Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst won't worry about making moves the fans don't like. His job is to make challenging decisions if he feels it's in the best interest of the Packers.
Gutekunst traded up for Jordan Love, a move that didn't go down well at the time. He looks like a genius now. During his tenure, he has also moved on from franchise legends like Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers' Super Bowl window is well and truly open after Love's first year as a starter, but Gutekunst, again, has difficult offseason decisions to make.
These fan favorites may not return in 2024.
Gutekunst often drafts with one eye on the future. It's why the Lukas Van Ness selection made so much sense a year ago. Van Ness has the athleticism, power, and potential to become a dominant pass rusher, but he needed time to learn.
The Packers had the benefit of limiting Van Ness' snaps while he developed in year one, allowing him to learn from starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. We started to see the results late in the year. In the Packers' final six games, Van Ness made three sacks, six QB hits, and three tackles for loss. He also had a sack in the playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Van Ness is ready for a full-time role in 2024, potentially leading to Smith's departure. According to Over The Cap, Smith's cap hits in the next three seasons are $16.51 million, $17.51 million, and $18.21 million.
If the Packers release Smith, they would pay just under $14 million in dead cap this season, but nothing beyond that. Smith is still an excellent player, but he turns 32 next year, and his cap hits will continue to rise.