Many who follow the Green Bay Packers, including here, didn’t believe Brian Gutekunst. Sure, he talked about looking for free agents to help bolster the depth on the Packers roster, but most have heard this before. Former general manager Ted Thompson never said he would and his actions proved just that. Although media types like Ian Rapoport had reported in the past that the Packers would be active in free agency, it never materialized. But the past couple of weeks, Gutekunst is showing that he wasn’t just giving lip service. Brian Gutekunst is still working to improve the Green Bay Packers roster.
A Man of His Word: Brian Gutekunst is Still Working to Improve the Green Bay Packers Roster
When this season’s free agency period began, the Packers were reportedly linked to some of the top free agents on the market. Players like cornerback Trumaine Johnson and wide receiver Sammy Watkins had reportedly been eyed by Gutekunst and the Packers. But Johnson ended up signing with the New York Jets and Watkins was inked by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers could have had some interest, but most likely they never were serious contenders.
It might have been all speculation and just a simple call to Johnson and Watkins’ representation to kick the tires. But Gutekunst and his front office team had a plan. A plan that they believed would help improve the Green Bay Packers roster.
First Wave of Free Agents
Gutekunst and the Packers might have missed out on the first wave of free agents this off-season, they didn’t go away empty-handed.
The first was the signing of former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson to a one year deal. Wilkerson is a veteran that has proven that he can be an elite inside pass rusher in the NFL. Questionable work habits caused Wilkerson to depart from the big apple. But a change of scenery and playing for his old defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, might just be what he needs to resurrect his career. The defensive line wasn’t a priority going into this off-season for the Packers. But the chance to get a player of Wilkerson’s ability was too much for Gutekunst to pass up on. He will join Mike Daniels and up and comer Kenny Clark to give the Packers three solid if not elite interior pass rushers.
An Offensive Weapon
Next up, was the signing of tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham might not be the player he was when he played for the New Orleans Saints, but he still is a capable pass catcher. In his career, Graham has 556 receptions for 6,800 yards and 69 touchdown receptions. Last season for the Seattle Seahawks he hauled in 10 touchdowns. He doesn’t bring much as a blocker, but he wasn’t brought in to block. With the Packers releasing Jordy Nelson this off-season, Graham will be asked to help replace his contributions.
It isn’t much of a secret that the Packers struggled with their pass defense last season. Because of that, Gutekunst wanted to bring in some veteran help at the cornerback position. Although many were hoping that the Packers would dish out big money to bring in Johnson, it didn’t happen. So instead, they brought back a familiar name in former Packer Tramon Williams. Besides playing for the Packers, he has also played for the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals. While with the Browns, Williams played for Pettine, when Pettine was the Browns head coach.
Gutekunst and the Packers believe all three can help improve the Packers roster. But Gutekunst wasn’t done yet reshaping the Packers roster.
Recent Wave of Free Agent Signings
Many had their doubts when Gutekunst said the Packers would continue to look to improve the roster up until the season began. It is hard to knock Packers fans who believed this. Under Thompson, in most cases, the only players signed by Thompson after the NFL draft were undrafted rookie free agents. He tried it last off-season when he signed former San Francisco 49ers Quinton Dial and Ahmad Brooks. But both Dial and Brooks battled injuries and didn’t contribute much. But it appears that Gutekunst is paving his own way as the Packers top player evaluator.
The first signing these past couple of weeks was tight end Marcedes Lewis. Lewis is a 12-year veteran from the Jacksonville Jaguars. He joins Graham and Lance Kendricks to give the Packers three veteran tight ends. He might not be the receiving threat he once was, he does excel at run blocking, which is something Graham and Kendricks struggle at. But don’t sleep on Lewis as a pass catcher, especially in the red zone. Last season he hauled in five touchdown receptions. With the Packers needing receiving help, he should factor into the passing game as well.
Gutekunst wasn’t done with the additions though. With all three right tackles, Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Murphy, and Jason Spriggs, all coming off season-ending injuries, the Packers signed veteran offensive lineman Byron Bell. Bell is a six-year veteran who has 74 career starts. With Bulaga’s status for the start of the season up in the air and Murphy and Spriggs coming off injuries, Bell gives the Packers veteran insurance at right tackle. The starting right guard position is up for grabs as well for the Packers. Bell has experience playing guard and could factor into the competition for the starting right guard position.
Gutekunst Might Not be done
Just like a shopper looking through the bargain bins at a department store, Gutekunst might not be done. Not only is he looking to improve the Packers roster, but he is also trying to bring competition at every position. One position that needs competition, and depth, is outside linebacker. Behind starters Nick Perry and Clay Matthews, the Packers have a lot of unproven talent. It wouldn’t be surprising if he brings in more help at that position.
Another position that he could look for help at is at wide receiver. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb are proven pass catchers, but behind them, are a lot of young unproven players. Graham will be asked to fill the third receiving option, but another veteran wide receiver could be brought in as well.
Gutekunst might have learned under Thompson, but it appears he is his own man. Improving the Packers roster might not be over, which should make a lot of Packers fans happy.
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