Packers: GM Brian Gutekunst should be aggressive in free agency

Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was active in free agency in his first offseason, and that should continue into 2019.

The first week of free agency was often just another quiet week in Green Bay while Ted Thompson was the general manager. Brian Gutekunst promised to be more active last offseason, and he should continue that approach in 2019.

Last spring the Packers signed tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in March, and were reportedly in the mix to sign Allen Robinson.

The Packers signed Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet, which Chicago matched. Prior to the start of the season, Gutekunst reportedly attempted to make a trade for Khalil Mack.

Green Bay lost out on all three, coincidentally to Chicago each time, but it showed Gutekunst isn’t afraid to take risks and make big moves if it could help strengthen the roster.

And while the Packers’ biggest free agent signings didn’t make the impact many expected, that shouldn’t make Gutekunst more cautious this offseason.

This team is in win-now mode. Aaron Rodgers is 35 years old, and it sure feels like the past two seasons have been wasted.

Injuries happen, as we saw in 2017. And this past season was a mix of problems from Mike McCarthy’s play-calling to Rodgers simply not playing well enough. But a lot has to change quickly for the Packers to become competitive again while Rodgers’ championship window is still open.

New head coach Matt LaFleur has the task of fixing the offense, but Gutekunst needs to give LaFleur the best possible roster to work with.

And that means making moves in free agency.

Green Bay will begin 2019 with an estimated $32.29 million in cap room, according to Spotrac, but that number could jump up to as high as $42 million if Gutekunst decides to move on from veterans like Nick Perry, Jimmy Graham and Jason Spriggs. That’s not to say he should, but the Packers do have some flexibility.

Whether it be by making a big signing in free agency or a trade, Gutekunst should be aggressive addressing the team’s biggest needs before the draft begins in April.

The Bears, with a first-year head coach in Matt Nagy, were able to turn a fourth-placed finish in 2017 into a 12-4, NFC North-winning season in 2018. They had an excellent offseason, signing the likes of Robinson and Trey Burton in free agency, while also making the blockbuster trade to bring Mack to Chicago.

Finding players at positions of need

As I write this in mid-January it’s difficult to say exactly who will be available when the new league year begins in March. Many of the biggest names set to hit free agency will either re-sign or be franchise tagged.

But there could, key word being could, be a number of options at positions of need in free agency.

At edge rusher, names like Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah stand out. One has to imagine the Cowboys will do everything possible to get a deal done with Lawrence, but if available he’ll receive a big deal somewhere in the league. Considering Lawrence has double-digit sacks in each of the past two seasons and is only 26 years old, it’d be a move worth making.

If Lawrence isn’t available, it’s possible Seattle’s Frank Clark will be. Again, Seattle will try to re-sign Clark after posting a career-best 14 sacks in 2018, but he’s a player to watch.

At safety the Packers could also have options. Earl Thomas, Landon Collins and Adrian Amos are all set to hit free agency. If one of these players doesn’t re-sign with their current team, the Packers should have serious interest.

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Gutekunst stuck to his word last offseason and was active in free agency. As the Packers go through a mini-rebuild this spring, which started with a new head coaching hire, Gutekunst should continue to be aggressive in free agency.