By Matt Johnson

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While Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson may have developed a reputation as someone who remains very quiet during the free agent frenzy, he continues to show a commitment to the players he has developed and that have grown in the Packers system. After already extending Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews earlier in the offseason, Thompson and the Packers are now working hard on a deal with safety Morgan Burnett according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

Burnett was drafted in the 3rd Round with the 71st Overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft as a junior out of Georgia Tech. Thompson moved up 15 spots at the price of their 4th Round Pick (122) but it was for a player Thompson coveted. Burnett got right to work as a rookie intercepting his first interception in just his second game. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL against the Detroit Lions in Week 5 and was lost for the season.

Burnett came back strong the following season, starting in all 16 games while recording 107 tackles with 3 interceptions and 11 passes deflected. While Burnett may not have created a lot of turnovers his ability to play safety positions and providing strong coverage skills and help against the run were evident. Burnett made even more progress this past season, steadily improving into an all-around safety. While Burnett saw a jump in tackles in 2012 to 123, it was his consistency and reliability that are making him a mainstay for the Packers defense. Burnett joined St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis as the only players to play every defensive snap in every game last season.

At the age of 24, Burnett was primed to enter free agency next season as one of the top young defensive backs on the market. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and will make $1.325 million during the upcoming season. It is clear Ted Thompson has made him one of the Packers top priorities for extensions.

Green Bay still has cap space after signing Aaron Rodgers to a five-year, $110 million extension and Clay Matthews with a five-year $66 million extension. But after letting Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson depart during the offseason, Green Bay still has enough cap room for another extension.

Green Bay will have to prioritize who they want to give extensions to among their impending free agents in 2014.  Sam Shields, Jermichael Finley, James Jones and B.J. Raji are all approaching pay day. Raji would likely be the first priority for the Packers based off talent, but inconsistency likely means he will have to play out the rest of his contract before Thompson rewards him with a big deal. Finley also has concerns over his consistency and problems with drops, while Jones stepped up last season hauling in 14 touchdowns. But if Finley struggles again he will become replaceable, while James Jones could be replaced by someone like Jarrett Boykin or even rookie wide receiver Charles Johnson in a few years. That leaves Morgan Burnett, who is definitely the Packers best safety at a position that is already thin. Their defense struggled last season and simply can’t afford to lose a young player like Burnett who is developing into one of the better safeties in the league. It shouldn’t be a matter of if the Packers extend Morgan Burnett, but when.

 

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Matt Johnson

I am a sports writer entering my first year in college. I am also a aspiring sports radio host.

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