Replacing Roster Spots for the Packers

Will the Packers turn to the draft, free agency, or a player already on the roster to replace some of their roster holes? 

I thought what I’d do today is look at some of the more glaring holes on the roster where big names are leaving (or projected to leave) and guess whether those positions will be replaced through free agency, by a new draft pick, or if the replacement is already on the roster. This will exclude positions like quarterback where we already know who the starter will be in 2021. That’s a can of worms I have not had nearly enough coffee to open. Instead, we’ll just do the biggest areas of need going into free agency. Let’s get to it! 

Center - On the Roster

With Corey Linsley likely departing in free agency (ugh, I don’t want to talk about it even if we knew it was coming), the offensive line is going to look a lot different in 2021. While the Packers played musical chairs last season and it worked, it helps when you have two All-Pros in the lineup with left tackle David Bakhtiari and Linsley. Offensive line coach Adam Stenavich has done an exceptional job getting his position group ready to play week in and week out. My guess is that Linsley’s replacement is already on the roster, whether that’s left guard Elgton Jenkins, right guard Lucas Patrick, or sixth round draft pick Jake Hansen. The Packers have plenty of depth at the interior of the offensive line, so with players like Jon Runyan Jr. and Simon Stepaniak waiting in the wings to fill in at either guard spot, the center spot should be in good hands (but it’s still going to be a daunting task replacing the best center in football). 

Running Back - On the Roster

Green Bay didn’t draft a running back in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft solely to frustrate Packers fans (even though that seemed to happen, too). The Packers have big plans for AJ Dillon’s future, whether that’s as part of a 1-2 punch in the backfield with Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams, or a new draft pick. But, that’s why this one is a given. The cupboard is not bare at running back. Dillon has all of the tools to be Green Bay’s premier back, and his role will only expand when he’s not buried on the depth chart. Regardless of what happens with Jones and Williams in free agency, the Packers have set themselves up for success in the backfield with Dillon. 

Bonus: Even if neither running back returns in 2021, re-signing Tyler Ervin makes a ton of sense for the role he also plays on special teams. Before his injury, Ervin was carving out a nice spot for himself in Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, and Ervin would be a great complement to the thunder that Dillon brings in the run game.  

Wide Receiver - Draft

I’m just setting myself up here to get mocked, right? Because we all thought wide receiver was going to be the pick in 2020 and it wasn’t? Anyway. Wide receiver is only on this list because we know the Packers have some free agents looming next offseason. While I would fully expect Davante Adams to get paid by Green Bay, both Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown will be free agents next offseason, and Allen Lazard’s status is up in the air even going into this next season. 

The Packers will need to add some receiving depth at some point, and we know it can take receivers a while to gain the trust of Aaron Rodgers, so it’s better for Green Bay to bring someone in now than wait until it’s an even more pressing need next offseason. The Packers  just don't have the cap space to bring in a big name receiver in free agency this year, and the team likely wouldn’t want to devote that much money to the wide receiver room anyway given that Adams will need his own payday soon. 

Defensive Line - Free Agency

I’m going to cheat a little bit on this one, because I think the Packers address the defensive line both through the draft and free agency. That said, knowing how long it can take defensive linemen to develop in the NFL, I think the free agent will play more snaps and be more beneficial to the Packers’ 2021 season. I also don’t see the Packers addressing the defensive line in the draft until potentially Day 3, which would also mean that player would need some time to acclimate to the speed of the NFL. 

Green Bay just paid Kenny Clark big bucks, and Kingsley Keke has come on strong as a pass rushing complement, so really what the Packers need now is a run stuffer. There will be plenty of big guys available in free agency that won’t break the bank, even if Tyler Lancaster also returns. 

Cornerback - Draft 

If cornerback isn’t the pick at 29 (or whenever Green Bay makes its first selection of the 2021 NFL Draft) I’ll be kind of shocked, solely because there’s some excellent depth in the first few rounds at the cornerback position, and the Packers will need to find a stud that can play opposite Jaire Alexander. While I’ve written previously that I think signing a nickel corner in free agency makes sense (someone like Mike Hilton), a starting boundary corner will warrant a huge payday, and the Packers just aren’t in the position to pay anyone huge money to come to Green Bay this season. 

And, just like at the receiver position with Adams, Alexander is due for a massive contract himself soon. The Packers need to find inexpensive talent (like a rookie contract) opposite Alexander given how much money he’ll be looking to make when his own rookie deal is up. Don’t be surprised if Green Bay doubles or triple-dips at the cornerback position in the draft this year. The 2021 class is loaded.

