The Green Bay Packers weren’t able to do much in free agency thanks to the one-two punch of their salary-cap squeeze and their unwillingness to restructure Aaron Rodgers‘ contract. Finding immediate-impact players in the draft will be of critical importance for Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the Packers’ front office, who were unable to upgrade at any position so far this offseason. There’s a sense of uneasiness among some fans who wonder if Green Bay really has enough to “run it back.”
If it’s not good enough and things go south, what’s the worst-case scenario for the Packers next year?
Let’s start with this year’s contracts. Aaron Jones is on a very team-friendly deal; the Packers have ways to wiggle free from it if they so choose after next season. And their decision not to touch Rodgers’ contract begs the question: Is this his last season in Wisconsin? The idea seems unfathomable for a superstar coming off an MVP season, but the early signs in Green Bay suggest it’s a possibility at the very least.
The cap problems they have this year will likely linger into next offseason. It’s fine to restructure and move money around now, but it has to be paid out at some point. As it stands, Green Bay will be paying a lot of money to four or five players in the 2022 offseason. One cap projection has 64% of their 2022 salary cap going to Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith.
That’s not ideal.
Thankfully, the Packers play in the NFC North.
It’s difficult to expect the offense to do more than they did last year. That’s how exceptional that side of the ball was. Even telling them to replicate it is asking a lot, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. The worst-case scenario for the offense is that the line struggles to protect Rodgers early on. Bakhtiari could take some time to recover from his injury, and Corey Linsley signed with the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason.
The happy vibes and good juju on display last year could curdle into anxiousness and distrust if Rodgers doesn’t know whether or not he’ll be back in 2022. Because of this, maybe the offensive chemistry takes a slight hit.
However, Green Bay has one of the greatest quarterbacks on the planet. They arguably have the league’s best wide receiver in Davante Adams and one of the most dynamic two-way running backs in Jones. Even in this situation, Green Bay would still be able to enjoy plenty of success.
Again, this is the worst-case scenario. And there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the defense, too.
With Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Rashan Gary, and others, how couldn’t there be? New defensive coordinator Joe Barry inherits more than enough talent across the board. They just need a scheme that fits and a blueprint to execute.
But here’s what it could look like if things don’t go according to plan.
The Packers’ decision to re-sign Kevin King was meant to be a band-aid on the cornerback situation, but it falls short of even that. King remains unable to shake free of the injury bug and is inconsistent when healthy. Barry can’t figure out the right formula and starts to feel the pressure. Pundits bring up his past fizzle-outs as defensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions and Washington, where he failed to account for the lack of talent on those squads.
As a result, the Packers’ defense looks like last year’s unit instead of a group rejuvenated by a new coordinator. Clark continues to be a one-man wrecking crew but yearns for a sidekick to work next to him on the line. Teams take notice and start to focus all the attention on Clark while daring whoever is next to him to enter one-on-one battles that they’re incapable of winning. The frustration starts to bubble over.
This is the worst-case scenario — but it also isn’t that far-fetched.
Thankfully, the Packers are in the NFC North.
Even if things were to go a little haywire for Green Bay next year, they get to play Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins, and Jared Goff six times during the season. Chicago Bears fans have accepted their fate. The Lions are clearly in more of a rebuild mode, and Goff doesn’t appear to be the long-term answer. And Minnesota Vikings fans will continue to believe, as they do every year, that they’re a sneaky Super Bowl contender; by Week 8, they’ll be back to misery.
Between chemistry, injuries, and a new coordinator, some major questions linger for Green Bay’s defense. Just a couple of wrong turns could send them spiraling southward.
Even if they do, the Packers should still rule the North.