Lots of moving pieces will need to work with each other for the Green Bay Packers 2021 offseason, as their aspirations to take that next step and become a perennial Super Bowl power are missing just a little juice. But with the impending salary cap crunch coming down the line, a lot of moves that the front office and fan base are wanting to make just won’t fit in the budget.
Being on the doorstep of getting Aaron Rodgers his second ring should be first and foremost on the minds of Brian Gutekunst, Russ Ball, and company, and with how they have treated the past few offseasons, it seems like they have kept that as the driving focus for bettering this team. But big-money additions (Preston Smith, Billy Turner) could have played their final downs in the green and gold, albeit Smith is much more likely to depart than Turner.
What would make for a perfect offseason for Green Bay? Good thing you asked.
Address their offensive weaponry through free agency and the draft
This team was tied to Texans’ wideout Will Fuller V right up to the trade deadline, and while a trade never occurred, the reported interest certainly was a pleasant sight to see. Even though Fuller’s ‘20 season ended prematurely due to a suspension stemming from performance enhancements, he would be a home-run addition, even with potential baggage.
Outside of Fuller, there are the likes of NFC North foes Allen Robinson and Kenny Golladay that are on the open market for the taking, but these kinds of pipe dreams are highly unlikely. Fuller is much more of a reasonable target in FA, and the previous interest helps cement this addition.
I think it is a fair assessment to make that this fan base would absolutely lose it if they added a WR in the first round this year, rendering the football trivia fact of how Rodgers has had no first-round WRs to throw to in his entire career. The likes of Rondale Moore, Kadarius Toney, and Rashad Bateman project to be the likeliest options at the end of the first, and any of these three options would immediately help out this offense.
Adding Fuller and one of Bateman/Moore/Toney would be a big-time victory this offseason, helping HC Matt LaFleur open up the offense even more. But the running game still needs to be addressed, essentially with both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams pending free agents.
An extra star would be given out to this front office if they decided to bring Jones back for the $8 million franchise tag, an unheard-of transaction for Green Bay. With reported interest between both Jones and the Miami Dolphins, which could mean a contract upwards of $12 million per season, getting him back at $8M would be seen as a deal.
Free up enough cap space – but not in a way that makes the defense worse
With Smith a likely cap casualty, DE Dean Lowry could join him as well, as getting out from his contract extension that he signed just a few seasons back has not paid out at all in terms of production. But picking just on the defense to make subtractions from will not help, especially in DC Joe Barry’s first season leading this unit.
LB Christian Kirksey was moved on from after only one season, and his cap savings helps show the team’s confidence in both Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes, two unsung options that will be the team’s starting LBs moving forward. But both Martin and Barnes have a lot to learn in this league, something that will certainly show up on tape throughout the year.
The elephant in the room that goes along with this defense is if DE J.J. Watt would be joining up with his home state team. While Green Bay has been reported to be in the final allotment of teams, Watt’s age and contract certainly can bring a lot of pause with him into cheesehead country.
If Gutekunst can somehow get to a comfortable place with the cap and add Watt to a low-risk, high-reward deal (most likely a two-year, incentive-driven contract), then that addition can help sew up the line next to both Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark.
These potential outcomes of the offseason are not all going to happen, and likely most will not happen, but if Green Bay is serious about keeping their championship window open while Rodgers is still in town, then they should feel comfortable with being uncomfortable in their go-for-it additions this offseason.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23