We’ve all watched, sometimes with fascination and sometimes in horror, as general manager Brian Gutekunst has forcefully taken the reins of the Green Bay Packers.
The failure to retain Morgan Burnett was the final bit of information I needed. The Packers are not positioning themselves for a deep run in the playoffs. They’ve instead launched an effort to rebuild the team for a run in 2019.
The turnover in players, coaches, and front office personnel has been massive. Face it, you can’t realistically give up all that continuity, and deal with so much change, without a considerable adjustment period.
Other than Aaron Rodgers, the heart of the Green Bay offense going back to 2011 has been Jordy Nelson – but he was let go and it was done before his talents were depleted. The heart of the team’s defense, also since 2011, has been strong safety Morgan Burnett, and he too left before his time was up.
It seems likely that some others will follow, either before or shortly after the draft. A partial list: Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga, Jahri Evans, Davon House and Richard Rodgers – and let’s add Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
In parting ways with Damarious Randall and Burnett, the team has committed itself to starting Josh Jones at strong safety and Kevin King at cornerback. They weren’t ready to go last season – to the point where at least King might not be a solid player until his third year, 2019.
The 2018 draft is ripe with possibilities: 12 picks, six of them in the first 138 selections. This leaves Gutekunst and his team with endless possibilities: trade up, trade down, trade away and go after as many as half a dozen guys who ought to be able to contribute this season. “Contribute” does not, however, mean that more than one or two are likely to have a real affect in the win-loss column in their first year.
Are any of the defensive backfield reserves, other than Kentrell Brice, ready to start? Jones, Donatello Brown, Marwin Evans, Demetri Goodson, Josh Hawkins, Lenzy Pipkins, Herb Waters, Jermaine Whitehead – I don’t see any major contributors here for 2018. Maybe Evans or Pipkins will get there by 2019.
The Packers actually had a rookie ready to play a starring role last season. Coach Mike McCarthy had to be blind not to see and utilize the talents of running back Aaron Jones.
If the Packers have a fine draft, look out in 2019, but don’t expect a large rookie class to immediately lead the team to the promised land this year.
If you need any more proof that Gutekunst is pursuing a rebuilding strategy, watch and see how many hangers-on are let go in free agency or by the time the roster is pared down: guys like Geronimo Allison, Ahmad Brooks, Joe Callahan, Trevor Davis, Quinton Dial, Brett Hundley, Jeff Janis, Ulrick John, Richard Rodgers and Quinten Rollins. If guys like these are let go to make room for anywhere from five to nine 2018 draft choices, that’s a sure sign of a team in rebuild mode.
If the Packers were gearing up for a strong run in 2018, wouldn’t they be concentrating on plugging up their biggest holes with a couple of solid veteran players? Yes, they have salary cap limitations, but you haven’t seen Green Bay try to acquire a mid-value free agent edge player, wide receiver or cornerback.
I’m assuming the offer made to Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller wasn’t genuine, but was merely meant to tweak the Bears. I sure hope it wasn’t genuine – that offer would have broken the Packers’ bank if it had come to fruition.
Finally, there’s that perception that Rodgers needs lots of time – years – to feel in synch with his receivers. The perception has been borne out regarding Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Of Rodgers’ top four receivers, at least two will be new to him: Jimmy Graham and Nelson’s replacement. If Cobb moves on, that will be three out of four. And this doesn’t take into account that none of the Packers running backs have much experience at being a target of Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers Super Bowl window might be closing, but it appears to me the Packers are knowingly sacrificing the 2018 season so that they can make the strongest possible postseason run next year.
I don’t know that this is a rebuild year, more so a reload year. Rebuilding teams don’t typically have a franchise QB in place, and they certainly don’t sign Jimmy Graham, and likely not Wilkerson either. The offer for Fuller was genuine, why would they go through the trouble of making the Bears pony up an extra $4 million? (The transition tag was worth like $12 million, and the contract offer the Packers offered contained only $4 million more in guarantees)
You also do realize that if you sign a transition tagged player to an offer sheet that that is bonding, and if the Bears didn’t match that they would have no choice but to pay him?
Play-Doh, they had to know the Bears would match. Fuller signed a contract for the number for years the Bears wanted and at the price they wanted to pay. It was ideal for the Bears, they could not have asked for anything better.
So Rob B. has a theory here that Gute the Bad is not dumb/naive, and is not just doing PR/ego to look busy, and is not setting up extra cash for the leadership to take advantage of in shady real estate deals. He is offering up a 4th theory that the team is pretending to be trying in order to keep the fans involved and the money rolling in via ticket/jersey sales while actually saving up for “trying” in a future year or two.
Rob, you could be right. Maybe.
If so: Funny how the Packers leadership like to claim Martellus Bennett quit on them when they are quitting on the entire fan base this year. Holy Hypocrisy!
Great article Rob, and i agree 100%.
The word rebuild popped into my mind at McCarthy’s presser after bringing back Philbin. When he stated that they were going to rewrite the playbook and start from scratch.
I don’t know another word that describes it. It is a rebuild, so you have a QB in place, it’s still a rebuild. Brand new offense, new offensive coordinator, new defensive coordinator. The only thing not changed is the special teams coach, and i think it’s been accepted by the Packers, McCarthy, and Packer fans that Special Teams will be bottom tier every year.
Now if the end goal in the master plan is going on a Super Bowl run in 2019, i think that’s some highly optimistic thinking. Gonna take longer than that brother, there is gonna be some personnel shake up next season with the high contract clowns.
As i have said, Gutenkunst has a lot of work to do, a lot of wrongs to write. It’s gonna take more than a sacrificial season. Even longer if he creates…his own wrongs. He almost has to be flawless in player moves and acquisitions to hit on this in Rodgers window.
as long as Rodgers is healthy,
rebuild year or not,
the Packers will be a contender.
.. with Rodgers, and key injuries on other teams, Packers could win it all in|a rrbuild year.
Not much talent separates an 0-16 team from a playoff team.
Heck, in basketball, when only five players are on the court at once from each team, they still cannot predict an upset like what happened in March Madness, where a 16 beat a 1.
In football, with 11 on field at once per side, it is even more difficult to predict a winner.
So who cares if it a rebuild yr, Packers were contenders Favres whole stay’ and on Vikes. Packers will be better now with Gute and Philbin and Pettine, and with Graham’ and with Rodgers back
Bless you Sir.
You just convinced me to start saving my money for Packer SB tickets this season (just in case).
If anyone else wants to go, i’ll need a head count to charter a full service bus or maybe rent a decked out motor home.
I don’t know if I would call it rebuilding.
When I think of rebuilding I think of what Forrest Gregg did to the team in the 80s when he dumped Dickey, Lofton and Paul Coffman and brought in his own guys like Mossy Cade. That pretty much screwed over the Packers for another 5 years.
In the Packers case today, Gutekunst got rid of Randall as a statement move. Nelson getting let go was a salary cap decision. I don’t think you would sign Jimmy Graham if the team were rebuilding. That’s a win now move.
All this being said, the Packers are going to be weak in a pass defense and receiving this year unless they hit a couple home runs in the draft and I doubt that will happen with their best scouts having gone off to the Browns.
Well, they do need to spend some money. One, there are NFL rules and, two, they can’t make it too obvious to fans or they won’t get their money.
Signign Graham is no indicator they are going all out to win. Not at all.
So they sign Graham knowing he is pretty old and very temporary. Get rid of Nelson knowing he can’t help in the long term and would just help avoid higher draft picks next year. Can’t have that! A pick at #9 instead of #18 could make Gute the Bad look, well, less bad.
Need some cheese with that whine?