Welcome to the first edition of “What do I know”, where I’ll offer up (mostly) definitive takes on all things Packers. Agree? Disagree? Good, let us know why. In this first round of “What do I know?” I’ll be hitting on a few of the major developments in Green Bay over the past few week and touching on Brian Gutekunst at the end of it all. Let’s jump on in.
1. Bye, Bye, Jordy
Just because we could have predicted it doesn’t make it any easier. Nelson was one of the greatest receivers in Packers’ history, ranking fifth in yards, third in receptions, and second in touchdowns for the team all-time. He was a phenomenal teammate and a community leader, and he will be missed. Here’s the kicker though, it was the right move. Jordy simple was not as good when Rodgers went down. Now, to be fair, nobody was. However, Cobb and Adams clearly had more burst than Nelson and each of those two have more in the tank than Jordy does. That is by no means to say Nelson is washed up, but he wasn’t worth the money (in excess of $10 million) that he was due. What makes the move especially worth it though is number two on this list.
2. Jimmy Graham, welcome to GB
The signing of Graham shouldn’t just numb the pain of Jordy leaving, it makes the team better, a lot better. The money saved on Nelson was sent directly to Graham. I’ve heard the argument from several sources that we shouldn’t have cut Jordy for Jimmy since the two are about the same age (Jordy is 32 while Jimmy is 31), but those folks are flat out wrong. It is more important, far more important, to have a dynamic tight end on the team than it is to have a capable third receiver. Graham adds a dimension to the offense that has not consistently been there since Jermichael Finley’s career was cut short by a neck injury years ago. He’s the third tight end we’ve signed in three years, but, at his best, he’s one of the best tight ends in the game. He might well be the best tight end the Packers have ever had.
3. Randall for… what?
The Damarious Randall trade kicked off the flurry of activity in Green Bay. After an up and down 2017 the team traded the former 1st round pick to Cleveland in exchange for Deshone Kizer (the teams also flipped their 4th and 5th round picks). The move signals two things. First, Hundley’s time is done in Green Bay. Even if he doesn’t get traded, he might get cut. You’ll never see Hundley take a regular season snap for the Packers again. Second, we need some secondary help and we need it BAD. Randall’s time with the Packers was marred by contentiousness but he was still one of if not thee best cornerback on the roster. Without him the team has Kevin King and… not a lot else. The team will likely draft a cornerback or sign some veterans, but they need more bodies at the position and they need them fast.
4. Bounce back for Wilkerson? Yes please
If you were around me when the Wilkerson news dropped you would’ve seen me jump a foot in the air and fist pump once or twice. I like this move. Better yet, I love it! All due respect to Dean Lowry, Wilkerson makes the Packers’ defensive line one of the best in the NFL. Having Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, and Muhammad Wilkerson lined up every game, with Lowry as the top backup, is a formidable front. Wilkerson has had some down years the past two seasons but he’s still just 28 years old and has not played with a line that was as good as the Green Bay line now is. He has much greater speed than Daniels or Clark do and his skill set will diversify the line. The move should help the running game and have a trickle down effect on the passing game. Opposing offenses will need to dedicate more blockers to the defensive line, freeing up the outside linebackers and improving the pass rush, which should make covering pass catchers that much easier.
5. Kyle Fuller, so close yet so far
Speaking of covering pass catchers, the Packers made a large bid for Kyle Fuller yesterday. At four years, $56 million, it was the largest contract Green Bay has ever offered to a free agent that they themselves did not draft. If signed, Fuller would have instantly become the best cornerback on the roster and transformed the secondary. Stealing him from Chicago would’ve made the move that much better. Unfortunately, Fuller was a restricted free agent and the Bears had the chance to match the Packers’ offer, which they did almost instantly. Looks like we’ll be facing rather than rooting for Fuller the next four years.
6. Mathieu to Houston = ?
When Tyrann Mathieu, aka the Honey Badger, was released by Arizona, fans across the league started salivating at the thought of adding him to their rosters. In the end, he signed a one year, $7 million contract with Houston, which isn’t that much. The 25 year old safety was unquestionably the best free agent safety on the market, and the deal he signed was not all that impressive. So what does it mean for the Packers? Well, after moving on from the disappointment of not signing Mathieu ourselves, we can be happy about the price of the young safety. His rate means that the safety market is slow and the rest of the bunch aren’t going to get big money deals. Currently, Morgan Burnett is a free agent and the Packers have been in talks to bring him back. He pulled in about $6 million per year over the course of his recently expired four-year deal, and he’ll likely get less than that on his next contract. Here’s hoping the Packers bring him back on a team-friendly contract.
7. We’re not done yet
As previously mentioned, the Packers still need some help. They need more quality cornerbacks, they likely need another receiver, and they need help at outside linebacker. What to do? Don’t be surprised if the first five picks of next month’s draft are spent on some combination of those three positions. It would be surprising to see the team add an impactful wide receiver or edge rusher via free agency at this point (unless they give Terrelle Pryor a call), but there are plenty of cornerbacks still available. Though the big-name free agents are gone, the likes of E.J. Gaines, Davon House, Tramon Williams, Bashaud Breeland, and others are still available. Don’t be surprised if the team signs one or two veterans and then tries to draft a capable young player.
8. First takes on Gutekunst
So far, Brian Gutekunst has done everything he promised he would. If the swirling rumors are to be believed, the Packers have been in talks with every major free agent we could have wanted and more. Of course we didn’t sign them all, the team has done its homework and has diligently pursued players to make the team better, something we aren’t used to seeing as Packer fans. The team also avoided overpaying any players. As good as adding a free agent is, overpaying a player can set a team back for years, and Brian avoided that mistake, thankfully. He’s not done yet, but so far he’s looking pretty good.