Packers' Long-Term Approach Secured Building Blocks Throughout the Roster

Brian Gutekunst has added and kept several young important pieces to the team

Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers gave Jaire Alexander a solid 4-year, $ 84 million extension. He is another piece who is locked for the future and shows how general manager Brian Gutekunst operates. Although many people might think the Packers are in win-now mode, Gutekunst has pretty much built the roster in a sustainable way, and while there are some financial gymnastics to make this year's team stronger, the Packers have collected several players to build a young core and keep them long-term.

The cornerback position is obviously the most notable one in this regard. Jaire Alexander is now under contract through 2026, and the Packers also have the other two starters signed up: Erik Stockes through 2024 (and team option for 2025) and Rasul Douglas through 2024. The defensive front has Kenny Clark as a primary force, and his contract runs until 2024. In the last two years, they've also added TJ Slaton and Devonte Wyatt for the interior. The edge position is a little trickier because of Rashan Gary, but he still has two years left in his contract and should be the next in line alongside Elgton Jenkins to receive an extension. Moreover, Preston Smith extended his deal and now is tied with the Packers until 2026. And they drafted Kingsley Enagbare.

Regarding the linebackers, De'Vondre Campbell re-signed through 2026, and that's exactly when Quay Walker's fifth-year option will be if things go well. The most pressing situation defensively is the safety position, because Adrian Amos has only one year left in his deal and the parties decided to just restructure his deal, adding void years to lower this year's hit. At least the Packers picked up Darnell Savage's fifth-year option for 2023, but the depth is thin.

In general, the defense is loaded with talent, as the roster has seven former first-rounders, and the majority of them will be part of the Packers' future.

Offense has more question marks

With so much investment in the defense, it's natural that the offense would suffer a little bit. But even so, Brian Gutekunst has important pieces to keep the talent-level high. First and most important is that Aaron Rodgers is now under contract until 2026. Even if he doesn't play that long, the Packers have some stability, especially for the next two years - first, because it's probable that Rodgers will play at least two seasons, and second because Jordan Love is still under contract.

The running back position is secure with AJ Dillon for two more years. Aaron Jones' situation is not that clear. Although he is under contract until 2024, the contract was backloaded, so the last two years are heavy: $ 20 million cap hit in 2023, $ 16 million cap hit in 2023. If Jones doesn't justify these numbers as a primary passing option, he might be cut after this season. Kylin Hill has three years left in his deal and can be the immediate replacement.

The wide receiver position is the most questionable of the entire roster. Before the draft, Amari Rodgers was the only one under contract beyond 2022, because Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins and the other young guys will be free agents in 2023. But now, they have Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Samori Toure locked up through 2025, and undrafted Danny Davis through 2024. The way the position is managed for the future depends on how the young guys will develop, but there aren't sure things.

The tight end position is similar to the safety situation. Josiah Deguara is the only player under contract beyond 2022, and players like Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, and Tyler Davis are in contract year. As happened with the safeties, there was no investment in the position this offseason.

The biggest investment Gutekunst has done is on the offensive line. Elgton Jenkins is in contract year, and it's fair to wait for his return from injury to see how he is and where he plays. If the Packers long-term plan is to keep him at guard, it might get hard to re-sign him, because Jenkins will want tackle money (and fairly so). But other than that, several players have long-term deals. David Bakhtiari (2024), Josh Myers (2024), Royce Newman (2024) and Jon Runyan (2023), plus the three linemen drafted this year - Sean Rhyan, Zach Tom, and Rasheed Walker, who have deals in place until 2025.
It's clear, as always, that the quarterback situation will dictate how strong this team will be moving forward. But Gutekunst and his staff have built a solid foundation for the future, even when the pressure is high to be as competitive as possible now.

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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Comments (31)

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BuckyBadger's picture

May 17, 2022 at 02:43 pm

Hope I am wrong but Jenkins might be have to be let go. Gary will want a top contract and pass rusher is a harder position to find. They have drafted heaviy for interior linemen so I feel they can let him walk or possible trade.

