Packers Follow Patterns in Free Agency and Draft

Since Brian Gutekunst has taken over as the Packers GM, he's built his roster pairing veteran talent in free agency with young ascending talent from the draft.

The last couple of seasons, since General Manager Brian Gutekunst took over for Ted Thompson, Gutekunst has been very specific about how he builds the Packers roster. 

In the 2019 offseason, when Nick Perry and Clay Matthews departed in free agency, Gutekunst spent big bringing in two ascending pass rushers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith from Baltimore and Washington, respectively. While the Smiths weren’t incredibly well-known or maybe the biggest names on Packers fans' radars, we know the productivity they had in 2019 when the duo combined for 25.5 sacks. 

In the 2019 NFL Draft, Gutekunst went a step further and drafted a third edge rusher in Rashan Gary, a young, raw player who could develop behind the Super Smith Bros. At the 12th overall pick, the selection of a third edge rusher after spending so much money on two players in free agency felt like a luxury, especially as a rotational piece. 

Fast forward to 2020, and the selection of Gary potentially saved the defense in key spots. With Preston’s production declining (4 sacks and 16 pressures), the emergence of Gary (5 sacks and 19 pressures) paid dividends. In an offseason where many expected Preston to become a cap casualty, keeping the Smith Bros and Gary together keeps the edge rushing unit as a position of strength on defense, which is vital given how many holes the roster currently has. 

Let’s look at the safety position next. In 2018, the safety position became a revolving door in Green Bay. Led by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix until his mid-season departure, that unit saw Clinton-Dix, Josh Jones, Kentrell Brice, Ibraheim Campbell, Eddie Pleasant, and even Tramon Williams take snaps at safety. 

As Gutekunst was bolstering his edge rush in 2019, he also signed Adrian Amos away from the Chicago Bears, and Amos’ addition in the secondary has been a blessing ever since. But Gutekunst wasn’t done yet, drafting Darnell Savage out of Maryland with his second first-round pick at No. 21 overall. In 2020, Amos and Savage combined for six interceptions and became one of the league’s best safety tandems. 

We can take this one step further, too, with Billy Turner and Elgton Jenkins. In 2020 specifically, both players played absolutely vital roles along Green Bay’s offensive line. While Turner played right guard in 2019, he filled in at right guard, right tackle, and even left tackle in 2020. 

When Gutekunst drafted Jenkins with his second round pick in 2019, the move made a lot of sense given his versatility to play guard and center. In 2020, Jenkins proved even more valuable, starting the season opener in Minneapolis at right tackle before an injury to Lane Taylor forced him back inside. When Corey Linsley got hurt, Jenkins filled in at center, too. It’s possible going into the 2021 season that Jenkins is even Green Bay’s center of the future, but that remains to be seen. 

While 2019 free agency was an extravagant example with Gutekunst bringing in a ton of big-name players, he did the same thing on a smaller scale in 2020. Gutekunst signed inside linebacker Christian Kirksey right as free agency started before drafting Kamal Martin in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and now Martin looks to have found his home in the middle of the defense while Kirksey was a cap casualty. To a lesser extent, Rick Wagner was brought in as swing tackle depth, and the Packers drafted three offensive linemen in the sixth round of the draft. 

When Gutekunst sees a roster hole, he addresses it in a number of ways, bringing in veteran depth and drafting players for the future at those same positions. Now that news has broken that cornerback Kevin King has re-signed with the Packers on a one-year deal, expect the Packers to draft a corner (or two, given the depth in this class) early in the draft. I'd also expect him to be looking at defensive linemen and offensive tackles as free agency continues. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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10 points

Comments (34)

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Fabio's picture

March 23, 2021 at 12:21 pm

As I have said on other occasions, the problem is not having little money to spend, but how and for whom you spend it.
Now I am waiting for someone who can justify 6ML for King !!!!
Gute is trying to blame AR (his contract) for his choices.
Instead, with the money spent on AJ and King, we certainly could have signed a first-rate CB FA or in any case I repeat:
1 - if Gute had drafted a WR instead of Love, this season we could have had a WR2 starter and we wouldn't have had to sign AJ again
2 - we could have tried to trade Preston with Gilmoure
3 - instead of re-signing AJ we could have invested the same money in MLB or helped Clark (it's time to go to Lowry).
With these 3 moves the great needs would have been covered WITH THE SAME MONEY SPENT SO FAR ..... the rest we could have done with the project. I am waiting for someone to tell me that A PARITY OF MONEY SPENT !!!! this team (with Gilmoure, a WR2 and help to Clark or MLB) is worse than the current one (with P. Smith, AL and KK)
I am really disappointed ........ also because with this it is certain that we will see AR playing for the last season (and as always it will be all on his shoulders)
BAD BAD BAD BAD
Greetings from Italy
Go Pack Go

