The Ebbs and Flows of Offseason Player Acquisition

 

Since taking over as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Brian Gutekunst has been a part of many conversations regarding player acquisition outside of his current roster.

Some of those conversations have turned into new Packers players and some have not.  To some, it's just wisely navigating the waters of value for price paid.  To others, it's been a wholesale failure to do everything the team can to win a championship.

Is either the right take?  That won't be known for a few more seasons.  Sure, there have been teams who found that one or two key players and won a ring right away.  But those are the exception, not the norm.

We've seen teams make big splashes in free agency and in bringing in any big name they can to boost the roster and excite fans.  We've also seen those teams become strapped by the salary cap and a lack of draft capital in future seasons.  Other bad decisions were involved in the Philadelphia Eagles' delayed Super Bowl chance, but anyone remember their 2011 "dream team"?

Gutekunst's predecessor Ted Thompson was famous for being one of the sleepiest GM's in the league when it came to bringing in outside talent.  It may not have provided a lot of excitement during the first few days of free agency but the Packers always had money to spend and draft picks to make.

What has been fun to watch is how Gutekunst has navigated his two offseasons so far.  One of his first moves was not making a real offer to keep receiver Jordy Nelson.  Fans weren't happy with that one.  Neither was the quarterback.  But Gute stayed his course.

He turned one first round pick in 2018 into cornerback Jaire Alexander, who is poised to be a really good piece to the Packers defense, and a second first round pick in 2019.  That pick became safety Darnell Savage, who was the first defensive back taken and who was also highly touted by many NFL teams.

Gutekunst made one of the biggest free agent splashes in a very long time when he brought in linebackers Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith along with safety Adrian Amos.  Offensive lineman Billy Turner was added on and suddenly it was a new ballgame in Green Bay.

This, after last summer's failed attempt to land cornerback Kyle Fuller, receiver Allen Robinson and linebacker Khalil Mack, all of whom ended up on the Chicago Bears.  Packers fans were livid and loathed Gutekunst's effort to close any of those deals.  The Bears couldn't win a single playoff game and had very little to work with in this year's draft.  Speaking of teams paying now for past moves made, we'll see how 2019 goes for the "offseason champions" from a year ago.

Last week was the supplemental draft and defensive back Jalen Thompson was one of the players eligible.  He had met with the Packers just a few days prior and eyes were once again on Gute to see if he would find another good value to add depth.  Alas, the Arizona Cardinals were awarded Thompson with a fifth-round designation.  

It's not known whether the Packers offered anything for Thompson or if they opted against it.  Speculation can go in any direction but we may never know.  Doesn't matter now.

Also last week were reports that Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon wants a new deal or he will request a trade.  During the slowest sports week of the year, this report was like a store opening its doors on Black Friday.  It led to vast speculation on where Gordon might to and who the potential suitors may be.

At this point, there has been no official report that the Chargers are listening to offers or that they don't intend to negotiate but naturally, Packers fans took to social media to ask if the team should pursue a conversation.  The answer is: trust Gute.

Somehow, even in the smallest corner of the Packers fan world, if Gordon isn't in green and gold, comparisons to Mack last summer will be made.  "Why didn't he go 'all in'??" will be screamed and typed in all caps.

The answer is simple: price and value.  The Packers may not have to give up a ton in a trade for Gordon (they have a full slate of draft picks next year and a disgruntled Josh Jones, for example) but they would have to sign him to an extension to make any deal worthwhile.  They already have Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams on extremely team-friendly contracts.  Why use valuable cap space just to bring in a big name?

As training camps start in a few weeks' time, we'll start hearing about more players who could be released or traded and one thing is certain: there will be more ebbs and flows in Green Bay's offseason.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (49)

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Nick Perry's picture

July 15, 2019 at 06:28 am

"The Bears couldn't win a single playoff game and had very little to work with in this year's draft."

Not only did the Bears have little to work with in this year's draft, but they don't have a 1st round pick in the 2020 draft either. Just the two 1st round picks are HUGE when looking at the trade for Mack.

Gute did a masterful job working the draft these last 2 years. He has Alexander, Gary, and Savage all under contract for at least 4 years hopefully 5, where the Bears have to start paying a soon to be 29-year-old OLB $26.6 MILLION! ....For the next several YEARS!