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Minniman's picture

May 17, 2022 at 03:58 pm

That said, the Packers did sign the “Smith Bros” - both in the one year - so it’s not impossible.

I guess it depends on, A) who is available (and are there a number of FA options that year) , and B) what the overall salary cap situation is for the league.

I’ll also add a third criteria - fit. There’s no point in hiring someone that’s more interested in their stats than the role.

I personally think that the Packers are better at OLB now that Barry has them playing a contain and constrict strategy instead of simply ‘get to the QB’.

I also personally see Jenkins as the heir apparent at T - possibly LT - the Packers won’t be able to pay both him AND Bakh that kind of money. I’d trade Bakh after this season and keep Jenkins.

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Coldworld's picture

May 17, 2022 at 04:02 pm

Jenkins is likely a T for the future. They will keep him and let Bakh go.

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DoubleD's picture

May 17, 2022 at 04:30 pm

Agreed. Jenkins is an absolute lock and won't be going anywhere. Bakh next year is most likely a post June cut or trade.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:41 pm

They'd take a $23 million dead money hit if they cut him after this year. Even making him a June 1st cut is still a big hit. Much easier to cut him in 2024.

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Coldworld's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:47 pm

Agreed.

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Minniman's picture

May 17, 2022 at 07:56 pm

Cut - or Trade?

Personally I’d try and recover some draft capital.

Sure, there’s a cap hit to the Packers, but Trading him at the end of this year May have more value to a trade partner than the year after? If he and Jenkins ball out this year, then he could have quite some trade value?

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dobber's picture

May 17, 2022 at 08:52 pm

A big chunk of Bakhtiari's cap hit in 2023 is a $10M roster bonus that vests on the third league day. It would travel with the contract if he were to be traded, and can be avoided if he's released or traded.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 18, 2022 at 02:22 am

True. It is still a $23M dead money hit if Bakh is traded prior to that $9.5M roster bonus vesting. LLC has the number right. However, it does provide almost $6M in cap savings and probably a nice pick or two. GB could pay the roster bonus and then make the trade official after June 1. Yes, that would push the dead money to $32M while increasing the cap savings to $8M (but now with $11.565M dead in 2024). I suppose that would only be considered if the draft compensation increased substantially. What pick justifies $9.5M in cap space? Depends on the draft and each team's circumstances, I suppose.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

May 18, 2022 at 10:55 am

Chesty, if they cut/trade Bakhtiari next year post june 1st, the dead money is only $11.5 million and would save them $17.5 million in cap space. Seems like a no-brainer to me. This is likely the end of the line for Bakh in GB.

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HarryHodag's picture

May 17, 2022 at 04:35 pm

Why would you let an All-Pro go? Because you drafted a rookie? The Packers have two All-Pro o-linemen. They are paid they way they are because they have more ability than others. David B. and E. Jenkins are clearly above the average NFL lineman. To suggest in any way that either or both be let go at this point is silly. The salary cap issue has largely been hosed down with Alexander's signing and the NFL revenue sharing/salary cap is going to go up substantially after this coming season.

The Packers offensive line looks very strong from tackle to tackle.

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Rarescope's picture

May 18, 2022 at 02:47 pm

No doubt. We haven't even played a preseason game let alone regular season game with just starters and people are already talking about who needs to get cut two years from now. Jeepers creepers, let's try to enjoy this season and our hopefully dominant oline first.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:44 pm

Alexander is only counting roughly $7 million on the cap this year. My guess is they let Jones go and sign Jenkins and Gary and let Savage play on his 5th year option unless he really steps up this year to a pro bowl level player.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

May 18, 2022 at 10:49 am

I think Bakhtiari goes before Jenkins. Assuming Jenkins comes back 100% from the ACL, he's likely the left tackle of the future. You just dont let those guys walk in the middle of their prime.

