Brian Gutekunst Making Moves to Improve Green Bay Packers Roster

Green Bay Packers Roster

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst doesn’t seem like a person who likes to sit still. When he was hired as the general manager in 2018, he proclaimed that he would look to always improve the Packers roster. It isn’t just one method that he has used to try to improve the roster. He has tried through the NFL draft, although results have been at best shaky. He made waves by making a big splash through free agency in his first season on the job. That is when he signed Za’Darius Smith, Billy Turner, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos to free-agent contracts. Now, he has added another method to his repertoire. Gutekunst is adding pieces to the Green Bay Packers roster with in-season pickups.

Green Bay Packers Roster Still Evolving Under Brian Gutekunst in 2021

Not only has Brian Gutekunst said that he will always look to improve the Packers roster, but he has also said he wants to be in “every conversation“. While we don’t buy that he has been in every conversation for an available free agent, we do believe he is constantly looking at ways to improve the Packers roster.

As stated earlier, his draft record so far isn’t very impressive.  Yes, he did draft Jaire Alexander and Elgton Jenkins. Both players are core members of the Packers roster.  However, along with selecting them, he has also wasted picks on Jace Sternberger, JK Scott, Hunter Bradley, and J’Mon Moore.  Excluding Bradley, whose spot on the Packers roster is currently iffy, all of those players are no longer with the Packers. Even with so many failed picks, Gutekunst has done a solid job through free agency during the free agency period, late in the free agency period, and with mid-season pickups. Picking up players mid-season isn’t a very easy task as a personnel person. There is a reason those players are still in search of employment. But some could be the answer to fixing an NFL team’s problem.

This season, Brian Gutekunst has made several moves he is hoping will shore up the Green Bay Packers roster. In the past couple of weeks, the Packers have made some news with pickups.  They are hoping that each pick-up will help bolster the Packers roster for the rest of the season.

Cornerback Becomes a Position of Need

The Green Bay Packers roster has been hit hard by injuries so far this season. Cornerback seems to have been hit the hardest. Kevin King and injury are no strangers. Throughout his career, King has been constantly dealing with some type of injury in every season he has suited up for the Packers. So it shouldn’t shock anyone that he has once again fallen to an injury.

However, Alexander being injured is not something Packers fans are accustomed to. He hurt his shoulder during the Packers victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The injury was severe enough to force him to the injured reserve.  At about the same time Alexander was injured news broke that the New England Patriots were looking to part ways with Stephon Gilmore. Once again, it appears that Gutekunst and the Packers were in the conversation for Gilmore’s services.  Being in the conversation is one thing, getting a deal done is another. Gilmore ended up being traded to the Carolina Panthers.

With Gilmore out of the picture, Gutekunst went bargain shopping to find depth at cornerback on the Green Bay Packers roster. Their search ended with the signing of Rasul Douglas from the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. Douglas isn’t even close to being in Gilmore’s class. But he is a five-year veteran who has started 29 games, spending time with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Panthers. A former third-round pick, Douglas has good size, 6’2″ 209 pounds, who fits well at the boundary corner. Last week against the Chicago Bears, he saw some time at cornerback, registering five solo tackles.

Brian Gutekunst might not be done looking for cornerback help. There is a chance Alexander might not return and King is bound to be injured again. The bargain shopping might not be over.

Bringing Jaylon Smith Into the Fold

It came as a surprise to many that the Dallas Cowboys parted ways inside linebacker Jaylon Smith. A former Pro Bowl player, Smith became expendable due to the Cowboys depth at inside linebacker.

Brian Gutekunst quickly signed Smith to a one-year deal. While some Packers podcasters didn’t seem too excited about the signing, we feel the addition of Smith should help the Packers defense. Smith isn’t the same player he once was, but he is still a capable inside linebacker who can still contribute against the run as well in pass coverage. De’Vondre Campbell, who was a nice signing by Gutekunst early in training camp, has turned out to be a very good addition to the Green Bay Packers roster. He is the leading tackler for the Packers and the leader of the Packers inside linebacker group. But behind him, there still are some questions.

Krys Barnes is a solid player who is a good piece to the Packers inside linebacker rotation. But in Barnes’s short NFL career he has dealt with injuries that have caused him to miss time. Oren Burks still isn’t living up to his third-round draft status. But he has shown some flashes this season. Still, he is best off as a backup and as a key player on the Packers special teams. When given time on defense, Ty Summers has been a disappointment. His best spot, supposedly, is on special teams. But even there, he hasn’t contributed.

Smith is an upgrade over all of them, even Barnes. It will take some time for him to get up to speed in Joe Barry’s defense. But once he does, he should be a solid piece to the Packers defense. With the Cowboys picking up most of Smith’s salary, there isn’t much risk for the Packers.

Providing Depth at Pass Rusher

Heading into this season, the Packers outside linebackers position looked to be the backbone of the Packers defense. However, like with other positions on the Green Bay Packers roster, the position has been hit hard by injuries.

Za’Darius Smith, the Packers best outside linebacker, was lost to a back injury and he might not return in 2021. That has left Preston Smith and Rashan Gary as their top outside linebackers. However, Preston Smith was forced to depart the Bears game with an injury, forcing Jonathan Garvin into action. Smith’s injury also allowed La’Darius Hamilton, another in-season pickup by Brian Gutekunst, to see some playing time.

It appears Preston Smith will return this week against the Washington Football Team. But that didn’t stop Gutekunst from picking up some more depth. The Houston Texans parted ways with veteran pass rusher Whitney Mercilus this past week. With the Packers in need of pass rush help, Gutekunst and the Packers signed Mercilus to a contract.

Mercilus is a ten-year veteran, playing all of his games with the Texans. During that span, Whitney registered 57 sacks. Except for the six games, he played this season, Mercilus has played outside linebacker in a 3-4 style of defense. Adapting to Joe Barry’s 3-4 style of defense shouldn’t be too difficult for him.

Making Moves To Cover up for Draft Misses

Brian Gutekunst should be commended for the in-season moves he has made to help with the Green Bay Packers roster. However, to give an honest assessment, a lot of his moves have to do with his failures. Gutekunst has said that the core of the Packers roster is built through the NFL draft. If that is the case, Gutekunst has missed on too many of his picks, which has forced his hand in making the in-season moves he has recently made.

For whatever reason, the Green Bay Packers roster is benefitting from what he has currently been doing. Injuries have hurt this roster and Gutekunst is doing what he can to fill in the spots. Packers fans should expect more moves from Gutekunst and the Packers. There is a lot of football left and it doesn’t appear that injuries are slowing down anytime soon.

[pickup_prop id=”5092″]

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images