What Was the Game-Changing Play of the Offseason?

Several decisions this offseason may have a big influence on the Packers' success in 2021.

The regular season is here!

Now that we at CHTV are back in our regular season content schedule, my Hello Wisconsin column moves back to Thursday mornings, and on Monday afternoons I'll be breaking down my pick for the Game-Changing Play of the Week. 

Typically the Game-Changing Play of the Week is the play I feel had the greatest influence on the outcome of the game. Often it is a key turnover, a clutch play or a game-altering penalty. 

Because we don't have any football to analyze yet, I wanted to instead choose the "Game-Changing Play of the Offseason." Which decision made by the franchise over the offseason had the biggest impact on what we will see out of the Packers' 2021 campaign?

Clearly the biggest thing that happened for the Packers this offseason was Aaron Rodgers coming back to titletown. But this wasn't exactly a decision made by the franchise--the ball was almost entirely in Rodgers' court there. The Packers are certainly fortunate Rodgers decided to return to the team, but that can't really qualify for this, in my opinion.

So what DOES qualify? Here are a few options:

  • Drafting Josh Myers: The Packers definitely gambled when they let go of All-Pro center Corey Linsley this offseason, especially when All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari would miss at least the first month and a half of the season. If Josh Myers managers to maintain his preseason performance through the regular season, it's a tremendous move by Brian Gutekunst and the Packers. They get good starter play for cheap, and the flexibility to keep Elgton Jenkins at left tackle until Bakhtiari reeturns while only having to worry about shuffling around guards.
  • Investing in the slot position: The Packers lacked a true slot wide receiver the last couple years. Drafting Amari Rodgers in the third round and trading for Randall Cobb adds an element to this Packers offense that wasn't present the last couple years. Mos timportantly, it allows the other receivers to slide into their roles. You've got superstar Davante Adams being able to take on any route tree. Marquez Valdez-Scantling can fill the role of a field stretcher rather than having to be forced into occasional slot duties. Allen Lazard can focus on being a complement to Adams without having to be forced-fed slot responsibilities. 
  • Re-signing Aaron Jones: I think the Packers probably could have done just fine with AJ Dillon and Kylin HIll as their running backs this season, but there was no way to know Hill would fall to the seventh round or that he would look as dynamic as he has in preseason action so far. Still, Jones gives the Packers something AJ Dillon doesn't--a player who can line up all over the field and be a dynamic element of the offense. 
  • Choosing to kick the salary cap can down the road: The signing of Jones, the retention of Preston Smith (and other higher-priced role players) and other salary cap decisions made the Packers as "all in" financially as we've seen them in many years. Gutekunst and Russ Ball did everything they could to keep the talent on this team together for one more season, ostensibly before parting ways with Rodgers and other big contracts after this saeson. This would probably be my choice of the list, becuase it could either work out fabulously or blow up in their face. Either way, the contract management this offseason is going to be something we point back to after this offseason, when the Packers are either celebrating a Super Bowl win or dealing with another heartbreaking loss before having to make some very difficult personnel decisions.

What would YOU pick as the "game-changing play of the offseason?"

Here's to another year of Packer football! See you on Thursday for the week one edition of HELLO WISCONSIN.

__________________________

Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

7 points

Comments (35)

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

September 06, 2021 at 04:48 pm

Easily the decision to go "all-in" was the biggest offseason news for me. I haven't seen the Packers do that in the salary cap era as both Wolf and Thompson were conservative financially although neither was faced with the COVID adjusted cap that befell Gute. In a normal world, I am not sure Gute would ever go "all-in", but between a COVID cap and Rodgers' off season antics I think Gute did the best he could. Barring injuries the Packers should be a serious SB contender.

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ImaPayne's picture

September 07, 2021 at 08:20 am

All in? You let a pro bowl center leave. Cut a corner and replaced with a cheap nobody and gave Rodgers a big bonus you cant afford. If you were going all in this year you forgot to improve the defense. This one is not as good as last years.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 07, 2021 at 06:26 pm

They went about as "all-in" as possible with this salary cap and Rodgers salary. They kept Preston Smith who everyone thought would be a cut. They kept Aaron Jones and everybody thought he'd be gone in free agency. They kept Mercedes Lewis and everyone thought he'd be gone. They brought in a FA ILB. They brought in Cobb for Rodgers to have another go-to guy. They would have had to cut others to keep Linsley, so I don't see how you can go more all-in.

