As free agency looms just 27 days away, Brian Gutekunst, in his season-ending press conference, highlighted the Green Bay Packers’ financial flexibility, specifically directing attention towards reinforcing the safety position. As players such as Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford, and Jonathan Owens approach free agency, critical decisions await the Packers in navigating the safety market. Considering the current roster of players set to become free agents, how should Gutekunst navigate through the upcoming free agency period?

Considering Rudy Ford’s performance as Green Bay’s highest-graded safety in the regular season, leading in interceptions, pass breakups, and tying for most tackles with Jonathan Owens, the Packers should prioritize retaining him. Ford’s 40.9% completion percentage allowed stands out compared to other safeties who allowed 66.7% or higher. Despite being an older player, Ford’s contributions make him a valuable and cost-effective option for the Packers in the upcoming free agency period.

Green Bay could offer Darnell Savage a one-year “prove it” deal, similar to the approach with Kevin King in 2021. Despite a good 2020 season, Savage’s overall defensive grades have dipped, consistently falling below expectations for a former first-round pick. Implementing a change in scheme and philosophy might aid Savage in reclaiming his form, presenting a valuable opportunity for both player and team. However, given his performance trajectory, this could be Savage’s final chance to secure a lasting role in Green Bay.

Considering Jonathan Owens’ contribution on special teams throughout the regular season, bringing him back on an affordable deal for his special teams prowess makes sense for the Packers. Owens, having played in all regular-season games, earned the eighth-highest grade among Packers players on special teams. His performance not only solidifies him as a reliable depth player but also as an asset in the crucial special teams aspect. However, his defensive grade on PFF was 61.9, which is below average.

As per Over The Cap, restructuring contracts for key players including Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, Aaron Jones, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, and Elgton Jenkins could potentially unlock a substantial 50 million in cap space for the Green Bay Packers. This financial finesse not only facilitates Jordan Love’s extension but also empowers the Packers to actively pursue impactful free agents. In considering defensive additions, options such as Jeremy Chinn, Kamren Kurl, and Jordan Fuller stand out, all adept at playing the hybrid safety role integral to Hafley’s defensive scheme. Of particular note, Jordan Fuller previously thrived under Hafley’s coaching at Ohio State in 2019, recording 62 tackles and 2 interceptions.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that David Bakhtiari carries a hefty 40 million cap hit in 2024. Given the uncertainties surrounding his ability to stay on the field, it seems unlikely that Green Bay would allocate such a substantial amount for a player whose availability is in question. Brian Gutekunst could potentially negotiate a pay cut with Bakhtiari if he does return, creating more cap space for potential free agency signings.

Reflecting on the past season, the Packers notably neglected to address their safety needs adequately. As they look ahead to the 2024 season, Green Bay cannot afford to repeat the same mistake. With higher expectations on the horizon, Brian Gutekunst and the Packers front office have a range of viable options available in the market. The opportunity to enhance the safety room is clear, presenting the Packers with a chance they must seize to fortify their roster.