"Avenues" of Player Acquisition Still Wide Open for Brian Gutekunst, Packers

-- It's a little alarming for those watching at home, but for Brian Gutekunst, there's no window or specific timeframe on when he can and can't add to his roster.

The new G.M. of the Green Bay Packers had his work cut out for him after inheriting a 7-9 team -- sans quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a majority of the 2017 season -- from his predecessor, Ted Thompson.

An aging veteran receiver, a tight end group lacking a dynamic playmaker with just one under contract (Lance Kendricks) and deficiencies across the board defensively. While the Packers have never been in much of a bind financially with Russ Ball handling that department, that doesn't mean any recognizable name on the market is going to be signed to an immediate contract just for the sake of his track record.

Take former Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, who signed with the Houston Texans over the weekend on a one-year deal worth $7 million. The Packers certainly could've afforded it, and for all anyone knows, they could've had a multi-year deal in place with Mathieu through the course of the week.

That doesn't mean Mathieu would want to play in Green Bay. Believe it or not, some of the time, a lot of it has to do with the desired player just not wanting to venture up to Wisconsin for however many years.

What happens behind closed doors at Lambeau Field is rigorous; player acquisition is a daily happening and the talks are constantly developing. There are a lot of factors that go into signing the right player.

And after what happened last offseason with former tight end Martellus Bennett and the dreadful fiasco that his tenure ended up as, even more intricate, fine-tuned decision making will go into each and every possible free agent signee.

That goes for how the contracts are structured as well.

The Packers' deal for tight end Jimmy Graham, which was announced officially on Friday, has him earning a total of $22 million over his first two seasons with the team. The Packers will have an option of paying him the $8 million they'd owe him in 2020 if they choose not to release him after the 2019 season -- doing so would save them $8 million in cap space.

The structure of Graham's deal is essentially team-friendly and keeps all of the options on the table in case Graham underperforms. He also earns per-game roster bonuses of $18,750.

On the opposite side of the ball, to help address the pass rush, the Packers signed former New York Jets defensive lineman, Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson formerly played for Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and thus, the signing made all the sense in the world if it meant beefing up the Packers' front seven.

Wilkerson's deal was more of the "prove-it" type, seeing as it's worth $5 million for a single year with $3 million in incentives.

Those were just two primary free agents the Packers signed in the first week of free agency, and there are still names out there that could prove as suitable role players. That also doesn't role out a potential trade that supplies the Packers with another playmaker in their secondary.

When Gutekunst said in January that he wanted to utilize every available avenue to stock the Packers' roster, it doesn't seem as if he's gone back on his word. He's been in on a handful of conversations -- albeit he hasn't signed any of the top-tier defensive backs the Packers have been "interested" in -- and even surprised a rival.

The Chicago Bears placed a transition tag on cornerback Kyle Fuller early this month, meaning another team would be able to make an offer, but the Bears would have the right of first refusal and an opportunity to match the deal.

The Packers reached out with a deal, but the Bears matched within hours, quickly putting an end to that pipe dream but forcing them to splurge $14 million per year on Fuller in the process. It was a win-win scenario for Gutekunst, but the Packers still left empty-handed at cornerback.

That isn't to say they're going to be empty-handed by September. Kevin King isn't going to enter 2018 with Quinten Rollins starting on the opposite perimeter -- the Packers have a plan.

The plan looks a little foggy right now, but it doesn't take Hell freezing over for veteran additions to be plucked off the market.

Former Packers cornerback Tramon Williams is still available and one of the favorites to land back with his former team. His stellar season in 2017 provides all the reason why the Packers should at least give him a chance to return in the same veteran role that Davon House was in last season.

Among Williams, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- who won't sign until April -- and Breshaud Breeland are two heavy favorites as well. The Packers were reportedly already interested in Breeland before he was signed by the Carolina Panthers and subsequently failed a physical.

That might make Breeland an intriguing option in a couple of months when the supposed infected wound on his foot is healed and he's able to pass a physical. Until then, the bulk of the Packers' talent acquisitions are likely to come through the draft.

After the first wave of free agency passes and teams have already overspent on players, the Packers can either pick at their remains or get creative with some of the talent on their own roster and 12 draft picks. The only complication with that, however, is that draft picks and positioning are instrumental for a first-year G.M., so that may not be capital that the Packers want to surrender.

