Ahead of the Chicago Bears game last week, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger stopped by Acme Packing Company’s podcast network to breakdown the Green Bay Packers’ 2023 cap situation, which isn’t as desperate as you might think after the penny-pinching offseason that was 2022. One point that Spielberger brought up was that the Packers rank among the highest teams in the league in players under contract for next year. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who is set to return in 2023 and where some of the roster openings are.
Quarterback (2): Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love
On Monday, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst made their intentions known: They want Aaron Rodgers back in 2023. Of course, Rodgers can change his mind, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason as of now to think that they’ll add another legitimate body to this room next offseason.
Running back (2): Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon
This room looked a lot fuller this past offseason when Kylin Hill was still in the mix, Amari Rodgers was getting a couple of reps at the position and Patrick Taylor wasn’t bouncing up and down the active roster to the practice squad. There’s going to be a big decision made about Aaron Jones’ contract moving forward, as he has a $20 million cap hit next year to go along with an $8.1 million base salary. Will the team want to extend him or will they choose to go the void years route? Either way, the Packers will need to look for a third back this offseason.
Receiver (3): Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure
This is one of the bigger question marks the Packers are going to have. Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins are set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Collectively, those three have played 1,179 offensive snaps this season compared to just 833 snaps by the rookie receivers who are set to return in 2023. With Watson and Doubs appearing to emerge as legitimate starters, the team can still take one more big swing — either in free agency or the draft — for a receiver who can get an immediate share of playing time. Green Bay needs a minimum of five receivers on next year’s team but often carry six.
Tight end (1): Josiah Deguara [Tyler Davis, RFA]
In-line tight end Marcedes Lewis and receiving tight end Robert Tonyan are both set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason which is going to force the issue at the position for the Packers. The only tight end they have under contract for 2023 is former third-round pick Josiah Deguara, who is used as an off-ball tight end and fullback for the most part. Special teams contributor Tyler Davis is a restricted free agent, which means they can give him a right-of-first-refusal tender worth around $2.5 million without him hitting the true free agent market. At that price point, it seems unlikely that he’ll be given that tender, though. Don’t be surprised if Green Bay adds two to three new bodies to this room in the offseason. We know they’ve poked around on Darren Waller and maybe their pass-catching splash addition comes in the form of a tight end instead of a receiver in 2023.
Offensive line (9): David Bakhtiari, Josh Myers, Jon Runyan Jr., Zach Tom, Royce Newman, Sean Rhyan, Luke Tenuta, Rasheed Walker and Caleb Jones [Yosh Nijman, RFA]
The Packers have rostered up to 11 offensive linemen on their 53-man roster at different points this season, an active decision to keep as many young linemen on rookie contracts on their team despite there not being a clear path to playing time for them in 2022. Beyond the drafting of Sean Rhyan, Zach Tom and Rasheed Walker, Caleb Jones — an undrafted free agent rookie — was promoted early on from the practice squad and Luke Tenuta — a 2022 draft pick by the Indianapolis Colts — was picked up off of waivers.
As it sits today, Green Bay has nine offensive linemen under contract, which is enough to play games in 2023. With that being said, left tackle David Bakhtiari carries a $29.1 million cap hit in 2023 that needs to be “touched” in some way, form or fashion, left guard Elgton Jenkins is set to be an unrestricted free agent and right tackle Yosh Nijman is going to be a restricted free agent who will likely need to be hit with a second-round tender worth around $4 million this offseason. While the depth of the roster is set, there are still major question marks about what the Packers will do to keep their starters on board.
Defensive line (4): Kenny Clark, Devonte Wyatt, Tedarrell Slaton and Jonathan Ford
Kenny Clark has played 645 snaps so far in 2022. Devonte Wyatt, Tedarrell Slaton and Jonathan Ford have combined for 372 defensive snaps this year. With Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed underperforming this season, it’s expected they both leave as unrestricted free agents in the offseason. The Packers are going to need to add at least two more bodies who can realistically contribute at the 3-4 end positions, though. Slaton is currently Clark’s backup while Ford is a third-string nose tackle who has yet to play a regular-season snap. Like tight end, defensive line is a position where Green Bay doesn’t even have the bodies to play games next year, yet.
Outside linebacker (4): Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Kingsley Enagbare and Jonathan Garvin [Tipa Galeai, RFA]
Star pass-rusher Rashan Gary will likely start next season on the injured reserve as he recovers from a torn ACL. On paper, this may look like a four-player room, but it will probably start with three until Gary is cleared medically. Look for the team to add at least one more player here, even though rookie Kingsley Enagbare seems to be improving with each passing week. Tipa Galeai, who is currently on the injured reserve, is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, but it seems unlikely that the team would pay him $2.5 million to be a special-teams-only linebacker.
Inside linebacker (3): De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker and Isaiah McDuffie [Krys Barnes, RFA]
Based on the investments that the team has made, De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker are the Packers’ starting inside linebackers for the foreseeable future. Isaiah McDuffie has overtaken Krys Barnes as the team’s third inside linebacker as of late, with Barnes being a healthy scratch last week against the Chicago Bears. Barnes, who started a week earlier against the Philadelphia Eagles, is a restricted free agent, but it seems unlikely now that he’ll receive a tender based on his standing on the depth chart. Assume Green Bay adds one or two more bodies to the mix here.
Cornerback (4): Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes and Shemar Jean-Charles
Like inside linebacker, the investment in the Packers’ top three cornerbacks entrenches their status on the team. Return man and current nickel back Keisean Nixon is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, which could open up a roster spot in the room. The position is fairly cut and dry, though, as the team needs a minimum of five cornerbacks and is set to go into 2023 with four.
Safety (3): Darnell Savage, Vernon Scott and Tariq Carpenter
The safety position is one of the most important positions to highlight next offseason. Darnell Savage, who had his fifth-year option picked up, was benched for Rudy Ford before Savage went down with a foot injury. Opposite of Ford is Adrian Amos, who is set to be a free agent and has regressed more than anyone else on the team this season. The Packers regularly keep five to six safeties on the team due to the special teams, but only have three under contract in 2023. One of them, Vernon Scott, has spent the entire season on the injured reserve. Another, Tariq Carpenter, has played all 77 snaps of his rookie campaign on special teams. You could see Green Bay attempt to add two new starters in this room next year.
Special teams (2): Pat O’Donnel (punter) and Jack Coco (long snapper)
The Packers should return two-thirds of their specialists next year, but long-time kicker Mason Crosby is set to be a free agent. Based on how much leg he has left on kickoffs, it’s clear it’s time to move on there.
In total, the number of Packers players under contract for next season is 37. If you assume that Nijman gets hit with a restricted free agent tender (you should), that brings the count up to 38 players. There are plenty of open roster spots on the team when you look at it on a room-by-room basis, but when you add in the fact that Green Bay has nine draft picks in the upcoming draft — especially considering how Gutekunst protects his draft choices — that means that there are only about six roster spots available for re-signings and free agents on this team.
As a reminder, the Packers are expected to have two fifth-round picks as they will likely be rewarded with a compensatory selection for allowing receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to walk in free agency last offseason. They have no sixth-round pick, as it was sent to the Los Angeles Rams in the Corey Bojorquez trade in 2021, but they received the Rams’ seventh-round pick in that trade and gained a third seventh-round pick with the trade of Cole Van Lanen to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So what does a Packers roster look like in 2023? It looks like the 37-38 players under contract, a rookie draft class and six veteran additions. They’re going to need to do work on the tight end, defensive line and safety units, at the very least, which means that wiggle room for veteran additions gets even thinner once they address their glaring needs.