Those big trades Packers fans were hoping for never came at the NFL trade deadline. Instead, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst stood pat when the deadline came up on Tuesday. You really can’t fault him much either for his non-moves. The Packers sit at 7-1 and on top of the NFC North. But still, the Packers do have areas where they could have made moves. While Brian Gutekunst didn’t make any moves, there were moves that could have helped bolster the Packers roster.
It is hard to knock Brian Gutekunst. He is the general manager of a team that is 7-1. But there are some weaknesses on this roster. There are four areas we think that Brian Gutekunst could have improved the Packers roster at the trade deadline. One area you won’t see listed is wide receiver. Many expected that Gutekunst might make a move for a veteran pass-catcher. But the way that Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and Jake Kumerow have performed as of late, the urgency has calmed down. Plus, as the weeks go by, standout wide receiver Davante Adams continues to get closer to returning from his toe injury.
There are four areas we believe that Brian Gutekunst could have bolstered the Packers roster through trade. We believe that these four areas needed upgrading and hope for the Packers sake that not upgrading them doesn’t bite them in the end.
Punt and Kickoff Returner
Instead of looking for outside help, Brian Gutekunst handled the return position internally. Tremon Smith has a proven track record of returning kicks and did so for the Packers earlier this season. He should be an instant upgrade to Darrius Shepherd. However, it is unknown if he can return punts. It will be interesting to see if he will be to handle that duty.
Andy Herman of Packer Report brought up an interesting name the packers could have targeted. Miami Dolphins Jakeem Grant, a small but shifty wide receiver from Texas Tech, possibly was available. Grant is a capable returner and with the Dolphins bagging this season could have been had on the cheap. Plus, for the rubes out there that are infatuated with head coach Matt LaFleur calling jet sweeps, he could have run those as well.
It isn’t much of a secret, the Packers defensive line has struggled to defend the run this season. The defense currently rank 24th against the run.
There are several reasons why they are struggling. Nose tackle Kenny Clark is battling a calf injury, which has hindered his play. Defensive end Dean Lowry has had an up and down season so far. The other defensive end position, split between Montravius Adams and Tyler Lancaster, has struggled to produce. At times, Lancaster has played like he shouldn’t even be in the NFL.
The Packers didn’t make a move for a player like Leonard Williams, who ended up being shipped from the Jets to the Giants. Instead, Brian Gutekunst is hoping that Adams will continue to progress and that Lancaster can show something. If they don’t, the Packer defense will continue to struggle to contain the opposing teams run game.
Packers tight end Jimmy Graham just isn’t the player he once was. He still needs to be accounted for by opposing defenses, to a degree. But he isn’t nearly the weapon he once was. In fact, fellow veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis has been more reliable than Graham. Lewis has been a stellar blocker but also has helped out in the passing game. But at 35 years old, Lewis can’t be counted on to play a high amount of plays.
Robert Tonyan, the youngest of the three, has battled a hip injury. Brian Gutekunst and the Packers still are high on him, but his injury has limited his snaps. The Packers could have brought in a tight end, like the Bengals Tyler Eifert or the Falcons Austin Hooper, but it appears Gutekunst wasn’t willing to give up a the pick or picks for either.
Like with the returner position, help might come internally. The Packers will need to decide if they are going to activate tight end and last year’s third-round pick Jace Sternberger from the injured reserve. Even if he is activated, expecting a lot in mid-season from a rookie third-round draft pick might be a stretch.
We believe that inside linebacker was the position that most needed upgrading. Blake Martinez might be a tackling machine, but he makes few impact plays. Also, it seems that most of his tackles are made downfield. He struggles mightily in pass coverage and if one offensive lineman gets a hand on him, he is taken out of the play. We credit Martinez for his leadership but question his ability as a starter.
Brian Gutekunst could have helped out the position by trading for a veteran. But instead, he will lean on Martinez’s leadership and hopes that Oren Burks, a former third-round pick, can start to finally contribute. Burks, in his second season, has the speed to be a solid coverage linebacker in the NFL. But injuries have held him back. He will need to pick up the slack that Martinez’s play has left. Not just in coverage but against the run.
Out of the four areas listed, inside linebacker is the one that we believe Brian Gutekunst will come to regret not upgrading.