Green Bay packers Free Agency 2018 Outlook
Green Bay Packers free agency could take a sharp turn in 2018 with the hiring of Brian Gutekunst at General Manager. The Packers announced today that they have made a decision on who will be Ted Thompson’s successor at GM and they have chosen in-house candidate Brian Gutekunst.
Gutekunst has been with the organization for 20 years, as of this upcoming season and was part of Ron Wolf’s hiring tree. There might not be a more deserving candidate as Gutekunst, who no doubt has been Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers approved after there was much turmoil with the rumor that Packers executive Russ Ball was the front-runner for GM.
With that being said, will Gutekunst turn around a franchise that has been timid at best in signing free agents? The ultimate question surrounding Gutekunst will be if he has the killer instinct that Thompson (at let’s be honest Mark Murphy) lacked in looking outside the organization for talent.
One would imagine that a new GM would want to make an immediate impact and look to free agency. The Packers, once again, cannot afford to sift through unproven talent in the draft to fill the holes and needs of the team. So what options does Gutekunst have? Here are some of the impact decisions that he can make that will immediately make it clear that the Packers are ready to make a quick re-build and compete:
Correct Current Roster Issues
The Packers are in desperate need of a current roster makeover. Players such as Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are big cap question marks heading into the off-season. It is almost a no-brainer at this point to cut ties with Matthews, who makes too much money for his current level of production. If the Packers are still concerned that they cannot find replaceable talent via free agency at linebacker, they can ask Matthews to restructure and stay with the team. Which I personally think would be a mistake, but it might be a viable option at this point.
Aaron Rodgers will most certainly get an extension to be the highest paid quarterback in the league. This will be another “difficult” decision for Gutekunst to make, but one that is clearly necessary and will get done no matter what. The interesting part of all of this will be how many years and how they plan on structuring the cap hit.
Nelson and Cobb are two players who are also not living up to their current cap hits. Nelson is an issue of an aging player taking a step back. But Cobb’s $10 million cap hit is not worth his level of production. I would imagine both players are restructure candidates and I could see the organization seeking to keep both. But Cobb would be the most likely outright cut to save cap money and give him an option to truly test free agency to see if he can catch on with another team.
Giving a deal to Morgan Burnett should currently be the Packers top priority. I cannot imagine this secondary succeeding without their most reliable player. Burnett has consistently proven throughout the years that he is a leader on defense. Burnett will be due a 2-3 year deal and I think the Packers can get him for a reasonable price.
Bryan Bulaga could be a potential cut, as he is just too oft-injured to make an impact. I think he is is a fine player and does his job when he is healthy. But his cap hit is too much for the potential that he will suffer yet another season ending injury.
Another aspect that most people will not look at initially is special teams. Mason Crosby will most definitely will be asked to restructure as his cap hit is $5.25 million this upcoming season. His compliance in this cap saving measure will come due to age and wanting to stay with a team that stuck with him through his struggles a few years back.
Finally Look to Free Agency to Fill Holes ahead of draft
The Packers must, and this time I truly mean must, look to free agency to add some talent. This roster is realistically only a few players away from being being good enough to make another playoff push. Gutekunst could make a big splash and prove he is capable of making tough decisions by dipping into free agency. Here are some players the Packers could target to bolster their roster.
Ansah could be the answer for Green Bay’s pass rush. The current Detroit Lion is headed to free agency and will certainly be an expensive player. The Packers are waiting on Chicago’s decision to cut ties with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. If they get their guy in Fangio as D-Coordinator, I would imagine he would institute a 3-4 defense, even though it seems we have the personnel to fit a 4-3. The acquisition of Ansah would push both Kenny Clark and Daniels to the interior, where they could thrive. Green Bay would have a true edge rusher, which they have lacked for a while and it would be nice to pry an elite talent away from a division rival.
