Every year there are a few Packers roster moves that come out of nowhere. In 2016, the team cut Josh Sitton. In 2018, James Crawford made the initial 53 after joining the team just a few weeks before. What surprises does Brian Gutekunst and company have in store for us this year?
No Punter or No Long Snapper on the initial 53
Most of Packers Twitter has commented on the team’s surprising release of the players brought in to compete with JK Scott and Hunter Bradley. Both Scott and Bradley have had plenty of poor showings the past few seasons, and they haven’t inspired much confidence this offseason.
My guess is that Brian Gutekunst will select a replacement for at least one of them from players currently on other teams. Don’t be surprised if the initial 53 doesn’t have a punter or long snapper and a player on it ends up on the IR within a few days to make room for one.
7 Wide Receivers Kept
This one was an easier bet before Devin Funchess was added to the IR earlier this week, but it’s still a possibility.
The locks at wide receiver are Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers. I would guess Malik Taylor will likely make the roster, as well – he is a great special teams player and has shown in the preseason that he can be at least a serviceable receiver.
That leaves Juwann Winfree and Reggie Begelton. Winfree lit up practice over the first few weeks of camp but then got injured at the peak of his momentum. Begelton has reportedly been just alright in camp but a recent burst on special teams (including a 27-yard return in preseason week 2) could get him onto the roster.
I think it’s more likely that Winfree would be kept so that he could be put on the IR and return later in the season.
6 Safeties Kept
This is like déjà vu. Before Will Redmond was added to the IR earlier this week, it was a better bet that Green Bay would keep six safeties. Now, Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos are the only locks.
The argument for keeping the other four (Henry Black, Innis Gaines, Vernon Scott, and Christian Uphoff) is that, more likely than not, the team will only keep four off-ball linebackers. Each of the four extra safeties can fill in on special teams and at linebacker in a pinch.
2020 Starters Traded
The Packers have a history of doing a few specific things very well in the draft. Using a first round pick to get a new quarterback when you already have a starter (see Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love). Using a second-round pick on a wide receiver (see Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Davante Adams). And taking a college tackle in the fourth round who turns into a great NFL offensive lineman (see Josh Sitton, TJ Lang, JC Tretter, David Bakhtiari).
The most recent fourth-round college tackle the Packers drafted, Royce Newman, seems to have unseated 2020 starter Lucas Patrick in the starting lineup. If the Packers trade Patrick and keep someone like Ben Braden instead, they could save over $1 Million on the salary cap this season.
Defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster who started in the base defense last season could also be on the way out. Draft pick TJ Slaton is clearly a higher potential run stuffer and UDFA Jack Heflin is a more energetic clone of Lancaster. Choosing Heflin over Lancaster would save close to $400,000. That’s not a lot, but every penny matters.
Any pick the Packers could get from one of these two veterans could be the pick Gutekunst uses to move up in the draft and secure the next Darnell Savage or Amari Rodgers.
Surprise Jaire Alexander Extension
There are four players on the Packers who have a claim at being the best at their position and, among them, Jaire Alexander is the only one without a major contract since he’s still playing on a rookie deal.
Kenny Clark is the most recent breakout Packers player to sign an extension while on his rookie deal – he did it right before his 5th year. I expect this approach is the Packers’ preferred model because it enables the team to avoid the risk of guaranteeing money while there’s still injury risk during the player’s fourth season. However, Jaire Alexander’s cap hit next season is currently over $13 million.
The two highest paid corners right now make right around $20 million per year. The third makes just over $17 million. If Russ Ball can negotiate a deal that squeezes Jaire in between the third highest paid corner and the top two while also reducing his 2022 cap hit (remember the Packers are already more than $45 million over the salary cap ceiling next year) it would be a slam dunk.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.