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stockholder's picture

September 06, 2021 at 06:25 pm

The draft had nothing to do with this. Come back to that in three years. Cobb and the slot. Two years late here. jones earned it. No holes , No yards. I don't like change. Kicking the can down the Road. Very impressed! I believe it kept Rodgers in Green Bay.

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Jaqu’eau's picture

September 06, 2021 at 06:36 pm

Can we please, please stop saying we went all-in. No matter what the Packers did, short of trading Aaron Rodgers in the offseason, the 2022 cap was going to be extremely challenging. Why? The black swan that was the pandemic took the legs out from under the packers’ strategy until the 2023 cap growth. The impact of the pandemic on the salary cap took $35m away (~$25m in 2021 and ~$10m in 2022). All the offseason moves were marginal in cost comparatively speaking. Had the pandemic not impacted the cap, and the packers made the same moves, there would be a loud cry of ‘not doing enough’ for a final SB push. As far as I see it, management marginally pushed the boundaries of its cap situation for this year (again, due to the impact from the pandemic on the cap) to solidify an already strong roster. When I think of all-in, I think of high risk high reward. None of the off-season moves were particularly high risk. If anything, it shows that this team is well managed. Given a -$25m variance in projected cap for this year from only two years ago, the fact they they were able to strengthen this team the way it did is amazing.

9 points
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Johnblood27's picture

September 07, 2021 at 05:52 am

...Had the pandemic not impacted the cap, and the packers made the same moves...

No pandemic, the moves would have been radically different, so you cannot realistically extrapolate from that premise.

3 points
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RedRight49's picture

September 06, 2021 at 06:59 pm

The biggest play of the longest offseason in memory was the collaborative efforts of the front office to appease and otherwise convince their reigning MVP QB to return to the team.

Without the return of 12, the prospects for a winning season, let alone Super Bowl level contention this season, were about on par with winning a large lottery.

Myers was a great pick but Myers in his first year snapping to a first year QB or to a newly signed free agent starting QB vs snapping to an MVP is a world of difference for the team and quite likely to Myers as well.

Love the addition of two true slot receivers - especially with 12 tossing 'em the ball.

Aaron Jones is a great re-signing and he is all the more dangerous with 12 at QB, reading and keeping defenses honest and a bit hesitant to load the box on potential running plays that 12 could quickly and effectively turn into passing downs.

Kicking the salary cap into 2022 was apparently the only way to go all in this Season and it all hinged on the return of 12.

The front office convinced 12 to come back and it is now incumbent upon 12 to deliver his best football, football play worthy of hoisting the Lombardi.

Regardless of the long months of drama, for any Packer fan who wants a top winning team this season, the best play of the offseason was bringing back the team's best player.

2 points
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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

September 06, 2021 at 07:13 pm

I’m glad to see Rodgers back, but the millions he would have lost by sitting out is what brought him back, along with the fact he loves his teammates and loves playing the game. It wasn’t anything management said or did. Rodgers did what he did to make a statement. There was never any chance he was sitting out.

7 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 07, 2021 at 06:28 pm

If you read Rodgers interviews, he seriously thought about retiring. He's got zillions, so doesn't exactly need to be driven by this years salary. I think if management hadn't tried to mend fences, he would not have come back.

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4thandinches's picture

September 06, 2021 at 11:43 pm

I agree. Specifically, I'll say bringing Cobb back because it seemed that, along with the contract restructure, was the required olive branch to get Rodgers under center for this year.

