How Packers’ draft strategy will/won’t change after three signings

We’re a little over a week into free agency and after a wild and historic couple of days, things have finally started to quiet down, especially for the Green Bay Packers.

After making a free agent splash last year by signing Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner, the Packers opted to go a different, much cheaper route in 2020. They avoided paying top dollar by targeting low-end starters and players coming off injury.

That is not to bash Christian Kirksey, Rick Wagner or Devin Funchess. When healthy, all three have shown starter level play, but even still, the team’s draft strategy shouldn’t have changed all that much.

Let’s dig a bit deeper and see what may have changed for the Packers post-free agency.

Starting at linebacker, many Packers fans clamored over now-Raiders linebacker Cory Littleton but from the start, that never seemed realistic considering the Packers’ cap limitations.

Bringing in someone like Kirksey is a perfect example of a low-risk, high-reward signing. Kirksey is coming off a couple of injury-ridden seasons which drove his price down ($4.1 million), but prior to getting hurt, he was becoming a star.

In his first four seasons with Cleveland, Kirksey totaled 430 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 27 tackles for loss and forced four fumbles. If he can stay on the field, he’ll add an entirely new element to this Packers defense.

All that being said, you can’t completely ignore his injury past, and even if he does stay healthy, the Packers have no depth behind him whatsoever.

If given the opportunity, whether at 30 or via trade up, the Packers should do everything in their power to get either one of Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray. There are plenty of good wide receivers in this draft, the same cannot be said about inside linebackers.

Speaking of wide receivers, the Packers just signed former Carolina Panthers second-round pick, WR, Devin Funchess.

The last time we saw Funchess fully healthy (2017), he recorded 63 receptions for 840 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s very good at what he does which is being a reliable third option, but he’s not someone who’s going to take over a game on a consistent basis.

Overall, is the Packers wide receiver group better today than it was yesterday? Yes.

Does that mean they are set at wide receiver? Absolutely not.

If both Queen and Murray are off the board, expect the Packers to go wide receiver in the first round for the first time since 2002.

The wide receiver class this year is absolutely stacked with talent which means there are several ways the Packers could approach it. As of today, March 27, my top three wide receiver fits for the Packers are:

  1. Justin Jefferson, LSU
  2. Denzel Mims, Baylor
  3. Jalen Reagor. TCU

Last but certainly not least, the addition of right tackle Rick Wagner alleviated some of the pain of watching Bryan Bulaga leave but I don’t think Brian Gutekunst sees Wagner as a long-term option.

But for now, they can get by with Wagner. Throughout the 12 games he played last season, Wagner gave up three sacks, four hits and committed only three penalties. He’s no Pro Bowler, but he’s a decent stopgap until they draft the next Bryan Bulaga.

Of all three signings, it’s Wagner’s that will most likely impact the way the Packers approach the first round.

Before the signing, I thought Houston’s Josh Jones could’ve been a good option but now it’s going to come down to wide receiver versus inside linebacker.

If Murray or Queen is there at 30, it doesn’t matter which wide receivers are still available, linebacker must be the pick.

If Murray and Queen are both off the board at 30, look for Denzel Mims to be a potential target after ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported last week that the Packers have “expressed interest” and “like him a lot.”

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