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Handsback's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:02 pm

Harry is right, no way do they let Bak or Jenks go. Gutsey is doing what I imagine TT wanted to do, build a strong defense and Oline that will win you enough games to get into the playoffs. Add the QB magic with a few more playmakers and presto a SB caliper team.

I'm so tired of questioning about how will the Packers make the playoffs w/o Adams. That their receivers are slow and not competitive, that they can't stop the run and best of all how good the Vikings will be and how they will win the division.
Injuries will factor into every season and could derail the Pack again, but every team faces that issue. I think the depth in critical areas are deep enough for the Packers to handle some injuries except to the QB spot.

So yeah young Wendell, they did add some good chess pieces!

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ryanpete's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:16 pm

Looks great!

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ryanpete's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:18 pm

The contracts looks solid to me. I hope this goes out well with the team. | https://epoxygaragefloorstpetersburg.com/

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Leatherhead's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:38 pm

Even if you draft 7 Pro Bowlers every year, you only have 28 guys after 4 years and you have to resign them or they leave, so when you actually have better than average players you might think twice about saying goodbye.

Nobody knows if Bakhtiari or Jenkins is going to be real good this season, let alone 2023 and beyond. IMO, Bakhtiari would have to stay healthy and play well to justify the expense of keeping him. Jenkins could be a non factor this year and then we’d still probably have to pay him like a tackle to keep him. But that’s all later. Right now, we’re hoping Bakhtiari can play tackle for us and Jenkins can help in the playoffs.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

May 18, 2022 at 08:33 am

Frankly, we don't even know yet if Bahk will be medically cleared to participate in camp. The complications he had are concerning and he could decide it would be better for his long term health to walk away.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 18, 2022 at 10:07 am

Absolutely. We don't know. He missed an entire season, and part of the previous season. We put him out on the field against Detroit for a few snaps......after having been out a year....and he was so jacked up from that that he couldn't play two weeks later. I think Bakhtiari is a big question mark, bigger than most other people think, apparently.

And Jenkins could very well be out the entire season. And Myers missed most of his rookie season and we don't even know if he can survive an NFL season.

Those are our top three guys. Actually our top two, plus Jenkins, who I'm not counting on for anything this year.

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Oppy's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:40 pm

The way this roster is being built is anything but sustainable, it's the opposite. We're already talking about which starters may or may not have to be cut each season as a cap casualty, and it's going to get worse each year that passes for the next few years. That's not healthy or sustainable roster management.

A team rife with back loaded contracts are what made it necessary for Ted Thompson to gut the roster when he took over the GM role before he started building back up. The Packers made a deal with the devil and it's going to affect the near future of this franchise.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

May 18, 2022 at 10:59 am

It all hinges on how long Rodgers stays. If he goes next year, the cap gets healthy instantly. This is the battle when you have to pay superstars. You cant have 22 stars on rookie contracts. Just the nature of the game.

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Oppy's picture

May 18, 2022 at 09:26 pm

It's exactly why Rodgers should have never been extended. He should have been traded.

The difference between what TT had to do back then, and what Gute will likely have to do in a few years, is that the team TT inherited was old players on bloated, back-loaded contracts that had to be cut away to allow for a rebuild with youthful talent..

While this roster is chock-full of young, ascending talent that the Packers might have to cut away while many are entering their prime years.

The whole notion of "it all depends on if Rodgers retires or not" is just more evidence supporting the notion that this is not a healthy, sustainable model of roster management.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 18, 2022 at 11:21 am

Oppy, I'm not so sure. As ReturntoSanity said, if Rodgers retires after this season, we're instantly in a lot better shape, cap-wise.

I like the Thompson reference. We were in bad shape, cap-wise, when he came in, and we had to let guys like Wahle and Rivera go. We released Darren Sharpei. We had to play 7th round rookies on the line. But shortly after that purge, we were within ONE BONEHEAD PLAY of going to the Super Bowl (just like 2014).

