Look back at Packer fans twitter accounts in 2017 and you will most likely find fans begging Ted Thompson to be mildly aggressive in free agency. Fast forward to the 2019 offseason, Packer fans had mild heart attacks after General Manager Brian Gutenkunst signed Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner for the hefty price tag of $127.9 million. Fast forward back to the 2020 offseason and the Gutey era continued with signing inside linebacker Christan Kirksley and right tackle Rick Wanger within the first few hours of free agency on March 16th.
The Packers have addressed two big needs so far this offseason with signing two starting veterans at low risk high reward contracts, but they still have more to do. Here are the Packers top five needs after the start of free agency:
Arguably the most glaring need for the Packers right now is number two WR. This need is not a new one for the Packers. During the 2018 season, Davante Adams was number two in the league in targets with 169 and the Packers knew they needed to give him help. They did not ignore the need in 2019, but rather were plagued by disappointing seasons from second year player Marquez Valdes-Scantling and fourth year player Geronimo Allison. Both men combined for 60 targets, 739 yards and four touchdowns. To put that into context, Randall Cobb had 55 targets, 828 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games and six starts. Do not get me wrong, I think the Packers were correct to move on from Cobb, but that shows how disappointing their seasons were.
Looking forward to 2020, the Packers have Adams, MVS, St. Brown (injured all last season), Kumerow, Lazard, and Shepherd (practice squad) on their roster at receiver. As we saw last season, the Packers cannot expect to be Super Bowl contenders without getting Adams and Rodgers help on the outside. Even if Kumerow and Lazard both take a step forward next season, they are perfect 3rd or 4th receivers.
The free agent class for receivers is weak at best this offseason. Robby Anderson is reportedly looking for around $10 million a year which is an overpay, and Emmanuel Sanders could have a bidding war even at his age. Look for the Packers to address wide receiver in this incredibly deep draft class.
The Packers went last season with Tim Boyle as their backup quarterback which, as we saw last year from many teams, was a huge risk. Last season was the year of the backup quarterback. Cam Newton, Nick Foles, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees and Sam Darnold were all quarterbacks that went down last year and left the team in the hands of a backup quarterback. The Chiefs and Saints both kept themselves in position to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl because their backup could come in and win games for the team. Can Tim Boyle do that? Maybe. Are there other options that have a better chance? Absolutely. With Keenum and Mariota already taken, the options are getting slimmer. The Packers should look to bring in a veteran quarterback that can keep the team afloat in the off chance that Rodgers goes down with an injury. It’s football, injuries will happen.
Christian Kirksley was a solid pickup for the Packers. He is an athletic inside linebacker that can, if healthy, fill the void that Blake Martinez left if not more. However, last season the Packers were missing a second inside linebacker. They traded for BJ Goodson before the season started, but he was a one year rental. The Packers’ top two linebackers, Goodson and Martinez, both left in free agency and the Packers only have brought in one. If my math is not mistaken, they are still down one starting linebacker.
The Packers could look to Oren Burks or Ty Summers to fill the role, but they did not produce last season. Letting those two battle for the number two linebacker spot will leave the Packers in a very vulnerable state if Christian Kirksley, who only played nine games in two seasons, goes down with an injury. One familiar face that could be interesting to bring back would be Clay Matthews. He was recently released from the Los Angeles Rams and could be looking to come back to his first NFL home. Matthews has experience playing inside linebacker and could be an interesting situational rusher. Mark Barron and Morgan Burnett are two options to bring in as hybrid linebackers, or the Packers could address this need early in the draft as well. If Queen or Murray fall to the 30th pick, expect the Packers to lock in their pick in record time.
The Packers were in the bottom 10 for rushing yards allowed per game with 120.1. They also gave up 15 rushing touchdowns last season, which was good for eighth worst in the league. Part of the Packers’ problem was their interior defensive line. The Packers have one of the top defensive linemen in Kenny Clark, but also had Tyler Lancaster taking the 3rd most snaps at defensive tackle for the team. Nothing against Tyler Lancaster, but if the defense wants to improve, they need to sure up the interior.
The Packers have options both in free agency as well as the draft. There are still veteran linemen left with Snack Harrison and Maliek Collins still looking for teams. The Packers would need to find a way to free up cap space, but if the NFL has taught us anything it is that cap room can be created overnight. If the Packers decide to address this position in the draft, expect them to address this with one of their first three picks.
Offensive Line Depth:
The Packers had a strong offensive line last season, but changed things up this offseason. The Packers have decided to let veteran Bryan Bulaga go this offseason. Rick Wagner, formerly with the Lions, is expected to fill the large shoes of Bryan Bulaga next season. One position that has shown, more than any other, the importance of depth is the offensive line. The Packers had 10 different offensive linemen take snaps in 2018, and in 2019 had three players take snaps at right tackle. The Packers also relied on Lucas Patrick to fill in at center last season when Corey Linsley went down with an injury.
Rumors have been circulating that Lane Taylor is likely a cut candidate. This would create cap space, which would leave Cole Madison and Lucas Patrick as possible backups at guard, but the Packers should look to add depth behind Alex Light at tackle. Jared Veldheer came out of retirement last season and joined the Packers, so he is an option if he still has the urge to play. If not, the Packers will need to address this need in the draft.
The Packers have shown they are going to make moves and be ready to win now. They have plenty of time to make moves after the offseason officially started March 18th. Fans should be excited to see what Gutenkunst makes happen before the start of the season.