 

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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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11 points

Comments (59)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
ItsRobAck's picture

March 09, 2021 at 12:03 pm

I would not be surprised if Green Bay drafted a change of pace back in the draft to complement Dillon, we need another Starks to our current Lacy.

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Befuddled's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:17 pm

They have another Starks to our current Lacy. Jamal Williams.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

March 09, 2021 at 05:05 pm

Drafted or picked up a veteran cut on the cheap, or both.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2021 at 06:46 pm

At running back, we need a guy who can carry the load if Dillon is injured, not just a change of pace guy. A horse. I like the idea of brining Swervin Ervin back.

One of the writers did a draft preview of Chubba Hubbard. The more I learn about this guy, the more I like him. There's a solid chance he'd be available late on the second day. or early on the third. We don't have any early 4th round picks, so we'd probably need to move around a little if we planned to take him there.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2021 at 10:52 am

Hubbard will be gone by # 52.

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mnbadger's picture

March 09, 2021 at 12:21 pm

thanks for using the K.I.S.S. approach to explaining how the draft, FA, roster and cap space are all connected. I may not agree with all of your p;oints, but they were easy and fun to follow. I'm still pulling for large, angry, fast men for the middle of the defense. GPG

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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2021 at 06:56 pm

mnbadger.....I think there's a good chance that some really large men will be available to us. I don't know how angry or fast they are. But you've got guys like Tyler Shelvin at 340 pounds who'll probably be availble in the third.

And there are some other huge guys in the draft, too. Tedarelle Slaton is 340.

Every single thing I know about football tells me that when you have a big, fat, pile of flesh in the middle of the defensive line, it's harder to run the ball on you. Size matters. I had a 400 lb. blob one year....not a speck of athletic ability. I called him Eclipse, cuz he blocked out the sun. But I'd line him up in am A gap and that pretty much meant nobody was going to run there . He wasn't going to be any help on sweeps or passes, but nobody was going up the gut against this guy.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 09, 2021 at 12:41 pm

I would not be surprised if they draft 1 or 2 RB's. If both Jones and Williams leave, i would not be surprised at all if they drafted a couple of guys. I can see them looking for another home run hitting type. One that has a little shake and bake to his game. And i could see them drafting another similar to Williams. Someone who can do a little bit of everything and maybe runs a little more with power.

I also am for bringing back Ervin. He was a really good fit for the offense. But for true RB's they will need to find more help. I think Dillon will be really good. But they need more guys there.

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dobber's picture

March 09, 2021 at 01:43 pm

I think this offense needs 2 backs who can split carries...it doesn't need to be 50-50. Certainly the Jones/Williams split wasn't equal. But Ervin has not, through his career, demonstrated himself to be someone who can handle a significant load.

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Coldworld's picture

March 10, 2021 at 07:36 am

Ervin worries me in terms of durability. I would be happy to bring him back on the 90, happier still if we find real competition for him.

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meingram23's picture

March 09, 2021 at 07:57 pm

The running back from NC looks a lot like what your describing. He will be gone by the third round. Packers would need to move up in second round to probably get him.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2021 at 10:55 am

Both backs fromN. Carolina, Williams and Carter will be taken into the third rd.

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Guam's picture

March 09, 2021 at 01:15 pm

You can nix drafting a WR, Funchess just agreed to a pay cut to stay with the Packers this year. That gives the Pack five WRs (Adams, Lazard, MVS, ESB and Funchess) plus two PS WRs. Unless one of those five flops in preseason and they don't like the two they have on the PS, there just isn't room for a draft choice.

I agree with Maggie on DT - the Pack could use a veteran as well as a draft choice.

Didn't see any mention of an OT and that is an interesting topic with Wagner gone. Bahk likely won't be back for the start of the season, so do the Packers roll with Turner, Jenkins, Nijman and Runyon as their tackles or do they draft someone? This draft is deep in OTs, but if Nijman and Runyon are ready to grab the opportunity, maybe the Pack doesn't draft an OT. I just don't know.......

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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:23 pm

There is no path to the Super Bowl this year that doesn’t include having a healthy Rodgers in the playoffs, so if I’m the GM, keeping this guy protected and giving him time is Priority #1. We’ll definitely draft a plug and play lineman.

