Future considerations paramount for Packers at cornerback

Safety could be draft target as well depending on roles in new coordinator’s scheme

CB Jaire Alexander

Packers.com is taking a look at the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. The series continues with the defensive backs.

GREEN BAY – The Packers have their entire defensive backfield from 2020, including reserves, intact for 2021.

But there's plenty to consider for the future at both cornerback and perhaps safety heading into this draft.

At cornerback, the leader of the group is fourth-year pro Jaire Alexander, who is coming off a second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl campaign, the first such honors of his young career.

Alexander intercepted just one pass in the regular season (before picking off Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady twice in the NFC title game), but his lockdown coverage on opponents' top receivers produced a team-best 13 passes defensed.

He became the first Packers corner to earn All-Pro recognition since Charles Woodson in 2011, and just the third to be selected for the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons in the league, joining Herb Adderley and Willie Buchanon.

The Packers will undoubtedly exercise their fifth-year option soon on Alexander to keep him under contract for two more years while likely discussions on a long-term extension ensue.

But much remains up in the air after that. Fifth-year pro Kevin King is back after testing the free-agent waters and returning on a one-year deal, and third corner Chandon Sullivan is also returning on just a one-year restricted free agent tender, for now.

That puts cornerback high on the priority list for future planning, and the position could be an early/often draft target for the Packers this week.

King's 2020 season did not go as well as his career-best 2019 campaign, when he missed just one game and intercepted five passes. King missed five games last season, did not pick off a pass, and had a rough day in the NFC title game when he tried to play through a bad back.

Sullivan has been a steady performer in Green Bay for two seasons now, recording his first career pick-six last season and starting 10 regular-season games.

Several other young corner prospects fill up the depth chart, but the Packers are still trying to figure out what they have in them moving forward.

Josh Jackson, a 2018 second-round pick, and Ka'dar Hollman, a 2019 sixth-rounder, both have had opportunities on defense and special teams but ended last season as healthy game-day inactives.

KeiVarae Russell spent three years with the Bengals before being signed to the Packers' practice squad last season in late October. He was elevated to the active roster during the playoffs and saw action mostly on special teams.

Stanford Samuels was an undrafted rookie a year ago from Florida State who was on the practice squad all season, getting elevated for game day twice.

Kabion Ento, who came to the Packers as a converted wide receiver and undrafted rookie from Colorado two years ago, spent 2019 on the practice squad and then all of 2020 on injured reserve due to an injury in training camp.

At safety, the Packers have their starting tandem in veteran Adrian Amos and 2019 first-round pick Darnell Savage, who combined for six interceptions last season, with Amos adding another in the playoffs.

Top backups Will Redmond and Vernon Scott are also back, with Redmond, a special-teams standout, re-signing as an unrestricted free agent and Scott getting his feet wet on defense and special teams a year ago as a rookie seventh-round pick from TCU.

Undrafted rookie Henry Black, from Baylor, also played in eight games in 2020, chalking up a forced fumble at the end of the road win at Houston, while Scott's former TCU teammate Innis Gaines was signed to a reserve/future contract in January.

Where the outlook could change at safety, and potentially affect the Packers' approach to the draft, is with new defensive coordinator Joe Barry's scheme. Barry refers to the nickel or slot corner as the "star" position in his defense given its variety of responsibilities, and while Alexander and Sullivan would be potential candidates to play it, they aren't the only ones.

Savage can't be ruled out due to his combination of tackling, blitzing and cover skills, and if he's Barry's best fit at the star, the Packers could be looking at safeties as strongly as future corners in this draft.

Take a look at the top prospects at safety heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.

Position-by-position series

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