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Packers GM Brian Gutekunst says “We have to move forward” from Jordy Nelson

On the cusp of what figures to be an active free agency period for the Packers, the young GM had to release a veteran fan favorite.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For Brian Gutekunst, it was his first difficult decision as the General Manager of the Green Bay Packers and he admitted it was tough.

Letting go of Jordy Nelson after nine years with the team was something that was possible, but perhaps not likely at the start of the offseason. But in his press conference on Tuesday night, Gutekunst assured the media that the move was best for the franchise based on the direction the organization is heading.

That didn’t stop Gutekunst from praising Nelson. Asked what made the longtime veteran unique, the Packer GM cited Nelson’s “preparation and sacrifice for the game” as well as his “excellent hand-eye coordination” and ability to track the ball and get into position. Gutekunst called Nelson a player that showed up in big moments and was able to trust his intuition with Aaron Rodgers on scramble plays to find open spots on the field.

“These are tough days,” Gutekunst said. “You have to make releases of players who have meant so much to your team. Excellent player on the field, excellent player in the locker room, and obviously in the community as well. He will be missed.”

Gutekunst said the decision to cut Jordy loose was made over the past few days. When asked if there were trade discussions to gain value for Nelson instead of losing him outright, Gutekunst mentioned the organization wanted to “be fair to Jordy and get him into free agency before it started.” The first-year General Manager went on to say that he had had discussions with Aaron Rodgers after the decision, but not before. At this time, the Packers want to keep a good relationship with Nelson, but do not plan to re-sign the fan favorite.

On the free agent front, Gutekunst would not get into specifics on the Packers’ rumored signing of tight end Jimmy Graham until free agency begins Wednesday. But he reiterated multiple times that Green Bay would explore “every avenue to improve the football team.” He also declined comment on the trade of Damarious Randall until the move could be officially announced.

Defensively, Gutekunst wouldn’t call cornerback an “imperative” position to improve via free agency, but one that was certainly an area of focus: “We have good young prospects, but it’s a position we’re obviously looking at heavily right now.”

Overall, it was a long day for the new GM as money was being spent in loads across the league by others in his shoes. But he recognized the need for patience in making the right moves for the franchise.

“There was a lot of time spent in [Executive Vice President and Director of Football Operations] Russ Ball’s office going over everything. ... You have to stay disciplined to improve the football team and prepare to react. .., Sometimes you want to go faster than the process allows you to. ... You’re not trying to compete for one year, you’re trying to compete for every year.”

Shortly after stepping down from the podium, Gutekunst’s long day continued, as the Packers reportedly agreed to a contract with defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. It may be all in a day’s work for the new GM, but hopefully they won’t all be like this moving forward.