Between now and the end of next month, the Packers can pull a few strings and utilize whichever avenue they please with precise, calculated moves. 

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (28)

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4thand1's picture

March 19, 2018 at 09:06 am

Wow, that's a big list. Options galore.

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Turophile's picture

March 19, 2018 at 09:26 am

The list may be big, but as each day or week goes by, the most desired among that list are picked up. Wait too long, and all that is left are the players no other team in the league wants. That is unlikely to produce a player that can perform at an adequate level.

So, while the Packers don't need to take the best vet at a given position, they don't want to wait until all the better players are gone, either. It's a dance all teams must do, finding the sweet spot between deals that are too big, and deals that make no difference to the team come September.

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Bearmeat's picture

March 19, 2018 at 09:34 am

Nah. There's always a feeding frenzy during the first week of free agency. It slows down to a crawl by the end of March with plenty of players left out there.

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Bearmeat's picture

March 19, 2018 at 11:21 am

BG simply MUST sign a veteran free agent who can at the very least cover 2nd WRs. Having King and a draft pick (or worse, King and Rollins) cover WR 1/2s is suicide.

The article mentions plenty of names who aren't bad players. No game changers, but we knew we weren't going to get that anyway. We need to get 1-2 of them before the draft.

But there's still time.

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Pack12's picture

March 19, 2018 at 09:19 am

The fact that we're discussing free agency is a miracle onto itself. If TT was still the GM we would be sitting around waiting for the draft. BG is at least giving the Packers the chance to improve by all available means.

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al bundy's picture

March 19, 2018 at 06:12 pm

Please the two guys gut got could be expensive has been. Both were cut not let go over money concerns

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dobber's picture

March 19, 2018 at 06:17 pm

You're not paying attention.

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Ryan Graham's picture

March 19, 2018 at 09:48 am

Pettine must believe he's got his CB1 in King. That's fine if he's right and he can stay healthy. still gotta fill two voids in cornerback depth and really another safety spot even if they believe Jones can take on the workload. That list of corners is long but really there's only a handful of guys that would be nice to bring in...Terrence Newman, DRC, possibly Breeland although that doesn't seem likely. A lot of confidence in the guys they've got is what I'm seeing.

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holmesmd's picture

March 19, 2018 at 02:13 pm

Williams is better than all of them. No debate. Why he doesn’t have a 1-2 yr incentivized deal with GB is astounding to me! We need Williams much more than JG IMO.

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Bert's picture

March 19, 2018 at 09:57 am

Given we have an overflow of draft picks I kinda expect Gute to use some of those picks in a trade for a CB. There's no need to panic and overpay for a JAG FA just yet.

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lou's picture

March 19, 2018 at 10:54 am

Agree Bert, based on the lack luster long list of available CB's by far the best bet is to trade during the draft for a solid veteran presumably under contract for a while, lets make the most of the number of choices we have this year due to the compensory picks. If it comes down to adding a vet from the available list I am for Williams over House, House is "not available" enough to count on.

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Bert's picture

March 19, 2018 at 11:47 am

Yeah, I would just as soon trade some picks for a proven commodity with some tread left on the tires rather than signing a JAG or rolling the dice on the draft. Otherwise we are pretty much looking at addressing the CB position again next year. I think we've been down that road before.

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OrganLeroy's picture

March 19, 2018 at 04:32 pm

I wouldn't hold my breath on any trades. Fans seem to think trading is as easy as turning on your TV. You have to find a partner who has assets he's willing to trade and a friendly contract or the ability to restructure that contract if a trade is agreed upon. There's a lot of moving parts, a lot more than your TV remote.

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Bert's picture

March 19, 2018 at 07:11 pm

Yeah, you're right. Trades are too hard to manage and we'd just get a head case anyhow. Let's just sign a JAG FA or two and waste more high draft picks on CBs. Fixed that problem.

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Since'61's picture

March 19, 2018 at 08:55 pm

To me it will be better if the Packers can bring in 1 or 2 vet CBs for depth and experience and draft 1 or 2 CBs from rounds 1 through 4.
I'd rather have King plus one or two high draft picks with veteran backups rather than King and a bunch of UDFAs.
We are not likely to find another Shields from the UDFA crowd again.
I'm confident that Pettine is providing input to Gute on which FAs he would like the Packers to go after. I would not be surprised if it was Pettine who wanted Gute to try for Fuller. Plenty of time yet for all of this to play out. Thanks, Since '61

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stockholder's picture

March 19, 2018 at 11:31 am

We went with Jarod Bush for years. Gute will fix this in the draft. The money needs to go for A-Rod.

