For much of the past three decades, the Green Bay Packers have remained an elite franchise in the NFL by doing things their own way.
Running a team “The Packer Way” has meant solely relying on drafting, developing, and then extending or re-signing the players that rise to the top. It also has included targeted strikes in free agency with the occasional big swing (Reggie White, Charles Woodson, and Za’Darius Smith come to mind as big ones). Fans might bemoan the fact Green Bay has only won two Super Bowls despite 30 years of Hall of Fame quarterback play between Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but the franchise has fared much better in that span than any other franchise not named the New England Patriots and perhaps a few others (Pittsburgh, Denver, and maybe the New York Giants).
Under current general manager Brian Gutekunst, the Packers have also taken multiple big swings in the draft. Next week’s event will be the second of the five Gutekunst has run that the Packers have held multiple first-round picks and will be the first where they have had four total picks in the first 60. The caveat to such draft capital is that Green Bay lost the best wide receiver in the game in Davante Adams, but this now gives them a chance to rebuild the receiver corps through the draft and land a franchise pass catcher.
Green Bay can afford to swing for the fences in the draft in terms of acquiring a new weapon (or weapons) for Rodgers, but an interesting trend is emerging around the league that could allow the Packers to really go for broke and truly transform their offense.
If you have been following news and rumors around the league over the past month or so, you probably have noticed an increasing amount of franchise wide receivers either making cryptic social media posts or leaking in a more traditional way their unhappiness with their current team. While most of this unhappiness has stemmed from contract issues, others it seems just wanted a change of scenery and at least one was a combination of both.
The two most recent cases of this are Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers and AJ Brown of the Tennessee Titans. Samuel is perhaps the more intriguing option due to teams doing draft preparation work looking for “the next Deebo Samuel” while the genuine article perhaps has become available via trade. Samuel has been the popular comparison among draft analysts for many receivers in the upcoming rookie class, but rumored unhappiness over his situation could flip the draft upside down should he indeed become available via trade.
What remains unknown is if San Francisco would be willing to send Samuel to Green Bay. While their head coach Kyle Shanahan has obvious history with Packers coach Matt LaFleur, moving him to a conference rival they barely beat in the playoffs just a few months ago might not make a ton of sense football wise. Yet the Packers have substantial draft capital to offer the 49ers, so it would not be surprising if Shanahan and general manager John Lynch thought long and hard about any offer from Green Bay — an offer that presumably would include a first-round pick at the least.
Brown also presents another tempting opportunity for the Packers. Brown and LaFleur did not cross paths in Tennessee as he was drafted the same year the coach took over in Titletown, but LaFleur’s ties to the Titans and former boss Mike Vrabel could prove just as beneficial as his ties with Shanahan. For the Titans, it would allow them to move an arguably toxic asset out of conference and for Green Bay they would get a true No. 1 receiver to replace Adams even if they would be staring down another potentially tough negotiation with a wide receiver. That wouldn’t bother the Packers in the slightest if they win the Super Bowl with Brown, however.
Both players present tantalizing possibilities for the Packers and when you add names like DK Metcalf to the mix as the Seahawks being in a rebuild post-Russell Wilson, the time appears to be ripe for Green Bay to go all-in to land an elite veteran pass catcher while also maybe adding another one via the draft to go along with the newly signed Sammy Watkins. This opportunity is a heck of a positive side of the coin regarding losing Adams. You never want to lose that kind of talent but if you’re going to, it’s best to get as much capital in exchange for them, which the Packers did.
The fact that so many talented and experienced receivers have gotten unhappy with the current deals just gives the Packers more choices. Acquiring any of the top names available will likely cost the Packers one of their first round picks and maybe more, but there is still enough talent in this draft class that Green Bay could come out looking much better at the position. Just imagine a Metcalf/Samuel/Brown paired with new arrival Sammy Watkins, a rookie, and the existing receiver room. The Packers would go from thin to supercharged at receiver very quickly and Rodgers would undoubtedly do cartwheels if Gutekunst can pull such a move off.
As always, it takes two teams to tango in any trade and the other team must be willing to part with such talent. They also have the right to demand an excessive package in exchange. The Packers of course reserve the right to say no as well.
That said, the time is now for the Packers to make a big bold move at receiver, be it via a trade or in the draft. Circumstances are aligning just right for the Packers to shoot for the moon, which they should do considering they are in the final year(s) of having Rodgers under center. Business as usual is going to have to take a back seat as the Packers need to take advantage of a golden opportunity.
“The Packer Way” has served the team well for 30 years but if they want to win another Super Bowl with Rodgers at the control, they need to be aggressive by striking now given the instability and unpredictability of the receiver market as the 2019 class looks for their second contract. Losing Adams stunk but the opportunity to acquire new and young talent can lessen the sting. The opportunity is there for Gutekunst.
All he must do is seize it.