Darnell Savage

Jaguars To Sign S Darnell Savage

Jacksonville’s busy day continues. The Jaguars are set to add to their secondary by inking safety Darnell Savage to a three-year deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

While Savage enjoyed an inconsistent run in Green Bay, it stood to reason a team would bet on the former first-rounder’s talent. Jacksonville will do so. The Jaguars made multiple moves to help their offense Monday, adding Mitch Morse and Gabriel Davis. Savage will be added shortly after the team released Rayshawn Jenkins.

Biceps and groin injuries led to Savage missing seven games last season, but Pro Football Focus viewed it as a bounce-back offering from the talented but inconsistent defender. PFF slotted Savage as the NFL’s No. 15 overall safety last season. That represented a big improvement from 2022, when the Packers benched the 2019 first-round pick.

The Jags moved on from Jenkins after three seasons, but the team still has 2021 draftee Andre Cisco in place as a starter. Savage is poised to join the Syracuse alum as a first-stringer under new DC Ryan Nielsen. The team struggled last season on defense, having brought back most of a unit that underwhelmed in 2022.

Following a late-season collapse, the Jags fired DC Mike Caldwell and a host of other assistants. Savage will be part of the Jags’ solution in what could be a pivotal year for Doug Pederson‘s future. The Packers moved on in a big way from Savage, giving Xavier McKinney the third-most lucrative safety deal in NFL history.

Latest On Packers, S Darnell Savage

Darnell Savage joined the Packers in 2019 with high expectations, but his time with the team could soon come to an end. The veteran safety was among those players whose contracts recently voided, creating dead cap charges regardless of if they re-sign with Green Bay or head elsewhere in free agency.

As noted at the time by ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Savage’s contract will carry the largest dead money of the group. The Packers will be hit with a $5.46MM charge for the former first-rounder, who is on track to test the open market for the first time in his career next month. His representation is well aware of the opportunities which could arise taking him out of Green Bay.

“Darnell loved his time in Green Bay, and we remain optimistic that a deal can get done before the league year,” Savage’s agent Seth Katz said (via Demovsky). “But realistically, the window for free agent communication is around the corner, and there will be significant interest in Darnell.”

Savage remained a full-time starter throughout much his five seasons with the Packers, a tenure which included a number of ups and downs. The former first-rounder was benched in a four-game stretch in 2022, although he returned to first-team action when healthy this past season. He was limited to 10 regular season contests due to a calf injury, but he was activated in time for Green Bay’s closing regular season contests and both playoff games.

The Maryland alum totaled a career-low 51 tackles in 2023, and he was held without an interception (in the regular season) for the first time. Savage’s downturn in ball production (one pass deflection) came about as his struggles in coverage continued. He allowed a completion percentage of 78.3% as the nearest defender while surrendering an opposing passer rating above 100 for the third consecutive season. PFF rated Savage 15th amongst qualifying safeties, though, a far more favorable evaluation than the team’s other options at the position.

Still, it would come as little surprise if the 26-year-old were to head elsewhere. Demovsky confirms no contract talks have taken place between Savage and the Packers, leaving him on course for free agency. Presuming the Buccaneers use the franchise tag on All-Pro Antoine Winfield Jr., the list of available safeties will likely offer little in the way of star power. Demovsky reports Savage could land the largest deal in the 2024 class at an AAV between $5MM and $7MM.

In any event, the Packers could see a number of departures on the backend this offseason. Savage is joined by Rudy Ford and Jonathan Owens – who combined to see 20 starts last season – as pending free agents. With a new defensive coordinator in place, improvements in the secondary will be a key offseason goal. A number of new faces at the safety position could be a major factor in that effort.

Packers Activate S Darnell Savage Off IR

The Packers’ secondary is getting a solid reinforcement as the Packers announce the activation of starting safety Darnell Savage off of injured reserve. Savage returns after missing the team’s last five contests.

The past two games have seen Green Bay function with two backups at safety as starting strong safety Rudy Ford has missed time with a combination of biceps and groin injuries. In both contests, the team was forced to rely on Jonathan Owens and Anthony Johnson.

Owens has been filling in for Savage since his placement on IR and has mostly struggled as a starter, grading out as the league’s 75th-best safety, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In his lone season as a starter for the Texans last year, Owens struggled in a similar fashion, grading out as the 86th safety out of 88 ranked players at the position. Johnson, a seventh-round rookie, hasn’t fared much better, grading as the 72nd safety, according to PFF, but he did nab an interception in one of his three starts this year.

Savage will now have a chance to return and make a case for himself in what’s left of his contract year. The Packers picked up his fifth-year option back in the 2022 offseason, but it doesn’t seem like there has been much in the way of extension talks. In fact, it was seeming like Green Bay may have regretted their decision to opt-in for the additional year of Savage’s rookie contract after benching him for a four-game stretch last year. The Packers don’t have much of a choice but to start Savage for now, allowing him an additional few games to show what he’s worth in free agency.

