One thing that has become clear about the Brian Gutekunst roster building philosophy is his appreciation for under the radar and inexpensive free agents at positions of need. This philosophy allows Gutekunst to feel more confident in selecting the best player available for the Green Bay Packers during the draft as there are no pressing positions of need that he must address in the early rounds.

Three years ago this was not the case. Gutekunst went on a shopping spree in free agency when he signed Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith, and Billy Turner to large four year contracts. A month later he drafted Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage in the first round of the draft which along with his free agency signings completely revamped the outside linebacker and safety room. However, that was then. This is now. The franchise is in a different place and the Packers salary cap issues have forced Gutekunst to change his approach.

Previous free agent additions such as Marcedes Lewis, Dennis Kelly, and De’Vondre Campbell fit the type of under the radar and inexpensive free agents at positions of need. These veterans were not the flashy and expensive free agents that the media and fans drool over, but they are brought in for a reason. They compete for playing time at positions of need and bring a veteran presence to rooms that tend to have a number of young guys. Their inexpensive contracts also help the Packers combat their salary cap issues. Finally, they open up Gutekunst’s draft board and allow the GM to draft the best player available.

A season ago the media and Packers fans fully expected an inside linebacker to be high on the Packers draft board. Many were confused and worried when the Packers exited the draft with only a sixth round inside linebacker in Isaiah McDuffie. A month later Gutekunst went out and signed Campbell to a cheap one year deal. Although Campbell was a post draft signing, this further illustrates Gutekunst’s best player available philosophy as the only inside linebacker he selected, what was considered to be a major position of need, was a sixth round pick. Gutekunst certainly entered the draft with faith in Krys Barnes and having a backup plan, such as signing Campbell, if an inside linebacker didn’t fall to them on their board. The Campbell signing worked out better than anyone could have imagined and we can see that Gutekunst is once again preparing to select the best player available while the Packers are on the clock throughout the 2022 draft.

This off season Gutekunst signed defensive lineman Jarran Reed and wide receiver Sammy Watkins to cheap one year deals. Both of these veterans have had success in their careers but flew under the radar and were afterthoughts during free agency. Both of these deals were classic Gutekunst signings as he is taking a low-risk high-reward gamble with two guys who certainly have the ability to contribute to the Packers. Most importantly, Reed and Watkins play positions where the Packers were in need of depth and their signings will allow Gutekunst to feel more comfortable drafting the best player available throughout the draft.

Packers fans who are drooling over this talented WR class may not love this philosophy. Although it is still a distinct possibility that Gutekunst selects a WR with one of his two first round picks, I would not be shocked if the Packers don’t take a wideout on the first night. Gutekunst’s philosophy and his free agency signings have set up the Packers roster so that there are a number of positions that could realistically be selected in the first round. Offensive line, tight end, wide receiver, defensive line, outside linebacker, and safety, are all positions that could be selected with our pair of first round picks. Heck, inside linebacker and cornerback are not out of the realm of possibility. Although Gutekunst would have likely stuck to best player available regardless of the Reed and Watkins deals, their signings open up Gutekunst’s menu of options come draft day.

Could quarterback be in play in the first round? I’m joking, but Packers twitter would once again be a sight to see.