-9 points
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fastmoving's picture

March 23, 2021 at 01:08 pm

We never needed a WR in the first place and the Love pick was a no brainer. AR did not a lot of carring this teams on his shoulders in the playoffs (besides "the run" of course) . He is 20 percent of the cap and should make everyone better. Thats his job.
Gutey did a hell of a job and even more so the last couple of days and he would never blame AR contract. AR is great but no Brady if it comes to playoffs or taking less money for a better team.
But we have for sure one of the best off season of all teams. Hell, Jones is a huge part of the offence. Huge.
overall: GOOD, GOOD, GOOD

6 points
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Fabio's picture

March 23, 2021 at 01:26 pm

AJ's signature is important in this offense as there is no WR2 capable of playing the slot (except Adams). I love AJ and think he deserved all the money from the new contract, but a WR2 (Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr., Laviska Shenault Chase Claypool) could have avoided spending on AJ TODAY. I don't criticize AJ as a co player just that WITH THE SAME MONEY SPENT, we could have had a top WR2 + CB.
I admit that AR on some occasions was not the best, but let's think about what we did when he got injured and that's all I say (if it's not having this all on our shoulders !!)
Nothing to say about AJ being a huge part of the offense, but look back at his production in two games against Tampa and tell me if we can't give it up.
I repeat
BAD BAD BAD BAD
Greetings from Italy
Go Pack Go

PS: Everyone understood that Gute wanted to bring King back (with the excuse that he had no money), if you can justify 6 ML ...

I salute you THAT MOVES FAST clearly I try not to get angry and I would like to have a laugh with you, after all it's just a sport

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PeteK's picture

March 23, 2021 at 03:16 pm

As I have said before; put Rodgers on the Bucks and they would have threatened the perfect season.

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Bear's picture

March 23, 2021 at 04:09 pm

Fabio : Clueless

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stockholder's picture

March 23, 2021 at 12:50 pm

He doesn't need to spend money now. He only needs to draft right. This draft has everything the packers need. Even Late! Heck he can even trade down now. Depth is all he needs. This draft favors the packers.

7 points
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Fabio's picture

March 23, 2021 at 01:04 pm

Why does 6Ml seem few to you ???????? I guess we won an auction where everyone wanted King !!!!!
If Gute loves to throw money I can give my IBAN and hear if he makes me a transfer .....

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packer108's picture

March 23, 2021 at 01:31 pm

Lets see the actual figures on King's contract when they are announced. I would guess its not fully guaranteed and has incentives.

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PeteK's picture

March 23, 2021 at 03:21 pm

I figure at least 2 mill worth of incentives , and it's only for one year. Sherman would have been much more money and Butler more yrs. I hope. LOL

4 points
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egbertsouse's picture

March 23, 2021 at 06:52 pm

$6 mil isn’t that much. It is only $5,999,900 more than King is worth. Nothing.

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packer132's picture

March 23, 2021 at 05:34 pm

Stockholder; What happened? I finally saw you post a very good comment. Usually I can't see where you get your ideas, but I like this!

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 23, 2021 at 07:17 pm

He was pushing for King. Now he owns it. He wants Barmore.

1 points
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ScottW's picture

March 23, 2021 at 12:55 pm

Good summary Maggie. The pattern is apparent and hopefully we will pick up a promising corner or two in next months draft. Oh, and a few more DL also.

5 points
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Guam's picture

March 23, 2021 at 03:20 pm

I hope Gute finally addresses the D-line. Unfortunately this draft is a bit thin at DL so it will have to fall the Packer's way to get the reinforcements they need.

1 points
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PeteK's picture

March 23, 2021 at 03:22 pm

McNeil or Shelvin in the 3rd would make me a happy fan.

2 points
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DTowleJr's picture

March 23, 2021 at 01:55 pm

When I look at the Kevin King re-signing, I understand the reasoning and I understand the move.

