Brian Gutekunst was named general manager of the Green Bay Packers on January 8, 2018. He’s made over 100 personnel moves since that time – some good and some not so good. I listed his 12 best moves earlier this month, and now I’ll spend the next couple of weeks counting down his worst moves. Here’s No. 5:
After watching Ted Thompson get criticized for not being aggressive enough in acquiring talent, it was a foregone conclusion that his successor would take the opposite approach in his first few months on the job. But after the Bears matched an offer sheet to corner Kyle Fuller and snatched free agent wide receiver Allen Robinson away from the Packers, the opportunities to make a splash were dwindling, and Gutekunst panicked. That’s the only logical explanation for the signing of Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal worth $30 million because there was absolutely nothing on tape to justify making the 31-year-old the highest-paid tight end in the league.
Graham was coming off such a disappointing season in Seattle that even Sean Payton, who coached the 5-time Pro Bowler in his glory days with the Saints, was only willing to offer a two-year contract worth $14 million. Nevertheless, Gutekunst opened up the checkbook and promised that Graham would add a much-needed downfield threat to the offense. He didn’t. Age and injuries reduced Graham to more of a plodder than a thoroughbred, and while his numbers weren’t bad in 2018 (55 catches for 636 yards), he no longer scared opposing defenses and often looked clumsy in the open field and awkward in the red zone.
Gutekunst compounded the mistake of overpaying Graham by keeping him around for a second season. Not only did this cost the Packers about $5 million in cap space, but more importantly, it kept the offense from getting better. To his credit, Graham was a total professional in Green Bay. He played through injuries, and while he wasn’t a good blocker, he at least gave an effort. And to Gutekunst’s credit, he appeared to learn a lesson. A year later, all of his free-agent signings were ascending players under the age of 28.