Summer is here and the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster for the 2020 season has hardly been set. However, there is some level of fun and anticipation in looking down the line at the organization’s potential starting lineup in the next few years, particularly with notable internal free agents after this season.
After a first-round quarterback was selected this past April, who will be the starting quarterback? Will the Packers’ offensive line stay intact? Which young players have the best chance of emerging over the next two to three seasons?
Here is one opinion on how those questions might be sorted out.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers
While Rodgers has a possible out in his contract after the 2021 season and the team just drafted Jordan Love, it is difficult to see the Packers moving on from their franchise quarterback before his deal expires. From a PR standpoint, the Packers cannot afford another Brett Favre, bad-love situation with its legendary quarterback. In this prediction, they opt to give Rodgers some Tom Brady-like freedom at the end of his contract.
Running Back: AJ Dillon
The Packers’ second-rounder should see the field at times as a rookie and Green Bay probably will not be able to pay Aaron Jones after this season. Dillon becomes the bellcow back in 2021 and carries that status into 2022.
Wide Receiver: Davante Adams
At age 27, Adams is a candidate to earn a long-term extension before or after his current deal expires in 2021. He is Rodgers’ best weapon and will continue to be an asset.
Wide Receiver: Allen Lazard
Lazard continued to progress as the 2019 season went along and if he’s able to sustain his targets with Rodgers in 2020, he will remain a Packer with a new deal well into 2022.
Wide Receiver: 2021 Second-Round Pick
While there will be other receivers on the roster that could begin the 2022 season as a slot receiver, next year’s draft will offer a more than ample opportunity to provide Green Bay with a high-ceiling prospect. Drafting a pass-catcher next year will give the team time to develop that player into a dependable contributor by 2022. Some early names to watch are Ohio State’s Chris Olave, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, and perhaps Equanimeous St. Brown’s brother, Amon-Ra.
Tight End: Jace Sternberger
Sternberger should have every opportunity to win a starting role this upcoming season and his rookie deal lasts through 2022. He’s the true tight end, while Josiah Deguara fills multiple offensive roles.
Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari
Green Bay should be expected to re-sign Bakhtiari after this season and keep their franchise left tackle in the fold.
Left Guard: Elgton Jenkins
Last year’s second-round pick excelled as a rookie and should be a long-term cog in the Packers’ offensive line.
Center: Jake Hanson
While it is difficult to slot Hanson into the starting lineup without having seen him take a snap, there is a likelihood that neither Corey Linsley nor Lucas Patrick will be on the roster in 2022 after their contracts end. Hanson is not a shoe-in by any means, but he’s the best bet from the current roster.
Right Guard: Jon Runyan
Billy Turner’s contract has an out after this season and the Packers could cut ties and save quite a bit of money to re-sign others. APC touched on Turner’s poor salary cap value from the 2019 season earlier this week. By 2022, Runyan could already have earned a starting guard role or be waiting in the wings for his turn.
Right Tackle: 2021 First-Round Pick
Green Bay has planned ahead in the past at the tackle position and drafted a lineman high in the year prior to the termination of current starters’ contracts. Rick Wagner could be serviceable for the Packers through the 2021 season, but there should be a replacement expected here by 2022. Washington State’s Abraham Lucas and Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood are some early names to consider.
Punter: JK Scott
Scott is young enough to be extended after his rookie deal if the team so chooses. As of now, Scott has that chance.
Kicker: Mason Crosby
Crosby’s deal can last through 2022 and unless he becomes erratic, he could finish that deal.
Defensive Line: Kenny Clark
It would be a surprise if the Packers did not lock Clark up after the year is over. He remains a building block for the defense and his best football is still ahead of him.
Defensive Line: Kingsley Keke
Snaps were limited as a rookie for Keke, but there is a lot of potential and versatility there to develop into a meaningful contributor.
Defensive Line: Future Draft Pick or Signing
The jury is still out on current roster players like Tyler Lancaster and Montravius Adams, who need much more consistency and production to be seen past 2021. Green Bay likes to take chances on young defensive tackles to develop and could do so over the next couple of drafts. While it’s expensive to sign quality defensive linemen and a lot of money figures to be invested in Clark, the possibility of doing so remains. Another person to watch here is Rashan Gary, who could carve out a situational role on the line with his size and collegiate experience.
Edge: Za’Darius Smith
Year one in Green Bay was impressive for Smith and unless there is a major drop-off, he will finish out his contract.
Edge: Preston Smith
Ditto for the Preston version of the Smith duo. The Packers should have a stable bookend of pass rushers for a few seasons.
Inside Linebacker: Kamal Martin
Christian Kirksey’s contract will be up after 2021 and his future with the Packers is way to hard to determine at this stage. As a new draft pick, Martin should have the ability to develop into at least a two-down linebacker in the middle like several Packer MIKEs before him. Vernon Scott could be an interesting passing-down piece to watch for eventually.
Cornerback: Jaire Alexander
Like Clark, Alexander is another budding star who should be signed to a second contract in Green Bay.
Cornerback: Kevin King
The Packers are going to have a big decision to make on King, who finally was healthy for most of last season. The optimistic view is King has a strong follow-up season in a contract year in 2020 and earns a longer stay.
Cornerback: Stanford Samuels
While Chandon Sullivan could be a popular pick here, especially if he lives up to the hype he created in 2019, it is hard to see the Packers being able to afford Alexander, King, and Sullivan in 2022. The bold prediction here for the Packers’ nickel back is one of the Packers’ more high-profile undrafted signings in Florida State’s Samuels. There is high upside with Samuels’ size and ability to be a boundary corner and emergency safety.
Safety: Adrian Amos
After signing a four-year deal last offseason, Amos is on the books through 2022 and had a solid enough first season in Green Bay to warrant finishing the remaining years.
Safety: Darnell Savage
Savage was a promising rookie last year as a first-round pick and should continue to patrol the back end for the foreseeable future.