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Packers could still look to upgrade secondary in NFL draft, even after adding Xavier McKinney

Packers could still look to upgrade secondary in NFL draft, even after adding Xavier McKinney


The Green Bay Packers made a big investment in their secondary by signing safety Xavier McKinney from the New York Giants.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Packers address that area again early in the draft.

Safety was one of Green Bay’s biggest weaknesses last season, and the Packers haven’t kept any of the three guys who earned the most playing time at that position for them a year ago. Jonathan Owens joined the Chicago Bears, Darnell Savage signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Rudy Ford remains a free agent.

The only safety remaining on Green Bay’s roster who played at least four defensive snaps for the Packers last season is 2023 seventh-round pick Anthony Johnson Jr.

The Packers must restock the position even after signing the 24-year-old McKinney to a four-year, $68 million contract.

“I think it’s a pretty good safety class this year,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said at the NFL owners’ meetings. “The draft’s unpredictable. It’s how those things fall, and whether that comes to you. But it’s a pretty good safety class. But I don’t think going into the draft it’s anything you can ever count on, just because you never know how it’s going to fall.”

The Packers also need help at cornerback as they try to take the next step after going 10-9 and losing in the NFC divisional playoffs last season.

They return two-time Pro Bowl selection Jaire Alexander and nickel back Keisean Nixon and hope 2023 seventh-round pick Carrington Valentine builds upon his impressive rookie season. But they lack depth there because of the uncertainty surrounding 2021 first-round selection Eric Stokes, who played just three games last season and nine in 2022 because of injuries.

Along with their issues in the secondary, the Packers need to make up for offseason losses on the offensive line and at linebacker. The Packers released tackle David Bakhtiari and allowed guard Jon Runyan Jr. (New York Giants) and tackle Yosh Nijman (Carolina) to leave via free agency. The Packers also released 2021 All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who has since signed with San Francisco.

The Packers have plenty of young talent at receiver after drafting Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in 2022 and Jayden Reed and Dontavyion Wicks last year. They also selected two tight ends — Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft — in the first three rounds last year. Green Bay seems set at quarterback with 2023 fifth-round pick Sean Clifford backing up Jordan Love. But with 11 total draft picks, the Packers still could give Love more playmakers or add quarterback depth.

Last year marked the first time since 2015 that the Packers didn’t draft any offensive linemen. They probably will add multiple linemen this year after losing much of their depth at that spot. Rasheed Walker, a 2022 seventh-round pick, performed capably at left tackle in place of the injured Bakhtiari last season. The Packers must decide whether to stick with him as the starter or target a tackle in the first round. Green Bay did address its offensive line depth Thursday by signing tackle Andre Dillard, who was released by the Tennessee Titans after starting 10 games for them last season.

Green Bay traditionally focuses on defense in the first round. The Packers’ selection of Love with the 26th overall pick in 2020 was the only time in the past 12 drafts that they used their first pick on an offensive player.

The Packers have one pick in the first round (No. 25 overall), two in the second (No. 41 and No. 58), two in the third (No. 88 and No. 91), one in the fourth (No. 126), one in the fifth (No. 169), two in the sixth (No. 202 and No. 219) and two in the seventh (No. 245 and No. 255). The extra second-round selection results from the trade of Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets and the additional third-round pick comes from sending cornerback Rasul Douglas to the Buffalo Bills.

TOP PHOTO: FILE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates with teammate center Robert Hainsey after throwing a 52-yard touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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