Green Bay Packers: 9 Quick Thoughts on the Offseason

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 27: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown #19 against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at Lambeau Field on December 27, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 27: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown #19 against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at Lambeau Field on December 27, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

In terms of outside additions during free agency, it’s been very quiet for the Green Bay Packers. But overall, I would still categorize this as a relatively busy offseason, given all the work that they had to do just to get under the salary cap. Not to mention that they have made several “additions,” they just weren’t the kind most fans wanted.

Now with the NFL Draft just a few weeks away, for the most part, things have slowed down for Green Bay. So I thought this would be a good time to reflect and give my thoughts on the offseason up to this point.

Running it back

I imagine that this has been pretty obvious throughout this offseason, but Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers are doing pretty much everything they can to run back the same roster in 2021 that they had in 2020. The only key players who have signed elsewhere are Jamaal Williams and Corey Linsley.

After losing in the NFC Championship again, I get why many want to see new additions in free agency that will hopefully bolster the roster. But this group from 2020 was plenty good enough to have won a Super Bowl—they just didn’t. And both things can be true; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

In the NFC Championship Game, there were a number of errors that led to that loss, but they didn’t lose because of a lack of talent, but rather a lack of execution—which is going to happen in single-elimination games.

The Packers know that they were good enough to win in 2020, and so Gutey is keeping the band together to make one more run.

This is the Green Bay Packers going “all-in”

The phrase “all-in” is one of those buzz words that many love to throw around during the offseason. And while it may not feel like it, in their own way, the Packers have gone all-in this season.

With the salary cap crunch, it wasn’t easy for Gutey and Russ Ball to keep together this team. There were a number of restructures with voided years added on, while Preston Smith and Devin Funchess took pay cuts. This allowed the Packers to re-sign Aaron Jones along with several other players and tender contracts to Robert Tonyan and Chandon Sullivan.

Much of the talk this offseason was about Green Bay’s salary cap issues, and those just didn’t go away; they merely pushed those cap charges — roughly $24 million — into 2022. And they did so in order to keep this Super Bowl-caliber roster together.

2022 Salary Cap

A perfect segue, as dire as the Green Bay Packers 2021 salary cap situation seemed to be, 2022 is looking much worse. As I mentioned previously, in order to keep this group together, the restructures and new contracts handed out were designed to alleviate those cap charges in 2021, but instead, they’ll have to be recognized in 2022 as well as other future years.

In a recent article from Rob Demovsky of ESPN, he lays out what the Packers’ 2022 cap situation looks like:

"“The top eight players under contract for next season have a combined 2022 salary-cap charge of $161.14 million. If the salary cap jumps from $182.5 million this season to, say, $200 million next season, it still would mean the Packers have more than 80% of their cap tied up in those eight players.”"

While there were very few changes this offseason, there are likely going to be quite a few a year from now.

More Salary Cap Maneuvers to Come

At this moment, Over the Cap has the Green Bay Packers $2.6 million under the salary cap. However, with unaccounted-for expenses in that figure, there will be other cap moves to come. Any salary cap figure that we see is for the top-51 players on the roster, but as we all know, there are 53. It also doesn’t include a fund for in-season spending, cap space for the practice squad, or for the incoming draft class.

The two big cap-saving moves still on the table include restructuring Aaron Rodgers’ base salary as well as an extension for Davante Adams.

Aaron Jones

Many, including myself, didn’t think Aaron Jones would be back. Between the Packers’ lack of cap space and the replaceability of the running back position, it just didn’t seem like a move that was going to happen.

However, Jones is back, and while one could argue that this wasn’t the best use of cap space given the nature of the running back position and the fact that paying top-dollar for one isn’t a requirement for winning, what can’t be argued is Jones’ impact on this team.

Jones is an ideal fit for the LaFleur offense, making plays both in the running and passing games, while being moved around the formation. He can also hold his own as a pass-blocker as well.

A prime example of what Jones brings to this offense is from the 2019 season. The Green Bay offense wasn’t clicking at all like it did in 2020, but according to Bill Barnwell of ESPN, when Jones was on the field the Packers ranked third in EPA per play. When he was on the sidelines, they ranked 29th—that says it all right there.

Whether you agree with the the Packers choice to allocate cap space to the running back position is a different debate. But from a football standpoint, Green Bay is better with Jones on this team.

The offseason moves, for the most part, have been underwhelming but necessary

I can’t imagine that many out there have been thrilled with the re-signings that the Green Bay Packers have made. As the headline suggests, they’ve been underwhelming for the most part–and I get it. However, they were necessary moves as well.

