Packers: 5 biggest 2022 draft needs based on season so far

Green Bay Packers, Brian GutekunstGpg Shareholdersmeeting 072621 Sk29
Green Bay Packers, Brian GutekunstGpg Shareholdersmeeting 072621 Sk29 /
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Green Bay Packers, Preston Smith
Green Bay Packers, Preston Smith (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Midway through the Packers’ 2021 season, what could be the team’s biggest draft needs next spring?

It’s never too early to look ahead to the NFL Draft. It will be here before you know it. Before then, the Green Bay Packers are aiming to win another Super Bowl in what could potentially be their final opportunity with Aaron Rodgers.

What the future holds for Rodgers beyond this season remains to be seen, but for this article, we’ll be looking at the 2022 contract situation for the Packers as things stand. For now, both Rodgers and Jordan Love are under contract, so quarterback isn’t one of the team’s top-five needs. Maybe that will change in the coming months.

As we stand now, here are the Packers’ top draft needs for 2022:

5. Edge rusher

The Packers’ top three of Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, and Preston Smith are all under contract for 2022. If they all remain in Green Bay, adding to the pass rush won’t be a huge need.

But that’s a big ‘if’. According to Spotrac, the Packers currently project to be around $30 million over the 2022 salary cap. Like this past offseason, they will need to find ways to create space. The Smith Bros. will combine for a cap hit of $47.88 million. That’s a lot of cap room taken up by two players.

When the defense is fully healthy, Preston Smith might not even be a regular starter.

The Packers can save almost $16 million by releasing Za’Darius Smith in the offseason and over $12 million by releasing Preston Smith. Contract extensions to spread out the cap hits could also be an option.

But if the Packers go with the first choice, adding more pass-rush depth in the draft will be an even bigger need than No. 5 in these rankings.