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Bigger role in store for Sean Richardson

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Now that Sean Richardson is back with the Green Bay Packers, look for them to increase his role on defense.

The Packers didn't match the Oakland Raiders' one-year, $2.55 million offer sheet, as they did on Monday, just to play Richardson on just 11 percent of their defensive snaps like they did last season.

Last season, Richardson's only regular role in coordinator Dom Capers' defense was in what he called the "Big Okie" package -- a run-stopping version of the base 3-4 in which Richardson replaced one of the starting cornerbacks.

Although the Packers could not offer Richardson a starting spot like Oakland did because, barring injury, Morgan Burnett and last year's first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have a hold on those jobs, they are planning changes in their secondary, especially in their sub packages.

The Packers lost a pair of cornerbacks -- starter Tramon Williams and backup Davon House -- in free agency. They are sorting through how they plan to use their defensive backs in the nickel and dime packages, and Richardson could be in play for snaps in those packages.

General manager Ted Thompson also could be thinking long term with Richardson even though the only thing that's assured is that he will back for one more season. Both Burnett and Clinton-Dix are under contract though the 2017 season, but the Packers soon will reach the point in Burnett's four-year, $24.75 million contract extension where they can start saving salary-cap space if they decided to move on.

If the Packers dumped Burnett after this season, they would save $2.75 million on the 2016 salary cap. If they did so after the 2016 season, they would save $5.35 million on their 2017 cap.

However, Richardson might be a hot commodity next offseason, when he will be an unrestricted free agent. The Raiders were not the only team to show interest in signing him to a restricted free agent offer sheet this offseason.

At minimum, the Packers will have the services of perhaps their top special-teams performer for another year. Last season, Richardson led all Packers' players in special-teams snaps and led the team with 17 tackles on those units.

But given that Richardson now becomes the Packers' second-highest paid backup (behind only Mike Neal at $3 million) and their 14th highest-paid player overall in 2015, expect them to get their money's worth out of him this season.