As we are about a month into the the Brian Gutenkunst era as General Manager of the Green Bay Packers, and with the NFL off-season just getting started, Packers fan all over the world are still waiting to see what kind of GM he will be. During his introductory press conference a month ago, he unveiled an approach to player acquisition and roster management that aligned more closely with Ron Wolf than it did with the gentleman he was he was most recently taking orders from, Ted Thompson. Which is exactly what the Packers need to return to playing football deep into January, a general manger who will create competition as every position.
With Gutekunst now running the show and in charge of the roster, full expect aggression to follow this off-season as it pertains to building the 2018 Green Bay Packers. To be honest, we will see both Thompson and Wolf strategies in the way Gutekunst builds the roster. I believe that he will mimic Thompson when it comes to drafting, developing and retaining his own players, as that is the Packers way and something that they have done for many years. I fully believe that during free agency is when will see the lessons that he learned from the hall of famer Ron Wolf shine. That will be a lot of turning over the bottom of the roster and creating competition across the board at every position.
One of Ted Thompson’s biggest downfalls was how he would not turn over the bottom of the roster, except for bringing in street free agents that just weren’t good enough. The one position that sticks out in my mind is the secondary position. I don’t care who you are, who the defensive coordinator or head coach is, you are not going to be a championship team when you are relying on street free agents like LaDarius Gunter, Lenzy Pipkins, Josh Hawkins and many more to play a good amount of time. I believe Thompson handcuffed his coaching staff and is a big reason the defense was not successful because he was not providing the coaches the talent that they needed.
In order to win in the National Football League, you need to have an extremely deep team that is talented at every position. The good general managers understand that if a player isn’t good enough, they need to move on from that player. It is better for the organization to move on and bring in another player and see if he can do a better job than sticking with a player who is missing his assignments and not lining up properly. This is the NFL, players can’t get too comfortable on the roster, unless their Aaron Rodgers, because if they do, complacency will set in and they will not have the urgency to constantly get better every day.
Gutekunst believes that even with a lot of quality pieces on this team currently, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to build it back into a Super Bowl contender. Once he is able to create competition across the every position group, not only will it allow the talented it players rise to the top, but it will allow us to see the next young core group of Packers players and then the ones after that and so on and so fourth.
One way for Gutekunst to increase competition across the board is doing something that most of us fans have been screaming about for years, and that is bringing in free agents. It is something that Thompson did very little of. I am not saying he should or will be making a huge splash on the opening day of free agency in March, but signing a low-budget veteran free agent who can provide quality depth come December, January and when injuries arise is critical. Granted there is no guarantee that signing free agents will prove to be successful, and we don’t have to look very far back see how it could backfire, Martellus Bennett being the most recent example. We look back to 2016 and see how successful is can be when the team signed Jared Cook.
The Packers foundation is going to continue being the draft, and I full expect that to continue under the Gutekunst regime. But I think he will be more in the mold of Ron Wolf when it comes to free agency, as it is an accessory piece to building a championship football team. Don’t expect him to make a splash on the first day, as there is a salary cap and Rodgers is set to become the highest paid player in the league, but I expect him to be in on the middle tier players after that to help bring the Vince Lombardi trophy home to Green Bay. With Gutekunst, I feel he will be the type of GM who will be aggressive enough in free agency and not be afraid to pull the trigger on signing a player when it is right.
Anthony Haag is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He has been a Packers fan since the day he was born and truly bleeds green and gold. He makes annual visits to Lambeau Field and has attended his fair share of games. You can follow Anthony on Twitter at @anthony_haag