On Monday, the Green Bay Packers signed star cornerback Jaire Alexander to a 4-year, $84 million deal that made him the highest-paid defensive back in the league, narrowly surpassing Denzel Ward and Jalen Ramsey. Alexander, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, will rejoin a defense that is stacked top to bottom and set for years to come.
Green Bay now has three solid corners in Alexander, last year’s first-rounder Eric Stokes, and 2021 breakout Rasul Douglas. General manager Brian Gutekunst also got Kenny Clark some help on the defensive interior, bringing in free-agent Jarran Reed and drafting Devonte Wyatt last month. De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker are now set to man the middle of the defense for the next five years. While the Packers spared no expense to hold on to their shutdown corner, they crucially (and paradoxically) opened up about $6.2 million in cap space, giving them $15 million total after the rookies ink their deals.
Alexander was previously set to play the 2022 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, which would have had a $13.3 million cap hit. However, the extension allows the Packers to backload his salary across the remaining years of his contract, which lowers his number to about $7.1 million.
On draft night, Aaron Rodgers was pretty candid on The Pat McAfee Show about the team’s interest in adding a receiver on Day 1 and potentially trading for San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel. According to Rodgers, after striking out on the six wideouts they had first-round grades on, Gutekunst made an aggressive move up the board to land Christian Watson, a freak athlete out of North Dakota State.
It appears that Watson, Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Robert Tonyan will comprise the receiving corps when OTAs start next week. But with championship-caliber players at nearly every other position once Elgton Jenkins returns from an ACL tear suffered in November, another move is likely in the cards, and the Alexander extension just gave the Packers the means to make it happen.
In the past two seasons, it felt like every time an offensive weapon hit the market, they were heading to Kansas City, Tampa Bay, or Los Angeles. Each franchise’s all-in approach has yielded championships over the past three seasons. Not only that, NFL insider Ian Rapoport has described Rodges’ new deal with Green Bay as a “two-year commitment.” Therefore, while the championship window didn’t slam shut, it certainly isn’t wide open.
Last Friday, one of the last big names on the wideout market, Jarvis Landry, signed a 1-year, $3 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Landry and his 4.77 40 time didn’t exactly fit Matt LaFleur’s description of the “legit guy” they need to take the top off the defense. But his deal, which has a maximum value of $6 million, is indicative of what accomplished veterans with some gas left in the tank will go for. Julio Jones, Will Fuller, and Odell Beckham remain on the market and could be logical targets to bring in speed, experience, and athleticism, while Watson, Amari Rodgers, and fourth-round rookie Romeo Doubs develop.
Beckham’s departure from Cleveland in the middle of last year ended up being a pivotal moment that significantly influenced the outcome of the season. His decision came down to the Los Angeles Rams and the Packers. Green Bay’s offer of the veteran minimum salary ended up being both the determining factor and an illustration of Gutekunst’s traditionally conservative approach — in contrast to the balls to the wall, “f— them picks” aggression of Les Snead and the L.A. front office.
Odell looked like himself again in Sean McVay‘s offense, contributing 316 yards in the playoffs, including the first touchdown of Super Bowl LVI. On the other hand, the Packers completed only one pass for six yards to receivers not named Davante Adams in the only playoff game they played.
When the Alexander extension officially hits the books, the Packers will have the freedom to make a move (or moves) that they couldn’t last year. And with more than 1,500 yards in receiving production to recoup following the loss of Adams, they’ll need all the help they can get. I think Beckham is a fantastic option. He won’t be ready anytime soon, but, let’s be real, Green Bay doesn’t need help winning the NFC North. They need help winning playoff games. The past decade has been defined by dominant regular season showings and agonizing collapses in clutch time, and Odell proved last year that he can make a significant impact on a contending team on very little notice.
The stage is set. Rodgers is returning. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon comprise a true thunder-and-lightning duo in the backfield. We’ll get to see David Bakhtiari leading the line once again, and the defense hasn’t looked this nasty since 2010. Alexander’s long-term deal is certainly a cause for celebration. Still, Gutekunst and LaFleur have to be laser-focused on ensuring their next superstar doesn’t leave without a ring like Adams did earlier this offseason. In these dying hours of free agency, $15 million is a lot to work with, and you might as well empty it out while you’ve got a gold-jacket signal-caller and a little bit of the puzzle left to complete.