For the NFL safety, this is a perfect storm. LeRoy Butler sees the forces colliding.
Tight ends are bigger, more athletic than ever. Dynamic playmakers - think Darren Sproles, Randall Cobb, Percy Harvin - are being schemed in cutting-edge ways. And at the NFL scouting combine, the volume of read-option questions directed at head coaches was downright annoying, yet justified.
All of it puts more stress on the safety to make the right calls, be interchangeable and cover more ground.
True, Ted Thompson has a long off-season slog ahead. From Jermichael Finley's contract to, of course, extending Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and/or B.J. Raji, the Green Bay Packers general manager has many difficult decisions to make with a flat salary cap. Still, Butler is surprised the off-season narrative in Green Bay - and beyond, really - doesn't start with the safety position.
"It's shocking to me," the former Packers safety said. "It really is shocking to me when I see these safeties playing around the league. Nowadays, teams don't invest as much into that."
This off-season, through action or inaction, the Packers must chart a course at safety. It's currently the youngest position on the team, occupied by two 24-year-olds and two 23-year-olds. After releasing Charles Woodson, the void left by Nick Collins remains.
Morgan Burnett may be a long-term fixture - Butler calls him "a future star." But next to him, are M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian and Sean Richardson sufficient?
With versatile safeties at a premium, Butler isn't so sure. Via free agency or the draft, Green Bay may find Burnett a new partner.
"Neither one of those guys can cover to a high level to where you can be interchangeable," he said. "They just don't have the range. Maybe you can look at free agency, a veteran guy for these guys to learn from or they're going to have to eventually address that position."
Money aside, Dashon Goldson makes a lot of sense. There are two players who could lift the Packers back to Super Bowl contention, Butler says. Running back Steven Jackson is one. San Francisco's Goldson, 28, is the other. The latter almost certainly would come at a steep price in free agency. One NFL team official told the Journal Sentinel that he's seeking $8 million per year.
Butler is a fan, pointing out that San Francisco toiled in the NFC basement before pairing safeties Goldson and Donte Whitner.
Packers' safety position in limbo
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Mar 4