Analyzing the Packers Five Biggest Moves of the Offseason

After an unusual and tumultuous offseason, the Green Bay Packers are set to open training camp this week. The 2020 offseason is finally history and training camp is finally set to begin. So, as it concludes, we will look back at the Packers five biggest moves of the offseason and discuss their impact on the team as the players report to training camp.

5. Moves That Weren’t Made

One thing everybody has been talking about are moves that weren’t made. The Packers were expected to draft a wide receiver or two but they didn’t select any even though this was considered one of the deepest wide receiver drafts in quite some time.

They also didn’t address inside linebacker until the fifth round of the draft and didn’t select a defensive lineman at all. Did their failure to address these areas of need in the draft hurt the team’s ability to compete this season?

These moves were controversial and many critics believe the Packers draft showed they are not doing all they can do help Aaron Rodgers win another Super Bowl before his window closes.

The moves that weren’t made certainly garnered a lot of attention from the media over the offseason and may have an impact on the team this season and beyond.

4. Signing WR Devin Funchess

The Packers did not draft a wide receiver this year but they did make a free agent signing, adding veteran receiver Devin Funchess. The Michigan alum missed the final 15 games of the 2019 season after suffering a broken collarbone in the season opener.

Funchess has the size the Packers like in their wide receivers at 6’4” and he can be utilized in the middle of the field, an area the Packers need to get more production from in the passing game this season.

Funchess’ best campaign came with the Panthers in 2017 when he made 63 catches for 840 yards and eight touchdowns. He has had some issues with drops in his career and that is an area he will need to improve in.

One issue for Funchess will be the reduced number of training camp reps and the absence of preseason games. That will hamper his ability to earn Rodgers’ trust early in the season and may slow his integration into the offense.

The Packers are looking at Funchess to be a regular contributor on offense. How big his role will be is likely to be determined in training camp.

3. Signing Free Agent ILB Christian Kirksey

The Packers knew they wouldn’t pay top dollar to retain ILB Blake Martinez who they felt was not worth the $10 million per year he got from the New York Giants. Instead, the Packers signed free agent Christian Kirksey who played with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine when they were both with the Cleveland Browns.

Kirksey has some more speed than Martinez and will probably be a better fit in Pettine’s system. His familiarity with the defense will help reduce the impact of the truncated offseason and training camp on Kirksey and help him feel comfortable with his new team.

The big issue with Kirksey is his health. He has played only nine total games over the past two seasons due to injuries. Green Bay’s lack of proven depth at the ILB position means Kirksey’s health and ability to contribute to the defense will be critical.

The Packers are gambling that Kirksey can stay healthy and return to the form he had in 2017 with the Browns. If he can, he should be an upgrade at ILB. If he can’t, the defense could take a step back this season especially at stopping the run.

2. Signing Free Agent OT Ricky Wagner

As he ages, it becomes more critical for the Packers to give Aaron Rodgers enough time to throw the football and to keep him upright and healthy over the course of a 16-game season.

The Packers did not re-sign starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga who signed a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. So, GM Brian Gutekunst signed Ricky Wagner, a 30-year-old former Wisconsin star who spent the last three seasons with the Detroit Lions.

Wagner is not considered to be on the same level as Bulaga, especially at pass blocking. He often struggles to block outside speed rushers and will need to step up his play in this area.

Entering camp, Wagner is the favorite to start at right tackle, but the Packers are hoping he can return to the form he showed with the Ravens in 2015 and 2016 rather than the way he played with Detroit.

If Wagner can’t establish himself as the starting right tackle, the Packers will have to juggle their offensive line and figure out who will take over at the position.

Protecting Rodgers and opening holes for the running backs is critical for the offense so the Packers are counting on Wagner to be steady and consistent this season.

1. Drafting Jordan Love

The Packers surprised a lot of people by trading up four spots in the first round and selecting Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.

Love has a strong arm and according to most scouts, has the potential to develop into a franchise quarterback although he will need some time to get there.

The truncated offseason and training camp will challenge Love’s ability to prepare for his rookie season and he will have to beat out incumbent Tim Boyle for the backup quarterback spot.

How will Rodgers react to Love’s presence in training camp and on the roster? How long will it be until Love is ready to challenge Rodgers for the starting position? Did passing up a player who can contribute right away in the first round of the draft hurt the Packers chances to win this season? These are questions that will be answered in the coming months.

The Packers did select players in the second and third rounds in RB A.J. Dillon and TE Josiah Deguara, who fit head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense very well and will help him integrate more of his attack into the playbook in 2020 and beyond. How much playing time they get as rookies will also be a big question facing the Packers.

It was a fascinating offseason in Green Bay. The moves the Packers did and didn’t make raised a lot of questions. This week, we begin to get some answers.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (44)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Lphill's picture

July 23, 2020 at 12:06 pm

I can’t name 1 let alone 5 .