That's what I know. What I think is that Rodgers is disappointed that he can't get back to the Super Bowl, and last offseason he directed that disappointment and frustration at the organization, and the organization responded by strengthening the team. And then he went out there and laid a Cleveland Steamer at Lambeau in front of God, PackerNation, and the ghost of Lombardi. The 10 points was the 5th worst offensive performance in Packer playoff history. 63 games. Historically bad.

This almost is certainly personal with Rodgers this year. His crutch is gone, as Rodgers knew he would be. He'll have to adapt and spread the ball around to be successful. If he does, everybody will be happy. This is a "legacy" season for Rodgers, IMO. A Super Bowl win and a possible Elway ending, or another failure on top of the rest and be known as a great regular season QB who couldn't lead teams to victory in the playoffs.

Unless we win the Super Bowl this year, I think this is likely Rodgers' last year with this team.

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greengold's picture

May 27, 2022 at 12:15 am

Unless a Top 3 Defense, a powerful offense, and solid ST units stay healthy, come together, and wipe other teams out and win the whole thing…

Think about those OL who may not be ready for how long? We drafted some maulers, and have more.

Maybe, the plan isn’t to use Aaron Jones & AJ Dillon more as receivers, and instead run over teams. Play action off safeties playing up should be unlike anything we’ve seen before with this kind of speed.

Maybe Hill jumps back in off PUP to take it over the top?

We haven’t seen this many true interior pass rush weapons in over a decade, with Gary & Preston prime. Going to make easy pickin’s… middle D rock solid, with ballhawks ready behind them.

More possessions for this offense is going to wear opposing Ds out, especially if we’re mauling.

Maybe, just maybe they run more, to epic levels. Sure would help keep Rodgers’ Jersey clean…

Win it all, and AR returns. No way he gets left off that returning Super Bowl Champs team. Maybe they actually DO trade Love thereafter for a boatload, and reset the QB successor value timeline with another Top QB Choice…

I mean, if this AR lead Packers team wins two… ???

If Rodgers gets this WR group hitting, with this D??? With Jones/Dillon having career years? Our O perfectly balanced? Tough to beat.

Loved Holmgren pounding worn out opposing Ds with Edgar & Dorsey to close games.

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stockholder's picture

May 17, 2022 at 06:50 pm

I like the building blocks. But don't give me," WE MUST KEEP A PLAYER UNTIL HIS CONTRACT IS OUT". The roles they were chosen for, didn't get us to the Super Bowl. We need results to make us better. If Lazard, Campbell, and Douglass made this team better. Move on and try someone else.

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Grandfathered's picture

May 17, 2022 at 10:14 pm

{If Jones doesn't justify these numbers as a primary passing option, he might be cut after this season. Kylin Hill has three years left in his deal and can be the immediate replacement.}

I don't know what more Jones can do to justify himself. Seems to me Jones catches almost everything Rogers throws at him. It would be nice to see Jones throwns to more often, and I hope it happens, but I question whether his receiving yards will be the main factor in his future with GB.

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

May 18, 2022 at 11:01 am

Hes talking about Jones justifying his $20 million cap hit next year. Barry Sanders in his prime wouldn't justify that much money for a running back.

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Rarescope's picture

May 18, 2022 at 02:59 pm

But what about for a slot receiver? Seems like Jones could make that transition. I'm not much of a football historian, anyone ever hear of a player doing such a thing?

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hebew10964's picture

May 18, 2022 at 01:33 am

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chavesarlene4's picture

May 26, 2022 at 10:01 pm

The offensive line is where Gutekunst has made the most investment. Elgton Jenkins is in the final year of his contract, so it's best to wait till he returns from injury to see how he's doing and where he'll play. If the Packers want to keep him at guard in the long run, re-signing Jenkins will be difficult because he wants tackle money (and fairly so). However, numerous players have long-term contracts.
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