New general manager Brian Gutekunst will not be graded on a curve despite this being his first offseason leading Packers’ transactions. He will have the best gigs in the league as long as the Packers do not have an owner chirping in his ear and the best quarterback in football. The latter, at least, ensures they will always be Super Bowl contenders. Over the last few years, however, the front office has let Rodgers down. The defense has vastly underperformed compared to the offense and not much has been done in free agency to get them out of this predicament. Insert a fresh approach from Gutekunst, and the Packers may be closer to a Lombardi trophy than we think. He’s already established that he will be more aggressive in certain avenues than his predecessor Ted Thompson. Something we all knew was critical.
It is very likely Packers president Mark Murphy will not be as patient with Gutekunst as he was with Thompson. Thompson served as GM for 12 years before being forced to accept a new role or be fired. Gutekunst is one of the younger GMs at 44-years-old and has been placed on a short leash to avoid disaster.
So far he has said all the right things and the necessary movement is starting to follow.
Last week at the 2018 NFL scouting combine Gutenkunst said, “There’s limits to what you can do, but we’d like to be really aggressive and see if can be in every conversation.”
With top free agent defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson taking his first official visit to Green Bay, Gutekunst and company are off to a good start.
The Packers have enough cap space and draft picks to make a substantial impact in Gutekunst’s inaugural offseason. Here are three ways he and the Packers front office can set the tone for the 2018 season:
Sign Muhammad Wilkerson
Weather permitting, Wilkerson will be reuniting with former coach Mike Pettine on Wednesday. Pettine coached Wilkerson on the New York Jets in 2011 and 2012 where he saw instant success in his first two years in the NFL. It has been reported that the 28-year-old former pro-bowler wants his next contract to be with a legitimate contender. Green Bay is just the place to rejuvenate a player who has struggled the last couple years in a failing system. The Packers cannot pass up on a player like Wilkerson, especially if he comes with a discount. A two-year prove it type of deal sounds like the best option for both parties.
Draft a corner with pick 14
Signing Wilkerson would not only better the pass rush, but it would also help the Packers decide what to do with pick 14. Denzel Ward and Josh Jackson used the 2018 scouting combine to separate themselves as the top two corners in the class. The Packers could not go wrong with either, however selecting an edge rusher like Marcus Davenport is far more precarious. If the Packers sign Wilkerson or another player who can get after the quarterback, then this pick should be used to address the secondary where the problems are far more pertinent.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers won’t agree on a new deal until Kirk Cousins has reached a decision. Nevertheless, it is nice to know that new contract talks have already started. “We’ve had discussions with his representative,” president Mark Murphy said at the NFL scouting combine. “I have a lot of confidence in Brian and Russ and Aaron as well. We want to create a win-win.” Locking Rodgers up long term would be the icing the cake for an already memorable 2018 offseason.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.