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 12:40 pm

I guess it's all relative. We knew with the cap situation this year, the Packers weren't going to be able to spend in free agency like they did last year. They still made some moves that will impact the coming season. Thanks for the comment, Lphill.

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Certainly #5 is what's driven discussion on Packers boards for awhile. With the major investments a year ago raising expectations and perceived draft needs this spring, it's given people a plethora of pieces to pontificate upon.

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CheesyTex's picture

July 23, 2020 at 01:51 pm

Nice alliteration -- ...people a plethora of pieces to pontificate upon.

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:33 pm

LOL. Yes it was. Thanks for the comment, CheesyTex.

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:11 pm

...I snuck in a p in 'upon', too.

The things we do to entertain ourselves during a pandemic!

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:33 pm

No question, dobber and well said. It's been a lot less "glamorous" an offseason for the Packers this year. I hope it's still a good one once the dust actually settles. The team took some chances on some players with injury histories and didn't address some areas of need. We shall see.

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Since'61's picture

July 23, 2020 at 06:53 pm

A cookie for brilliant alliteration! Thanks, Since ‘61

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nostradanus's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:01 pm

We kind of knew that the Packers we’re going to have to bargain bin shop this season after they splurged last season on four expensive free agents.

No problem though the Packers return a very good veteran team who is in the championship game last year.

I think the signing of Funchess Kirksey and Wagner was pretty clever in that they got these guys at a bargain price they are proven veterans and it’s not going to count against the draft choice formula. As it stands now the Packers should get three extra supplemental draft picks next year yay!

As for the drafting of Love, I wasn’t crazy about it at the time but it seems to make some sense now. If the general manager is completely sold on a quarterback who he thinks can be the next Franchise QB the Packers then have got to make that move.

Rogers is getting a bit long in tooth and has been injured two out of the three past seasons he’s probably closer to the end than we think.

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:37 pm

I agree that given the budget they had to work with, the free agents they signed made some sense. The draft was a bigger question to me, but we shall see what happens with Love. I would have waited one more year to draft a QB, but I'm not the GM. I just hope the Packers don't need Love to play this year and that one or two of the WRs on the roster step up. Thanks as always for the comment, nostradanus.

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nostradanus's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:04 pm

Thank you Gil

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:25 pm

Gambling on low-cost, bounceback types (although it's questionable whether Kirksey is really "low-cost") can pay off big time...or get you nothing. Absolutely right: the compensatory picks can't be sneezed at and are an important part of how this roster is being managed. It's part of how Minnesota is rebuilding their roster, and free picks will be helpful with the Packers snug up against the cap next off-season.

Added in edit after Gil responded...
"As for the drafting of Love, I wasn’t crazy about it at the time but it seems to make some sense now."

If the season is drastically shortened or doesn't happen, it really starts to look smarter, that's for sure.

My question since the draft has been how this signals plans for roster building, though. Drafting Love isn't an "all-in" move, and neither is signing a Funchess, Wagner, or Kirksey. Certainly the FA signings help plug holes, but we've seen other teams mortgage harder (and make concurrent cuts and renegotiations) on an all-in window. Whether the Packers use that first-round pick on a player who might play right away (a DL, ILB, CB, etc.) or include it in a deal for a vet who plugs a hole, those moves are all-in...so the roster-building thing feels muddled.

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:18 pm

Ted Thompson relied on those picks to sustain the team in a lot of ways and it worked for quite some time. Whether he should have done more in other areas is a different debate. Re: Kirksey, the fact that it's just a 2-year deal means it's not that big a risk even if he wasn't "cheap." He was still cheaper than Martinez would have been. Now the question is, will he be as good (or better) than Blake was. Thanks for the comment, dobber.

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:32 pm

Certainly Kirksey--by reputation--gives the Packers a little more in covering the middle of the field, but gives away a little with regard to stopping the run. He's had a couple high-tackle seasons in his own right, though. His cap hit in 2020 is very affordable (25th among ILBs). The roster bonus and cap hit in year two certainly make him cuttable if he's not the guy or someone else rises this season.

https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/rankings/cap-hit/inside-linebacker/

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:35 pm

Exactly. It's a calculated gamble for Gute and not a bad one. If Kirksey plays well, he's worth the 2021 money and stays next season and maybe beyond. If he bombs, he's gone and didn't cost too much. Of course, that creates a hole on defense, but that's another story.

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:52 pm

As they say....we're all day-to-day in this world! ;)

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gkarl's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:36 pm

No doubt in my mind its #1. Not only did the FO draft a "potential" franchise QB, but I believe it makes our current HOF QB have a point to prove and produce his best season(s) since 2016.

