Green Bay Packers Brian Gutekunst has the title of general manager. But unlike other NFL general managers, Gutekunst has been limited in what he can do as a general manager. With Mark Murphy’s peculiar, some would say asinine, front office structure, Gutekunst can only do so much. But one very vital piece that Gutekunst does control is the Packers roster. With a full year of experience under his belt, this off-season will put a bright spotlight on Gutekunst and the rest of his scouting staff. It is essential that Gutekunst improves the Green Bay Packers roster.
Essential Brian Gutekunst Improves the Green Bay Packers Roster
There are some that weren’t too impressed with what Gutekunst did as the Packers top personnel executive in year one of his tenure. Although Gutekunst did have some misses, he did do several things to improve the talent on the Packers roster. Still, he has a lot of work to do if the Packers are going to get back to being Super Bowl contenders.
If Murphy and other Packers executives keep their nose out of personnel decisions, the chance of Gutekunst improving the Packers roster is doable. There are several key positions the Packers need to upgrade. The NFL draft will be one way to improve these positions. But Gutekunst, unlike his predecessor Ted Thompson, will have to make some moves in free agency. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the back nine of his career, the Packers don’t have the liberty to build around youth. It will be a difficult task, but he will need to find a middle ground of youth and experience to get the Packers roster back to a contender level.
The way the current Packers roster is constructed, Gutekunst won’t be allowed luxury draft picks. That was one of Gutekunst’s biggest mistakes from last off-season. For a roster with so many holes, selecting a punter in the fifth round and a long snapper in the seventh round turned out to be an error in judgment by Gutekunst. While both players might turn to be contributors for seasons to come, the Packers had more pressing issues.
Going into this off-season, the Packers have four essential areas that need upgrading. It will be interesting to see which positions will take precedence over the others. In no particular order, here are the top areas that the Packers need upgrading this off-season.
Not only do the Packers have a lot of money invested in Rodgers, but any chance of getting back to the playoffs falls on Rodgers shoulders. That is why offensive line is on this list.
It appears that starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga’s body is starting to break down. Once again he was unable to play a full 16 game regular schedule. That has become the norm for Bulaga who has battled knee, back, and ankle injuries throughout his career. He has one more year left on his deal, but he has illustrated that he can’t be depended on. Even if the Packers bring Bulaga back, which isn’t a for sure deal, they will need to get somebody that can step in immediately. It isn’t about if, but more when Bulaga will be injured again.
Right tackle isn’t the only spot on the offensive line that needs a major upgrade. The guard position for the Packers needs some major influx of talent. Lane Taylor, the starting left guard, had a very disappointing season in 2018. After a strong 2017 season, Taylor’s play slipped this season. He battled injuries, but when healthy, he still struggled.
While the play at left guard was at best sub par, the play at right guard was downright awful. The Packers played Byron Bell, Justin McCray, and Lucas Patrick all at right guard and all of them struggled. Out of the three, Patrick performed the best, but he appears to be a backup prospect.
Finding a contributor on the offensive line in free agency is very difficult task. That will mean Gutekunst will have to look at the draft for help. While guard will need to be upgraded, offensive tackle will need to be addressed first. Bulaga’s body is failing and the top backup, Jason Spriggs, continues to show that he wasn’t worth the second round pick the Packers used on him.
The Packers have two first round picks. It wouldn’t be surprising if they used one of those picks on a tackle. One that is capable of backing up Bakhtiari and also stepping in for Bulaga.
While the Packers hit on signing tight end Jared Cook in 2016, the same can’t be said about the next two veteran tight ends they signed in free agency. In 2017, they signed Martellus Bennett who ended up quitting on them during the season. Last off-season, they signed Jimmy Graham. While Graham contributed, it was pretty obvious that his best years are behind him.
With the tight end position being so deep in this year’s draft, the Packers could finally bring in some youth at the position. With such quality depth, the Packers could find a contributor in the second round or later.
Robert Tonyan showed some promise in limited playing time for the Packers last season. He appears to have a good future in front of him. Graham is still under contract and most likely will be brought back. But he isn’t the playmaker he once was which will make it necessary for the Packers to bring in a young player who they can develop.
The outside linebacker position was a need going into last off-season but Gutekunst failed to upgrade the position. The only significant addition he made at the position was spending a seventh round pick on Kendall Donnerson. While Donnerson processes high attributes, he will need time to develop.
If Gutekunst once again shuns the outside linebacker position it will hinder the progress of the Packers defense. Not only do they need quality, but there is a chance they will be in need of depth as well.
Clay Matthews will be a free agent this off-season. They will need to decide if he is worth keeping. His contribution to the defense has dropped off dramatically as he has gotten older. If there is another team that is willing to give him big money this off-season, most likely Gutekunst will allow him to depart. If he can be signed at good value, there is a change he will remain as a Packer.
Gutekunst will also need to make a decision on Nick Perry. Perry once again was lost for the season because of an injury. He played in only nine games this season and only registered one and a half sacks. In March of 2017, he signed a five-year $60 million deal. His play doesn’t match what he is making. The Packers would be better off cutting ties with Perry and finding somebody who can stay on the field.
Third year outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell had a career year this past season. Fackrell registered a career best 10 ½ sacks this season in Mike Pettine’s defense. While he was the best out of the group, many still believe he is just a rotational player.
After a strong preseason showing, a lot was expected out of Reggie Gilbert. Unfortunately, he didn’t carry his preseason play into the regular season. Gilbert was a key player in their outside linebacker rotation, but only registered two and a half sacks. While Gilbert still has a spot on the Packers roster, at best he is a rotational player.
Both in free agency and in the draft there will be quality outside linebackers available that can help the Packers defense. Gutekunst and his staff will need to decide which way of improving the position is the best method. One thing is for sure, Gutekunst cannot turn his back this off-season on outside linebacker like he did last off-season.
Last season, it become pretty obvious that safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix was ready to move on from the Packers. Gutekunst took notice as well and traded him to the Washington Redskins for a fourth round draft choice. With Clinton Dix departed, veteran defensive back Tramon Williams shifted from cornerback to safety.
Williams provided a veteran presence for the back-end of the Packers defense. But he will be 36 years old next season and it appears that his career is coming to a conclusion. Finding a young safety that Williams can groom seems like a good bet going into the draft. But finding Williams successor isn’t the only safety position that Gutekunst has to worry about.
The safety opposite of Williams will also need to be addressed. The Packers thought they found a hidden gem in Kentrell Brice when they signed him as an undrafted free agent. But when given the chance to start this past season, Brice struggled. His backup, former second round pick Josh Jones, also struggled. Jones seems like a better fit as a nickel linebacker rather than playing a deep safety position.
With Brice and Jones appearing not to be the answer at the other safety position, Gutekunst could look at free agency for a veteran safety. One player that could be a fit is Landon Collins. The New York Giants safety will be a free agent this off-season and might be worth the investment.