Brian Gutekunst was named GM of the Packers on January 8, 2018. He’s made over 100 personnel moves since that time – some good and some bad. I’ll be listing his 12 best moves over the course of the next few weeks. Here’s No. 11:
Gutekunst was hired by Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, but he hadn’t shown his mentor’s skill when it came to improving the roster during the regular season. Remember wide receiver Andre Rison, running back Darick Holmes, center Jeff Dellenbach, etc. in the 90s? That changed on Nov. 27, 2019, when Gutekunst claimed veteran offensive tackle Jared Veldheer off waivers. Granted his release by the New England Patriots a few days earlier, the 32-year-old hadn’t played all season after announcing his retirement in late May.
Veldheer spent his first game with the Packers as the top backup at both tackle spots – a role that had previously been filled by the overmatched Alex Light. He didn’t play a single snap. And then came week 17. With a first-round bye on the line versus the Detroit Lions, Veldheer stepped in for an injured Bryan Bulaga in the third quarter and played extremely well in Green Bay’s come-from-behind win. He made some key blocks in the run game, and more importantly, kept pass rushers away from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He repeated that effort two weeks later in a surprise start against the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round of the playoffs. In all, Veldheer allowed only one pressure in 58 dropbacks in the two games.
It’s impossible to know how the Packers would’ve fared had Light been forced to play against Detroit, but it’s fair to think the results would’ve been different. Instead of resting up for the banged-up Seahawks, the Packers could’ve been forced to play the much healthier Minnesota Vikings in the wild card round. That’s how important the right in-season acquisition can be, and it’s why the claiming of Jared Veldheer is on this list.