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Expert Views on Packers Selling at NFL Trade Deadline

With the Green Bay Packers struggling to a 2-4 start, they seem much more likely to be sellers rather than buyers at Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. Who could be on the block?
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. With the Super Bowl on their mind, the Green Bay Packers were deemed potential buyers the past few years. They didn’t add anyone at those deadlines, and they probably won’t add anyone at this year’s deadline, either.

The Packers are 2-4 and have lost three consecutive games. Even if they were to beat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the reality is – and has always been – the 2023 season is about getting ready for the 2024 season.

So, with the Packers being potential sellers, here is a look at who could be on the block.

Trade for Finances

By Ken Ingalls, who analyzes the Packers’ salary cap.

Viewing through a salary cap lens, trading Preston Smith at the deadline is the best of the Packers’ limited real options to create even a sliver of cap flexibility.

Smith is one of only seven players who if traded at the deadline would create even $1 million of salary cap space in 2023, with Rashan Gary, Jon Runyan, Keisean Nixon, Aaron Jones, Jaire Alexander and David Bakhtiari rounding out the list. Since most of their veterans have restructured contracts with minimum salaries, there isn’t much short-term team financial freedom to be gained.

Smith turns 31 this November and has three seasons remaining on his contract. At his age, it’s likely Smith is not in the team’s long-term plans and any trade compensation would allow the Packers to further build toward the future.

Without Smith, the Packers would have a young and promising position group consisting of arguably their best overall player, Gary, 2023 first-round pick Lukas Van Ness, second-year player Kingsley Enagbare and intriguing rookie Brenton Cox on their 53.

Trading Smith would create just over $1 million of cap space this year and $2.5 million in savings in 2024. His cap numbers are scheduled to increase from $6.4 million in 2023 to $16.5 million in 2024, $17.5 million in 2025 and $18.2 million in 2026.

While these numbers alone are not unmanageable, Gary’s pending contract extension will likely make him a top-three-paid edge rusher. The Packers may choose to move on from Smith sooner rather than later, rely on their younger and cheaper options to pair with Gary, and reinvest those contract dollars and trade compensation to strengthen other areas of their roster.

Trade Where There’s Depth

De'Vondre Campbell

De'Vondre Campbell

By Jacob Westendorf, who writes for Packer Central

One of the issues with the Packers becoming sellers at the deadline is there aren’t a lot of candidates that could fetch a lot of value on the market.

One exception is inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell.

Campbell has been hampered with injuries this season but is a respected veteran around the NFL. He would have some value in Green Bay to finally team up with Quay Walker, who’s in the midst of a strong second season.

That was general manager Brian Gutekunst’s vision when he selected Walker 22nd overall in 2022.

The vision has changed.

The Packers have prioritized youth almost everywhere on the roster. The 30-year-old Campbell sticks out from that standpoint. Isaiah McDuffie and Eric Wilson have been OK in his absence the last three weeks.

Campbell joined the team in June 2021 and was a first-team All-Pro. The Packers re-signed him in 2022 to a five-year, $50 million contract in free agency. He played for cap-friendly minimum salaries in 2022 and 2023, but those figures will increase to $6.95 million in 2024 and $7.75 million in 2025 and 2026.

With a cap number of about $14.4 million in 2024, the Packers would realize about $2.78 million in cap savings next year.

“He’s a great leader for us,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “He’s played a lot of football. I think anytime you have an experienced player that can play at a high level I think that always gives you a boost.”

Then, he added: “I think Isaiah has been doing a great job. I really do. I think he and Eric Wilson have stepped in and done an unbelievable job for us. We had confidence in all those guys.”

Perhaps a team like the Buffalo Bills would want to replace the recently injured Matt Milano with a veteran like Campbell as they make a push toward the Super Bowl.

Trade … Well, Never Mind

By Bill Huber, who is the editor of Packer Central

As a general manager of a struggling team that’s more likely to sell rather than buy at the trade deadline, there are two approaches to take. You can trade expensive players to make their contracts someone else’s problem or you can trade upcoming free agents in hopes of getting a 2024 draft pick that’s better than a 2025 free-agent compensatory draft pick.

Injuries have robbed Gutekunst of most of those options.

Had David Bakhtiari been past his knee injury and returned to his premier form, he would have been the team’s most tradeable player. Elite left tackles are worth their weight in gold, making Bakhtiari’s contract palatable. Remember, of his $40.58 million cap number, the Packers are on the hook for almost half of it because of kick-the-can-down-the-road bonuses. So, for the acquiring team, he actually would have been a decent bargain.

Safety Darnell Savage’s career was headed the wrong direction with a couple of disappointing seasons. Playing under the fifth-year option and with free agency beckoning, Savage is enjoying a strong bounce-back season. At age 26, he’s in the prime of his career. However, the Packers just placed him on injured reserve, meaning he’ll miss the next four games.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry called it “champagne problems” to add 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes at cornerback alongside their sturdy starting trio of Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Keisean Nixon. Stokes needs to play, and the only way to make that happen is by creating playing time. Douglas is having another strong season; he’s been the team’s best all-around defensive back. Surely, some contender would have wanted the physical ballhawk. Well, Stokes’ comeback from last year’s foot injury lasted all of four snaps, so those “champagne problems” became “Schlitz problems.”

The 2020 draft class gave the Packers three starters: quarterback Jordan Love, who’s under contract through 2024, and free-agents-to-be AJ Dillon and Jon Runyan. With Aaron Jones in and out of the lineup and Emanuel Wilson not quite ready for a bigger role, the Packers probably can’t trade Dillon. The Packers don’t have a good option to replace Runyan, either. And, if he were to leave in free agency, the compensatory pick might be better than the trade compensation.

The wild card here could be Yosh Nijman. The Packers kept the offensive tackle on a restricted free agent tender worth $4.3 million. In a slight upset, he was beaten out by Zach Tom at right tackle. In a huge upset, he was beaten out by Rasheed Walker to be the swing tackle. So, even through Walker’s inconsistent play, the athletic 21-game starter is stuck on the bench. It might make sense for all involved to make a deal.

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