Brian Gutekunst did the obvious thing this week: he parted ways with Josh Jackson, the former second-round pick who never found his feet in Green Bay.
Jackson made it easy for the Packers; even the most casual fan could see that it wasn’t working out. But what other obvious moves are begging to be made? What is on our “should” list for Brian Gutekunst?
Here’s what our writers said when we pitched them that very question.
Tex Western: Kick the tires on a veteran defensive lineman
The Packers still don’t really have many big bodies on their defense. As our Justis Mosqueda has been fond of noting, the Packers have very few 300-pound defensive linemen right now. Even if you give Kingsley Keke credit for bulking up to 303, as he said he has, that leaves the team with Keke, rookies T.J. Slaton and Jack Heflin, Kenny Clark and Josh Avery as the only linemen over the 300-pound mark.
Meanwhile, there are a handful of veteran linemen looking for work who might be willing to come to Green Bay to chase a ring on a veteran minimum contract. I’m thinking of names like Kawann Short and Geno Atkins in particular, two players who dealt with significant injuries last season. Those injuries would drive the price tag way down for either player, both of whom have multiple Pro Bowl appearances on their records (and in Atkins’ case, multiple All-Pros to boot).
Much like the late-season acquisition of Damon Harrison a year ago, either player would likely be asked to play a specific, limited role on defense. Unlike Harrison, who was solely a run-stuffer, Short or Atkins could contribute in passing situations as an interior rusher. Atkins has been the better player in his career, thanks to three seasons with double-digit sacks, but either one could be worth bringing in for a few weeks of practice to see if he has anything left in the tank.
Shawn Wagner: Add to the defensive line
I won’t steal Tex’s thunder, but the position that frightens me most continues to be the defensive line, particularly up the middle. If Kenny Clark gets banged up at any point, much like he did last season, the entire line (and defense) tends to pay the price. And it’s not just against the run, but against the pass with the type of attention Clark commands from interior linemen.
I think there is potential with TJ Slaton to become at least a rotational piece for the Packers in spurts, but an experienced veteran to anchor the middle for 20-25 snaps a game in 2021 could help bridge the gap. A player like Kawann Short could be one final missing veteran piece on the defensive line heading into the regular season, much like the DeVondre Campbell addition was to the inside linebacker unit. Just one more experienced defensive lineman for insurance and depth is all I’m asking for, Mr. Gutekunst.
Kris Burke: Sign Clay Mat-*gets hit by bus* — uh, add another defensive lineman
I agree with my colleagues above. It’s the real big hole still remaining on the Packers’ roster and if the line doesn’t go (besides Kenny Clark), the pass rush doesn’t work and that means the team will be leaning far too much on their talented and deep secondary.
TJ Slaton has shown flashes in camp but they really need another veteran that can step in immediately and play well. As Tex mentioned, Atkins or Short come to mind as someone Green Bay could get on the cheap for at least a one year rental.
Heck, since getting the band back together seems to be a thing, maybe Gutekunst could find a way to get BJ Ra…you know what, never mind.
Rcon14: Another competent defensive lineman
I’m going to be lame, but it’s really the glaring hole here. The offense is almost impossible to improve upon. Despite some struggles in pre-season game #1, the offensive line is incredibly deep with options, the receiving corps is deep with options, the running back room is deep… there’s just nothing to do on that side of the ball with the types of players that will be available.
The defense is another story though. They could use extra depth almost everywhere. The EDGE group could use another body, CB opposite Jaire Alexander will apparently remain a concern until we’re all ash, and the linebacker group is destined to eternally be a churn of cheap veterans and young players with no pedigree.
The one place you can probably add a useful body from camp cuts is the defensive line. Good corners rarely become available in August. The NFL can’t even find enough good linebackers to fill out their starting lineups, let alone any depth. Defensive line is one spot where you can sometimes find a role player to just give you some snaps. The Packers shouldn’t and won’t be looking for an impact player, but if they can find a big body to eat blockers, just to take some snaps from Kenny Clark, that would be a roster spot well spent.
Jon Meerdink: Load up on ring chasers
Even if the Packers aren’t convinced this is really some kind of “Last Dance” season, a cap crunch is coming. The 2022 Packers are going to look significantly different. Maybe it’s not the last go-round for everyone, but it will be for a fair bit of the roster.
So if the Packers are going to be retooling in the near future, why not bring in some mercenaries? “Draft and develop” is the motto of the realm, sure, but if there are major changes ahead, what, exactly, is all that development for? Is the prospect holding down the sixth corner spot going to make a difference next year? Is the guy who makes it as the fifth EDGE going to blossom into a starter? Probably not. So why not find someone who’s been there before and can provide some quality reps?
If that’s a defensive lineman like Geno Atkins or Kawann Short, great. If it’s that edge rusher who’s apparently really popular on Instagram lately, fine. Why leave any stone unturned? Nobody says the roster churn has to stop if it doesn’t work out.