Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst addressed the media Tuesday at the NFL Draft Combine and his remarks were not always what people expected. The team’s long-time GM indicated he would take a surprising approach to address a Packers position of need this offseason.

The Current Situation at this Packers Position of Need

The position Gutekunst was addressing was safety. Currently, the team is very thin at this position. The three players who played the most there are all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Former first-round pick Darnell Savage played on his fifth-year option in 2023 and had void years on his deal. The dead cap hit became official last week when a new deal with Savage was not reached.

The other two players set to become free agents are Rudy Ford and Jonathan Owens. It is possible any of the three could be re-signed, although based on what Gutekunst said at the trade deadline, that may not be the most likely outcome.

That leaves Benny Sapp and Anthony Johnson, Jr. as the only players with NFL experience on the roster as of right now.

What Packers GM Brian Gutekunst Said About This Packers Position of Need

Gutekunst surprised a lot of people when he spoke at the combine. While many people expected the Packers to either re-sign a veteran safety and/or to add one via free agency, that may not be the approach Gutekunst is thinking about.

“Everybody would like guys with experience, but I think hopefully over the past few years people will realize that sometimes it’s not always the wisest thing to do, sometimes it’s better to be young and let these guys grow together,” Gutekunst explained. “We’ll look at it all and make the best decision, but I don’t think it’s a necessity that there’s a veteran back there.”

Gutekunst seemed to be modeling his approach at safety to the team’s approach at wide receiver last season. After parting ways with veterans like Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, the Packers entered 2023 with a roster made up exclusively of rookies and players with one prior year of NFL experience. The goal was to have the young players develop and grow together to create chemistry.

While the receivers struggled early in the season as they adjusted to life in the NFL, in the second half of the 2023 campaign, the Packers had a deep and talented group of receivers. Gutekunst had drafted the future at the position in 2022 and 2023 with players like Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, and Dontayvion Wicks.

What Else Gutekunst Said about This Packers Position of Need

New defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley indicated he will play more cover-one and cover-three defenses than his predecessor. Those defenses require two different types of safeties, one who will primarily have responsibility in pass coverage or a “post” safety, and another who will do more near the line of scrimmage of be a “box” safety.

But Gutekunst indicated he may be looking for players who can play both roles. The emphasis will be on versatility, much like the Packers tend to do with their wide receivers and their offensive linemen. Players like Reed or Wicks can line up outside or in the slot. Players like Zach Tom or Elgton Jenkins can play almost anywhere along the offensive line.

“It really helps your defense to be multiple and flexible so teams can’t get a bead on what you’re doing,” Gutekunst explained. “So, in a perfect world, quite frankly, between the two safeties and the nickel, those three guys almost need to be interchangeable completely.”

What This Means for the Packers This Offseason

This approach means the Packers may not spend money on a veteran safety. If they do, expect it to be a moderately-priced veteran who may not be in the team’s long-term plans.

It also means it is likely the Packers spend multiple draft picks at the safety position and that they will look for players who can play deep safety, box safety, and slot corner. That will allow the defense to create confusion to opposing quarterbacks and coaches much in the same manner Matt LaFleur likes to do with his offensive formations and play calls.

The future of the Packers safety position will look very different by the time free agency and the draft are completed.



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