3 points
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Swisch's picture

September 08, 2021 at 10:35 am

I like the signing of Aaron Jones as not only the bringing back of a dynamic player on offense -- one of the best in the NFL -- but as a big morale boost for the entire team in keeping one of our own.
Like a lot of fans it seems, I wanted to keep Jones but thought he would be just too expensive.
Somehow Gute seemed to find a way to offer a fair contract that was a win-win; and Jones seems to have a great attitude in wanting to stay and play for the Packers.
I like having our players around as long as possible. I'm even willing to overpay a bit, and to take some risk with age. At some point, though, time runs out for every player -- with either his salary being too high or another player becoming appreciably better at that position. The good of the entire team has to be taken into consideration, as well.
My estimation is that Jones has 2-4 excellent years left in him, especially with his versatility and mindset. It's a great thing to have him signed on for that range of time, and he should be a treat to behold on the field.
In signing Jones -- plus Clark and Bakh -- our GM seems to have shown he does indeed care about our guys on the Packers (contrary to a dubious counter-narrative being put forth). Gute appears to realize that it's not just statistics in building a team, but the personal relationships.
That kind of approach of appreciating players as persons lifts up the whole team, and in a competitive NFL may be the difference in getting the Packers to the very top.

9 points
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porupack's picture

September 07, 2021 at 05:00 am

Excellent, Swisch! Pretty bold to take on the counter-narrative that Gute caused the rift by alienating Rodgers. The pack does as well as any other elite club in draft and develop and retaining. Like you say, there is always the 'better a year too soon than too late crowd'. There are also the many CHTV GMs with quick twitch triggers that would have chucked Mason Crosby in his down year, Davante, Gary, Preston, MVS, Tonyan and maybe Jones would never have even got started. They would just bring in 3-4 first rounders and trade up to the top of the first round plus trade future picks for some "generational" Khalil Macks out there....before they think GB is going all in.

4 points
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jurp's picture

September 07, 2021 at 07:38 am

Yeah, whatever happened to all those armchair GMs who kept going on and on about Gary being a bust? They're probably some of his biggest boosters now.

5 points
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dobber's picture

September 07, 2021 at 10:14 am

Changing one's mind when shown evidence to the contrary? Unheard of!!!

3 points
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jurp's picture

September 07, 2021 at 06:55 pm

Touche. :)

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TarynsEyes's picture

September 06, 2021 at 08:07 pm

Kicking the 'can' down the road by far, but that 'can' will be kicking this team's arse after this season. An SB win must be the result to justify the 'can' kicking, and anything less will not make the seasons that come bearable.

-2 points
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porupack's picture

September 07, 2021 at 09:59 am

all pessimists are right sometime. After a decade of the packer's 'sky is falling', you might see a year where some good players like Lindsley have to be released. The price of successful draft and develop is you have elite players who have agents who know how to turn stats into dollars. Tough problem to have, that thing called success.

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TarynsEyes's picture

September 07, 2021 at 11:16 am

I never once had the sky falling for the Packers, but I knew how high it was, and the Packers haven't broken through it since 2010-11. I accept why they haven't while you and others deny such.

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porupack's picture

September 07, 2021 at 08:07 pm

what exactly did i deny? Clue me in.

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CoachDino's picture

September 07, 2021 at 04:52 pm

Winning has nothing to do with justifying. Teams cajn and have gone all in and almost always don't win.

The justifications comes in whether or not the moves produced the roster capable of competing for a SB where it otherwise wouldn't have.

Injuries, Better teams, good fortune, player performance etc all have to do with winning but little to nothing to do with going all-in

1 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 07, 2021 at 06:33 pm

I don't see how a win MUST be the result to justify the financial limb they're on. It's worth it to go out on that limb to try to win a Title. Nothing is guaranteed, but by making these choices they've made a big statement to the entire roster and to all fans that they will do everything they can to win. And then if they don't make it, you suffer the consequences. Like the rest of life. High risk, high reward. Like the Cowboy in the Big Lebowski, "sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you."

0 points
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porupack's picture

September 07, 2021 at 08:10 pm

Eh, very good answer. When the packers know they are close, it is a good calculated risk.

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joejetson's picture

September 06, 2021 at 09:59 pm

Here's what I hope ISN'T the Game Changing Play of the offseason- re-signing Kevin King. This means he will likely be giving nine yard cushions on third and six, getting burned deep, missing crucial tackles, and in general, undoing all the good play of the rest of the defense. I don't understand the thinking on this at all.

0 points
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ImaPayne's picture

September 07, 2021 at 08:17 am

Ya but when that starts to happen he will feing some kind of injury for another excuse for not keeping up. Hey he was oft injured in college and the reason 31 other teams passed on the guy

1 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 07, 2021 at 06:34 pm

Off season whining about roster choices and player mistakes also isn't the Game Changing Play of the offseason.