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:38 pm

I hope that's how he responds. Rodgers certainly is still capable of having a great season. Now he has to just do it. Thanks for commenting, gkarl.

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PeteK's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:52 pm

Acclimating the 3 new veterans will be easier than rookies in those key positions with the preseason curtailed.

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:54 pm

Agreed PeteK. Especially Kirksey who has experience in Pettine's defense. Rookies will be facing an uphill climb this year without preseason games and live minicamps and OTAs. Thanks for the comment.

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stockholder's picture

July 23, 2020 at 02:57 pm

1. Move over Rich Campbell, Jerry Tagge ,Don Horn. You got company. 2. Rick Wagner, What does a retread have to do with the future? 3. ILB Christian Kirksay.- If your ILBs are rated one of the worst groups in the NFL. Why do the packers keep avoiding it? 4. Funchess- Yes they could have drafted somebody better. And a lot cheaper. 5. The biggest mistake? - DT- the trench !! The answer to your questions is small potatoes! Not big at all.

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 03:00 pm

It's a little early to compare Love to Campbell, Tagge, etc. I hope that's not the case but we shall see. As for Wagner, he is the likely starting RT this year so that's why I discussed him in the article. Long term I do not think he is the future at the position. The Packers don't view ILB as a priority position in their budget/defense and yes, it has cost them. I agree on the draft and think they should have added at least one WR early and one late. As for DT, yeah, it's a big question mark and I'm not convinced they will be significantly better there this year as compared to last year. Thanks for the comment, stockholder.

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stockholder's picture

July 23, 2020 at 04:42 pm

So was Love better for the team or Queen? The 2020 draft could have fixed the ILB of the defense. Choice Queen, Logan, and Harrison. Keeping in Mind , Gutey spent 16 mil. in Free Agency. Thats 16 mil they could have used on a DT first. The TT way? Or Gutey Failure? I believe Gutey jumped the gun in the wrong direction. The draft is history. Draft Strength was WR = Watkins and Peoples Jones will play WR in the NFL .( Just another miss? ) But The biggest question mark should have been DL, not QB. Then ILB!

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GilMartin's picture

July 23, 2020 at 04:48 pm

You're not alone in thinking that way, stockholder and I agree that those are areas they needed to address. However, the Packers organization doesn't emphasize those positions and are unlikely to spend a #1 pick on them unless there's a franchise guy available. I also would have preferred Queen to Love in the first round without making the trade down. But here we are. Hope Love becomes another great QB otherwise this really will be a potential turning point for the organization and not in a good way.

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stockholder's picture

July 23, 2020 at 05:03 pm

Gutey did emphasize LBs at a pre draft conference. Finally took one in the 5th. Logan was available in rd 2. And Harrison Rd. 3. Instead Offense? Thats the head scratcher.

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dobber's picture

July 23, 2020 at 05:07 pm

Why would he tell everyone what he actually planned to do?

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gkarl's picture

July 24, 2020 at 07:09 am

Instead Offense? There have been plenty of people here complaining that the offense has been ignored recently in the draft, especially with top draft choices and they are probably correct.

You may not like the choices but the offense needed some draft help.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 23, 2020 at 10:20 pm

Love transcends a lightweight selection @ ILB. If Bolton stays healthy he can play the move ILB. Wait until the O linemen catch up with these defenses light in the middle. You saw one of the best playoff sequences in years as the 49rs, Titans, Crows played hardball in the playoffs. It still comes down to confrontation.

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dobber's picture

July 24, 2020 at 11:27 am

Exactly what's starting to happen. If the Packers committed to a Patrick Queen in the draft, that pick doesn't mean much unless they pair that transaction with a FA or drafted big ugly who can play up front.

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GilMartin's picture

July 24, 2020 at 05:24 pm

If the Packers hit on the Love pick, he certainly would mean a lot more to this team in the long run than an ILB. Certainly, QB was not a short term need and that is one reason a lot of fans were upset with the move. Thanks for the comment, jannesbjornson.

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Packers0808's picture

July 23, 2020 at 07:16 pm

Dr. Downer at it again! Probably should find a new team to rip on always!

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PeteK's picture

July 23, 2020 at 06:44 pm

We are throwing a variety of bodies at those positions so hopefully something will stick. However, if Sternberger and Dillion can make us a bit more smash mouth, it would help the defense.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 23, 2020 at 10:21 pm

Line play sets the tone.

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GilMartin's picture

July 24, 2020 at 05:26 pm

No doubt keeping possession of the ball and getting an early lead consistently would help the run defense. Should be interesting to see just how much running the offense does. I still can't see it getting much above 45 percent but we shall see. Thanks for the comment, PeteK.

