Brian Gutekunst Prepares to Go Bargain Shopping for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst
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The first phase of NFL free agency has finished. That is the phase that which teams in dire need of help spend big bucks to improve their rosters. Now, on to the next phase. That phase is when teams who are tight on money look for bargain-free agents. The Green Bay Packers find themselves a part of that group. They parted ways with some key players this off-season and will look to find replacements, both through the NFL Draft and free agency. General manager Brian Gutekunst will be on the hunt to find players who can shore up the 2022 Green Bay Packers roster.

Brian Gutekunst Shopping For Bargains for the Green Bay Packers

Since taking over as the general manager, Brian Gutekunst hasn’t had much success selecting players through the NFL Draft.  However, there isn’t much of an argument when it comes to his work bargain shopping in NFL free agency.

In 2019, Brian Gutekunst hit big in free agency. That off-season, he signed Preston Smith, Billy Turner, Adrian Amos, and Za’Darius Smith to free-agent contracts. All four players were instant impact successes for the Packers. Gutekunst earned rave reviews for those signings. However, as impressive as that was, Gutekunst has also had success finding veteran free agents who came at a bargain price.

Prior to the start of last season, Brian Gutekunst inked free agent inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell to a one-year $2 million deal. The deal turned out to be quite a feather in Gutekunst’s hat. Not only did Campbell become a starter, but he went on to have 132 tackles, two sacks, forced two fumbles, and had two interceptions. His production earned him a spot on the All-Pro team.

However, Campbell wasn’t the only bargain pickup to have success. Cornerback Rasul Douglas, who Gutekunst signed off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad mid-season, was just as valuable. Douglas also became a starter and hauled in five interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. Both Campbell and Douglas were re-signed by the Packers this off-season.

The Packers have several spots on their current roster that is requiring some help. With the money being tight, Brian Gutekunst will look once more to find bargains to help fill the roster. Here is a list of positions, as well as possible veteran free agents, that Gutekunst might look at for help.

Wide Receiver

With star wide receiver Davante Adams shipped to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Packers have a major hole to fill at wide receiver. While some Packers fans believe that Matt LaFleur’s system is good enough to offset Adams departure, that is just a pipe dream. The same can be said about using one or even both of the Packers first-round draft picks on wide receivers. Gutekunst could trade for a wide receiver, possibly Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, but still, another veteran pass-catcher free agent would be helpful.

The list of free-agent wide receivers still available is slim.  However, there are a couple of options that the Packers might look at. Jarvis Landry, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, is a popular name that is still available. A nine-year veteran is coming off a season that saw him catch 52 passes for 570 yards with two touchdown receptions. The numbers don’t tell the whole story for Landry though. Browns starting quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled mightily which played a part in Landry’s low numbers. Landry is more of a slot receiver, which might turn the Packers off. With Randall Cobb returning and the Packers drafting Amari Rodgers in the third round last season, they seem set at slot receiver.

Another possibility is former Miami Dolphins wide receiver Will Fuller. Fuller played in only three games last season, catching just four passes for 26 yards. Prior to joining the Dolphins, Fuller played five seasons for the Houston Texans. During that span, he caught 209 passes for 3,110 yards with 24 touchdown receptions. Fuller has top-end speed and would be a nice replacement for Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs this off-season. Fuller, like most free agents still available, carries with him some negatives. Along with coming back from an injury, he was also once suspended for PEDs.

Julio Jones is another name that could be linked to the Packers. However, Jones is coming off a down season with the Tennessee Titans and has battled injuries. Being 33 years old, it appears Jones best years could be behind him.

Outside Linebacker

Za’Darius Smith was a cap casualty for the Packers this off-season. With Smith departed, that leaves the depth behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith at best questionable. Many expect the Packers to use one of their top picks on a young pass rusher. But with other positions to fill, Gutekunst might be forced to look for help through free agency.

Melvin Ingram is a possible target. Ingram split time between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chiefs last season. He totaled two sacks last season. Prior to last season, Ingram played nine seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. In that time, he totaled 49 sacks. With being 32, Ingram’s days as a full-time player are gone, however, he could fill a role similar to what Whitney Mercilus played for the Packers last season.

Another possible option might be Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney, a player that hasn’t come close to reaching his possible potential, played 14 games for the Browns last season and posted nine sacks. Prior to arriving in Cleveland, he played for the Titans, Seahawks, and Texans. With the Texans, he split time at outside linebacker as well as lined up inside. Clowney’s ability to do both could allow Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry to get him, Preston Smith, and Gary on the field at the same time in obvious passing situations.

If the Packers are looking for a player to strictly rush on passing downs, Justin Houston might be another name to remember. Houston started 15 games for the Baltimore Ravens last season and registered four and a half sacks.

Offensive Tackle

The Packers cut Billy Turner this off-season. Cutting Turner came as a mild surprise. He did carry a large salary cap number, but last season, Turner played really well as the starting right tackle. With Turner now gone, many expect Yosh Nijman to get the first crack at being the starting right tackle. Nijman played well when thrust into the starting lineup as the left tackle last season. However, he was given a lot of help. Along with that, Nijman has never played right tackle and it isn’t a guarantee that he can adjust to the new position.

There isn’t a lot to choose from when it comes to free-agent tackles still available. Gutekunst might look at re-signing Dennis Kelly who started several games at right tackle for the Packers last season. However, he had some struggles. Still, even with the struggles, Kelly might be the best option if the Packers decide to go the free-agent route. The other top two options are former Packer Bryan Bulaga and Jason Peters. Even when Bulaga played for the Packers, he was never able to stay healthy. Peters is 40 years old and even as a backup, he is at a high risk to get injured.

Tight End

The Packers re-signed Robert Tonyan to a one-year contract this off-season. In 2020, Tonyan was the Packers best-receiving threat at tight end. That season, he caught 52 passes for 586 yards with 11 touchdown receptions. However, 2021 wasn’t a good one for “Big Bob”. Not only did his production drop, but he also suffered a season-ending knee injury. It appears that injury will force him to miss part of 2022.

Marcedes Lewis, the Packers best blocking tight end from 2021, is a free agent. The Packers could bring Lewis back, which might be a very good idea. With Nijman possibly starting at right tackle, Lewis and his high-end blocking would be a major help to the young tackle, similar to what he did for Nijman in 2021. However, Lewis doesn’t bring much in the passing game, which still leaves a hole at tight end for the Packers.

There are two possible options the Packers could look at if they are looking for a tight end who can catch. Eric Ebron, who was with the Steelers last season, is on the market. Ebron, a former first-round draft choice, has never reached his potential as a professional. Still, he is a capable pass-catcher. Having a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers could help him finally become the player most thought he could become.

Jared Cook, who played one season for the Packers, is also available. He is 34 years old, but he can still get open. In the one season he played for the Packers, he became a favorite target for Rodgers. Cook could be a nice option while Tonyan rehabs from his knee injury.

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