The Bears didn't have a pick until round 3 of this year's draft and won't pick in 2020 until the 2nd round. For all of you who think the Bears "Scored" when they signed Mack think again. THAT deal will end up being the demise the Bears and it won't take long to show up. Too many high draft picks have been given up. That's a lot of cheap talent sacrificed necessary to compete for the long haul in today's NFL. It's going to a blast to watch too!

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 15, 2019 at 06:42 am

Nick,
Agreed!

I was never for the Mack trade as way too much would have to been given up to get him. I could not be happier with the way Gute has assembled and strengthened the team talent wise the past two years. The mere fact us Packer fans simply know anytime a player is available that Gute is looking into all avenues to strengthen the team is reassuring. It appears to me the Packers most critical position within the organization is in fantastic hands and the organization will be better for it for years to come.

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dobber's picture

July 15, 2019 at 07:53 am

That deal--plus the other contracts they doled out last year--essentially said they have about 3 seasons to win it all before they have to shitcan the whole thing and start over. One down, two to go.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 06:42 pm

It would be a valid theory if the QB was not Trubitsky with the invariably flawed concept that game management and defense can win you a SB.
Not happening. The trigger guy a la Brady, Rodgers even Foles with the magic wand bring home the gold. I have the Pack @ 11-5 with my Vegas line , but now feel better with a 12-4 run as a ringer with LeFleur being leveled headed and engaged enough to get the job done in crunch time.
The charade of the past three years has to be exorcised.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 16, 2019 at 04:32 am

Gute's trade back and then trade up in the draft was very good stuff. The quality of his draft picks is still to be determined.

Gute's first go round on free agency was at best mixed, and probably below average. His second try in free agency looks better to me. I do think ZaDarius cost a lot. I agree with the commenter above: GB wants to win over the next 4 seasons before they shitcan the whole thing and start over. I think Gute was more interested in getting a significant contribution from his free agent acquisitions and is less concerned about whether the contribution is efficient.

Trading for Mack would have required cutting CM3 (which would have been a good thing), or cutting Cobb (another good thing as it turned out). The Mack vs. CM3 thing would have been almost cap neutral in 2018, and it probably makes signing one of the Smiths unnecessary. In terms of draft picks, GB would have had two less first round picks (Gary and Savage) and two more 4th round picks, and another 2nd rounder in 2020.

The cap would have been tight. Grady Jarrett's new contract at $17M AAV with $18M in signing bonus and $39M guaranteed would have made matters worse, and it will have some repercussions in Clark's upcoming negotiations. Jarrett is about as good as Clark was last year. IDK, I'd probably roll the dice and wait until next year to extend Clark rather than lock in Jarrett numbers.

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BradHTX's picture

July 15, 2019 at 06:31 am

“Offensive lineman Billy Hunter”?

Isn’t he the cousin of long snapper Turner Bradley?

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dobber's picture

July 15, 2019 at 07:54 am

This is his second job after schlepping oxiclean on infomercials.

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jasonperone's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:08 am

Turner is Hooch's caddy, Billy is Bradley's 2nd cousin, twice removed and by marriage. If Bradley doesn't make the roster this year, this was all for nothing

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Daren726's picture

July 15, 2019 at 06:36 am

I think Gute has done a great job so far. I didn’t like his first trade for kizar, but it was a necessity to get rid of 23. Since then he’s made a lot of decisions that look like they are panning out. Patience is the key. Fans want to jump on every new available player. They don’t know the whole story. There will be lots of players coming available during training camp. Patience. In Gute we trust.

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dobber's picture

July 15, 2019 at 07:56 am

The former #23 was an issue with the previous management, but I can't help but wonder how he would've fared under Pettine at S and what this team would look like if it hadn't put itself in a position where it had to draft a safety early this year.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 15, 2019 at 02:09 pm

Both Gute and Dorsey worked a deal that gave both players a second chance on new teams. It filled needs both the Browns and Packers had, and left the message that their was a new boss in town. Win Win. Pretty rare in pro sports.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 06:50 pm

It was a McCarthy move, obviouslty, Dorsey didn't want Dix. The real culprit of the bad attitude dept.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 15, 2019 at 09:12 pm

The trade doesn't look like a win-win to me, Flak. It looks like a clear win for Cleveland. I blame MM/Capers/Perry and always thought Dix might be the real problem, but one that Randall didn't handle well.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 16, 2019 at 02:31 am

