Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball have made it clear. Aaron Rodgers seems to be in agreement. The 2021 season is a Super Bowl or bust year, and the Packers roster is starting to reflect that. Between restructures or added void years for nearly a dozen players, the Packers have put themselves in an all-in situation. Per Packers salary-cap expert Ken Ingalls – the Packers currently would need to clear north of $53 million before the start of the 2022 season to get beneath the expected cap. Brian Gutekunst has already shown that he is willing to make short-term moves and deal with 2022… in 2022. With that in mind, there are a few more moves that he can still make to bolster the Packers roster and truly make the most of a possible “last dance” in 2021.
DL Geno Atkins
He has been one of the most dominant interior defensive lineman in the NFL since being drafted in 2010, but he turned 33 years old this spring, and is coming off of a major injury. He played only 127 snaps in 2020, and recorded his lowest ever PFF grade of 54.0 in that time. He reportedly first injured his shoulder at the end of training camp, and attempted to play through the injury before ultimately having surgery. He has now been fully cleared for all football activities, and if he can return to close to his pre-injury effectiveness, would be a huge upgrade along a defensive line with little to no depth. He will never return to his double-digit sack numbers, but would offer more both against the run and as a pass rusher than Dean Lowry or Tyler Lancaster. Lowry finished 2020 ranked 88th out of 110 defensive linemen in PFF’s run-stop metric (Lancaster was 69th), and 60th out of 115 in PFF’s pass rush metric (Lancaster was 111th).
DL Jurrell Casey
For the same reasons that Atkins would make sense for the Packers – ditto for Casey. He has a similar story as Atkins as well – a once dominant interior defender coming off of injury, who was a salary-cap casualty after the 2020 season. He played just 156 snaps in 2020 before suffering a torn biceps, and was cut after the season by the Broncos as he was due to make $11.8 million in 2021. But in the 5 seasons prior to 2020, he recorded more than 50 pressures in each season, and made the Pro Bowl all 5 years. For reference – Za’Darius Smith led the Packers in 2020 with 39 pressures, and no one else had more than 20. He would instantly bolster the Packers defensive line, and along with Kenny Clark would offer a formidable interior.
CB Gareon Conley
A former 1st round pick from the same draft class as Kevin King, Conley is still only 26 years old. Despite the draft picks of Eric Stokes and Shemar Jean-Charles, cornerback is typically a position that takes time for rookies to acclimate at the next level. Reports from training camp thus far have also not favorable for either Josh Jackson or Ka’Dar Hollman. Conley is coming off of two ankle surgeries that caused him to miss the entire 2020 season, but since he entered the league in 2017 he has forced incompletions on 22% of his targets, good for 2nd in the NFL. And despite missing an entire season, his career numbers of 4 interceptions and 29 pass deflections are comparable to King’s (5 interceptions and 27 pass deflections).——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.