Veteran safety is coming off a very disappointing season
Charlie Peprah’s future with the Packers isn’t as big a story as the futures of Chad Clifton and Donald Driver, but it’s every bit as shaky. The veteran safety is coming off a dismal season and he’s scheduled to make $1.225 million in 2011. And in the National Football League, poor performance plus a relatively high salary often equals a pink slip.
That said, there’s no reason to make a move yet. Pro Bowler Nick Collins’ status remains up in the air following neck surgery and the draft is still a few weeks away. That means the only healthy safeties on the roster right now are Peprah, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine. That’s hardly an impressive group. Burnett started all 17 games last season, but he was no better than average. And while the former Georgia Tech star should be much improved another year removed from ACL surgery, that’s just conjecture at this point. Jennings and Levine are a couple of non-drafted free agents who have yet to play a down on defense in the NFL. Both youngsters have potential, but it would be foolish to rely on either one in 2011.
That’s why general manager Ted Thompson will almost certainly draft at least one safety later this month. Unfortunately, the talent at this position isn’t very impressive. Alabama’s Mark Barron is a stud who should go in the first round, but after that, the pickings are extremely slim. Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith looked good at the Combine, but he struggled to cover quick receivers at the collegiate level. After those two, there’s another handful of players who could potentially hear their names called on day two, but each one has as many detractors as supporters.
So unless Thompson selects Barron at 28, there’s no guarantee he’s going to find a safety capable of contributing on defense in 2011. That’s why there’s no reason to get rid of Peprah just yet. For all of his faults, he did start 15 games for a Super Bowl-winning defense. Of course, he had a terrific pass rush in front of him and one of the best safeties in the league opposite him that season. Neither is likely to be the case in 2011. But things should be better. Burnett will have 17 more games worth of experience under his belt and Thompson seems hell-bent on improving the pass rush. He’s already signed Anthony Hargrove and it would be a shock if he doesn’t address this need early in the draft.
These are the reasons I expect Peprah to remain a member of the Packers for at least a little while longer – perhaps even through the end of training camp. He’s a decent security blanket to have around just in case Collins is forced to retire or is released, Jennings and Levine don’t develop as expected and the draft doesn’t pan out. But at some point between now and the beginning of September, Peprah’s very limited athletic ability and his inflated salary are probably going to get him released. If they don’t, then neither the coaching staff nor Thompson did their jobs in the offseason.