In hindsight, yes tgr. But injuries and bad attitude had put the Packers on the edge of falling off even before the season began last year. Trading a gifted but abused (in his eyes) player sent a message that had to be sent to the team as a whole. 2017 was a total disaster for the Packers both off and on the field. It was the year where we fans saw the backroom crap spill out into the open. Yes, while Gute was operating at McCarthy's request, he still made a good trade that befitted both teams (I feel) in the long run. And it put players like Dix on notice that there were no longer any free passes. That wasn't Gute backing McCarthy, that was a GM doing his best in backing his HC, and going so publicly. Something this team needed since Ted Thompson had disappeared as GM over the past two years due to his medical issues. Trading Randall was dangerous short term, but necessary for the mental health of both the players and the teams. (Overall, how Gute rebuild the secondary on the fly was one of the most impressive actions in his short tenure to date.)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 16, 2019 at 04:37 am

Yeah, I buy that. I actually like Kizer better than most.

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Handsback's picture

July 15, 2019 at 07:24 am

Gutsy has done a good job. I hope the cap is taken care of after these player additions, but the reality is Green Bay needed an influx of talent. Also he didn't loot the future for players they need now either. So now we wait and see how the defense and drafted players perform. As far as Gordon, stay away! The Packers have solid RBs and the addition of Gordon won't make them any more of a contender. If they are patient....I suspect Zeke will be available from the Cowboys in a couple of years. I much better RB than Gordon, if they still need one at that time.

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LambeauPlain's picture

July 15, 2019 at 07:55 am

Better to have one Mack or two Smiths.? Logically cannot afford all 3.

I do give Gutey credit for going after Mack and even after losing out went hard to plan B and got it done.

As far as Gordon....can’t afford that luxury.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 06:53 pm

What luxury? offer a two pick for him and play the game. Improve the roster, make believe you want to win it all.

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murf7777's picture

July 16, 2019 at 11:57 am

JB, the problem is salary cap not what pick you give up to get Gordon. The deals we did for the 4 FA's this year have strained us a bit, so it is imperative that 3 out of 4 work out. These were all high cost FA signings for their productivity. I like Adrian signing the most. You will not save much money if you cut them in the first 2 years and some in year 3. Year 4 you have good savings to make a decision.

It's an interesting time for the Packers to "win now". I know I will get disagreements on this but that is my take on our situation. I liked them building the defense, but they shouldn't of given Turner the contract they did and save more Salary Cap for the future.

It will hamstring us with future contract signings. In 2020, we have Daniels (who I feel will have a comeback year), Bulaga, Allison, Crosby, Fackrell, Lowry and Martinez. In 2021, Clark, Bak, Linsley, Taylor and King. If either Smiths don't perform our Front 7 will hurt as you have 5 over the next two years coming up for FA. On OL we have 4 guys, with 2 being our starting tackles over the next two years in FA so signing Turner didn't make sense to me!

My two cents for what it's worth.

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murf7777's picture

July 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Another comment regarding the Cap, in 2020 per OTC we are 26th in remaining Cap space. Fortunately, the Bears and Vikings are below us:) That said, where is the money going to come from to sign our Key FA's in 2020 and 2021? I realize there is increases every year, but we are running a tight SC budget.

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PackfanNY's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:24 am

I think Gutey has done a good job putting the Packers in a good position now and for the future. I think he tried for Mack but the price was too high in future value. The Bears made a deal that was in their interest. I do think they were/are in a more desperate situation to win now. When was the last time the Bears won? 1985? That’s their problem.

I think the Pack had a good offseason with free agents and the draft. We still have draft assets next year. The talent level is much improved. Only time will tell if he has made the right decisions.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 07:11 pm

It was a shrewd deal to move the Bear's cost UP and leverage their future position. If Mack goes down with an injury depth and Cap take a hit. It is how the game has to be played. Gold star for Gutey on the Mack move.

