Another trade deadline has come and gone and per tradition, the Green Bay Packers are right back where they started.
Fans will be quick to pile on general manager Brian Gutekunst for failing to add a veteran target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the trade deadline but they’re forgetting an important fact: an NFL trade is like a dance. It takes two to tango.
There is no better proof of this than recent reports the Packers “aggressively” pursued both wide receiver Chase Claypool and right end Darren Waller. Claypool ended up going to the Chicago Bears and Waller remains a member of the Las Vegas Raiders. NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport mentioned Green Bay was in on “several top receivers,” as in plural.
The failure to land at least the two above is not necessarily Gutekunst’s fault. The Bears landed Claypool from the Pittsburgh Steelers because Pittsburgh thought the second round pick Chicago offered would end up being a higher one than Green Bay’s would be. In an ironic twist, the Steelers actually paid the Packers a compliment in not accepting their offer for Claypool.
As for Waller, Gutekunst had his eyes on him earlier when the Packers traded Davante Adams and he was actually part of the initial deal. The NFL ended up rejecting the offer because you can’t swap a player for a player in a trade when one of them has the franchise tag on them. So Green Bay got picks instead and Waller remained (and still remains) a Raider.
So that means the Packers are once again left empty handed at the trade deadline. It’s become a tradition at this point and to use the tango analogy again, why does no one want to dance with Green Bay?
There could be multiple reasons and only the front office knows for sure.
Could the Packers be cheap in terms of their part of the deal?
That’s been rumored in the past but the Packers actually had a better offer on the deal for Claypool (they added a late-round pick) but the Steelers made a deal with the Bears instead.
Are the Packers being toyed with by the rest of the league as leverage?
Former team executive Andrew Brandt has said this was the case when he was there under Ted Thompson and this seems to be the same under Gutekunst. Teams know Green Bay has a smartly run front office and if they can get an offer out of Green Bay, that sets what they can get from a weaker franchise. Again, it’s a pseudo-compliment that also drives fans insane.
Are the Packers scared?
Nothing was more important to Thompson than draft capital and Gutekunst seems to be following the same path. Despite an increase in forays into free agency, the Packers remain a draft and develop team under Gutekunst for better or worse. Is it possible he’s too scared to mortgage the future of the franchise, especially considering the contracts of their star quarterback and left tackle? It’s a reasonable question.
Conclusion: It’s a probably a mixture of things
Like many things in life, the truth here is likely neither black or white. It’s probably gray.
Despite the current record, this is not a dumb franchise. It’s not being run into the ground by incompetence. The Packers have been a premier organization for almost 30 years and given how close the 2022 and 2021 rosters are, front office malfeasance isn’t the biggest reason for the team’s 3-5 record although the failure to draft receivers earlier even when Adams was still in Green Bay is notable.
The bottom line is Green Bay refuses to panic and overpay at the deadline. It’s a method that’s a double edged sword. You aren’t running the risk of wasting a precious draft pick yet you’re not going to land many (if any) players by not being assertive.
It would appear Gutekunst got up on the wheel a little more this year than most. That’s a good thing, even if he didn’t land a player. It indicates he knows he’s got a big problem on his roster and isn’t covering his eyes hoping it will resolve itself.
Eventually Green Bay will find someone to dance with but given the team’s limited Super Bowl window, it might be too late.