There’ll be no reason to draft a WR.......unless we chose to trade Adams and save $13 million. Then you could justify drafting a WR who could grow with Love.

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Guam's picture

March 09, 2021 at 03:02 pm

While I agree keeping Rodgers upright is the key to a successful season, I just found it odd that the Packers cut Wagner before having a draft choice to replace him. That tells me they might like someone already on the roster to replace him. If you have a replacement lined up, you don't need to also draft one. We will see what the draft brings.......

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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:07 pm

Guam, I think Wagner is done playing football, and that’s why he was cut. He’s worn out.

You’ve mentioned before that it might signal confidence is the guys we have, and to an extent I agree, but whether they do or don’t, Wagner was finished. I expect the Packers to draft a plug and play RT on Day Two.

Bakhtiari, Turner, and Jenkins makes up a pretty good left side. Patrick and the rookie on the right side. The weakest link is at right guard and Patrick is more than solid enough for that. Add a guy like Lewis at TE and that’s six pretty good blockers.

If we can give Rodgers time, and open holes in the run game, we’ll have a top offense again.,

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Guam's picture

March 09, 2021 at 05:24 pm

You may well be right about Wagner. I know he was considering retirement despite playing adequately last year.

The O-line will be good when Bahk returns, but getting to his return concerns me. Losing Bahk and Linsley will create some big holes early and it will take awhile for the new guys (whoever they are) to settle in and jell as a unit. Hopefully Rodgers survives that process.

I think either Runyon or Stepaniak is going to force his way into that discussion on the O-line. Both were pretty good college linemen and I suspect at least one will start next year.

And yes, when Bahk gets back I like our offense.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2021 at 10:57 am

An OT will be drafted.

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Lphill's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:49 pm

What a guy he is Funchess but he kept his 1 million dollar signing bonus and opted out.

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Coldworld's picture

March 09, 2021 at 07:08 pm

Contract just extended for an additional year at same total pay ( now reduced by agreement)

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2021 at 11:00 am

He will be competing with Lazard and ESB for one spot. The Pack has to bring in a fast slot guy maybe two. Team speed, especially in the return game has to improve.

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Lphill's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:02 pm

Bye Aaron Jones your production will never be replaced , You see because Gutey overpaid 4 free agents last year now he has to let you walk , and those 4 free agents take up 10 % of the cap , good thing he used his first round pick on a QB project , funny how the Saints in cap space hell are getting deals done , best of luck to you no doubt you will run all over the Packers D that have 1 D lineman so I hope you at least go to the AFC.

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Lphill's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:53 pm

Saints 70 million over the cap yet they are franchising , signing and extending players contracts , not crying about the cap like Gutey.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:21 pm

Your production will never be replaced. Huh?

1500 yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs is nothing to sneeze at, but it can be replaced. Dillon will replace the majority of it, and we might see more production from other positions.

Jones has been a good player for us, and a good bargain. He’ll never be a bargain again, and how long he’ll be a good player is an open question. Overwhelmingly, the top backs are 27 or younger.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:23 pm

Amazing that the Saints make all these great moves and they haven’t gone to the Super Bowl since 2009. How do you explain that?

Bad QB?
Crappy coach?

How?

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PackerBacker84's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:09 pm

Guam, they made mention of drafting a WR due to the expiring contracts of MVS, ESB, Lazard, with no one else under contract except Adams. And I do like the idea of double dipping for CB while making LB a position of need. Burks and Summers aren’t cutting it unless Barry can resurrect their careers somehow. And it’s too early to tell how much our stable of young bucks on the OL have progressed, if at all, to this point. So I Do believe from what I’m seeing, CB, WR, OT, LB and DL are all needs(Not in any particular order). I hope we can get SOMETHING for SMITH. If we could get a player or a draft pick, that would be amazing. I’ve also heard we could possibly pick up a DT via FA due to the lack of learning curve involved. Definitely going to be an interesting offseason....

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Guam's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:55 pm

Leatherhead raised this issue initially and I agree with him - NEXT year is the year to draft WRs, not this year. The problem with this year is where do you put the new WRs if you are keeping Adams, Funchess, Lazard, MVS and ESB? The roster has only so many slots for WRs and they are occupied. You can't put them on the practice squad because they will get sniped by other teams. There is no place to stash new WRs if you are keeping the existing group.