DeMarcus Lawrence is perhaps Dallas’ best defensive piece, will certainly be getting paid this off-season. Lawrence posted career numbers this year on a depleted Dallas defense, with no real notable pass rushers outside of him. Sean Lee was hurt on and off and Lawrence still proved he could get consistent pressure on opposing QBs. At 25 years old, Lawrence is entering his prime years and as long as this year was no fluke, should make good on his market value. According to spotrac.com, Lawrence’s market value is 9 million over 4 years. Lawrence will most likely command more as he is posting Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan like numbers. If Dallas chooses not to sign him, he might be an intriguing option for Green Bay’s revamped pass attack.
Signing Landry also would come at a considerable price, but might be worth it to give Rodgers another dynamic, sure-handed weapon in the passing game. The Packers are looking at interesting times with their receiving core. They certainly expect Davante Adams to soar to new heights with his 4 year, 58 million dollar contract. As I mentioned earlier, they faced uncertainty with Cobb and Nelson. The receivers at the back end of the depth chart are unproven, or have only shown flashes. The Packers have two dynamic running backs and will not have to look to the draft or free agency to fill that void, so perhaps they could look at a free agent like Landry, or even Sammy Watkins (who should be cheaper) to add another weapon to the aerial attack.
Bradham is another player similar to Lawrence who had a career year this season. The difference with Bradham is that he will not break the bank for Green Bay like Lawrence or Ansah would and would provide a consistent tackler at linebacker. The Eagles very well may keep Bradham and he certainly comes with character concerns. But the Packers would be foolish to not at least take a look at Bradham if he indeed becomes a free agent, after two relatively successful seasons in Philadelphia.
It is no secret that Butler has not been happy with the New England Patriots. Perhaps the signing of Stephone Gilmore really got to Butler, as the Patriots have been pretty mum on what they will do with the former Super Bowl hero. A fresh start with a franchise who desperately needs a playmaker at cornerback, Butler would alleviate the pressure on Kevin King to immediately be Green Bay’s best cornerback. Butler and King would be the dominant forces on the outside and Randall/Rollins could split duties at the slot position or even play their natural position of safety.
A Backup Quarterback
Green Bay’s situation at backup Quarterback leaves much to be desired. While Hundley still has a year on his rookie contract, the Packers have no choice but to look at free agency options to backup Rodgers. Some options include Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. This team will no doubt invest some money in the backup position, in the event that Rodgers is out more games than they would expect and be better prepared than to roll with Hundley, who clearly is not the quarterback the team thought he would be after 3 years. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they drafted a quarterback and cut Hundley outright, or signed him to the practice squad. His time in Green Bay is most likely coming to an end.
Amukamara could be an interesting prospect if the Packers are looking for secondary depth. Amukamara could be a nice piece to be had if the Packers do indeed bring in Fangio at D-Coordinator. He will not command a big cap when he signed with Chicago. Far from an elite player, Amukamara could be had for a relatively cheap cap hit and would, at the very least, be a similar signing to Davon House this past season.
Green Bay’s off-season Path is Fairly Clear
The Packers will now opearate with a new GM and defensive coordinator. Head Coach Mike McCarthy is here through at least the 2019 season and the offense should not skip a beat. The Packers have enough needs to fill through both free agency and the draft. They will most definitely look for EDGE help and maybe a cornerback with their 1st pick (14th overall) in this year’s draft.
Make no mistake about it, Gutekunst will definitely make a big move to establish his legacy early on. The Packers can no longer sit around and hope that their draft picks develop to be top notch players like in the Thompson era. That does not mean we will foolishly spend in free agency, but acquiring decent talent in the off-season, supplemented by solid drafts will hopefully net the team one more Super Bowl appearance in the Rodgers era.
If the Packers cannot provide a solid off-season contingency plan, one would have to ask why Rodgers would want to stick around? The past few seasons he has been battered and suffered essentially season ending injuries in the two of the last five seasons. Rodgers has a number one receiver in Adams, a player he has been vocal about the team keeping and has two running backs who are capable of supplementing the pass attack. It is now up to management to fix the rest of the team and bring back a winning formula to this team.