Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has indicated a willingness to use free agency far more liberally than Ted Thompson ever did.
That’s good, because he’s going to need to.
The 2018 Green Bay Packers have a list of needs as long as it’s been in recent memory.
Their most pressing ones are:
- Edge rusher
- Right tackle
- Tight end
- Wide receiver
- Backup quarterback
- Inside linebacker
The order of these needs can be debated. But what’s undeniable is that there are too many holes for Gutekunst to fill in the always-unpredictable draft.
On defense, edge rusher is a very strong candidate to be the selection at pick No. 14. That makes sense because it’s a premier position, and this is hopefully and likely the highest the Packers will pick for the remainder of Aaron Rodgers’ career.
There aren’t likely to be any excellent edge options available in free agency. Even if there were, Russ Ball and Gutekunst will hesitate to dive in at a position where Nick Perry and Clay Matthews are already earning big bucks.
Wide receiver is another “need” which doesn’t necessitate a free agent. The Packers are set for 2018 with Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, all good players with big contracts. The position is listed as a need only because at least one of either Nelson or Cobb is likely to leave after the season.
Outside of these two positions, though, Gutekunst should be looking to plug the Packers’ other holes with any free agents he sees as fits.
Experience is an absolute must at cornerback. The only player not on his rookie contract is Davon House, and his one-year deal is expiring.
Ted Thompson actually used free agency on the tight end position in the past two years, but Gutekunst inherits nothing but Richard Rodgers on an expiring contract and Lance Kendricks. The Packers’ offense hums on a different level with a dynamic pass-catching tight end, but it’s very hard to find one in the draft.
At inside linebacker, much depends on how Mike Pettine intends to employ Clay Matthews and Josh Jones, as well as whether or not Morgan Burnett returns in free agency.
Right tackle, meanwhile, may need a stopgap veteran while Bryan Bulaga recovers from a torn ACL. And a somewhat proven veteran at backup quarterback would be a godsend after the Brett Hundley rollercoaster of 2017.
Much remains uncertain about the Packers’ 2018 roster. But it’s clear that if this team is to seriously contend for a Super Bowl, free agents will need to be a big piece of the puzzle.