In addition to Savage’s activation, Green Bay announced its two standard gameday practice squad elevations for tomorrow’s Sunday night matchup with the Chiefs. Fullback Henry Pearson and running back James Robinson will be suiting up with the active roster tomorrow night. Robinson spent time with both the Patriots and Giants in the offseason. After failing to make a 53-man roster, Robinson signed to the Packers’ practice squad in mid-October and has been off-and-on with both the p-squad and active roster ever since. He has yet to make an in-game appearance this season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/20/23

Today’s minor moves:

Cincinnati Bengals

Green Bay Packers

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

  • Signed off Bears practice squad: DE Jalen Harris
  • Placed on IR: DL Efe Obada
  • Waived from IR: CB Troy Apke

The Packers will soon be getting some reinforcement on defense, as the team designated safety Darnell Savage Jr. for return from injured reserve today. The defensive back has missed the last four games while recovering from a calf injury. The former first-round pick started all six of his appearances to begin the season, collecting 34 tackles. The fifth-year starter will provide the Packers with a welcome boost when he inevitably returns to the field.

It seems like Green Bay is already preparing for Savage’s return, as the team moved on from another defensive back. Dallin Leavitt spent the past year-plus with the Packers, with the veteran joining the organization following a four-year stint with the Raiders to begin his career. Leavitt got into all 17 games for the Packers in 2022, with all of his snaps coming on special teams. The veteran has seen a handful of defensive snaps in 2023, collecting two tackles in 10 games.

Packers Place Darnell Savage, Eric Stokes On IR

The Packers announced a flurry of roster moves today to take care of some injury business. Green Bay had to send safety Darnell Savage and cornerback Eric Stokes to injured reserve, requiring the signing of two practice squad defensive backs to come up and fill their place.

Savage, the Packers starting free safety of the past five years, is playing in a contract year after having his fifth-year option picked up. Unfortunately, this last season before hitting the open market will include a stint on IR after the Maryland alum suffered a calf injury, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. With Savage expected to need a month or so to heal, former Houston starter Jonathan Owens will likely take his place in the starting lineup next to Rudy Ford.

Stokes is returning to IR after a heart-breaking four days. The young cornerback out of Georgia missed the back half of last season with an ankle injury then underwent both foot and knee surgeries in the offseason. Not fully healed at the start of this year, Stokes has been on Green Bay’s reserve/PUP list all season, up until four days ago.

Green Bay partially activated Stokes out of necessity in order to ensure he would be able to avoid spending the full season on the PUP list, after being designated to return. After only four special teams snaps in Week 7, though, Stokes will land on IR for a second straight season. The injury sending him back to IR is being designated as a hamstring malady.

The Packers decided to fill the two vacant roster spots by signing practice squad players to the active roster, one of whom came from another team’s practice squad. The team decided to add cornerback Robert Rochell off the Panthers’ practice squad and promote cornerback Corey Ballentine from their own. Cornerback Zyon Gilbert will join the Packers’ practice squad, filling the spot vacated by Ballentine.

With Stokes on IR and Jaire Alexander continuing to battle the injury bug, the focus on cornerbacks is completely understandable. With a three-game upcoming stretch that includes games against the Chargers, Lions, and Chiefs, Green Bay will be working hard to get their secondary right.

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Lions, Savage

The Vikings have multiple departure candidates still on their roster. The Dalvin CookZa’Darius Smith holding patterns may persist, with SI.com’s Albert Breer noting the Vikes have informed other teams they are in good enough shape cap-wise to hold onto both veterans. This will be contingent on a bit more work being done, as OverTheCap credits the Vikings as holding $1.2MM in cap space. Cook is due $10.4MM in salary, and the Dolphins’ Devon Achane third-round pick complicates a previously discussed trade. The Vikings could take a Bengals path and prepare for a pay-cut ask, but we have not heard that is in the works yet. Smith, who asked to be cut earlier this year, is tied to a $9.45MM base. The Vikes have he, Danielle Hunter and UFA addition Marcus Davenport in the fold. The Vikings remain open to moving either player, though Breer adds they might need to pick up part of each’s salary — similar to how the Bears proceeded with their Robert Quinn trade last year — to make such a move worthwhile in terms of compensation.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Between free agency and the draft, the Lions have revamped their secondary. Detroit signed Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley and C.J. Gardner-Johnson before drafting versatile DB Brian Branch in Round 2. The Eagles had moved Gardner-Johnson to safety last season, but he primarily played slot corner under Aaron Glenn in New Orleans. The Lions DC is planning to use CJGJ frequently in the slot this season, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News notes. It will be interesting to see how the Lions manage the workloads for Gardner-Johnson and Branch, considering both have experience — albeit one of them at the college level only — of working in the slot and as a safety.
  • In the wake of the NFL’s gambling investigation producing four Lions suspensions, the team released recently re-signed special-teamer C.J. Moore and wideout Quintez Cephus. Those two were not the only Lions employees dismissed as part of their involvement in this scandal. The team also fired staffers, and Breer adds a strength and conditioning coach and two equipment managers were let go. Receivers Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill were also suspended, but they are still with the team.
  • The Packers moved some money around in Darnell Savage‘s contract recently, and Field Yates of ESPN.com indicates the restructure created $5.5MM in cap space (Twitter link). Savage is attached to a fifth-year option salary in 2023. The Packers converted $4MM of Savage’s option salary into a signing bonus and tacked on four void years to the former first-round safety’s deal, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets. If the Packers do not re-sign Savage before the 2024 league year begins, they will be hit with $5.5MM in dead money due to the void years now on this contract. The Packers, who absorbed a record-tying $40MM in dead money by trading Aaron Rodgers last week, are still near the top of the league in cap space. They hold just more than $17MM in room as May begins.

