Packers: Brian Gutekunst is making the team better in free agency

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14: Jimmy Graham
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14: Jimmy Graham /

The new GM in Green Bay has been hard at work since free agency opened and is receiving mixed reactions on his job after his first true test.

The Green Bay Packers made splash signings in free agency for the first time since Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers. Tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson were brought in to help bolster some key positions on the team.

On the surface these are excellent signings. When you scratch the surface even a little bit, though, it’s easy to find where the criticism for Gutekunst is coming from.

Immediately after the news broke that Graham would become a Packer, it was also announced that longtime fan-favorite and future Packers Hall-of-Famer Jordy Nelson would be cut.

Even before free agency started Gutekunst made a controversial move by trading cornerback Damarious Randall to the Browns for second-year quarterback DeShone Kizer. The Packers also swapped fourth and fifth round picks with the Browns in this deal, moving up in each round several spots.

The move was controversial because it answered one question, the backup quarterback position, but opened up so many more. Cornerback was already a position of need. Regardless of what you think about Randall, he was the best corner on the roster last year. The move left the Packers with a cornerback group riddled with injuries and inexperience.

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I can understand the criticisms of Gutekunst in his first offseason as GM. I know there isn’t room for a learning curve. He has arguably the most talented quarterback to ever play the game in the prime of his career. He has to win right now. Not next year, right now.

Cutting Nelson and trading away the best player at one of the team’s weakest position groups isn’t all that bad though.


Because the Packers still got better with the additions of Graham and Wilkerson. Graham is aging and was a little expensive in some eyes, but he’s undeniably an upgrade at the position. The Wilkerson signing came with almost no criticisms. All we have left to do on that front is watch him blow up backfields.

The Nelson decision was the tipping point for most Packer fans from where I viewed the situation.

He was a fan favorite, apparently one of Rodgers’ favorite targets, although so is Randall Cobb. Remember, it’s Cobb in all those State Farm commercials with Rodgers. Nelson was due over $12 million this season and is five years older than Cobb.

Most talk surrounding Nelson had him moving to the slot because he “lost a step,” but Cobb is already a suitable fit in that role. (I don’t understand why losing a step makes you a good slot guy in the NFL, but apparently neither does Gutekunst.)

Nelson had to go. Maybe he can still ball, but maybe he can’t. Either way, he wasn’t worth the money he was being owed, and based on what the Raiders are reportedly giving him, he wouldn’t have stayed in Green Bay anyway.

This all goes to say that Gutekunst, despite making controversial decisions, was still able to make them when fan feedback could be at its worst. And it seemingly was. The hashtags are out there, but I’ll spare you here. And through all the fire from the fans, he still made the team better. Even when he whiffed on names like Trumaine Johnson and Sammy Watkins, he was still making the calls, which is something Ted Thompson probably wouldn’t do.

Gutkeunst is a young GM. As I said above, I’m aware there’s no room for a learning curve, but he is feeling things out, taking risks and ultimately making the team better. The latest Packers news has them linked to Tyrann Mathieu too. While Morgan Burnett is still floating around out there, the Packers seem like they’re in a good spot to still be good at safety.

Next: Three free agent cornerbacks still available to consider

Gutekunst is doing a great job and I’m expecting even greater things to come from the ensuing weeks.