It is not a question of if, bit when. And when happens when you have openings on your roster, not when you have to cut existing players to make room for newbies.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 09, 2021 at 05:04 pm

If the WR is a high pick he would replace everyone but Adams.

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Guam's picture

March 09, 2021 at 05:31 pm

But don't the Packers have bigger needs than a WR? They have a great #1 (Adams) and others who are adequate plus Funchess as the new addition. Can you say that about our DL or CB group? I would much rather see the Packers shore up weaknesses.

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PhantomII's picture

March 09, 2021 at 09:03 pm

What if Adams is hurt again like the last 2 years. Jones is not on the roster. We don't have elite talent to compensate a loss like that. That's only one reason we need a #2 WR. If Gute gets off his butt and gets some contracts worked for cap room and maybe trades P. Smith for a high end DL for close to same money we will be in good shape there and we can focus on FA CB and draft a top flight WR who we won't have to worry about paying for 5 yrs. and give us someone next to Adams with elite skills to counter the loss of Jones.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2021 at 11:02 am

Team speed needs to improve.

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Coldworld's picture

March 10, 2021 at 07:45 am

6’5” 215 pounders who can run 4.3 and most miraculously be in 2 places at once and block and catch at the same time? I agree.

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Coldworld's picture

March 10, 2021 at 07:40 am

Unless you strike gold, chances are you need a year or two to develop a WR. This is the year to restock the pipeline through some later picks. If one drops to us early, do much the better, but I still see one or two later if that doesn’t happen. Honestly, that is the more likely scenario given where we pick.

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PhantomII's picture

March 10, 2021 at 08:43 pm

Thats why you move up and get a top 2-3 WR in the draft. That's what I'm talking about. In a few years he takes Adams place as #1 WR. The player I'm talking about starts day one as #2 WR and pushes everyone not names Adams down one slot.

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PackerBacker84's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:11 pm

Oh! Not to mention the 1 YR CONTRACT FUNCHESS agreed to is pending he survives OTA’s and Training Camp.

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PF4L's picture

March 09, 2021 at 02:41 pm

Maggie....Is that picture on top of the article photoshopped?
How did King get that close to someone?

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PF4L's picture

March 09, 2021 at 09:48 pm

Awe..lol

There is a Kevin King fan!

I apologize, that wasn't very nice of me, i'm going to go take a time out.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 09, 2021 at 03:37 pm

LB, CB and WR’s are supposed to be a strong group this year in the first two, three rounds. After that...? So if the team can trade back a bit they might get some good players at positions of need. Yet if the BPA player is there when GB chooses then that’s who they pick. I would not be surprised to see multiple picks in a single position again this year and hope one sticks.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 09, 2021 at 03:56 pm

Off topic, but a pretty good article here about the challenges of having a solid team while paying your QB top money.

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2935158-cowboys-overpaid-for-dak-pre...

Here is your money quote (pun intended):" When the Green Bay Packers won their only Super Bowl this century, Aaron Rodgers made just $6.5 million. He's since cashed in and the Packers haven't been back. When the Seattle Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls last decade, Russell Wilson made a combined $1.2 million in those two campaigns. He's since cashed in and the Seahawks haven't been back. ...In fact, according to Over the Cap, it's been more than a quarter-century since a team quarterbacked by a player with one of the league's three highest cap hits at that position won the Super Bowl."

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packerbackerjim's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:12 pm

I think the odds are good a WR will be drafted, a quick slot receiver specifically. The serious jet sweeps were missing once Ervin went down, Austin wasn’t able to adequately replace him. Historically, 2nd or 3rd round pick will be the case.

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Packers0808's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:15 pm

Packers just allowed Jones to hit free agency1 Guess they will always staying on being just above mediocrity and never win the big dance! Move sucks as far as I '
M CONCERNED!

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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2021 at 05:37 pm

Never mind that Jones had a prominent role in our loss to Tampa.

He’s a good player, but he’s nobody’s bargain anymore.

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Packers0808's picture

March 09, 2021 at 06:11 pm

Yup sure only reason he is still the number one wanted and valued by teams! You are a poor judge of talent, but of course you are ALWAYS a downer!

