The Green Bay Packers are going to be busy this offseason with over $30 million in cap space and 17 unrestricted free agents. Yet, the team got started on some offseason work earlier this week by re-signing exclusive rights free agent Chris Banjo to a one-year deal for the 2014 season.
Banjo, who joined the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of SMU last season, impressed the coaching staff with his toughness and tackling, earning himself a role as a backup safety and special teamer.
Now re-signing Banjo is not the move most Packer fans are looking for — they want the big free agent splash and who can blame them. However, Banjo could have a role to play for Green Bay in 2014 and I believe it’s a worthwhile exercise to examine that quickly.
Certainly, the Packers do not view Banjo as a potential starter at safety and if they do then there is something seriously wrong with their talent evaluation skills.
Banjo is a solid player but at just 5-10, 204 pounds, he size counts against him and he doesn’t have elite speed or athleticism that can help him make up for it.
Despite concerns about his size, Banjo has proven to be an effective special teams player and even started a game for Green Bay last season. In all, he appeared in 16 games and notched 16 tackles and two passes defensed.
At this point, I fully expect the Packers to use an early round draft pick on a safety or sign a legitimate starter in free agency but even if that’s the case, quality depth is essential and while Banjo may never be a preferred starter, he adds quality competition and experience to the safety position.
Ultimately, I don’t see the Packers carrying four safeties when all is said and done. I believe the will carry Morgan Burnett, the free agent or draft pick they acquire to play next to him, then Banjo, M.D. Jennings or another player (draft pick, free agent, undrafted free agent) will compete for the third spot.
There is already talk of shifting Micah Hyde out of safety, so if he either ends up as the starter opposite Burnett or sees snaps in sub packages, I really don’t see the Packers hanging onto four true safeties. That means Banjo is going to have to earn his way onto the roster, likely at Jennings expense, who has struggled with consistency throughout his time in Green Bay.
So for all you Packer fans longing to see Jennings take a hike, you may get your wish come training camp because he will need to hold off Banjo and others just to make the team in 2014 and with the way he played this past season, that is far from a guarantee.