The Packers did not address any of the holes on their roster at the trade deadline. That’s a mark on Brian Gutekunst’s record.
As many are well aware of by now, the NFL trade deadline came and went not with a bang but a whimper in Packerland this last week, leaving many questioning what, exactly, Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst was thinking.
The Packers – who sit atop the NFC North with a record of 6-2 – “made a run” at Houston Texans’ wide receiver Will Fuller and New York Giants’ defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, but were ultimately unable to consummate a deal for either player.
Rapoport reported that Green Bay “offered a mid-round pick” for both players, but did not provide any further details.
Gutekunst was named the Packers’ GM in 2018 following the departure of Ted Thompson and for all intents and purposes, he has performed decently. He has had success in the draft with the selections of Jaire Alexander, Kingsley Keke, Elgton Jenkins, and Jace Sternberger among others and his 2019 free-agent class was the driving force behind the team’s somewhat surprising trip to the NFC title game.
However, his inability to complete various trades over the years and his seeming unwillingness to build a championship-caliber roster around Aaron Rodgers can only be seen as a black mark on his record; the inactivity of this past Tuesday just added more fuel to the fire.
The most significant trades that Gutekunst and the Green Bay front office have been able to complete have all revolved around draft picks on draft day; he has yet to make a meaningful trade, free agent, or draft acquisition aimed specifically at building around Rodgers and delivering another Lombardi Trophy.
One could easily argue that the Packers are one or two weapons away from being a legitimate title contender this season, yet their inactivity at the trade deadline implies that Gutekunst is content with the current state of the team. The North is the Packers’ to lose and they could very well finish the regular season with a first-round bye, but their two losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings revealed how far the team is from being a legitimate championship threat.
Both Tampa Bay and Minnesota exploited Green Bay’s largely mediocre and inconsistent defense, particularly with the run as the two racked up 331 rushing yards and five touchdowns combined. Acquiring Tomlinson would have helped immensely in this area.
Tampa Bay also shut down the Packers’ passing attack by relying on various blitz packages and taking Davante Adams largely out of the game. Adams is arguably having the finest season any receiver has had in Green Bay Packers history, however, no one on the roster even comes close to his receiving output (53 catches, 675 yards, and eight touchdowns).
The next two leading receivers – Robert Tonyan and Marques Valdez-Scantling – have fewer catches (42) and yards (628) and the same amount of touchdowns (eight) than Adams combined. Fuller – who is PFF’s 16th best receiver – would have provided Rodgers with another reliable deep threat that would have further kept opposing defenses on their toes.
There are many factors involved in determining whether or not a trade is ultimately completed – the trade partner’s willingness to engage, overall asking price, incoming and outgoing salaries, trade competition – but it’s difficult to accept that the Packers simply could not convince the Texans or the Giants to come to an agreement.
Draft capital is often king in the world of sports, but if a team is legitimately on the footsteps of a championship run, sometimes taking a risk and proverbially going all-in is worth it. Parting with a mid-round pick or two in exchange for placing your team in the best possible position to take a go at a title seems like a no-brainer, even if the franchise’s leadership appears to be most concerned about the future, rather than the here and now.
Instead, the Packers stood pat, didn’t take the risk, and that could very well prove costly. The ever-churning gears of time continue on their relentless pace and Rodgers’ prime isn’t going to last much longer.
Gutekunst and Green Bay’s front office could have helped the team improve and put them in a position to win a championship, but they didn’t. They could have helped secure another NFC North title, but they didn’t. They didn’t do anything.