Packers HC Matt LaFleur On DC Joe Barry, Secondary Plans

When Packers head coach Matt LaFleur endorsed defensive coordinator Joe Barry in January, it was clear that he would allow Barry to lead Green Bay’s defense for a third season in 2023, despite the opportunity to pursue candidates like Vic Fangio, Ejiro Evero, and Steve Wilks.

In his first public comments since making that decision, LaFleur explained that in addition to continuity and staff chemistry — which he had previously cited as reasons for retaining Barry — the defense’s improved performance down the stretch of the 2022 season also played a key role.

“Our defense was getting better, it was progressing,” LaFleur said at last month’s owners meetings (via Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette). “I thought Joe was doing a good job of communicating with our players. I thought our staff was doing a great job together, putting our guys in a better situation, having just more clarity on what it is we wanted to be and our play style, and I thought it got better. I felt like that was in the best interest of us to bring all those (coaches) back.”

The Packers finished the 2022 campaign ranked 17th in both points (21.8) and yards (337) allowed per game, and for a defense that was expected to be among the league’s best, that qualified as a major disappointment. During Green Bay’s five-game losing streak in October and early November, it was reported that players were becoming frustrated with Barry’s scheme and play-calling, and LaFleur acknowledged that adjustments were not made as quickly as they should have been.

Still, after Barry simplified his play-calling, and after other tactical changes — like playing more press coverage and benching underperforming safety Darnell Savage — were made, the defense got better, and the Packers nearly snuck into the postseason. With Jordan Love set to become the club’s starting quarterback, it will be imperative for Barry & Co. to carry their momentum into 2023, and if that does not happen, then Barry could be out of a job and LaFleur will be subjected to plenty of second-guessing.

Another productive adjustment that was made in the second half of the 2022 season was moving Rasul Douglas from nickel corner to the boundaries (although that move was only made due to Eric Stokes‘ season-ending knee and ankle injuries). Per LaFleur, the team will utilize a rotation of Jaire Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas outside the numbers, and Keisean Nixon will get a chance to claim the slot corner position. Nixon has never been a full-time defensive player — his 28% defensive snap share last year was a career-high — but the coaching staff is clearly high on his ability and prefers to have one player predominantly occupying the nickel role.

Nixon did earn a First Team All-Pro nod for his work as a return man in 2022, and he was retained for the 2023 season on a one-year pact that can max out at $6MM. LaFleur said that the team will create an offensive package for Nixon in an effort to get the ball in his hands more often (Twitter link via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky).

The team’s plan for Nixon means that Savage is not, as had been suggested previously, presently under consideration to man the slot. Instead, Savage will get the chance to reclaim his job as a starting safety and to work alongside free agent acquisition Tarvarius Moore on the back end of the defense. Savage is entering a platform year, so his 2023 performance will have a major impact on his financial future.

Packers Sign S Tarvarius Moore

A 2021 season-nullifying injury postponed Tarvarius Moore‘s free agency by a year. After the safety’s contract tolled, however, the Packers will still add him to the mix.

The 49ers used Moore as both a cornerback and a safety, though he spent more time at the latter post. He competed with Talanoa Hufanga to start opposite Jimmie Ward last year. Hufanga going on to earn first-team All-Pro honors signaled San Francisco’s long-term plans at that position. But Ward and Moore have now relocated, with the 10th-year veteran joining DeMeco Ryans‘ Texans staff.

Moore will land with another ex-Kyle Shanahan coworker, joining Matt LaFleur‘s team. The Packers experienced some issues at safety last season, and Adrian Amos is now a free agent. The team is considering shifting Darnell Savage to the slot on a full-time basis, and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes Rasul Douglas is a candidate to move from cornerback to safety. With the safety spot unsettled and Rudy Ford (six 2022 starts) also a free agent, the Packers may have an opening for Moore.

