There’s just no denying it. We’re almost four months into an offseason that’s been full of changes, drama, intrigue, wonderment. New coaches, new front office, revamped playbook, departing veterans, speculation going every which way over the number 14 draft selection, how to best take advantage of having a full dozen draft picks…
For me, however, one thing stands out about the chess game that is the NFL offseason. The Green Bay Packers have made one especially bold gambit. In chess, a gambit is an early move or tactic whereby a player makes a sacrifice for the sake of some compensating advantage. In football, think of it as a maneuver, entailing a degree of risk, which is calculated to gain an advantage.
The gambit happened on March 13: Jordy Nelson, a 10-year invaluable cog in the Green Bay passing attack was released – at the tender age of 32, no less. There’s the sacrifice. Has anyone spotted what the compensating advantage is or is going to be?
I don’t have to tell many Packers fans how special Jordy was, or how big a gap now exists in the Packers’ offense. Usually when a gap of this size occurs, it’s due to a career-threatening injury: think Sam Shields, Jermichael Finley, Nick Collins. Otherwise, it can happen when a star opts to get the maximum dollar contract through free agency: think Greg Jennings, Scott Wells.
In Jordy’s case, however, it was a self-inflicted wound. The guy wanted to stay, his monetary expectations were reasonable, he was the star quarterback’s primary and trusted target year after year, he had zero off-field issues, the fans loved him, he was a role model as a player, husband, father, you name it. Saint Jordy.
In a few years, when all the dust settles, this move by the new Packers’ front office will be given a final analysis. That’s when all the repercussions will have become known. I hope to be around to help pass judgment.
For now, we’re all waiting and wondering how the overhauled front office is going to fill the gap. No trade has been forthcoming. Despite 44 other free agent wide receivers once being on the market, the Packers haven’t made a serious effort to obtain any of them.
Even now, there are at least six prospects who have the experience and proven ability to provide a plausible, if temporary, substitute: Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Maclin, Eric Decker, Michael Floyd, and Dontrelle Inman.
Assuming the Packers will be drafting a wide receiver in the early rounds, any of these free agents could offer two years of solid service while a promising draftee is being developed as Jordy’s ultimate replacement. But Brian Gutekunst has made no appreciable effort in that direction, other than having Jordan Matthews stop by for a visit. Matthews will instead be a target of Tom Brady in a few months.
It’s hard to believe that the Packers think Jordy’s successor is already on the roster. Though some playing time was available in the losing season, the guys next in line got this much attention in 2018: Geronimo Allison, 23 catches, 253 yards, no touchdowns; Trevor Davis, five, 70 and zero; Michael Clark, four, 41, and zero. Who else can there possibly be? Ty Montgomery? DeAngelo Yancey?
The Packers must have the next Jordy in mind, awaiting the number 14 draft pick, right? None of the prognosticators think that. As the draft nears, half of them are divided over picking safety Minkah Fitzpatrick or cornerbacks Josh Jackson or Denzel Ward. The other half think it’s going to be either edge rusher Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport.
The few who think the Packers are secretly coveting a wide receiver at number 14 are conflicted over who it might be: Calvin Ridley, James Washington, Courtland Sutton, Michael Gallup, or one of the DJs, Moore or Chark? The trouble with this year’s draft is that not any of the candidates stand out or have gained separation from the rest – a number of these guys will probably still be available late into the second round.
At any rate, the gambit has been played. The sacrifice has been made. The strategy behind it – and there must have been one – has yet to reveal itself. I have an idea of who stands to gain, so check back soon.