Let me put it out there, the new Green Bay Packers front office power structure seemed like an unnecessary knee jerk reaction to a disappointing 2017 season. President Mark Murphy replaced a front office structure that worked for successfully for many seasons for the Packers, with a new structure that brings risk.
Former pure general managers Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson had the full authority over the football operations while they were in charge of the Packers football operations and because of that, they were allowed to build the Packers their way, ways that made the Packers very successful during their tenures. Because of Murphy’s new “triangle of authority” approach, it has given vice president of football operations Russ Ball and even head coach Mike McCarthy more authority in the Packers organization. The person it has handcuffed most is Brian Gutekunst, the current “general manager”. Instead of having full control of the football operations, which includes having McCarthy report to him (McCarthy now reports directly to Murphy) Gutekunst is in reality more of a director of personnel, a position that he held last season under Thompson.
When hired, Gutekunst talked about being more aggressive when it came to building the Packers roster, which presumably meant being a major player in free agency this off-season. Although the Packers were more active in free agency, the term aggressive seems like a reach. It can be assumed that Gutekunst had all the intention to be more aggressive, but with Ball in control of contracts and what can be offered, Gutekunst might have been handcuffed on what he could offer and who he and his staff could pursue. But if Murphy truly has given Gutekunst the full authority over the draft, this year’s NFL draft could be Gutekunst’s chance to shine and show Packers fans what he is capable of doing in regards to building the Packers roster.
The spotlight will be shining bright on Gutekunst for this year’s draft, his first in charge of the Packers draft. The Packers did add tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, cornerback Tramon Williams, and re-signed cornerback Davon House this off-season, but there are still holes on the Packers roster that will need to be filled through the NFL draft.
The Packers are in dire need of a young cornerback and a young EDGE pass rusher, both positions being popular positions in mock drafts leading up to the draft. Not only will pass rusher and cornerback have to be addressed on the defensive side of the ball, they also might look to upgrade the inside linebacker position.
The Packers did give franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers a new toy in Graham, but they also parted ways with longtime wide receiver, and a favorite of Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, which creates a need at the wide receiver position. The addition of Graham gives the Packers a solid veteran presence at the tight end position, but they still have a need for a young tight end to develop behind Graham. Currently, the Packers have Lance Kendricks behind Graham, but he is coming off a disappointing 2017 season for the Packers.
Along with wide receiver and tight end, the Packers also will be looking to solidify the offensive line. It appears that the Packers will be looking for a starting right guard with Jahri Evans still unsigned. Along with guard, there are questions at the starting right tackle position. Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga has struggled with injuries throughout his career and is coming off another season ending knee injury. Behind him, both Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy are both coming off-season ending injuries as well.
The Packers go into this draft with 12 picks and with all the needs listed above, they will probably need all 12 of them. With having so many picks, it will give Gutekunst some options, for trading up and landing a player they covet, if he chooses to.
The Packers disappointing season also might have a silver lining to it. Because they finished 7-9, they hold the 14th overall pick, higher than they have had in many seasons. With quarterback the hot position in this year’s draft, like it is in most drafts, if one of the top quarterback prospects were to be available when the Packers are on the clock, Gutekunst and the Packers could be able to wheel and deal and pick up some more picks and possibly still stay in the first round.
Gutekunst might be handcuffed in regards to free agent decisions and other duties associated with true general managers, but the draft could be his coming out party and could give some Packers fans some hope in getting back their favorite team to the playoffs and beyond just reaching the playoffs. Gutekunst learned under Wolf and Thompson, the draft will put him in the spotlight and it will give him a chance to put on display all he has learned while working under them.