Being a first-time general manager for an NFL team and going through your first 53-man roster cut down is hard enough. But having your former boss, who drafted a lot of the players that are on the bubble to be cut, work down the hall from you makes it even tougher. That is what Brian Gutekunst faced on Friday night when he was preparing to scale down the Green Bay Packers roster to 53. His former boss, Ted Thompson, is still employed as a senior adviser for the Packers. Still, having his former boss work down the hall from him didn’t prevent him from doing what he thought was best for the Packers. Brian Gutekunst is putting his own stamp on the Packers roster.
Brian Gutekunst Is Putting His Own Stamp on the Green Bay Packers Roster
The season will have to be played out to see if Gutekunst made the right moves for the Packers this past weekend. But one thing is for sure. He wasn’t afraid to part with players his predecessor drafted and signed while he was in charge of the roster.
Former Thompson Picks Cut
Out of the 32 players outright cut on Saturday, five of them were former draft picks by Thompson. Kofi Amichia, Vince Biegel, Aaron Ripkowski, Demetri Goodson, and DeAngelo Yancey were all shown the door this past weekend.
The most prominent, and some would say surprising, name out of that group is Biegel. Thompson selected Biegel in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. While the Packers were in need of an outside linebacker heading into 2017, Thompson waited until the fourth round to address the position. Most Packers fans will remember Thompson trading out of the first round when he had the chance to draft fellow Wisconsin Badger T.J. Watt, a top outside linebacker prospect.
Thompson believed that Biegel would eventually contribute to the Packers outside pass rush. But things didn’t turn out the way he expected. Biegel had to undergo procedures on both of his feet after he was selected. Because of this, Biegel was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and missed all of training camp. When he did get healthy, he was playing catch up and saw mostly time on special teams.
Heading into this training camp, a lot was expected from Biegel. The Packers only spent one pick on the outside linebacker position in this year’s draft. But Biegel didn’t meet the Packers expectations. While fellow outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert shined, Biegel struggled. He never showed much as a pass rusher and didn’t do much to stand out against the run and the pass either.
Former Second Round Pick Released
Three of Thompson’s other draft picks were released this past weekend as well. Offensive tackle Kyle Murphy, running back Devante Mays, and cornerback Quinten Rollins were released with an injury settlement.
The release of Rollins puts a black mark on Thompson’s draft record. Thompson selected Rollins in the second round of the 2015 draft. A former standout basketball player while at Miami (OH), Rollins played one season of college football and was a standout. He was the MAC’s defensive player of the year. That season, Rollins had seven interceptions for Miami.
However, those ball-hawking skills he showed that season never materialized for the Packers. In three seasons with the Packers, he only had three interceptions and played just 33 games while dealing with several injuries. With the release of Rollins, the Packers no longer have their top two draft choices from 2015. The first round pick from that draft, Damarious Randall, was traded by Gutekunst this off-season to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Others Released with an Injury Settlement
Murphy and Mays were both expected to provide depth this season for the Packers. Murphy was competing with fellow tackle Jason Spriggs for the Packers swing tackle position. Coming off a season-ending foot injury, Murphy once again was bitten by the injury bug when he suffered an ankle injury in the Packers preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.
With running back Aaron Jones suspended for the first two games of this season, Mays had the opportunity to make the Packers opening roster. But he suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to miss all of the Packers preseason games. With the release of Mays and Ripkowski, the Packers are entering this season very thin at the running back position. Right now, the Packers only have Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery on their roster. It would be very surprising if Gutekunst doesn’t add another running back before their opening game against the Chicago Bears.
Doing it His Way
Because Gutekunst had worked so long under Thompson, many believed that he would be loyal to his former draft picks. But his cuts proved that he is his own man. In fact, unlike Thompson who had a hard time admitting error, Gutekunst wasn’t afraid to part ways with his own draft picks he deemed unworthy.
Besides parting ways with some of Thompson’s draft choices, Gutekunst also cut two of his seventh-round selections from this season. Outside linebacker Kendall Donnerson and defensive lineman James Looney were both cut this past weekend. The Packers did re-sign both to their practice squad.
Brian Gutekunst might not be in charge of firing and hiring the head coach, he is in charge of the Packers roster. This past weekend, he showed that he is going to build the roster his way. Packers fans will have to see if his way is the right way, but they now understand that their favorite team’s new general manager is his own man.