The Green Bay Packers have been very busy in the opening days of free agency. In fact, it’s been their most active offseason since 2019. Some long-term cornerstone players have departed while some important additions were made by GM Brian Gutekunst. So, we are grading the Packers performance in free agency thus far, looking at each move.

Grading the Packers Performance in Free Agency: Signing S Xavier McKinney

The Packers had a big need at safety with their top three players from last season all not under contract for 2024. They signed the top-rated available safety in Xavier McKinney who played with the Giants for the first four years of his NFL career.

McKinney has the versatility new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley is looking for in a safety. He’s better in coverage than in the box, but he can play there or cover the slot receiver.

No doubt, McKinney provides the Packers with an upgrade over what they had at the position last year. The cost (4 years at $68 million) is high, but the Packers definitely improved by making this move.

Grade: A-

Signing RB Josh Jacobs

This grade takes into consideration that the Packers decided to sign Josh Jacobs only after they could not reach an agreement with Aaron Jones to reduce his cap number.

Once they knew Jones wasn’t returning, Jacobs was the best available option to try to match or even exceed Jones’ production.

Jacobs led the NFL in rushing yards in 2022 before his numbers fell off last year. Gutekunst believes that reduction in productivity was due more to the lack of a quarterback and poor run blocking by the Raiders offensive line last season. If he’s right, he got a steal.

The tougher thing for Jacobs may be how to replace what Jones meant to the locker room.

The way the contract is structured, the Packers are not on the hook for too much if they walk away from Jacobs after a year or two.

Grade: B+

Grading the Packers Performance in Free Agency: Releasing OT David Bakhtiari

The decision to move on from former All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari was disappointing but expected and logical. When healthy, Bakhtiari has been one of the best left tackles in the NFL during his career. Had he not been injured before the 2020 season finale the Packers may have won the Super Bowl that season. But that knee injury never properly healed and Bakhtiari has played a total of 13 games over the last three seasons.

The Packers saved more than $20 million by releasing Bakhtiari. While the former Colorado star was a great Packer on and off the field, the team could not afford to take a cap hit of more than $40 million to gamble on whether Bakhtiari’s knee will ever be well enough for him to play. Then, if he is able to play, could he play well enough to return to form?

Bakhtiari was a heart and soul member of the team and the community, and he will be missed, but this move made sense.

Grade: B+

Releasing RB Aaron Jones

We all knew the Packers would ask Jones to take a pay cut to reduce his $17 million cap hit. What wasn’t expected was that the two sides wouldn’t reach an agreement. The Packers released Jones and the former UTEP star signed with the division rival, Vikings.

When healthy, Jones was a real difference maker for the Packers. While injuries limited him for most of the season, he gained more than 100 yards in the final three games of the regular season and in both playoff games. When Jones was healthy, he made the offense better.

Jones finished his seven years with the team as the third all-time leading rusher in franchise history. He worked hard to improve his game and was an exemplary member of the community off the field.

This seems like it was an avoidable decision although the old axiom is it’s better to move on from a veteran player a year too early rather than a year too late.

Grade: D+

Grading the Packers Performance in Free Agency: Re-Signing Keisean Nixon

The Packers couldn’t reach an agreement with return specialist and defensive back Keisean Nixon before his void years vested and cost the team some dead cap money. Still, the Packers were able to re-sign their All-Pro return specialist to a new, three-year deal.

Nixon gives the Packers a home run threat every time he gets his hands on the ball as a return specialist. He was the first Packers return man to earn Pro Bowl or All Pro honors since Roell Preston in 1998.

Nixon was less dynamic as a slot corner. He struggled in coverage and may not be more than a serviceable player at the position.

Grade: B+

Re-Signing CB Corey Ballentine

Corey Ballentine gives the Packers experienced depth at cornerback and can contribute on special teams. He started six games when injuries struck the Packers secondary last year and intercepted a pass. Opposing quarterbacks completed only 56.3 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Ballentine last season.

This is a low-risk depth addition for the Packers.

Grade: B

Grading the Packers Performance in Free Agency: G Jon Runyan Signs with the Giants

There were rumors that Jon Runyan and the Packers were negotiating a possible new deal, but it made more sense for both sides to move on. Runyan is not a great run blocker although his pass blocking is solid. He played hurt last season and still started all 17 games.

Now, the Packers will see what Sean Rhyan can do and will certainly draft at least one interior offensive lineman to compete for the job.

Grade: B

S Darnell Savage signs with the Jaguars

The Packers elected not to bring back safety Darnell Savage and the former first round pick signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Savage never played consistently well enough to live up to his draft status. The Packers were not going to pay Savage the kind of money he got on the open market. Adding McKinney is an upgrade.

Grade: B+

Grading the Packers Performance in Free Agency: Re-Signing TE Tyler Davis

Tyler Davis missed all of the 2023 campaign after suffering an injury in preseason. Davis gives the Pack some depth at tight end but is best on special teams where he was a core player before his injury. He will compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Grade: C+

S Jonathan Owens Signs with the Bears

The Packers did not re-sign Jonathan Owens and the safety inked a new deal with the Chicago Bears. Owens didn’t really fit Hafley’s defense because of his struggles in coverage. He now will face the Packers twice next season if he makes the Bears roster.


Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

Click here for more great Packers coverage