Three Priorities for Brian Gutekunst
The Packers have a new general manager, but the honeymoon period won’t last long. Free agency and the draft are bearing down on the Packers, and Brian Gutekunst’s grace period won’t last long, if it lasts at all.
Though the Packers will get Aaron Rodgers back next season, the team still has plenty of needs. Here are three priorities for Gutekunst as he takes over the top job in Green Bay.
1 - Get more pass rush
Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Mike Daniels represent the Packers’ three biggest investments on defense this season. They produced 19.5 sacks between them. While sacks aren’t a perfect metric, 19.5 sacks from three highly paid players is hardly acceptable.
Though there are other issues for the Packers to address on defense, an effective pass rush could go along way towards accomplishing Mike McCarthy’s goal of a defense that’s more effective than the offense.
2 - Sort out the wide receiver position
The Packers could go into the 2018 season with more than $40 million devoted to their wide receivers. It’s a testament to Ted Thompson and Russ Ball’s astute financial management that $40 million spent on one position doesn’t completely destroy the Packers’ cap situation, but it’s still far from ideal.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are the primary reasons for that onerous figure. Though both players certainly earned their money with past performances, their 2017 efforts did not justify their cap figures for 2017. Gutekunst will have to decide whether to retain both, cut one, or renegotiate the contracts for one or both players.
It is also imperative that the Packers add an explosive element to their receiving corps. A widely publicized report this week revealed that the Packers have the slowest wide receiver group in the NFL. Gutekunst may be obligated to spend a high draft pick on a wide receiver, or pursue a promising target in free agency.
3 - Add another corner
The Packers have invested more draft picks into the cornerback position than just about any other group on the roster, but the returns have been disappointing. Though Damarious Randall turned things around down the stretch in 2017, he was pretty much the only bright spot, as Davon House’s age appeared to catch up with him and Quinten Rollins and Kevin King were lost to injury.
King should be back and ready to go for 2018, but between him and Randall the Packers really only have two cornerback who have played at anything approaching a high level in the NFL. With an Achilles injury, Rollins certainly is out of the picture for 2018, and it’s hard to see House coming back. Beyond that, the Packers can only look to Josh Hawkins, Lenzy Pipkins, and Donatello Brown for existing help at the cornerback position.
It’s incumbent upon Gutekunst to fill out his cornerback group a little bit more thoroughly than his predecessor did without turning to undrafted free agents. Thompson’s strategy, especially in the secondary, was harshly criticized by people within and without the organization at the season’s end, and Gutekunst could go a long way towards shoring up the defense by strengthening this position.