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stockholder's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:25 am

Sorry but I don't like the in Gute we Trust. I understand people don't like negativity. Sorry if I break the chain. It takes 3 years to judge any draft. The moves up cost picks/players. Trader Ted made his mark going after a player he liked. But in the end we should not have trusted TT. I will give Gute a A for trying. But he will not get my trust. He deserves as much criticism as we can give him on drafting players. But he also deserves Praise in getting the veterans to come to Green Bay. Yes I like the change from TT. Standing Pat and trusting someone has not been the packers greatest strength. We fall in love with are players. Trust in believers. And judge whats on paper. I cannot wear your Rose colored glasses. Until this team returns to the glory years of the past. We shouldn't trust anyone.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 15, 2019 at 01:58 pm

MY GLASSES ARE GREEN AND GOLD! ( OK I can hardly see because of the tint, and driving is a hassle but that's beside the point. IN GUTE WE TRUST!!!!! Get with program dude...........-:)

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stockholder's picture

July 15, 2019 at 05:54 pm

That would be Misleading.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 07:20 pm

Who would you rather have on board, Savage or Chauncey-Gardener ?

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stockholder's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:46 pm

Thornhill. and I would have gone up after Oliver. I will bet that Sweat, Burns and Thornhill make the pro - Bowl, before Savage and Gary.

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ricky's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:31 am

First, on Jalen Thompson- he is one of 90 guys in camp trying for a spot on the roster or practice squad. So, unless he's on the final 53, the Packers could still pick him up this year if needed, simply by signing him to their 53. And then again, he might not make the team next year, and available on waivers. Who knows?
Second, Gordon is a "name" with Wisconsin ties, but a mediocre/often injured RB who is overvaluing himself. The last thing the Packers need.

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Guam's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:46 am

Gordon is much better than mediocre, but I agree that the Pack should not sign him. The Packers will have a tight cap next year and will need funds to consider resigning Martinez, Daniels and Bulaga, if appropriate. Gordon is not enough of an upgrade over our current backs to warrant the price.

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dobber's picture

July 15, 2019 at 09:05 am

I wouldn't call Melvin Gordon mediocre. In a day and age of RBBC, he's one of the better backs in the league. You're right in that part of his issue is staying on the field: in his 4 years he's missed 9 games, but that's not out of the norm for running backs.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 16, 2019 at 05:00 am

Gordon looks good. I do note that both of his backups posted numbers at least as good and/or better than Gordon did (Ekeler and IIRC Thompson).

I don't think I'd sign any RB to a big money contract. Maybe for the right player a pay as you go deal only. I don't think replacing a good back is as easy as some make it sound, mind. After Ahman Green was done, GB spent a 2nd (Brandon Jackson), a 7th (Wynn), a 6th (Ryan Grant), a 6th (Starks), a 3rd (Green), a 4th (Franklin), a 2nd (Lacy), and a 4th, 5th, 7th (Aaron Jones, Williams, Mays) and a 6th (Dexter Williams).

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Samson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 10:46 am

Consider this: Gordon has a 4.0 ypc lifetime. -- Eddie Lacy had a 4.4 ypc in four years with Pack. --- I like Gordon but he's another replaceable RB in today's NFL. --- He's making a mistake pushing his contract demands on the Chargers.

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dobber's picture

July 15, 2019 at 11:15 am

See, others would say that you only get a limited number of chances to make your money. I don't fault him for trying to find out what he can get.

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Tarynfor12's picture

July 15, 2019 at 11:18 am

A false read of of a stat....you believe Lacy is better and did more good than Gordon because of that stat.
Lacy was near a total bust that there ever was that wore the Green and Gold and nothing, not a word in defense can erase that failure.

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IceBowl's picture

July 15, 2019 at 01:01 pm

Tarynfor12,

You say ....... "Lacy was near a total bust....."

Come on Tarynfor12, his first 2 years were nothing like a bust. 1400 & 1500+ yds is a bust? I don't think so.

Then he took the money and ran or lost heart or something. (but still fooled Seattle).

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Tarynfor12's picture

July 15, 2019 at 01:10 pm

You're looking at it from a stat angle only.

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IceBowl's picture

July 15, 2019 at 01:41 pm

Tarynfor12 ,

Not at all.

I'm looking at it as, !st, you were wrong that he was a total bust because he was not, and, 2nd, he lost his heart/desire.

He proved his talent, but he lost his desire to play.

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Lare's picture

July 15, 2019 at 04:38 pm

Lacy had plenty of talent but he just liked food more than he liked football. He was reportedly around 270 lbs when Seattle released him in 2017. I'm guessing he's over 300 lbs now.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

July 15, 2019 at 05:53 pm

FEAST MODE!!!

