sign a long-term deal before his fifth-year option expires. The difference between the two is that Gary has demonstrated his ability to be a consistent weapon on defense, while Savage so far, has not.

He has shown some flashes throughout his four-year career, however. In his second year, it was thought that he had arrived. Savage picked off opposing Quarterbacks four times and defended twelve passes. He also had beaten his previous year tackle total taking down the ball-carrier 71 times in 15 games. However, the following year Savage traveled back down to his rookie season totals and has been there ever since.

Has Savage Peaked?

There is some reason to believe that perhaps this is all the Packers will get out of Darnell Savage. With Savage never quite improving over his rookie totals except for in 2020, perhaps his transition to the NFL was just good enough to keep his starting job and that’s it. I had originally thought perhaps Savage would improve in 2022, that unfortunately did not happen.

In college, Savage was always a ball-hawk and was also a very sure tackler. Those skills have kind of fallen off the last two years in the NFL. Savage has become shaky at best when making an open field tackle. Also, recently when you notice a breakdown in the Packers secondary coverage, it tends to be Savage who is out of position. This has certainly not endeared him to fans, and many would like to see him simply released. As we have noticed though, the Packers aren’t very keen to release their higher draft picks unless they are simply not working out at all.

So, what needs to happen for Darnell Savage to earn that second contract?

Get Confident

“I think Darnell is best when he pulls the trigger and let’s it all hang out,” Packers Defensive Backs coach, Ryan Downard stated when asked about Savage’s play recently. “If you watch his Maryland tape, he was going to get it. He’s got to trust himself.”

When you watch Darnell Savage’s play recently, you see a lot of hesitation. Like coach Downard said, he’s got to trust himself. Many of the flashes you see in Savage’s career have been in those moments when he trusts his instincts and goes for it.

Different from years past, 2023 could see Savage playing slot corner a bit more often. Or he could remain in a Safety position but play a bit closer to the line of scrimmage. In 2022, Savage seemed to break his funk and find some success in this position. However, with the current Safety depth, this could be hard to dial up.

My key to success in 2023 for Darnell Savage as stated before is to get confident. Make your decision and stick with it. Could that cause you to get burned occasionally? Of course, it could. But so can hesitation. Might as well show some decisiveness and go get it.

If getting confident and taking those chances brings Savage success in 2023, he could see an extension with the Packers. If he doesn’t, he could find himself trying to earn a job elsewhere. However, if I’m being honest, given the current situation at Safety, even another average at best season could earn Darnell Savage a 1-year extension.

Regardless, I’m hoping Savage rises to the occasion as I’d love to see him become a pillar of the defense.

Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.