The Green Bay Packers front office is taking a very different approach to the team this offseason. That goes beyond the idea of moving on from Aaron Rodgers and turning to Jordan Love as their starting quarterback. Right now, GM Brian Gutekunst is doing things that he would not have done in the last few offseasons with an aim at the long-term health of the franchise both salary cap-wise and on the field.
For each of the last three offseasons, the primary goal of the Packers front office was to keep as many core players together as possible to make another run with Rodgers at quarterback. That included trading for or keeping players at Rodgers’ request like Randall Cobb, bringing in veterans who could help in the short term and restructuring multiple contracts to get under the cap while still dealing with Rodgers’ very large cap hit.
The Packers had their chances as a contending team. They surprised everybody by going 13-3 in 2019 and reaching the NFC Championship Game. In 2020, the Packers again went 13-3 and were the top seed in the NFC playoffs. They hosted the NFC Championship Game but lost to Tom Brady and Bucs. In 2021, the Packers again won 13 games and were the top seed in the NFC playoffs but were upset in the divisional round by the 49ers when they offense failed scored only 10 points.
The Packers front office tried again in 2022. They lost Davante Adams who wanted only to play with his college friend and teammate Derek Carr, but they brought back De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas, Cobb and made one more run for the title. That didn’t pan out for a myriad of reasons and the team finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs when they lost the regular season finale to the Lions at Lambeau Field.
Now the Packers announced they are ready to hand the starting quarterback job over to Love so the philosophy has changed. The Packers did not make a serious effort to re-sign wide receiver Allen Lazard who led the team in catches last season. He signed with the Jets and will be joining Rodgers assuming a trade is eventually worked out between the two teams. They did not try to re-sign tight end Robert Tonyan, another player Rodgers wanted the team to keep and Tonyan signed with the Bears.
On defense, Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed were both allowed to leave in free agency. Lowry signed with the Vikings while Reed rejoined the Seahawks, one of his previous employers. The Packers are thin along the defensive line and in the past, probably would have re-signed at least one of those two players for stability and continuity. Not this year.
The Packers are going to get younger and they are going to stop pushing contracts forward to make one more run at a title. That was the old strategy, even if it ultimately didn’t work out the way the team had planned.
Yes, the Packers reworked the contracts of a lot of players this offseason to get under the cap but they had no choice. Gutekunst and Russ Ball realize that eventually, the bill for all these void years and all the dead cap hits comes due. This year is going to be the year the Packers hope to get out from salary cap hell.
Assuming they pick up Love’s fifth-year option which they almost certainly will if they trade Rodgers, their starting quarterback in 2024 will cost roughly half of what Rodgers did against the cap and they can try to reduce that number even further if they sign Love to a long-term extension assuming he shows he’s worth that.
The moves the Packers have made so far this season are no longer the moves of a team that is trying to win now. Since the new league year started, they’ve re-signed return specialist Keisean Nixon and depth players like Rudy Ford while adding a new backup safety/special teams ace in Tarvarius Moore and a new player to compete at long snapper.
There will be some more signings to be sure, but most of them will likely be veterans on one-year, prove-it deals who could help a little in the short run but are unlikely to be part of the team’s long-term plans.
In 2008, the Packers moved on from Brett Favre to Rodgers. They had gone to the NFC Championship Game the previous season but finished 6-10 in 2008. Despite the disappointing record, the team knew that Rodgers was their quarterback of the future and one year later, they were back in the playoffs again. Two years later they won a Super Bowl.
The turnaround is unlikely to be that quick but the team is hoping to retool now and build around Love, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Rashan Gary, Quay Walker and some new additions added with the draft capital they hope to get when they trade Rodgers.
An era has ended in Green Bay. A new one is beginning. The big question is how successful will the franchise be once these changes get under way and whether the Packers can take one step back and two steps forward to return to contending status.
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