Lacy won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award as a 2nd round pick. He dropped in the draft due to a toe concern. Lacy in his prime was a force his 1st 2 years in the league. Imagine what he could have accomplished in a MLF offense rather than a MM offense!

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Oppy's picture

July 15, 2019 at 09:56 pm

I've been trying to imagine what a run game will look like in a MLF offense, and i keep coming back to the conclusion it's going to entirely depend on if Aaron Rodgers can be convinced to run the plays that are called into the huddle or not.

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murf7777's picture

July 16, 2019 at 12:09 pm

IceBowl, I agree with you, he was very good back for us, but injuries and not being able to keep his weight under control was his demise. He played thru contact which unfortunately cuts down on the years you can play.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:08 pm

Did the guy get them into a SB during the debacle in Seattle or get stoned for zero gains when the team needed him to show? Bust, and then ate his way off the roster.

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PatrickGB's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:49 am

When it comes to players in the NFL, “Value” is key. And when one looks at the cap one also has to look at the future cap hits and how much money is left for extensions of current players. It’s a fine line with no crystal ball to help determine the future. It’s up to Gute and Ball to figure that out. Draft and development has its place but it cannot replace the addition of a key FA every now and then. I believe that it’s a tough job to put a value on what a player is worth versus how much he will cost the cap. I could never do it because I would have kept some of my favorite players until their wheels fell off or would have brought in big name players who would have broke the bank. So, these discussions have been very interesting to read.

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Samson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 10:35 am

" To others, it's been a wholesale failure to do everything the team can to win a championship."

I haven't seen this attitude anywhere except here from some old-regime diehards & a few others who only troll Packer sites. --- Those in the know concerning offseason NFL football are giving Gute high grades across the board.

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Since'61's picture

July 15, 2019 at 11:33 am

So far I'm happy with Gute's approach. He hasn't been able to acquire every player that he's tried for, but at least he is trying, consistently.

It's way too early to judge his 2 drafts but we have some speed on the defense now and maybe, finally, we are resolving our issues at Safety, CB and OLB after years of declining play and failures to adequately address those 3 position groups.

We should remember that Gute inherited a pretty bad situation. His HC and staff were apparently going through the motions, the roster except for the QB, Adams, Bak, Clark and Linsley was declining rapidly. Look no further than 2017 for evidence of the decline.

Gute has had to hire a new HC, rebuild a porous defense, and hopefully resurrect a once prolific offense. To me Gute's real tests will begin when the Packers return to the playoffs and we go back to drafting in the mid 20s or hopefully low 30s for several seasons as TT had to do. Then we will see if Gute can work some magic with draft picks. Until then, In Gute we Trust because there is no one else. Thanks, Since '61

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Lare's picture

July 15, 2019 at 01:49 pm

Talent acquisition in the NFL is really a crapshoot- you gather all the information you can and even then the player could either be boom or bust. At least with free agents you have some injury and NFL history to go on, with rookies it can go either way.

That said, I agree that Gutekunst has done pretty well and that the talent & depth on the Packers current roster is much better than it was 2-years ago. It will take another2-3 years before we see the full fruits of his labor, but the team should be more competitive in the meantime.

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Samson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 01:58 pm

'61 --- Your comments are basically correct but Gute's never going to do any of the extreme draft & develop that TT was infamous for. -- Most of TT's ineptness resulted from relying too much on the draft & only giving a glancing notice to free agency and/or trades and/or waiver claims. -- Under Gute, the 5th through the 7th round draft picks won't litter the 53-man roster. -- The time of developing your roster year after year with fringe draft picks is over.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:14 pm

That's a pretty accurate evaluation Samson. It was worse than watching a funeral when Ted was missing on picks and trying to rebound with scrubs that couldn't play in the Canadian League. Let's get ready to rumble.

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Adorabelle's picture

July 15, 2019 at 08:17 pm

Its exciting to see some changes. Now the changes have to produce. Za'Darius Smith is being paid like one of the best rush men in football though his best season had 8.5 sacks. Preston Smith had 8 sacks two seasons ago but didn't make a lot of noise in 2018. Gute has taken a risk in the Smiths, and while it will be nice to watch the Packers and NOT see Perry and Mathews NOT getting to the QB again, the Smiths better produce to make these moves look good.

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