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OrganLeroy's picture

March 19, 2018 at 04:28 pm

They have plenty of money, a little over $20 million right now. A Rodgers extension is going to add up to $15 million in cap space if they want to structure it that way and they will. They don't have a money problem.

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Lare's picture

March 19, 2018 at 03:32 pm

Regardless what methods Gutekunst uses to improve the defense, I just hope he is successful. I'm tired of watching Rodgers perform at an MVP level and then seeing the defense give the game away.

Get er done Gute!

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Bure9620's picture

March 19, 2018 at 04:40 pm

Just sign Tramon and House to one Year deals and draft some CBs early.

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Royalty Free GM's picture

March 19, 2018 at 04:41 pm

You are so full of excuses all the time. Gute has already made big mistakes.

Gute tried to get Trumaine, but he got scared.
At this point I bet he would gladly pay Trumaine Johnson 15M.
This year Cobb cap hit is 13M
This year Johnson cap hit is 10M!
I wonder which one Packers would need more right now...

He blew the CB need totally and now he is doing what TT does, he will waste our first round pick (CB). Or maybe we can get some crap leftovers like House or Williams :D Or use 15M and valuable picks to trade somebody ;)

You can still be a Man and draft Ridley. He will be the difference maker fast and will be that for a long time.

And like you say here CB draft is deep. You might hit a CB difference maker in round two.

I still trust that Pettine will get more out of this roster. And what the hell, we can win shootout games like 45-38 with Ridley and Rodgers.

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Chuck Farley's picture

March 19, 2018 at 05:52 pm

The pack have the least options of anyone. The Rogers contract holds over anything they want to do in fa. No money. Got to pay the big guy.

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al bundy's picture

March 19, 2018 at 06:07 pm

The free agent band wagon has left the station. The worst may not be that we left holes to fill but our competitors, ya know those other nfc guys, did fill holes and they also get to draft.
We can point to the fact we have Rogers. They can point that Rogers on the bench with long term shoulder interest does nothing for the team when their guts are healthy.

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4thand1's picture

March 19, 2018 at 06:20 pm

Hey cow 2.0......................you suck.

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stockholder's picture

March 19, 2018 at 06:21 pm

I think you better get use to Ridley being the packers #1 Pick. He's the highest rated player @14 now. The packers backed off all FA Wrs. I don't like it, but I 'm understanding why they have waited.

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4thand1's picture

March 19, 2018 at 06:18 pm

Why the hell doesn't Terence Newman retire? He got beat like the old man he is against Philly. Revis only 32? It seems like he's been around forever. TW 35, can he still run? I remember D Green from the Redskins, was one of the fastest men in the NFL when he was pushing 40. We have choices, get one of these guys. Some guys may lose a half step or a step, but they how to play the position. A vet can bait a QB especially a young one.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 19, 2018 at 08:38 pm

The Graham contract is interesting. His signing bonus is 36.67% of the total value, which is high. Since that is the guaranteed money as well, 36.67% is not abnormal, but it is a healthy percentage from the player's perspective.

Graham has a 1 yr., $13M out with a $7.33M dead money hit. M. Bennet had a $8.05M one year out with $4.2M dead. It is much richer deal than Bennett's.

I don't blame Gute - our cap situation largely dictated a low first-year cap number, and within that constraint, it is reasonably team-friendly. A signing bonus of $7.5M (25% of value) with a guaranteed first-year base salary of $4M or $5M leads to a cap # of $7M/$8M (perfectly reasonable), guaranteed money of $11.5M/$12.5M would have been a pretty normal contract structure.

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Arthur Jackson's picture

March 20, 2018 at 12:36 pm

I think you mean the Packers have a one year out.

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Archie's picture

March 20, 2018 at 05:29 pm

Robinson (WR) over Graham for that kind of money. Paying top dollar to guys on downside of career makes no sense. Applies to Wilkerson too. Giving Randall away for almost nothing is another dead scratcher. Only one thing worse than a GM who doesn't play in FA, that's a GM show overpays for over-the-hill guys. George Allen made it work once upon a time but not much since. Paul Richardson (WR) would have been another good fit for GB. I may have to become a Saints fan - smart GM and HC.

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