GREEN BAY – The Packers added depth to their secondary on Thursday after claiming safety Johnathan Abram off waivers.
The fourth-year veteran recorded 255 tackles, 12 pass deflections, and three interceptions in 36 games (34 starts) with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Here are five things to know about the new Packers safety:
1. Abram was the second safety drafted in 2019.
After the Packers traded up to draft Darnell Savage at No. 21, the Raiders took Abram with the first-round pick (27th overall) they acquired from Dallas in the Amari Cooper trade. A first-team All-SEC safety at Mississippi State, "I got to spend some time with Darnell when we were at the Senior Bowl for the draft," Abram said. "Leading up to it, we had a little back and forth going about who was gonna be the first safety to get taken. He kind of beat me on that one. Shout out to him."
Abram impressed scouts with a 4.45-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He started his NFL debut against the Denver Broncos and recorded five tackles but missed the rest of his rookie season with a shoulder injury. Abram returned the following year, posting 79 tackles and two interceptions in 13 starts. He had a career-high 114 tackles in 14 starts last season.
Abram is the 12th former first-round pick on the Packers' roster. He joins quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (2005, No. 24) and Jordan Love (2020, 26), tight end Marcedes Lewis (2006, 28), receiver Sammy Watkins (2014, 4), cornerbacks Jaire Alexander (2018, 18) and Eric Stokes (2021, 29), defensive linemen Kenny Clark (2016, 27) and Devonte Wyatt (2022, 28), linebackers Rashan Gary (2019, 12) and Quay Walker (2022, 22), and Savage (2019, 21).
Abram also is the latest in a series of in-season veteran additions General Manager Brian Gutekunst has made over the past four years, along with cornerback Rasul Douglas, linebacker Whitney Mercilus, defensive lineman Damon Harrison, receiver/returner Tavon Austin, running back Tyler Ervin, and tackle Jared Veldheer.
2. He's close friends with Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon.
Nixon said he and Abram are "like brothers" and even got the same shark tattoo during their time together with the Raiders. While the Nixon and Abram were members of the same 2019 rookie class, they knew each other well before that.
It started on the junior-college circuit when Nixon attended Arizona Western, and Abram was the nation's top-rated JUCO recruit at Jones County (Miss.) Junior College. The two had an official visit the same day at Mississippi State. A native of Columbia, Miss., Abram eventually signed on with the in-state Bulldogs, while Nixon played at South Carolina.
Their football careers finally intersected when Nixon signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent. They played together for three seasons before Nixon joined the Packers this offseason. Nixon and Abram still held out hope they'd someday play again. "We were just talking about this a couple weeks ago," Nixon said. "He was like, '(Darn), what if we played with each other.' I'm like, 'That would be fire.'"
3. Abram is a hard hitter with special-teams experience.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound safety has long been regarded for his toughness, versatility and hard-hitting approach. In 2018, Abram led Mississippi State with 99 tackles (nine for a loss), three sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Among Abram's pre-draft strengths, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein credited the safety for being an "intimidating striker" and playing "like an extra linebacker." In addition to his 34 starts at safety, Abram also played 237 special-teams snaps for the Raiders. In 2020, he finished second on the Raiders' units with seven coverages tackles on 108 snaps. "He's not just going to bring help to the defense but he's gonna bring help to everything, just being on the team," Nixon said. "You guys will see he works. He's gonna talk, too. But he's going to work."
4. He has several connections to the Packers beyond Nixon.
Abram is the third Raider to join former Las Vegas interim head coach Rich Bisaccia in Green Bay this year. In July, Green Bay also signed former Raiders safety Dallin Leavitt, who has four special-teams tackles this season. At Mississippi State, Abram also played with guard Elgton Jenkins and running back Kylin Hill, who celebrated Abram's arrival on social media Wednesday.
5. Abram once had around 700 pairs of shoes in his personal collection.
While he recently began to trim the collection down, Abram does have an entire room in his house dedicated to his shoe collection.
"(I) wear all of them," Abram said. "I try to wear everything. I wear something new every day. Today I have one – Family Pack, only one of 223. 136/223. This is the Family Pack from Jordan, Art Basel."