Monday Musings: Free Agency
Brian Gutekunst hasn’t had a month like this one since taking over as general manager. Prior to this year, his toughest decision in March was to keep or release aging receiver Jordy Nelson. The stakes are higher now as one of the team’s best offensive players and a starting cornerback are ready to hit the open market. The moves Gutekunst makes in the coming weeks will go a long way in determining the fortunes of the Packers next season.
Anyway, here are just three of the numerous Packers-related thoughts that ran through my head in the past few days:
1) Today at noon marks the beginning of the legal tampering period, and at that time, Green Bay’s 13 free agents will be able to discuss the parameter of deals with prospective teams. All-Pro center Corey Linsley will almost certainly agree to terms very quickly. The other 12 players figure to linger for a while on the market. It’s probably safe to assume defensive linemen Montravius Adams and Billy Winn, wide receiver/kick returner Tavon Austin, inside linebacker James Burgess, nose tackle Damon Harrison, tackle Jared Veldheer, and running back Jamaal Williams – now that Aaron Jones is re-signed – won’t be back. Tight end Marcedes Lewis, running back Tyler Ervin, corner Kevin King, safety Will Redmond, and guard Lane Taylor all have a chance to return if the price is right.
2) The Packers have six restricted free agents, but the only tough call for Gutekunst will be Chandon Sullivan. Is the former undrafted free agent from Georgia State worth a second-round tender ($3.38 million)? That’s highly debatable, but what’s not debatable is the lack of depth at the position. If King leaves, the only proven corner under contract would be All-Pro Jaire Alexander. This reality might compel Gutekunst to avoid the risk of placing the more affordable but less restrictive right of first refusal tender on Sullivan. Either way, to get their money’s worth out of the 24-year-old next season, new defensive coordinator Joe Barry should move him to his more natural position outside. But in order for that to happen, Gutekunst will need to acquire another corner capable of lining up in the slot. Such a player could come from a very deep crop of free agents or early in next month’s draft.
3) The Packers were awarded three compensatory picks last Tuesday, giving the team 10 selections in next month’s draft, including seven on day 3. It’s time for Gutekunst to start finding better players in rounds 4-7. Of the 22 players he’s selected in 2018, 2019, and 2020, only wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and defensive end Kingsley Keke were on the field for more than 250 snaps in ’20. For the sake of comparison, Ted Thompson’s first three drafts (2005, 2006, and 2007) produced nine players who were on the field for more than 250 snaps in ’07 – and five of those players were starters. Gutekunst’s below-average drafting on day 3 hasn’t hurt the Packers yet, but that’s only because he was able to spend over $150 million on free agents to bolster the defense in 2019, Thompson left him a ton of talent on offense, and let’s face it, Aaron Rodgers can make just about any GM look good.