The Packers Say “No Thanks” to Free Agency
The first week of NFL free agency has concluded, and the Green Bay Packers are content with a run it back philosophy – or – the organization is putting all offseason aspirations to improve into the NFL draft.
The Packers have signed no new free agents.
While Green Bay’s divisions-mates have swapped quarterbacks (Lions — Goff for Stafford), added Andy Dalton instead of Mitchell Trubisky (Bears), or brought in defensive help via Patrick Peterson and Dalvin Tomlinson (Vikings), the Packers have merely extended running back Aaron Jones. That is the move to reference if it seems Green Bay was largely quiescent during free agency. Too, the Packers restructured the contracts of EDGE rusher Preston Smith and safety Adrian Amos – presumably to retain the aforementioned Jones.
Unless the franchise has more tactics like those used on Smith and Amos, the Packers will not sign anybody new this offseason. Why? Because general manager Brian Gutekunst is about $40,000 over the salary cap as of March 21st.
This strategy may not be silly, though. The Packers finished the pandemic season with a lofty 13-3 record before losing their fourth consecutive NFC Championship game – this time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who later won the Super Bowl.
The following players represent the Packers roster departures as of March 21st, 2021:
Jamaal Williams (RB) – to DET
Christian Kirksey (LB) – to HOU
Montravious Adams (DE) – to NE
Tim Boyle (QB) – to DET
Corey Linsley (C) – to LAC
Most of these transactions are fat-trims, aside from Linsley. When Jones re-upped with the organization at running back, Williams was instantly expendable because A.J. Dillion was drafted during the Packers curious 2020 draft. Dillon will now serve as the undisputed RB2 behind Jones.
But the Linsley exodus hurts. The 29-year-old obtained All-Pro honors in 2020 on the spine of a commendable 89.9 Pro Football Focus grade. That type of personality is not easily replaceable. Elgton Jenkins, a Pro Bowl guard, will either move over to center, or Green Bay will draft a center in April.
The following players represent the Packers re-signees as of March 21st, 2021:
Aaron Jones (RB)
Preston Smith (EDGE)
Allen Lazard (WR)
Randy Ramsey (LB)
Robert Tonyan (TE)
Chandon Sullivan (CB)
Delonate Scott (DT)
Devin Funchess (WR)
Jake Hanson (C)
Malik Taylor (WR)
Jones and Smith are the two men to exalt if “no new players” is stomach-churning. The offseason mission was evidently a task in retaining the band – not expanding it. The Linsley subtraction notwithstanding, Green Bay did an astute job in keeping the roster core intact.
The existing receiving corps for Aaron Rodgers also stays whole. Lazard, Funchess, and Tonyan will all catch passes from Rodgers in 2021 – a quarterback that will turn 38 years old by the time 2021 arrives at Week 1.
If Packers loyalists enjoyed the 2020 campaign, then 2021 should feel ambitious. The team predominantly looks similar – and the draft is five weeks away to buy some youthful upgrades.
The following players represent the Packers unsigned personnel as of March 21st, 2021:
Ricky Wagner (RT)
Lane Taylor (G)
Mercedes Lewis (TE)
Jared Veldheer (T)
Kevin King (CB)
Tavon Austin (WR)
Damon Harrison (DT)
Tyler Ervin (RB)
Billy Winn (DE)
James Burgess (LB)
Tyler Lancaster (DE)
Will Redmond (S)
Parry Nickerson (CB)
John Lovett (FB)
Will Redmond (S)
Kabion Ento (CB)
Raven Greene (S)
Yosh Nijman (T)
That is a boatload. There is some offensive line personnel with ample experience that will require reinstallation from new players but nothing unconquerable. Kevin King was a player chosen in the 2nd Round of the 2017 NFL Draft from the University of Washington, and so far, Green Bay has not sprinted to contract talks with him. Snacks Harrison is a large human that the Packers signed at the end of 2020. He will likely seek employment elsewhere as his career winds down. Kenny Clark dominates the interior of the defensive line, so a Harrison presence isn’t mandatory.
Put simply, the 2021 Packers will be the 2020 Packers, perhaps with a draft class that they actually utilize. Gutekunst took a lot of heat last spring for choosing Jordan Love in the 1st Round of the 2020 NFL Draft – when the team could have benefited from a star-studded wide receiver amid a deep rookie class.
Maybe Gutekunst learned his lesson – this WR class is vast, too.