Starting with the quarterback position, the Green Bay Packers entered the 2022 offseason with question marks at multiple positions on the roster.
In what was a first-week free agent frenzy, the Packers began to settle a few of those unknowns rather quickly. However, though clarity was found to some extent at a few specific positions, new areas of need also emerged - namely wide receiver after yesterday’s Davante Adams report.
Today’s musings explore those developments while investigating several positions that remain in question as the second week of free agency commences.
Finally, the drama and unknown surrounding Aaron Rodgers has been put to rest. Rodgers will be Green Bay’s quarterback next season, and cementing that position in stone was extremely important for the Packers to be able to move forward with the rest of their transactions. While Jordan Love’s future remains uncertain, the Packers do not need to decide on an ultimatum this offseason and especially not until his value begins to rise. Green Bay can rest easier, even without Rodgers’ top receiving weapon, knowing their championship window is still open with an MVP quarterback at the helm.
Although Blake Martinez was a nice fixture for the Packers’ defense over a span of several seasons, Green Bay had not had an impact player at inside linebacker for quite some time. The under-the-radar signing of De’Vondre Campbell in 2021 changed that, as the athletic linebacker made a difference roaming from sideline-to-sideline en route to an All-Pro nod. The question persisted if Campbell had priced himself out of Green Bay at the end of the year, but the Packers answered that question by locking up Campbell to a five-year contract. It was a significant vote of confidence for a player at a position the team rarely invested significant money or draft capital in under Brian Gutekunst. One way or another, the Packers were going to have to address inside linebacker. In the end, they moved swiftly to bring back a key piece of Joe Barry’s defense that can play on every down.
It is hard to look past yesterday’s report that Davante Adams will be traded to the Las Vegas Raiders and see potential benefits. However, the money being given to Adams will now be allocated in other areas and one is cornerback. Quickly after the news broke on Adams, a new report surfaced that Green Bay will sign Rasul Douglas back to the squad for 2022. Douglas will likely be in the fold on a multiyear contract, further solidifying the team’s cornerback position. Adams’ departure also frees up future money to secure Jaire Alexander for the long haul, giving the team two very capable corners alongside rookie phenom Eric Stokes. It is hard to find two reliable cornerbacks in the NFL, much less three, and the Packers hope that Douglas’ breakout season is a sign of more to come.
While the decision to move on from Corey Bojorquez was not shocking, there was still an element of surprise when it was reported the Packers would not be bringing him back for a second year in what appeared to be a salary cap move. The latter portion of the year was not nearly as impressive as the first half of the season for Bojorquez, but the leg strength was apparent in warmer conditions. It looked like Green Bay would be scouring the free agent market the next few weeks for a cheap replacement. But within a day of that news, the Packers had signed former Chicago Bears punter Pat O’Donnell for the same contract figures, if not more. Although O’Donnell is not among the league’s elite, he does have extensive experience punting in cold and windy conditions and can serve as the team’s holder, a particular point of struggle for Bojorquez last season. This move was a bit of a head-scratcher, but the punting position is settled again nonetheless.
This was a unique area of the roster coming into the offseason, with the team’s top four receivers facing some level of uncertainty. Still, not many predicted that Adams would be traded and the Packers would be searching for not only depth, but a number one wide receiver for 2022. There is little doubt that Rodgers was aware of this move on the front-end of signing his extension, but there is not one player in free agency or the draft that will be able to replace Adams’ production. This will have to be a group effort and may force Rodgers to spread the ball around more equally.
The good news is that Allen Lazard was given a second-round restricted free agent tender; it is a safe bet that he will be on the roster again for just under $4 million. Green Bay was also able to shed some money and keep its slot receiver by getting Randall Cobb to take a pay cut. The question hanging in the balance is where Marquez Valdes-Scantling will land in free agency, but do the Packers still believe MVS can develop his all-around game enough to warrant a lucrative contract? Frankly, this position group has more questions now than it did before free agency started. Expect a veteran signing soon.
Rumors were swirling that Billy Turner could be a cap casualty, but for just $3.4 million in savings it was a surprising move for this writer when the move came to fruition. One has to wonder if Turner was released prior to the Packers’ decision to trade Adams because the savings are hard to justify with the money recently freed up. After an inconsistent first year in Green Bay, Turner became a very valuable piece to the Packers’ offensive line. His stabilizing presence at right tackle will be missed, as will his versatility to fill in at guard and left tackle. Where do the Packers now turn to at right tackle? Elgton Jenkins likely will not be back from injury in time for the start of the season, but Yosh Nijman earned important starting reps throughout the course of the 2021 season. Still, that was at left tackle. Perhaps the replacement is already on the team’s roster, but the Packers should look to increase their options as the offseason unfolds.
Admittedly, this is a vacancy to a smaller extent. Green Bay’s plan for the Smith Bros became immediately transparent during the first week of free agency, extending Preston and releasing Za’Darius. The Packers now know that their starters will be Preston Smith and Rashan Gary in 2022, but the depth behind them is a serious question mark at this point in time. Green Bay could pursue an experienced veteran on a team-friendly contract, much like they did with Whitney Mercilus, or they could target another piece in the draft. Productive edge rushers are not only tough to find, but tough to afford. It would not be surprising to see the Packers add to their rotational depth with one of their four picks in the first two rounds.
Too Early to Tell
The Packers tendered Dominique Dafney a contract and will have a decision to make on Marcedes Lewis’ roster bonus today. However, the strength of this position boils down to Robert Tonyan and where the Packers stand on bringing back the ascending veteran coming off a season-ending injury. Can the Packers get a team-friendly contract in place for Tonyan, perhaps a prove-it deal that allows Tonyan to cash in after next season? Or do they still value the upside of Josiah Deguara and his ability to take the next step? Those answers are just not available after one week of free agency, but a pass-catching tight end of some sort becomes a priority if Tonyan does not return.