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Bure9620's picture

July 23, 2020 at 09:03 pm

I for one like the Funchess signing. I am likely in the minority here but now I like it more as there almost no chance of a rookie WR doing anything this year outside of maybe Jeudy from Alabama and he has a learning curve too. Funchess is a solid Vet. I see Funchess catching some back shoulder throws from AR, can high point the ball too. He has red zone value. He can also block, I have seen him throw some nasty crack blocks so he can be an asset in the run game. For whatever reason people seem to think Funchess is an Allison replacement.....Geronimo Allison was just awful last year. Funchess is a significant upgrade over Allison, if anything I see his production closer to Graham, only more red zone value. The Colts paid him a ton of money last year for a reason. He simply got hurt the first quarter of the season, hence the bargain.

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GilMartin's picture

July 24, 2020 at 05:28 pm

Funchess should be an upgrade over what Allison gave the Packers last season. He has the size the Packers like and the ability to be effective in the middle of the field. I have followed Funchess since his days at Michigan and hope he can be a solid contributor for the Packers this year Thanks for commenting, Bure9620.

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Turophile's picture

July 23, 2020 at 09:51 pm

Year 1. Get some expensive veteran FAs in - but expect no Comp picks the following year.
Year 2. Don't get the very expensive vet FAs in this year *. This IS the year to let expensive players on your team go - they are what generate.............
Year 3. ..............Comp picks. You can also get an expensive vet FA or two in again this year (which means few/no comp picks in year 4).

Rinse and repeat alternate years. It's a bumper year followed by a lean year, and tries to generate maximum returns over time.

2019 was Year 1 for the Packers, with 2020 being Year 2. Does this mean 2021 WILL be a 'bumper year' for them ? Certainly the loss of Bulaga, Graham and Martinez are following that trend set out above, and will generate the comp picks in 2021.

* Worth mentioning that the Packers DID get in Kirksey, Funchess and Wagner, in Year 2, but none of these are big contracts compared to the losses.

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GilMartin's picture

July 24, 2020 at 05:30 pm

It's a balancing act for the front office, no doubt. I hope the plan works out well over the long run. Good analysis. Thanks for commenting, Turophile.

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arthurl's picture

July 24, 2020 at 07:32 am

If Kirksey can stay healthy that could be an huge addition. As the writer noted, he knows the system and his quickness would be a welcomed addition. Wagner could also turn out to be solid. As others have mentioned, I too feel more comfortable with these vet signings, their issue is injury. They all are still in their prime as Wagner is the oldest at 30.

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Duneslick's picture

July 24, 2020 at 01:11 pm

Most teams improve over the previous year with the draft and free agent signings. Greenbay did not sign 1 good starter and lost 2 but also did not really fill any of their holes. They have more depth at running back and TE. offensive line and inside lb wait and see DL none. And the biggest weakness WR all they got was a tall somewhat slow injury prone wr with poor hands. BTW Degura had drop problems also.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

July 24, 2020 at 01:21 pm

"Most teams improve" maybe in paper but even then I wouldn't say most. There's always an ebb and flow in the NFL. Tampa looks good on paper but so did the Browns last year. Relax and watch the season play out before you declare the Packers worse and everyone else better.

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GilMartin's picture

July 24, 2020 at 05:34 pm

Agreed, we have to see if these gambles pay off. If Kirksey and Wagner stay healthy and play to their potential, the Packers will be just fine. We shall see. Thanks for the comment, JonathanSpader.

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GilMartin's picture

July 24, 2020 at 05:33 pm

The front office took some chances this offseason at ILB and RT and are counting on improvement from within and Funchess at WR. We shall see if these gambles pay off. Never a dull moment this offseason in Green Bay. Thanks for commenting, Duneslick.

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PhantomII's picture

July 24, 2020 at 11:25 pm

Since we were 1 game away from the Super Bowl: #5 moves not made cut/trade Lindsley and possibly Taylor to free spendable cap space and sign an above average DT next to Clark, something we haven't had since Daniels got hurt. Lindsleys' replacement already on the roster. #4 Funchess a vet but I think we already have that covered by 3 similar players. I think Lazard and Brown get it going in 2020.
#3 Kirksey If healthy he is an improvement. I like TFL which means he is seeing and anticipating and attacking. I have always been disappointed in Packers lack of athleticism at this ultra critical position. #2 Wagner looks like as solid as a replacement as we could get for Bulagas spot. #1 Love: At first highly disappointed. Personally, cleaning up our DT position at 5 I would have liked a bold #1-#2 pick to move up and get a top 3 WR to start next to Adams this summer. However since that will never happen in conservative GB The Love pick just may be a starter down the road a bit. Take into consideration how messed up things are for NFL, College is worse so we may have squeaked out our future QB under the COVID wire while college football and college period is still just a dream. Plus, maybe Rodgers gets motivated to impress us for a full season instead of spurts.

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