The 2020 NFL Draft is firmly in the rear-view for general manager Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers. There was a thought that the Packers would address some of their larger roster holes at receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback, and d-tackle. The front office obviously had other plans as they steered clear of each of the aforementioned position groups. There has been an uproar among Packers fans due to these discrepancies and somewhat rightfully so. The Packers have a similar number of holes on their roster as they did prior to the draft. Perhaps Gutekunst still has a few tricks up his sleeve as we continue into an off-season of ambiguity. Today we take a look at possible trade candidates the Packers could target prior to the season.
Possible Green Bay Packers Trade Veteran Candidates
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Realistically, this feels like a pipe dream. There were reports prior to the draft that the Steelers could be having issues negotiating a new contract with Smith-Schuster and that they could be looking to move the wideout before he enters free agency next off-season. Smith-Schuster had his worst year as a pro in 2019 with many questioning whether he can produce as a number one receiver without Antonio Brown on the other side.
Lucky for JuJu, Davante Adams has the role of number one receiver locked down in Green Bay. Smith-Schuster could be the jumbo slot the Packers have been coveting lately. His run-after-catch ability would be dynamic in this offense. The trouble would be compensation. Unless Gutekunst feels he needs to correct his mistake of not taking a receiver early, it’s hard to see the Packers willing to shell out a first or even second-rounder in next year’s draft.
WR Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers
WR Kenny Stills, Houston Texans
TE Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
Continuing with the receivers, Samuel and Stills are in different states of their careers but provide a similar skillset. Many have thought Samuel could be on the trade block as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. The fourth-year pro played in all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2019. He posted career highs in receptions (54), receiving yards (627), and added seven total touchdowns while primarily catching passes from Kyle Allen. His career totals are not eye-popping but his impact is noticeable when on the field. He could provide a gadget option out of the slot with exceptional speed and quickness. The Panthers have re-made the team under the eye of new head coach Matt Rhule. Robby Anderson was brought in as the go-to field stretcher, so Samuel could be somewhat expendable.
Stills has had a very interesting career arc. The eight-year pro enters his second season with the Houston Texans. This is Stills’ third team after being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 2013. All he has done in his career is provide a stable and durable deep threat everywhere he has been. He has never posted a thousand-yard season, but he has also never finished with less than 400 yards. He has averaged just under 16 yards per reception over the course of his career and could be the best option for Green Bay as a deep threat specialist. Perhaps the primary reason Stills could be available is that he has a cap hit of $7 million in 2020. This could be a hefty contract for the Packers to take on, but Stills would not require the draft capital even close to that of Samuel or Smith-Schuster.
McDonald could be the most viable option of everyone on this page. He will be 30 years old when the season starts but could provide another receiving threat to the Packers tight end room. He has struggled with inconsistency and injury his entire career, but did post over 600 yards and four touchdowns just two years ago. McDonald is an athletic move tight end with run after catch ability. At the very least he should be able to beat out Robert Tonyan or Marcedes Lewis as the third tight end on the roster. If he could stay healthy, he and second-year pro Jace Sternberger could provide the Packers with two athletic pass-catching tight ends for Matt LaFleur’s offense. McDonald could be a cut candidate, but with a salary of just over five million, he could be worth a conditional late-rounder in 2021.
- RB Leonard Fournette & DE Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars
- TEs O.J. Howard & Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There are two Jaguars being actively shopped by the organization. Fournette does seem to have some maturity issues and the Packers did just draft a running back in the second round, but hear me out for a second. Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett coached some of the best play out of Fournette during his rookie season. The pick of A.J. Dillon in the second round shows that LaFleur wants a bruising power back in his offense. If there were an injury to Dillon or Jamaal Williams early in camp, Gutekunst acquire Fournette for pennies on the dollar. He has all but ruined his reputation in Jacksonville and could find some success in a committee with Aaron Jones.
Ngukue is an even more puzzling situation. He’s been asking for a trade for almost two years now and was believed to be moved during the 2020 draft. Yet, he still remains with the Jaguars and will almost certainly hold out to start camp, if he shows up at all. The Packers were rumored to have interest in Ngukue at the start of free agency and the Hackett connection does exist to a lesser extent. They don’t have the cap space to sign him to a long-term extension and just paid big money on edge players Preston and Za’Darius Smith last off-season. Ngukue is an absolute stud whose stock could be at an all-time low though. Gutekunst could hope to trade a late-round pick and hope Ngukue would be willing to re-shape his image playing on the franchise tag in Green Bay.
Howard and Brate are included here as question marks on a loaded offense in Tampa. The Buccs have been discussing Howard trades for nearly two years now. He appears safe after remaining on the roster after the draft. Brate hasn’t been talked about nearly as often but his role as a red zone threat will be severely diminished by the newly un-retired Rob Gronkowski. The Buccs are thinking for the short term, so it’s entirely possible they keep three talented tight ends for Tom Brady instead of seeking future draft capital.
Embed from Getty Images