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stockholder's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:36 pm

I don't expect Gute to go all in. Forget helping Rodgers. The contracts should have been reworked by now. And what popped up. Funchess takes a cut. So let me tell you how this will work. RT will be drafted. He'll sit the Bench. CB- The packers have drafted this so much. IT"S Kept us from returning to the super-bowl. Samuel will come to GB with a 1 and 3. Which leaves RT 2nd rd. (Oh he'll start after Turner leaves. ) There you have it. A wasted draft. But how should Gute draft. Trade Back! The more bodies the better the odds. But that won't happen. The only thing Gute wants is for Rodgers to leave GB. Money can buy happiness.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 09, 2021 at 05:08 pm

Trade up as often as he can. Has to hit on a blue chip.

3 points
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stockholder's picture

March 09, 2021 at 06:08 pm

Not this year. The only guy you trade up for is Barmore. The best value Cosmi.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2021 at 11:10 am

Need 4-2/4-3 looks for Barmore. That is his strength. Cosmi with a high two pick, ergo move Up.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 10, 2021 at 11:15 am

I'd encourage you to go to www.thehuddlereport and read Drew Boylhart's assessment of Cosmi. I think we can do better.

I'd encourage everyone to visit that site, and look at his Value Board. He's been doing this since forever and he's pretty astute. While you're there, read his Draft Rules. They mostly make a lot of sense to me.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2021 at 08:06 pm

I'm not sold on Cosmi. He is Stock's guy.

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stockholder's picture

March 10, 2021 at 08:37 pm

The front runner is Newsome CB. Just ran a great 40. Gute was in attendance. Check out this guy. Dazz Newsome. NC. Slot WR. He's a Punt returner. Rd. 3 if Gute doesn't trade it. Also Darden has moved into the 3rd. Cosmi will be able to play both RT/LT. Tavon won't. Tavon Jenkins will drop to the second rd.

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Packer_Fan's picture

March 09, 2021 at 04:59 pm

So I hear the Packers are trying to sing Jones before the 18th, And target a DL Tomlinson from NYG for free agency. And both of these would be fantastic. So if the Packers are to do this, they need to clear about 25 mil from their roster. Which means the Adams extension, the restructuring of Rodgers and Z Smith contracts, and potentially the cutting or trading of P Smith and/or Lowry is pretty much decided. This next week will be very interesting to follow. Doing all this will be a sign of all in for Gute. Even bigger than the FA splash in 2019. If not, these things will slide... We will see.....

1 points
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Lphill's picture

March 09, 2021 at 05:52 pm

So heres a deal , Patriots need an edge rusher and the Packers need a corner to replace King, the Pats want to move Gilmore , trade Preston Smith for Gilmore , similar costs but the Packers get another good corner and wouldn't have to draft one early.

3 points
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stockholder's picture

March 09, 2021 at 06:10 pm

Smart!

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Fabio's picture

March 10, 2021 at 03:01 pm

I've been dreaming of it for a month ...

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Tedlyflyfisher's picture

March 09, 2021 at 06:26 pm

Good article, Maggie.

With many of our WR’s in their last contract year, I definitely see us drafting at least one. Plus, can we please agree that the ESB experiment is a bust? No ROI that I have seen. Move on.

I agree on wanting Ervin back, too.

Draft CB, WR and ILB. Bring in a free agent at DL.

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mnbadger's picture

March 10, 2021 at 10:32 pm

total bust, most quietly hyped Packer in a long time. soft. GPG

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meingram23's picture

March 09, 2021 at 08:02 pm

Great article Maggie. Good stuff. I’m very intrigued what the Packers will do to remain competitive to the Super Bowl with a low cap, and loss of a few key players. I’m thinking top 3 needs are DB, Defensive Tackle, and OT. I foresee the packers grabbing a couple receivers in rounds 3 and 4. Regardless it’s like a puzzle. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next few weeks.

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meingram23's picture

March 09, 2021 at 08:02 pm

Great article Maggie. Good stuff. I’m very intrigued what the Packers will do to remain competitive to the Super Bowl with a low cap, and loss of a few key players. I’m thinking top 3 needs are DB, Defensive Tackle, and OT. I foresee the packers grabbing a couple receivers in rounds 3 and 4. Regardless it’s like a puzzle. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next few weeks.

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meingram23's picture

March 09, 2021 at 08:02 pm

Great article Maggie. Good stuff. I’m very intrigued what the Packers will do to remain competitive to the Super Bowl with a low cap, and loss of a few key players. I’m thinking top 3 needs are DB, Defensive Tackle, and OT. I foresee the packers grabbing a couple receivers in rounds 3 and 4. Regardless it’s like a puzzle. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next few weeks.

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