In February, we asked our writers what their biggest concerns about the Packers were as the team headed into perhaps the most crucial offseason in recent memory. The responses were quite varied, from coaching to personnel to whether or not the delicious and nutritious horse collar kielbasa will ever return to Lambeau Field.
While we’re still not sure about the state of the oversized sausage, Brian Gutekunst’s spending spree last week has alleviated some of our questions from six weeks ago. But the free agency acquisitions have also crystallized some issues with other parts of the roster. Here’s what we think are the biggest questions and concerns facing the Packers now that free agency has died down.
Evan “Tex” Western: Safety
As someone who still firmly believes that Josh Jones should be a full-time Will linebacker, finding a capable safety to pair with Adrian Amos is my biggest concern now that the Packers have completed their main free agent shopping binge. I like Amos. I think he’ll be a great fit for the Packers and Mike Pettine. But I don’t believe that the Packers have the right player to pair with him on the back end of their defense.
Green Bay has starters at both outside linebackers with the new “Acme Sackers” (credit to Peter Bukowski for helping come up with that nickname for Za’Darius and Preston Smith). With Kyler Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert now in backup roles, that’s a solid group. And although I think the Packers are still likely to take an edge rusher with one of their two first-round draft picks, I no longer see that as the greatest need.
No, for me it’s safety. With Bashaud Breeland headed out, Tramon Williams seems poised to move back to cornerback, likely in a slot and nickel role. As I mentioned above, I think Jones’ best fit is at linebacker, or at the very least lined up exclusively in the box. What the Packers really need for Pettine is another versatile safety with the ability to play deep, in the box, and in the slot.
Thankfully, this draft has a few of those players who should be available on day two. Johnathan Abram, Nasir Adderley, Juan Thornhill, Amani Hooker...those are some of the names I’ll be watching on Friday evening of the draft.
Paul Noonan: Corner
If I may pile on Tex’s point, Tramon Williams seems poised to move back to cornerback. I think many people assumed that the Packers would make a stronger play for Bashaud Breeland, who acquitted himself well at the end of last season and sat out on the market for quite a while. Now that he’s gone elsewhere, the Packers once again find themselves in the unenviable position of being weak at corner. While Jaire Alexander appears to be excellent and Kevin King is good when healthy, hoping King is healthy is barely a plan. Tony Brown might turn into something, but this now becomes an area of need and may require using high draft capital for the umpteenth year in a row.
Had they simply kept Breeland they would have drastically increased their draft options. Corner is either the first or second most important position on the defense. Not shoring up at least an average unit pre-draft is a mistake.
Shawn Wagner: Safety
The Packers did well to correct a number areas of concern on the roster and now find themselves more in the boat of adding depth than additional starters. However, one position that Green Bay still could use a plug-and-play type of player is at safety.
As Tex mentioned, I also believe Josh Jones should be a more permanent linebacker than safety. The Packers brought in Adrian Amos in free agency, a player that can give them versatility at both safety positions. He will allow the players around him to make more plays in the secondary, but the team could use another one of those playmakers. Jones, Tramon Williams, and possibly the unsigned Ibraheim Campbell currently make up Green Bay’s options at the other safety slot and that won’t strike fear into any opposing offense. Drafting a safety on day two would give the Packers another player to groom for the future while providing immediate depth in 2019.
While Green Bay could have benefited from signing a savvy veteran at wide receiver, safety is still the more pressing need on the roster at this juncture.
Jon Meerdink: Tramon Williams
Others in this post have alluded to this, but my biggest concern about the Packers currently is Tramon Williams. Specifically, I’m concerned about the degree to which the Packers are counting on him to contribute next season.
Williams is the team’s current starting free safety and may be their third best corner. As presently constructed, the Packers roster will likely require him to contribute at both of those positions. That would be a tall order for any player, much less one who turned 36 this week.
Unless the Packers add bodies at either corner or safety or both, Williams could end up playing close to the 1,059 snaps he played last season. That’s the most he’s played in any season since 2012. Figuring out how to avoid having to do that again should be one of their biggest priorities.
Peter Bukowski: Right side of the OL
Bryan Bulaga provides an impossibly underrated security blanket for the Packers, particularly relative to the way so many fans seem willing to personally drive him to Austin Straubel. Billy Turner offers a solid option to slot in at right guard, but then what? Jason Spriggs hasn’t shown he’s capable of filling a void left by a Bulaga injury we all know is coming. And the backup plan for Turner leaves more than a little to be desired.
Chris Lindstrom, a right tackle at Boston College who can play guard, could be a possible solution in the draft, but relying on a rookie in 2019 should give the team pause. There are still capable players on the market who can play guard, guys like Quinton Spain who don’t seem to have a huge market. If he could be had for a small money deal, the Packers have guard competition and a player in Turner who can be a swing tackle if necessary. Drafting a player like Lindstrom offers added insurance and a long-term option, but I just laid out a Wisconsin winter snow storm size of “what ifs.” There’s still plenty of work to do in order to assure Aaron Rodgers get the protection he needs.
Mike Vieth: Receiver
The initial thoughts on the free agency spending were very encouraging. Now, looking at the phase of the offseason, I’d say my biggest question is the Packers receivers. I’m making this a wide range to include tight ends as well as the wide receivers. I think both could be addressed early in the draft as it would be wise to get talent that is NFL ready and not something that will take too much time to develop.
The tight end would be the biggest need. While I am a big fan of Jimmy Graham, he hasn’t lived up to his contract as of yet. I don’t think there is any need to get rid of Graham before the season as going into the season with just Big Bob Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis will create an even bigger void. However, making it a priority to target Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson or Irv Smith Jr. in the first two rounds will help in resolving the issue.
Wide Receiver is also something for the Packers to explore. Mostly because Davante Adams is the only sure thing on the roster. Geronimo Allison was having a good start to 2018 but he’s coming off an injury. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and Jake Kumerow are developing but are no guarantee to be playmakers. The nice thing is they are headed in the right direction and need to build off a solid 2018.
Targeting a wide receiver with could really take things to the next level and smooth things over if Allison doesn’t bounce back and the others have sophomore slumps with the Packers. The best thing is there are plenty of options to target. Players like Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, N’Keal Harry and Marquise Brown are just a few who could make an impact right away.
Kris Burke: Backup Quarterback
Not every quarterback ages as gracefully as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or even Brett Favre. This isn’t to say there are legitimate questions about Aaron Rodgers’ durability, but is Green Bay really ready for The DeShone Kizer Experience should — God forbid — anything happen to Rodgers again?
Unless Matt LaFleur sees something the rest of don’t in Kizer, the Packers really need to find a veteran and not rely on a raw rookie or a player wrecked by Hue Jackson.
Someone like Mike Glennon or Trevor Siemian would be an upgrade over Kizer and would at least show some level of competency that the former Brown and before him Brett Hundley failed to show.
I’m also not forgetting preseason phenom Tim Boyle, but he’s at least another year away especially with LaFleur installing a new offense.