The 2021 offseason has lead to a discussion about the ability of the Green Bay Packers front office, with the focal point being General Manager Brian Gutekunst. Whether you side with Aaron Rodgers or the organization, we take a look at the transactions Gutekunst has made since he was hired:
In January of 2018, Gutekunst was hired as the new General Manager of the Packers. His first move was one that was not met with much support from the fanbase, as Green Bay elected to move on from wide receiver Jordy Nelson and instead signed tight end Jimmy Graham. While signing Graham could be considered a bust, Nelson was past his usefulness as primary receiver. Rumors indicated that Allen Robinson was the first choice in free agency for Gutekunst, but he instead signed with the Chicago Bears.
Defensive end Muhammed Wilkerson was the other big name free agent that was brought in that offseason. It felt like Wilkerson was starting to get his feet under him prior to going down with a season-ending ankle injury that essentially ended his career. Many were hoping that Wilkerson would come back the following year, but it never happened.
Cornerback Bashuad Breeland had a productive year for the Packers, while Tramon Williams returned and provided much-needed depth. One of the most underrated signings was tight end Mercedes Lewis. While his numbers on the stat sheet were minimal, his presence as a blocker and leader made a big difference in the locker room.
2018 Offseason Grade: C
2018 NFL Draft
When the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft occurred, most fans were furious with the outcome. However, the front office ultimately made the right decisions. While fans wanted Derwin James in the first round, the Packers traded down and selected Jaire Alexander along with an additional first-round pick in the 2019 Draft. In the second round, Green Bay selected Josh Jackson, which has been labeled as a bust. Though the Packers may be moving to a more friendly scheme for Jackson, they had the opportunity to select Christian Kirk or DJ Chark instead.
The remainder of the draft didn’t not offer much to be excited about, as multiple players are either not with the franchise or have not panned out. Still, the selections of Alexander and Marquez Valdes-Scantling makes this draft an above-average haul.
2018 NFL Draft Grade: B
Firing Head Coach Mike McCarthy and bringing in Matt LaFleur was a successful transition. Talks of candidates such as Jim Caldwell and Josh McDaniels created a stir, but Green Bay was guided to two consecutive 13-3 seasons and two NFC Championship appearances under LaFleur.
In this particular offseason, Gutekunst brought in game-changing talents such as Zadarius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos. The Packers also added Billy Turner to their offensive line. While Green Bay lost key names such as Clay Matthews Jr and Randall Cobb, their biggest departure was Breeland, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
2019 Offseason Grade: A
2019 NFL Draft
Green Bay had two selections in the first round, both of which have panned out in Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage. Since being selected, Gary has improved as a pass-rusher and rates as one of the best in the league. Savage has stepped in as a starter since his rookie season. Despite the injury history, he is part of one of the most complete secondaries in the NFL.
In the second round, some were frustrated that Green Bay continued to avoid drafting a receiver. Even though NFL studs AJ Brown and DK Metcalf were taken after the Packers drafted, the front office instead selected offensive lineman Elghton Jenkins. Still, he has quickly risen into becoming an elite interior lineman. In the third round, Green Bay selected Jace Sternberger, who is serving a two-game suspension to begin the 2021 season. The remainder of the draft included Kingsley Keke, Ka’dar Hollman, Dexter Williams, and Ty Summers.
2019 NFL Draft Grade: A-
Despite spending largely in the 2019 offseason, the 2020 season didn’t pan out for the Packers. The most important transaction was the re-signing of kicker Mason Crosby. Lewis was also brought back, as were Will Redmond and Tyler Ervin. The Packers lost two big names in Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga, who priced themselves out of Green Bay. They were ultimately replaced by free agents Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner, who were underwhelming at best in the 2020 season. The team signed wide receiver Devin Funchess, who opted out due to Covid.
2020 Offseason Grade: D
2020 NFL Draft
Gutekunst and LaFluer often discussed the idea of drafting a quarterback and Jordan Love is a promising prospect. Unfortunately, the fact that the Packers traded up to select Love didn’t draft a wide receiver in a very deep class factored into the frustration most had. AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara are both talented players, but did not fit the Packers as immediate needs in the earlier rounds.
The rest of the draft included Kamal Martin, John Runyan, Jake Hanson, Simon Stephaniak, Vernon Scott, and Jonathan Garvin. Gutekunst continued his success at finding value in the later rounds. Martin was likely to emerge as an immediate starter before going down with an injury during training camp. Runyan earned significant reps during the season and should be a starter as early as this upcoming season.
2020 NFL Draft Grade: C-
We have no real perspective on how the moves this offseason will ultimately affect the Packers moving forward. The team was strapped for cash again this offseason, with the cloud of Rodgers hanging over the franchise. Despite that, Green Bay managed to re-sign Aaron Jones and restructured deals with multiple players. However, the Packers were unable to retain Corey Linsley or Jamaal Williams. The Packers have only signed two free agent in Joe Fortunado and De’Vondre Campbell.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Packers selected the following players:
- CB Eric Stokes
- C Josh Meyers
- WR Amari Rodgers
- G Royce Newman
- DT Tederrell Slayton
- CB Shemar Jean-Charles
- G Cole Van Lanen
- LB Isiah McDuffie
- RB Kylin Hill
As a General Manager, I would permit Brian Gutekunst with a B- grade. He has made the core of this franchise significantly better. In terms of the roster, Gutekunst is responsible for bringing in the majority of the team that has gone 26-6 over the last two seasons. A General Manager is going to be tied to the quarterback they draft, and Gutekunst has tied his future to Jordan Love. Many seem to have already decided what Love is as an NFL player, and if he does not meet expectations, Gutekunst’s grade can quickly decline.