The team crossed one name off that list on Monday by reportedly signing safety Morgan Burnett to a four-year extension worth $24.75 million. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the deal includes $8.25 million guaranteed.
Burnett, a third-round pick in 2010 who turned just 24 in January, has started all 32 games the past two seasons and was one of two defensive players in the league to play every snap last season. (The Rams' James Laurinaitis was the other.) He missed just 16 snaps in 2011 after sustaining a broken hand.
Burnett has quietly developed into one of the better safeties in the league.
Over the past two seasons, Burnett is tied for fifth among safeties with four forced fumbles and is one of only five safeties with back-to-back seasons of at least two forced fumbles.
Also over the past two seasons, Burnett is second among safeties with 229 tackles and is one of just four safeties with back-to-back seasons of at least 100 tackles.
Take those two facts in tandem, and Burnett is the only safety that is so accomplished in terms of tackles and forcing fumbles.
"Productivity, I think the numbers speak for themselves — 100-and-some tackles and two years in a row didn't miss a snap," safeties coach Darren Perry said. "Durability, consistency — I think that says a lot about the type of player he is. He's still young and I think his potential still hasn't been reached. I think he has a chance to be a really good football player. We just need to keep him growing in the right direction because we feel he can be one of our impact players on defense."
Burnett, who led all safeties in tackles in 2012, is at his best in the run game. He ranked fourth among safeties in ProFootballFocus.com's "run stop" metric with 22. A "run stop" consists of a solo tackle that holds a first-down run to a gain of 3 yards or less, a second-down run that allows half of the remaining yardage and a third-down run that stops the play short of first-down yardage. That's essentially the same as the Packers' grading system of wins and losses.
Burnett also is a solid tackler, ranking 14th out of 58 safeties in PFF's tackling efficiency metric.
"He's made progress each year," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Smart, very coachable. From a coach's standpoint, you have great confidence that he's going to be accountable, and he's got playmaking ability. You saw our Minnesota game out here. Without those two interceptions, we're in a doggone dog fight. Because it was, when he made those interceptions, it was heading downhill on us. They come out the first play, Peterson broke a long one and his interception turned the game around. The other one was in the red zone, too. Both those were points off the board. I think he's at a point in terms of being your quarterback and taking over the communication and all those kinds of things, he's confident."
Key free agents-to-be include Jermichael Finley, Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Sam Shields, James Jones, Evan Dietrich-Smith, John Kuhn, Mike Neal, Marshall Newhouse and Andrew Quarless.
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