Brainstorming Green Bay Packers trade candidates is a lot more fun with Brian Gutekunst at the helm than it was with Ted Thompson. With Thompson at GM the only place significant trades (excepting Ryan Grant of course) happened was in Madden.
With Gutekunst at the helm, the Packers have flirted with major trades around the deadline in each of the past three seasons. In 2018, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was dealt to Washington after a pair of poor seasons. In 2019 and 2020 the team made offers for two speedy wide receivers on the last years of their deal, Robbie Anderson and Will Fuller respectively.
That’s what we’re looking for in this article. Good players on the last year of a contract. It helps if they’re on a bad team – because that team may want to get something of value for the player rather than keep them in a fruitless season. Let’s take a look at a few players the Packers could target at the deadline this season.
Leighton Vander Esch
Vander Esch was widely mocked to the Packers before the 2018 draft. He had an incredible debut season that year with a PFF grade of 85.4.
He followed up that impressive rookie year with a ton of injuries and two bad years. The Cowboys seem to have moved on. They turned down his 5th year option while giving running mate Jaylon Smith a lucrative extension and then spent a premium pick on Vander Esch’s likely replacement, Micah Parsons. Vander Esch may not even be the Cowboys third best off-ball linebacker at this point.
Trading for Vander Esch could immediately improve the team’s linebacking core while also giving Joe Barry an option to rush the passer on third and long.
Linval Joseph & Jonathan Hankins
I’m grouping these two together because it’s basically the same story. Massive, run stuffing (old) nose tackle on an up-and-coming AFC West team.
The Packers spent a late pick on TJ Slaton to stuff the run. Don’t expect that to be all they do. Green Bay brought Damon Harrison in late last season and before that, reportedly tried to trade for Dalvin Tomlinson.
If the Raiders or Chargers have bad injury luck, the Packers could make a play for one of these guys to shore up the defensive line.
If the Packers can’t pull off a trade for an interior defensive lineman, they could look to acquire another edge rusher to allow Za’Darius Smith to spend more time inside. Brandon Graham would be a great fit.
Graham should’ve been a perennial pro-bowler in his career, but he never had the sack numbers to get there consistently. Nonetheless, even at age 34 he is still a great situational pass rusher, who, like Za’Darius Smith, can rush from the inside as well. If Preston Smith doesn’t have a bounce back year, I would expect Gutekunst to look for help off the edge.
The Packers actually agreed to Fuller’s current contract with him back when he was on the transition tag following the 2017 season. He was cut by the Bears earlier this off-season and then signed by the Broncos.
The Broncos put a ton of capital into their secondary this off-season. Making Justin Simmons the highest paid safety in the league, signing Fuller and Ronald Darby, and then spending their early first round pick on corner Patrick Surtain II.
If they decide to shed Fuller to invest that capital elsewhere, the Packers will be ready with an offer.
Bonus: Will Fuller and Robbie Anderson
The two wide receivers who the Packers pursued in the last two seasons will be free agents in 2022. I wouldn’t expect Anderson, who has been great in Carolina and is now playing for his college head coach, to be available.
Fuller is another story. He signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins who then drafted an extremely similar wide receiver, Jaylen Waddle, in the first round.
If the Dolphins QB situation doesn’t pan out, it could be the opportunity the Packers need to strengthen their wide receiver corps.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.