The Green Bay Packers enter the offseason with, at the very least, some concern at safety.
The Charles Woodson Experiment was doomed by Woodson’s broken collarbone. In Woodson’s absence, M.D. Jennings was solid and Jerron McMillian was inconsistent. With Woodson’s release, Jennings, McMillian and Sean Richardson, who was relegated mostly to special-teams duty until going on injured reserve with a hamstring issue, will compete to start opposite Morgan Burnett.
The Packers figure to add a safety. That likely will happen through the draft but don’t rule out free agency, and one potential fit could be Mike Mitchell.
Mitchell, who will turn 26 in June, was a player of interest for the Packers entering the 2009 draft. Mitchell (6-0, 213) showed speed (sub-4.45 40-yard dashes), explosion (37.5-inch vertical leap) and strength (21 reps on the 225-pound bench press) at Ohio’s pro day, then had a predraft visit with Green Bay.
The Raiders stunned observers by selecting Mitchell with a second-round pick. In four seasons, he started just nine games. He has two interceptions — including one of Aaron Rodgers in 2011 — one forced fumble and 3.5 sacks.
The Raiders would like to retain Mitchell, and they created some cap space by restructuring fellow safety Tyvon Branch’s deal on Thursday. Oakland, however, is only about $6 million below the cap.
“The fact that they’re showing interest in getting a deal done I think that says that,” Mitchell told Bay Area News Group’s Jerry McDonald on Tuesday. “At the same time, it’s a business. Things change overnight. You never know how that’s going to play out.”
Given the cap considerations and the Raiders’ security at safety with Branch and Michael Huff, it’s no cinch that Mitchell won’t find greener pastures elsewhere.
With Oakland, Mitchell played strong and free safety. That versatility is paramount in coordinator Dom Capers’ scheme. Mitchell would add a much-needed physical element to Green Bay’s secondary, and he played all four special-teams units.
Mitchell’s forte is playing run defense. According to ProFootballFocus.com, among the 78 safeties who played in 25 percent of their team’s snaps in 2012, Mitchell ranked fifth in run-stop percentage when in the box (10.7 percent) and 20th in overall tackling efficiency (three missed tackles). He was the best pass rusher among NFL safeties with nine total pressures (one sack, six hits and two hurries) in 27 pass-rushing snaps. In fact, only four safeties had more total pressures than Mitchell, even though they played between three times and four times as many snaps.
He faired well in the passing game, despite a third-to-last passer rating allowed of 130.2. Mitchell faced stud tight ends in both of his starts and helped limit the Saints’ Jimmy Graham to six catches for 29 yards and Antonio Gates to two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown. Pro Football Focus had him responsible for a combined three receptions for 23 yards and the touchdown in those games. Of his nine receptions allowed during the season, only two were longer than 11 yards.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.