Friday Musings: risks for packers during free agency 2019 have paid off
For most of the subsequent offseason under Ted Thompson as general manager, the Green Bay Packers appeared to be one or two players away from being true Super Bowl contenders. The Packers have made their way into the playoffs on several occasions, but have failed as some of their holes and lack of depth were exposed.
Since Brian Gutekunst took the reins, however, Green Bay has cast a wide net on free agencies and other means of acquiring talent. While the Packers have consistently been unable to get past the NFC Championship game in recent seasons, it’s not for lack of effort under Gutekunst, and much of the current push comes from the splash GM made in 2019.
Today’s reflections return to this specific class of autonomous agent that continues to be central to the Packers’ current playoff push, while also examining injury situations, both positive and negative, that will have an impact on this push.
The Packers’ 2019 free agency class turned out to be a gem
When Green Bay signed numerous contracts with four veteran free agents in 2019, it marked one of the first times the franchise had looked for legitimate outside talent in some time. Gutekunst was aggressive adding a pair of passing throwers, an offensive lineman swingman and starting safety. At the time, there was some risk in each of these signings and it would be a lie to say that there wasn’t at least some skepticism among the fans and writers of the League. Three years after these deals began, however, the four free agents have played an important role. Looking through the league, NFL teams rarely get the chance to hit with this kind of precision in free agency.
Billy Turner is a prime example of the Packers winning gold. The North Dakota state product had 25 starts over five seasons with two different teams before Green Bay signed him to a four-year, $ 28 million contract. Whether the Packers always saw Turner as a possible starting right tackle or just lucked out, they’ve hit the jackpot over the past two seasons as Turner tacked to tackle from his right-guard position. After an eventful first season at Green Bay indoors, Turner has turned into a reliable tackle amid injuries to the left side and appears to be a staple for at least another season to complete his contract. The Packers certainly paid a price for Turner, but they received a return on their investment, and more.
Although he has been injured this season, the Packers have also been rewarded with Za’Darius Smith’s mind-blowing four-year, $ 66 million contract over the past two seasons. After registering a career-high 8.5 sack in a contract season with Baltimore and winning what many considered an overpriced free agent contract, Smith recorded double-digit sack totals in his first two seasons with Green & Gold. Although his counterpart Preston Smith has cut his total production over the past two seasons, Preston has also scored 12 sacks in his debut campaign and has been a regular contributor to the Packers’ defense. Rounding out the free agent squad, Adrian Amos started every game safely during his tenure with the Packers and immediately stabilized a position that had been difficult the previous season and a half.
Typically, it takes several years to fully assess a free agent or draft class. At least in the short term, the Packers’ front office has made its crazy spending count, even though the salary figures for some of these people will be calculated in the next offseason.
The injuries have not stopped and the depth continues to be tested
Even on a week off, the Packers continued to be stricken with the injury bug. Base surgery could now sideline wide receiver Randall Cobb for the season, adding another key contributor to a growing list of notable injuries.
While the Packers may soon be reunited with mainstays like Za’Darius Smith, David Bakhtiari and Jaire Alexander, Cobb and Elgton Jenkins’ losses are crushing as Green Bay’s playoffs approach. A year ago, Bakhtiari’s injury was crippling when the Packers were forced to protect Aaron Rodgers from an aggressive Tampa Bay front. Likewise, Jenkins’ injury could prove to be very influential in the final weeks of the season as the Packers continually adjust their line. In the receiving game, losing Cobb has its own level of impact, taking out the team’s best slots receiver and a savvy veteran. Of course, Cobb was Rodgers’ key acquisition during the offseason, but his presence in the short offensive game cannot be overstated.
It’s a big time for players like Equanimeous St. Brown and Amari Rodgers, two players ready to take on bigger roles in the slot machine. Both took their pieces during their short NFL careers, but each has the opportunity to earn their stripes late in the season. Davante Adams could certainly increase his snaps from slot position as well, but the Packers are back to almost the same receiving body they had a year ago. The talent is there to win, but having an extra weapon to step forward in midfield, like St. Brown or Rodgers, could be the difference from a year ago.
When Alexandre returns, what will be the composition of secondary school?
Despite the return to training, the schedule for Alexander’s effective return to the pitch is still in limbo. However, the question remains how the Packers will move the defensive backfield when the All-Pro eventually sets foot on the pitch. Green Bay was very successful between rookie Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas on the outside, with Chandon Sullivan on the inside in the slot.
During the preseason, Alexander received snapshots in Joe Barry’s “star” slot machine position. While this area of the pitch may have an additional impact on Alexander’s recovery shoulder due to the support of the run, the star would also allow Alexander to be closer to the ball as one of the defensive players. the most instinctive and the most profitable in the team. It would also provide a way for the Packers to avoid interrupting the borderline duo of Stokes and Douglas, especially with the latter starting to create take-out.
Such a change in position for Alexander could ultimately mean less time for Sullivan and demote Kevin King to an away reserve role. For the 2021 Packers, this might just be the most ideal. Sullivan will always find a way to get onto the pitch as Alexander’s shots are closely watched. And no matter what one thinks of King’s inconsistency, his position as a fifth cornerback when in good health is a deep luxury for the playoffs.
There is no doubt that Alexander is a difference maker and one of the best players in Green Bay, regardless of his position. But the shattering continuity at the cornerback, which has been stable since Alexander’s injury in Week 4, is something that needs to be taken into account as the team return to full health in high school.