After a superb offseason in which Brian Gutekunst landed four starters in free agency and another two in the draft to position the Green Bay Packers for a potential Super Bowl run, the team’s general manager decided to stand pat at Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Gutekunst wasn’t alone. While the 49ers traded for receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the Patriots landed receiver Mohamed Sanu last week, not a single move was made around the league before the 3 p.m. deadline.
For Gutekunst, it’s a sign that he believes the team he has built is good enough to win a championship without the need for giving up valuable assets down the road.
Now, an argument could be made that Gutekunst should have made an aggressive move. With a 7-1 record and some good fortune – a couple fortunate calls to beat Detroit, not having to deal with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes last week and getting a bye to get ready for a huge NFC showdown at San Francisco next month among them – the stars seem to be in alignment. That doesn’t happen every year.
After receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison combined to catch two passes against the Chiefs, another perimeter threat could have been useful. However, two of the more intriguing options, Bengals veteran A.J. Green and big-play Jets standout Robby Anderson, would have been half-year rentals with their impending free-agent status. The Jets reportedly wanted a second-round pick for Anderson.
Safety Raven Greene’s season-ending injury was a major blow to the defense, given coordinator Mike Pettine’s fondness for using a safety at linebacker in some of his packages. And the only depth at offensive tackle is Alex Light. However, coverage linebackers and offensive tackles don’t exactly grow on trees, so Gutekunst might have had limited options – or no options at all.
However, the Packers have never been a one-year type of team. Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger but he’s not at the end of the road, either. And Gutekunst’s big free-agent deals were long-term investments and not short-term fixes. This appears to be a team with some staying power, though this week’s opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, probably thought the same but are 3-5 after going 12-4 last year under coach Anthony Lynn.
To stay among the short list of prime contenders will require more strong offseasons by Gutekunst. However, the aggressive, big-spending model he used this offseason probably won’t work in future offseasons. According to OverTheCap.com, only eight teams have less cap space than the Packers for 2020, as the cap numbers for Rodgers ($26.5 million to $32.6 million), outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith ($7.25 million to $17.25 million) and Preston Smith ($6 million to $13.5 million) and safety Adrian Amos ($5.9 million to $9.4 million) swell by a combined $27 million. Plus, left tackle David Bakhtiari and defensive tackle Kenny Clark, two of the franchise’s bedrocks, will be free agents after the 2020 season. In other words, without robbing Peter to pay Paul, Gutekunst will have to take a more conservative approach this coming offseason. Thus, the magnified importance of having the draft picks that weren’t traded away.
The consensus around the league is the Packers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Yes, they played five of their first seven at home. Yes, they’ve caught some breaks. But this is a really good team. For a story in the World’s Best Preview, I asked six NFL scouts and executives their thoughts on the Packers. Watching football is what they do, so they have a better handle than myself on the state of the Packers in comparison to the rest of the teams. In asking them to step into Gutekunst’s shoes, I expected them to suggest he make a trade to get another playmaker on offense. To my surprise, that’s not how they viewed the situation.
Presumably, Gutekunst views his team the same way those personnel men viewed his team. Will the talent on hand be enough to get the Packers back to the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade? That question, of course, is just as impossible to answer as whether adding an impact player to the roster at the deadline would have pushed the team over the top.