The former third-round pick — in part because of a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at Southern Miss’ 2018 pro day — began his 49ers career at cornerback moved back to safety in 2019. He started eight games in 2020, making 52 tackles and forcing a fumble. A torn Achilles in June 2021 kept Moore on the 49ers’ PUP list throughout the season, and since he was in the final year of his contract, his rookie deal tolled. Moore would have been unlikely to do well on the market last year anyway, considering his 2021 injury, and he played 13 games this past season.

Moore, 26, does not have a regular-season interception, but he picked off Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV. Even if Moore does not mount a serious charge to start in Green Bay, the Packers have added an experienced special-teamer. Moore saw action on 66% of the 49ers’ special teams plays last season and cleared the 50% barrier on ST snaps in each of his other three active seasons.

Injury Rumors: Evans, Pringle, Linderbaum, Savage, McKethan

As practices start to ramp up leading into the preseason, injuries are starting to rear their ugly heads. Here are a few rumors on injuries we’ve seen so far:

  • It appears that Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans has suffered a minor hamstring injury, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. Laine reports that, despite a history of nagging hamstring issues, this minor injury will be no threat to Evans’ Week 1 status. Hamstring injuries caused Evans to miss a game last season and forced him to injured reserve in Week 14 of the 2019 season. Evans has shown incredible resiliency, as the 13 games played in 2019 were the least he’s ever played in a season. He’s had a strong history of never letting injuries keep him out for long and never keeping him from reaching the 1,000-yard receiving mark.
  • Wide receiver Byron Pringle joined the Bears after a bit of a breakout season with the Chiefs last year. Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus told reporters that, unfortunately, Pringle’s debut with the Bears may be a little delayed, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. The fourth-year receiver out of Kansas State suffered a quad injury that Eberflus says will cause him to “be out for some time.” Pringle’s only history with injuries in the NFL came two years ago when he spent three weeks on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
  • One of the Ravens’ two first-round picks, center Tyler Linderbaum suffered a lower leg injury this week that should hold him out for a short time, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “It’s not a serious thing,” head coach John Harbaugh explained after Friday’s practice. “It’s going to be probably at least a week…It could be two weeks. We’ll see.” Linderbaum, the first ever center that Baltimore has utilized a first-round pick on, is expected to take the starting job as a rookie and will play a large role in a comeback season for a Ravens team that saw their 2020 season derailed by a litany of season-ending injuries.
  • While trying to cover wide receiver Amari Rodgers in one-on-ones yesterday, Packers safety Darnell Savage suffered a hamstring injury and was forced to sit out the rest of practice, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Savage downplayed the severity of the injury when talking to reporters. “I don’t think it’s a concern,” Savage said. “It’s a fast-people injury. Some of those things you can’t avoid. I’ll just handle it the right way…and I’ll be alright.”
  • Giants fifth-round pick Marcus McKethan suffered an ACL injury yesterday and will be out for his entire rookie season, according to Field Yates of ESPN. The offensive guard out of North Carolina was a reserve depth piece on New York’s line and was not expected to have much of an impact during his first NFL season, but a season-ending injury to any of a team’s players is never good news.

Latest On Packers’ Secondary

The strength of the Packers’ re-tooled defense figures to be its secondary. While depth could be a question mark, the starting unit features a number of former first-rounders and effective veterans. Which five players are in line to see the field full-time isn’t a concern heading into training camp, but how they are aligned could be. 

As detailed by The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman (subscription required), Green Bay is set to use Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas as their top three corners. The latter enjoyed a late-blossoming breakout campaign last season, recording a career-high five interceptions. That performance earned him a three-year, $21MM contract in free agency.

The group will still be led, of course, by Alexander; the Pro Bowler became the league’s all-time highest-paid corner (in terms of AAV) when he signed an $84MM extension which will keep him in place through 2026. He and Stokes in particular figure to serve as a foundation on the backend for the foreseeable future, along with, in all likelihood, safety Darnell Savage Jr. 

An important question Schneidman raises is the matter of who mans the slot when each of the top five defenders (the aforementioned four players, along with safety Adrian Amos) are healthy. DBs coach Jerry Gray indicated that any of the starting corners or Savage could find themselves in the role. “There’s a lot of action at the nickel,” he said. “[A]nd everybody wants to be in the action.”

As Schneidman notes, different players would be better suited to shift inside at different points, depending on individual circumstances. Ultimately, though, the health of the secondary’s top five members will be the most important factor in the defense’s success, given the distinct lack of known commodities lower on the depth chart. How the unit shakes out at camp will be worth watching in the lead-up to what the Packers hope will be another Super Bowl run.