Look at what the market dictated as far as prices went for CBs:
Adoree' Jackson - 3 yr $39.0M
Desmond King - 1 yr $3.5M
Xavier Rhodes - 1 yr $6.5M
Kyle Fuller - 1 yr $9.5M
Troy Hill - 2 yr $9.0M
Patrick Peterson - 1 yr $10.0M
Justin Coleman - 1 yr $2.75M
William Jackson - 3 yr $42.0M
Ahkello Witherspoon - 1 yr $4.0M
Mike Hilton - 4 yr $24.0M
Shaquill Griffin - 3 yr $44.5M
Chidobe Awuzie - 3 yr $21.75M

The top CBs got lucrative contracts of 3-4 years and base salaries around $9M plus incentives. #Packers don't have that kind of money this year. So re-signing a known commodity rather than taking a chance on an unknown seemed like the better option.

When King was on the field he was a good tackler and a good defender. It's his health and, of course, his gaffs that are concerning. But the concern lies more with the depth behind King, because if that was good enough the Packers wouldn't have re-signed him.

4 points
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Guam's picture

March 23, 2021 at 03:18 pm

Good information. It does make the $6 million for KK a bit more understandable. I wasn't surprised they resigned King, but thought the price tag was high until your comparative data.

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PeteK's picture

March 23, 2021 at 03:27 pm

Yes, great info, except King's tackling is more akin to a bull fighter.

4 points
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Fabio's picture

March 23, 2021 at 04:01 pm

Richard Sherman
Adoree Jackson
Malcolm Butler
Brian Poole
Quinton Dunbar
Casey Hayward
AJ Bouye
Rasul Douglas
Bashaud Breeland
Kevin King
Darqueze Dennard
Mackensie Alexander
Nickell Robey-Coleman
Gareon Conley
Jason McCourty

these are the CB left ..... and you want to tell me that there is not one better than KK at the same price ????
And I repeat you mean to me that we have not been able to find 3ML of space to cover the difference in the cost of Fuller ???????
(or take Rhodes for the same amount ??)
However by now we all understood that Gute wanted to return to KK, but for this price Gute should resign immediately or someone should ask for his resignation.
bad bad bad bad

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PeteK's picture

March 23, 2021 at 06:35 pm

Someone already posted Jackson's too expensive and long signing signing. A player who was hurt the last two yrs.

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packer132's picture

March 23, 2021 at 05:39 pm

I agree: The only way King is resigned is there is no one else on the roster that can play. King apparently played hurt in the NFC title game since there was no other option. I was shocked that he was resigned, but as you stated, Packers have no money to sign others. I expect a 1st or 2nd on a CB and then again later. Hopefully a cheaper FA corner also.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

March 23, 2021 at 07:21 pm

Two in the upper rounds , minimum.

1 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 24, 2021 at 01:04 am

Good info. Kudos for doing the work. But....

1. King might be the worst tackler in the NFL.
2. He is almost average overall.
3. I like Rhodes and Awuzie better.
4. I like Hill, Witherspoon and Hilton about as much.
5. King apparently is never healthy. That might improve.

1 points
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CHEESEHEADDALLAS's picture

March 23, 2021 at 02:28 pm

We need a new Gm for all his Bone head moves { look at last year's 1 pick} he really screws the pooch on this one. and if he thinks Love can be anywhere close to what Rodgers is now in the next five to six years I would like to have what he is smoking. Extended Rodger deal get him the help he needs NOW and go to the Superbowl next 5 years

-10 points
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canadapacker's picture

March 23, 2021 at 02:31 pm

Everyone is saying that this roster is full of holes. Everyone said last year that we needed to draft a wide receiver. Every year every team needs to add to their depth with a good draft. And if you are a loser team you need to pick some of the top players who are impact players. This year we have basically the same roster except we lost our starting center and we have one who played in that spot last year when Linsley was out. We have Bak back maybe on time maybe not - but we have guys from last years draft class including some who played. We have the same backfield basically we have the same tight end and reciever group and the same defensive backfield that won 13 games. Now we need to add the depth and hopefully will get some surprises - Corners, safeties and linebackers - Oline backup - and hopefully a Dline rotational guy . I am optomistic with a preseason and some OTA's that this team will be as good as last year - depending upon that thing called the Injury bug. Considering the type of cap problems Gute has done a good job. I just wish that he would extend AR and gain some cap space. I am not sold on Love - simply because with AR playing this well and this confidently how can you not expect at least 4 more years. Add that onto the fact that how many 20 something drafted QB's are HOFrs versus Tim Tebow's?

4 points
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PeteK's picture

March 23, 2021 at 03:35 pm

I fully agree that the draft will provide help because we have all the top positions manned. However, a player nearing 40 can have a very quick performance drop, Ex: Brees. Better to try for a QB now then when the team has two wins . There are even more Qbs that would have been very successful , but were put into an impossible situation. ex: Darnold.

