Packers: Brian Gutekunst’s three best moves as general manager
2. Replacing Nick Perry, Clay Matthews with the Smith Bros.
After putting a lot of focus on the secondary, Gutekunst turned his attention to the pass rush in 2019. An area of concern the season prior, the Packers needed to improve the pass rush for the defense to take the next step.
Gutekunst wasn’t afraid to take a couple of risks. First, he moved on from longtime starters Nick Perry and Clay Matthews. The two had struggled to stay healthy and combined for just five sacks in 2018.
He then handed big contracts to Za’Darius and Preston Smith in the first week of free agency. It showed a sense of urgency to fix an area of need to help the Packers win now, something we hadn’t seen from the team often under Ted Thompson.
Even Gutekunst couldn’t have expected the Smith Bros. to make such an impact so quickly. Za’Darius Smith has 8.5 sacks in the opening nine games. Preston Smith has eight. No tandem in the NFL has more than the Smiths.
Green Bay’s pass rush is as good as we’ve seen for some time. If first-round pick Rashan Gary can contribute more in the second half of the 2019 season, the defense will only continue to get better. Gary needs time to develop but he has a lot of potential.
In one offseason, Gutekunst’s bold approach to addressing an area of need has paid off in a big way.