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What Is Brian Gutekunst’s Plan To Fill Packers’ Roster?

Here’s the situation. Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball have been patiently waiting in the wings for half of their careers. Gutekunst has been in the Green Bay Packers’ front office for 20 years and Ball has been in various NFL front offices for 27 years. Suddenly, team president Mark Murphy hands them the keys to an enterprise that is beginning its 100th year in a dog-eat-dog world of NFL football.

They must have been dreaming and planning for this moment for many years. Their ascendency comes at a time when the Packers, over seven years’ time, have fallen from the top of the heap to a team with a losing record. They inherit a team in dire need of a personnel makeover.

Their challenge is more daunting than any challenge former general manager Ted Thompson had to face in many years. They have both a tremendous challenge and opportunity.

How do you shore up, if not rebuild, a roster? By trades, by free agent signings and by the draft. What has been Gutekunst’s plan and how is it going? And whenever I say Gutekunst, I mean Gutekunst and Ball.

A week before free agency opened, Gutekunst traded to acquire backup QB DeShone Kizer. We don’t know if the trade will turn out to be Brett-Favre-like, but it was clearly a carefully planned move.

All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson were picked off in the first two days of free agency. Regardless of whether they were overpaid, there was definite evidence that Gutekunst had a plan and he executed it.

The above moves were consummated by March 16. And that’s when almost all of Gutekunst’s trade and free agency strategies came to a halt. The sole exception was bringing back cornerback Tramon Williams, who was signed on March 22.

As I’ve related, several NFL teams have added (or re-signed former players) 15 or more players to their rosters in about the past month. Green Bay remains stuck on four. Not only that, they stand to lose many more players than they’ll gain through trading and free agency: Jordy Nelson, Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall, Jeff Janis, Richard Rodgers and Joe Thomas, and they may well also lose Jahri Evans, Davon House, Ahmad Brooks, Quinton Dial, Ulrick John and Brett Goode.

We fans have eagerly watched and waited for the team’s high-need voids to be filled: edge rusher, wide receivers (plural), cornerbacks (plural again). I’m unaware of any concerted efforts to secure an edge rusher. Late in the free agent game, the Packers took a look at receiver Jordan Matthews, but his three injuries in 2017 must remain a huge concern, because New England picked him up for $1 million for one year.

Williams should help at cornerback, but the Packers are obviously prepared to lose Davon House and they gave up Damarious Randall, so there’s currently a net loss at this critical position.

As I write, the free agency market is about played out. There’s also little player trading activity, as opposed to draft selection trading.

So, what is Gutekunst’s plan at this point? By process of elimination, he’s going to fill up the roster with draft choices – rookies! Unless he trades away some picks, this means a dozen college-age kids will soon take up residence at St. Norbert’s.

The plan must be to build this team back up through the 2018 draft and by developing the promising players selected in the 2017 draft. All of the general manager’s actions signal that this season is going to be (1) a time for player development and gaining of experience; (2) a housecleaning of the roster – in large part to make room for the draftees; (3) a youth movement; and (4) a rebuilding year.

Free agency has once again been a bust for the Packers.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. MM²SUCK April 10, 2018

    I know that it is too late (about 7 years too late) but Gutekunst’s first move should have been to can that fucking Buffoon . . . that would have made many of us take him seriously. As it is, he is more than likely just a lackey for Murphy and the Buffoon.

    1. Dennis Dervetski April 10, 2018

      Agree totally with you. Keeping both MM and TT was a big mistake. Gutes plan? If you know lord, talk to me!!

  2. PF4L April 10, 2018

    Gutekunst doesn’t have the authority to terminate McCarthy, or take a shit without asking Murphy first. Welcome to the new “Packer Way.”

  3. PF4L April 10, 2018

    I really don’t want to be the voice of reason here, as i know there are Packer fans with a high level of hope and optimism. But concerning filling this roster, that’s the easy part (see Ted). The hard part is filling it with the right players. If the Packers want any degree of success (success beyond what Rodgers automatically gives you) they need to have one of the most successful drafts in the history of the NFL, like top 5. They need to strike gold.