2 points
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packer132's picture

March 23, 2021 at 05:54 pm

I saw that New England has drafted 10 QB's since 2000, and that's with Brady. I didn't like the Love pick, though who liked the Rodgers pick in 2005 when Favre was doing well. Most successful teams have a top QB, and teams that don't do not win (Bears, Jax, Jets, Bengals, Carolina, Denver). Hopefully Rodgers has 2-4 more years with Packers and see how Love develops (or gets traded).

1 points
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Minniman's picture

March 23, 2021 at 07:56 pm

Re a players age related decline.

I’ve posted previously that I think that the key indicator is their deep ball - see Brees and Eli...

Rules changes to protect the qb make it easier to keep an ageing cerebral qb that still has an accurate deep ball.

To me, the most interesting thing about this coming season will be finally getting to see Love in action.

.........I personally hope that he pans out....... the puns, innuendo and double entendre’s on his surname are going to be toilet humor comic gold!

1 points
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egbertsouse's picture

March 23, 2021 at 06:57 pm

Gute is following his pattern. First, overpay a bunch of underachievers on your team instead of getting outside talent that would improvie the team. Second, draft a bunch of guys that play positions that you don’t need and let them warm the bench.

Next step in Gutey’s plan: Give Dean Lowry a big raise.

-6 points
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JohnnyLogan's picture

March 23, 2021 at 08:48 pm

Kevin King's signing is tied to the non-restructure of Rodgers. It would appear that Gute has decided Rodgers will play out his contract and he doesn't want to extend years. Always hard to figure when a veteran will hit the wall.

Mays went to the Mets but he could barely lift a bat by then and when it came to flyballs he was the "Say where kid!" But that was after 20 years of being "Say Hey!" Rodgers at the moment must be thinking after a year like I had I can't get an extension? "Say what!"

Rodgers, last year, was Mays and Gretsky and Ali in their prime. He was better last year at 37 years old than Bart Starr was at 27. Times have changed, players, especially QB's, have longer primes, and the Gutes of this world have to be like your banker and calculate when and if the prime is going to go down.

Gute doesn't seem to love Rodgers as much as he love's Love. He's the married guy with roving eyes. The playboy who always needs fresh.

Packer fans are different. We love Rodgers. Our song is "If loving you is wrong I don't want to be right." But we don't love King because, well, we never really did. It was a forced marriage.

I think it was a huge mistake to stick Packer fans with King. We'll suffer and he'll suffer. He was one of the worst-ranked CB's in the league even before the barf fest in Tampa. He's slowed down considerably and has no recovery speed, yet Gute thinks he can cover whoever will be Tampa Bays' #2 receiver in this year's NFL Championship. Does anyone else in the league think that?

Rodgers is seven years younger than Brady. He runs faster, throws a better football, is in excellent health, and, and like Brady, is about to have a gorgeous and famous wife who makes a decent living on her own. My bet is he'll still be better than Love in 3 years.

I think Gute has overthought this. Either that or he's too inflexible to change his mind about Rodgers. Maybe Rodgers has another MVP in him this year and Gute will be knocked to his senses. Let's hope.

1 points
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Denver's picture

March 23, 2021 at 09:37 pm

Stop making sense, Maggie. Never been so happy as this year that I am too old to play Fantasy Football or Madden. I have no love for #20 but am hoping this is the year he stays healthy, plays his best and then moves on...after the Packers finally get another Lombardi.

1 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 24, 2021 at 01:09 am

Gute's Tendencies:

1. Attack position groups with high picks and $.
2. Attack position groups with multiple picks.
3. Eh, out of picks and $, so ignores holes. Waiver wire, UDFA.

1 points
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Archie's picture

March 24, 2021 at 08:26 am

King is our bridge-CB till the guy(s) we draft in 2021 develop enough to replace him.

Too bad re: Kyle Fuller but I guess he was set on reuniting with Fangio in DEN.

I see the Purdue speedster at WR is now being projected late R2/early R3 by DJ. Ran a sub 4.3 yesterday. He would be exciting gas to add to the fire. He's very short but very fast and very strong.

0 points
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Packfangirl's picture

March 24, 2021 at 03:49 pm

I know a lot of people did not want King back.but maybe Jerry Gray sees something he thinks can be improved or not...but he only worked one year with King..so who knows? I am just going to wait and see...Go Pack Go!!

0 points
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