Those two words could be used to describe any number of things, but they could not be applied to the Green Bay Packers’ approach to free agency over the past decade-plus under general manager Ted Thompson. The quiet Thompson, who spoke to the media only rarely and never gave any significant insights into his approach, seemed practically allergic to signing free agents, preferring instead to build his team through the draft almost exclusively.
However, Thompson’s replacement, Brian Gutekunst, used that two-word phrase during his press conference at the 2018 Scouting Combine to describe how he wants to attack that avenue of player acquisition in 2018.
“There’s limits to what you can do,” Gutekunst said on Wednesday morning, “but we’d like to be really aggressive and see (if) we can be in every conversation. Whether that leads to us signing a bunch, we’ll see.”
Those limitations of course include the Packers’ estimated $16.5 million in salary cap space and what Gutekunst describes as a “small market and a little bit riskier market” of players in free agency. With that in mind, he and Packers financial guru Russ Ball will presumably follow Thompson’s mantra of caution, while still being more active in terms of reaching out to players. “As my mentor and predecessor would like to say, you have to be very cautious as you enter that. But I think we’d like to look at every option we can,” Gutekunst said.
While the Combine is a chance for team officials agents to get some face time before the start of the free agency period, the primary focus of the event remains around the 336 draft prospects who have been invited to Indianapolis. That fact is not lost on Gutekunst, who approaches his first Combine as general manager with a healthy dose of perspective.
“The volume of information we’ve got to get through (in the offseason) is pretty significant,” Gutekunst said. “It’s stuff I’ve been doing for 20 years. That part hasn’t changed a whole lot.” However, there is one big shift for the first-time GM: “At the end of the evaluation period, I’m the one who puts them (the players) up there (on the board).”
Continuity will be an important factor in the Packers’ evaluation process during the transition from Thompson to Gutekunst, and it should come as little surprise that a man who came up under Ron Wolf and Thompson would maintain consistency in terms of the way they approach players’ measureables and desirable physical traits. When asked if those approaches would change, Gutekunst indicates that he’ll stay the course: “I don’t think so. We have a long history here with some of that stuff, and that will probably stay the same.”
In other words, look for the Packers to continue to look for many of the size and athletic testing cutoffs that have been demonstrated through the last two and a half decades of football in Green Bay.
Overall, it appears that Gutekunst has settled into the new job now that he is almost two months in. He described the very beginning of his tenure as a “whirlwind,” noting that he had to force himself to step back and slow down. However, despite the changes on the coaching staff, Gutekunst said “I don’t think we’re very far off” from being a top Super Bowl contender once again.
Here’s hoping he’s right.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst speaks live at the Scouting Combine:Posted by Acme Packing Company on Wednesday, February 28, 2018