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porupack's picture

September 07, 2021 at 05:21 am

Going all in. I agree with Jaqu'eau somewhat, but still you can only deal with situation that you're in, and make a choice from there...to place your chips on the cards you have. Gute did it, pushed his envelope to the seam.

Mr. Backes, going all in means;
1) drafting 2-3 first rounders,
2) trading future picks to move up to the top 10 in the first round for each first rounder,
3) Trading future picks for the "generational talent Khalil Mack" DL since all picks after the first round are JAGS anyway.
4) chucking players who had a very bad game, or string of games or season (King, Crosby, Bulaga, Lindsley and the other players made of glass who are so injury proned). Davante's gotta go too, cuz he was dinged up some last year.
5) better a year too soon, than too late....so show no bit of deference to sticking with players they were patient to develop...and then whine when the Casey Haywards contribute elsewhere. (I did whine about that boneheaded decision).
6) Don't draft a competent back up QB, the most important position where many teams spend decades trying to find one, Instead, "draft for immediate need" like ILB (which has been definitely an immediate need). But hey, another QB will parachute to the packers pick at #32 to complete the Favre and Rodgers trifecta.

Now that would be going all in, Mr Backes, com' on man.

-1 points
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croatpackfan's picture

September 07, 2021 at 06:25 am

"3) Trading future picks for the "generational talent Khalil Mack" DL since all picks after the first round are JAGS anyway."

2nd round Davante Adams
2nd round Elgton Jankins
2nd round Preston Smith
4th round David Bakhtiary
4th round Za'Darius Smith
5th round Corey Linsley
5th round Aaron Jones
6th round MVS
UDFA Alan Lazard

This is players drafted after 1st round and they are on this and last season team. List might be much longer if we goes deeper in the past. I will surely not call them JAGs, especially Davante, David, Corey and Aaron (Jones).

It is simple fact that show you were little bit enthralled when you were writing this post!

-1 points
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jurp's picture

September 07, 2021 at 07:40 am

I'm pretty sure he was being sarcastic, but even being a native English speaker I'm not 100% sure of that. :)

2 points
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porupack's picture

September 07, 2021 at 10:14 am

Hey Croat, I was joking. Sorry, I wasn't more obvious. I was simply repeating what many expert GMs on this site say about "Gute not doing enough to address needs" because he doesn't trade up, for some big name draft board crush and didn't go after Khalil Mack, etc. I am of the belief, like you seem to be, that all picks are gambles, and late round picks and UDFA yield superb players, and have been one of the reasons GBP have been so successful in the past 2 decades. You can ever have too many draft picks....as TT demonstrated well.

2 points
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croatpackfan's picture

September 07, 2021 at 11:33 am

Well, you surely emulate those armchair GMs excellent. You fooled me...

0 points
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jurp's picture

September 07, 2021 at 07:41 am

The biggest off-season move by far was NOT trading Rodgers this spring. We'll have to wait four months or so to see how that turned out.

1 points
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ImaPayne's picture

September 07, 2021 at 08:16 am

Swear I read on this website that Barry never won anything and has zero defensive coaching distintions? Good luck Joe trying to make Kind and Ya Dum into something they are not.
Hopefully the GB train trusts is right, dont need a good defense when you have Rodgers putting points on the board.

-2 points
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porupack's picture

September 07, 2021 at 10:18 am

That's really enlightened. Wow, never thought of things this way.

0 points
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PatrickGB's picture

September 07, 2021 at 11:31 am

“Game changing play of the off-season”? A new and better punter!

4 points
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CoachDino's picture

September 07, 2021 at 04:59 pm

Rodgers was always coming back, that was nothing but a media and agent induced frenzy.

The draft is by far, IMO, the biggest move of the off season. Time will tell of course. When 2 of your 5 Starting OL are Rookies, good or bad, how can anything be more critical. Plus a 3rd string RB, Possible starter at CB (better than last years back-up) and a Gadget, Slot rec.

I understand Jones as he is a Top 5 or so RB but his touches and the difference between his performance and Dillons may not be that big..
Amari and or Cobb will be Role Players and have a fraction of the snaps.

Fun exercise but until the season plays out we can't be sure.

0 points
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