    If i have any optimism thus far, it is due to the fact that Philbin is back, and Pettine was hired, i think they have the potential for a net gain of 2 wins (besides Rodgers influence on the outcome of a game). The million dollar question is…..why did these changes have to take so fucking long through Rodgers prime years? As i said, this is my optimism, but i still have to see it play out.

    A lot will have to do with the learning curve of implementing a new offensive playbook, and largely a new defense. Realistically, that usually takes longer than a year, especially when you are also trying to improve player acquisition and development. The players with high salaries will slowly start to be weeded out starting next season so the question is, is this a one year retooling, or a 3-4 year restock and rebuild?

    I’m hedging toward the rebuild.

    1. cz April 10, 2018


  4. Sanguine camper April 10, 2018

    Another silly story by Born trying to discredit Gute who has signed 4 more free agents than TT would have at this point in the off season in addition to a trade. Given the lack of cap space, Gute has turned TT’s crappy roster over as much as possible.

    1. cz April 10, 2018

      it seems to me,

      the teams with the most cap space
      should be able to lure
      the best free agents,

      and therefore
      make the greatest improvement.

      If that is logical,

      then the art of
      winning in the NFL today is
      more about structuring deals

      so that in every few seasons,
      a team can
      get a better than average group of
      temporarily underpaid players on the field
      for the average/cap amount of money

      The only other, possibly more effective
      factor a team can do to gain advantage
      is to spend the most of any other team
      to attract the best of the best coaches.

      And the richer teams should be able to
      have that advantage, yr in and yr out,
      even over smaller market teams like GB.

  5. cz April 10, 2018

    When Ted Thompson took over, he wiped out the entire roster within five years, except maybe two or three players.
    Everyone wants their guys carrying the, toting the, whatever the saying. Why shouldnt they, cause if they get the axe, they got it for doing it their way.

    1. Empacador April 11, 2018

      Yes, Ted did all that, but he also hired his own head coach. Whom the Packers are still saddled with. And will be for the foreseeable future thanks to that nifty power structure now in place. Gutekunst won’t get to hire his own coach as it stands now, so he really shouldn’t be compared to Ted since Ted had complete control and Gute is neutered.

      On defense I prefer to see what Pettine can do with his scheme changes and motivational methods rather than say they need edge rushers or cornerbacks as a priority in the draft AGAIN. I’d take a flyer on defense unless someone really outstanding falls.

      The offense, while McCarthy remains entrenched as the HC, needs attention. Linemen, WR’s and TE’s. The more the merrier. Shit, throw in a couple more FB’s as well, we already know that’s on the table. A blind squirrel will find an occasional acorn. I doubt McCarthy blowing up the offense back to day 1 status and Philbin coming back is really going to make much difference. McCarthy handing over play calling so he could oversee more of the team functions didn’t work, neither did converting Ty Montgomery to RB, or stubbornly sticking with Hundley come hell or high water, or most other “tweaks” he has made. His decision making is suspect at best. That includes him meddling with the players he wanted on his roster even when Ted was GM. You damn sure better believe he had more say in how the roster was composed. After his little stunt this off season talking about fit with the new GM and how this structure came to be. The only thing missing for that oaf is to suddenly see himself a GM and having a good eye for talent. Maybe the executive board can name him President, GM and Head Coach, because with his massive ego he most certainly believes he can take on those roles and be highly successful. He needs to make more Cellcom commercials too. To practice his “Challenge!” calls.

      I think we watch the defense get acclimated to the new defensive scheme quicker than we see any marked improvement in the offense. Unless the new offensive plays are all predicated on Rodgers rolling out and playing sandlot ball, which is a winning strategy. I’d love another sub par offensive performance this season if I thought it would help Murphy see the light and get rid of McCarthy, but 2 things will happen to prevent that. Rodgers will be playing with a chip on his shoulder again. And Murphy is too stupid to realize he is part of the problem and will let McCarthy languish as long as he likes, same as Ted.