Bringing back Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan certainly doesn’t fix the cornerback position, but it does provide the Packers with at least some stability and two veterans to lean on. While we all assume that Green Bay will land a cornerback early on in the draft, there is no guarantee that that player will be ready to be a full-time starter in Week 1.

Marcedes Lewis plays an incredibly important role in this offense as the Y-tight end–a requirement in Matt LaFleur’s system. Tyler Lancaster is a rotational player at best, but this was a Packers’ interior defensive line group that was lacking serious depth. And while Will Redmond has had his issues on defense, he has been one of the Packers’ top special teams players.

None of these moves will affect how Green Bay goes about the draft, but they do provide some needed stability.

Aaron Rodgers’ Future with the Green Bay Packers

So what do we make of Aaron Rodgers’ future? He’s made some open-ended comments that have left many trying to decipher what it could mean, and I have to say that I am surprised that his deal hasn’t been restructured yet–although that can take place at any time, and he still has a $14.7 million base salary to work with.

With all of that said, I still believe Rodgers will the quarterback here in Green Bay at least through the 2022 season. He is coming off an MVP season in the very quarterback-friendly LaFleur offense. I just cannot see a world in which his play falls off so much in 2021 that the Packers feel it’s time to move on. Now, that doesn’t mean he will be the MVP, but I still fully expect him to be a top quarterback in this league.

While Green Bay traded up for Joran Love, and they know much more about where he’s at in his development than we do, moving on from one of the top quarterbacks in football for a relative unknown seems incredibly foolish. As I’ve said before, if Rodgers continues playing at a high level, you stick with Rodgers. It’s that simple.

So because of all of this, I have zero issues restructuring his deal and pushing more money into the future. I expect him to be a part of this team. But we will continue to wait and see how the Green Bay Packers feel about all of this.

Green Bay Packers offensive line

The cornerback position has garnered much of the attention this offseason, and I get why, but the offensive line has some real question marks as well–especially with David Bakhtiari sidelined.

There is very little tackle depth on this roster, with Billy Turner, Elgton Jenkins, and Yosh Nijman as the only players with regular-season NFL snaps. While I believe that Turner and Jenkins will be fine on the edge, an injury will force Green Bay to rely on the very raw Nijman. Not to mention that having Jenkins outside forces the Packers to rely on either Simon Stepaniak or Ben Braden at one of the guard positions.

Fortunately, this a very deep tackle draft class, and landing someone who can either start right away or at least be capable off the bench will provide this unit a much-needed boost. As we saw against Tampa Bay, football games are still won and lost in the trenches.

Top needs heading into the draft

I recently wrote an article ranking the Green Bay Packers’ top positional needs entering the draft. And when it came to the top-3, there was nothing ground-breaking in there. I had offensive tackle as one — because of what I noted above — cornerback as two, for obvious reasons –although if you want to flip offensive tackle and corner, I have no issue with that — and interior defensive lineman–Kenny Clark still needs help, and there is still a lack of depth.

Two other positions that could be added to the mix — although I don’t believe either is nearly as important as the ones mentioned above — include wide receiver and inside linebacker, two popular first-round selections in mock drafts. The Packers currently don’t have any receivers under contract beyond 2021, so I expect them to add at least one in this draft. And if Green Bay wanted to, they could try to bolster the inside linebacker position as well.

Underrated needs entering the draft

There are two positions for me that fall into this category; tight end and safety. Now, I know what you’re thinking: how can I include tight end? And for 2021, it’s not a need. In fact, the tight end room looks really good, but that could change quickly in 2022.

Given their tight cap situation next offseason, we don’t know if Robert Tonyan will be brought back. On top of that, Lewis, who plays the all-important Y-tight end role, could retire. There’s no guarantee that Jace Sternberger takes a step forward, and Dominique Dafney is still a relative unknown. So I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Gutey spend another draft pick on the position.

Then at safety, the Green Bay Packers have the best duo in football in Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos, but that third safety spot is up for grabs. Redmond has shown that he really isn’t the answer, and perhaps if the Packers feel confident in Henry Black or Vernon Scott making a Year 2 leap, this need is alleviated.

Mock Draft Scenarios: Trade Up, Trade Down & Stay Put. dark. Next

However, banking on a former seventh-round pick and undrafted rookie to do that comes with its obvious risks. When it comes to the draft, Trevon Moehrig out of TCU and Jevon Holland out of Oregon are two early-round options for the Packers–both are extremely versatile players.