The Green Bay Packers were never going to be able to top their 2019 free agent class.
The Packers offered big-money multi-year deals to Adrian Amos, Billy Turner, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith, with each starting immediately, upgrading their position group dramatically, and, most importantly, playing up to their contracts. That just doesn’t happen every year.
The Packers also have big decisions in 2021 regarding David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark, Aaron Jones, Kevin King, and Corey Linsley. Adding all of that up, the Packers free agent signings of 2020 have been logical moves. They cover needs, keep the coffers well-stocked, and give the Packers breathing room for the 2020 draft.
Rick Wagner, Christian Kirksey, and newly-signed Devin Funchess don’t pop the way last year’s class, but each deal was team-friendly and covered a need of the team. Bryan Bulaga and Blake Martinez staying in Green Bay were, at best, extremely unlikely, and now that both have signed elsewhere, right tackle and inside linebacker were even more immediate needs. The wide receiver position needed playmakers, hence bringing in Funchess.
While Kirksey, in particular, has potential to be a solid starter (assuming he stays healthy), he and Wagner mean the Packers don’t need to reach for an inside linebacker or right tackle. Both remain long term needs, but the Packers won’t be forced to throw a rookie into the fire. Pettine tends to only keep one true off-ball linebacker on the field most of the time, and Wagner, while no Bulaga, is a capable starter and won’t be a liability.
Devin Funchess has draft pedigree and good aestheticism, though they haven’t appeared consistently in his career. Still, he’ll be a clear upgrade over Geronimo Allison with a much higher ceiling. He in no way diminishes the Packers need for a receiver in a deep class, but upgrades the position from the bottom up and gives the probable rookie some breathing room. His signing, along with the return of EQ St. Brown, who I think will surprise people, provides the Packers will a much more stable WR room before the draft.
The other position of need that hasn’t yet been addressed by Gutekunst and staff, interior defensive line, still could be addressed in the next few weeks. A cheap run-stuffer would give Clark more breathing room of his own, but, regardless, I’m excited to see what Kingley Keke can bring to this team. I don’t expect the Packers to overreach for an iDL.
The Packers will still likely take a combination of wide receiver, offensive tackle, inside linebacker, and interior defensive line with their first three picks, but they won’t be forced to grab one or the other to fill a glaring hole. With starters in place, the Packers can take the most valuable player available that fits a need.
How will the draft happen? That’s still a good question. Through snapchat? Idk. Regardless, the Packers won’t need to (metaphorically) run a card to the podium to fill a need. Their free agent signings, while they may not excite fans, fill major needs and provide breathing room for a team that was one game away from a Super Bowl appearance.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.