While the Super Bowl has yet to take place, it’s officially the offseason for the Green Bay Packers.
With the team’s crushing defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship, the Packers hope for a title ended. Regardless of how disheartening the ending was, this was a special season. This team made the NFC Championship with a rookie head coach and while constantly being overlooked by the national media. The Super Bowl window for this team is wide open, and unlike previous years, we have a GM willing to go all in.
With eyes towards the 2020 season, what moves can Green Bay make to win another Lombardi?
For the record. according to overthecap, the Packers have around $32 million in cap space. If Jimmy Graham and Lane Taylor are released, the number is roughly $40 million.
Resign key free agents
This team has a handful of important veteran players that proved their value during this season. Resigning RT Bryan Bulaga, CB Tramon Williams, and K Mason Crosby provide the team with experience, reliability, and leadership at key positions.
While the injury bug hit Bulaga at times and he missed the Divisional Round game with an illness, he started all 16 regular season games. He had an excellent season while facing some of the league’s best pass rushers, allowing only 4 sacks and compiling a PFF grade of 77.9. Without a clear successor, he’s the Packers’ best option at the position. And I’m not ready to lose “Bryan Bulaga, Iowa” on SNF.
Tramon played a key role in the secondary as he continues to defy age. Williams plays smart football and is valuable in teaching the younger corners how to adjust to life in the NFL. Crosby is reliable and elevates special teams on the whole. There’s no reason to give up a reliable kicker, as our friends in Minnesota and Chicago have taught us. A camp leg for competition is never a bad thing, though.
Allen Lazard and Marcedes Lewis are two others with vital roles in the offense. Lazard is an ascending, high upside player, and Lewis is reliable, tenacious, and wise. Both should be maintained, and neither should be expensive.
While these are the most valuable free agents on the roster, Ibraheim Campbell, Tyler Ervin, Kyler Fackrell, Chandon Sullivan, Danny Vitale, and Jared Veldheer all make a ton of sense as well.
Let go of players that don’t fit into the long term plan
It’s always hard to advocate getting rid of players, many of whom put in the effort and have formed valuable relationships with their teammates and fans. But sentimentality doesn’t win Super Bowls. Jimmy Graham, Lane Taylor, Blake Martinez, Geronimo Allison, and Jake Kumerow are all prime candidates for release or to let walk.
Graham’s contract has never been pretty and remains one of Gutekunst’s few misses. While Graham was once the best tight end in the league, age has caught up, and the production doesn’t match the salary. Lane Taylor performed admirably after Josh Sitton’s sudden release, but his replacement is on the roster and proved more than capable. Releasing both gives the team about $8 million more cap space.
Martinez is a polarizing figure for Packers fans. He has all the talents to be a star but never displays all of these traits in the same game. While ILB is a major concern for the Packers, the truth is it’s hard to justify the type of money Martinez will get on the open market (projected $16.3m a year according to spotrac). Martinez is a smart player, beloved by his teammates, and puts in hard work, but will likely be on another team.
This year’s draft class is loaded at wide receiver, and one of the Packers’ most glaring weaknesses was playmakers at the position. Trading a draft pick to rent a player this year wasn’t the right call, but the team needs to load up, and Allison and Kumerow will find the room too crowded.
Load up on weapons
Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones are a triumvirate of greatness, but beyond, there is a dearth of playmakers. Jace Sternberger and Allen Lazard are players on the rise, but the team still needs more. Drafting a WR early and adding another (Amari Cooper or Robby Anderson through FA or trading for Robert Woods) is a necessity. Adding Austin Hooper or Hunter Henry via free agency and potentially drafting another tight end can add more dimensions to the offense. Jamaal Williams is an ideal RB2, but this offense is reliant on a strong run game. Drafting another running back in the mid-rounds would be smart.
Shore up other weaknesses
Outside of weapons, the team needs to upgrade along the trenches. ILB was a problem all season, and while the front office has often neglected the position, it cannot continue to do so. Kenny Clark is a dominant force (and should be extended ASAP as possible) and Dean Lowry is a stout, often unsung defender, but another defensive lineman is crucial. The tandem of Bulaga and Bakhtiari is one of the best in the league, and adding Valdheer was smart, but the team needs to look to the future and provide depth.