Green Bay Packers

Being “In The Mix” Is The Packers Specialty

Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock (USA TODAY Sports)

Green Bay is “in the mix” for (insert available player here.)

The 2022 NFL trade deadline came and went and the 3-5 Green Bay Packers, who are on a four-game losing streak, stood pat. Many anticipated Brian Gutekunst might bring in a pass-catcher and take the first step in filling Green Bay’s most egregious gap.

It was widely believed they would target the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Chase Claypool, a big third-year receiver who experts frequently mocked to Green Bay during the 2020 draft process. However, it was announced yesterday that while Claypool would be heading to the NFC North, it was the rival Chicago Bears who had come to terms on a deal. According to NFL insider Josina Anderson, “it was looking like Chase was a Packer” in the morning. Packers beat reporter Tom Silverstein added that the team had offered the same compensation as the Bears, a second-round pick. However, Pittsburgh preferred Chicago’s pick, expecting it to be higher.

I’m not going to argue that Gutekunst and the Packers front office should have done more to bring in Claypool. They matched the highest offer, which, frankly, was an overpay in itself. And the fact that an abysmal franchise forced itself into the buyers’ market is out of their control. However, given the team’s recent performance, silence at the deadline was not much of an option if they hope to turn things around and contend, particularly when the 6-1 division-leading Vikings added another weapon in T.J. Hockenson.

This year’s deadline, a day during which many reports suggested the Packers were looking to make a move and yet none sufficed, felt eerily familiar to the free-agency period back in March and the draft shortly afterward. Fans and media continued to hear that Green Bay was “in the mix” for guys like Allen Robinson, Deebo Samuel, Chris Olave, and Treylon Burks. But, ultimately, they stayed silent, even as elite receivers like A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill, Marquise Brown, and Amari Cooper were flying all over the place in the trade market.

At the draft, all the noise was that the Packers would select a wide receiver in the first round for the first time since 2002. But, despite having two first-round picks, Gutekunst couldn’t seem to find the right opportunity to select one of the six Day 1 wideouts. Instead, he opted for a pair of defenders. One has played well, while the other can’t seem to find a way to impact the NFL as a 24-year-old rookie.

“Draft and develop” has been the primary strategy in Green Bay for as long as most of us have followed football. It’s a disciplined approach that has produced consistent winning seasons, particularly over the 12 years Ted Thompson ran the front office. Perhaps the strategy’s greatest success in Titletown has been Aaron Rodgers, who we all remember sat behind Brett Favre for three years before taking the reins and becoming one of the most talented quarterbacks of all time.

The approach lacks urgency, though. And a franchise with just a bit of time left with their Hall of Fame signal-caller and a young backup QB on the third year of his rookie contract should have urgency. The Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Kansas City Chiefs have brought home the last three Super Bowls after relentlessly pursuing additional offensive weapons on the trade and free-agent markets. It makes more sense for contending teams to combine high-end scouting and coaching with a pursuit of outside help to fill holes that will inevitably arise.

Albert Breer reported that the Packers are among four teams that have contacted Odell Beckham. But, if you’ve kept up with his recent comments, it’s pretty clear he’d prefer to join a contender, and the Packers’ awful start has quickly put them in a hole in that race. Last season, the Packers were in the mix for Beckham, but after offering him no more than the veteran minimum, he chose Los Angeles and won a Super Bowl while Green Bay lost early in the playoffs.

You could say that the Packers couldn’t improve this deadline, whether they liked it or not, because of who other teams were willing to deal. While this is true, the offensive start was painfully foreseeable. People clamored for the Packers to add an offensive weapon before the Davante Adams trade. As the playoff loss to San Francisco evidenced, he wasn’t enough on his own — receivers other than Adams combined for one catch and six yards in that brutal 13-10 defeat.

After losing Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling but returning Aaron Rodgers, a top backfield, a pair of Pro Bowl linemen, and a defense full of elite, highly drafted players, the only approach that made sense was to revamp the receiver room and go all-out for Rodgers’ elusive second ring. The Packers proceeded to be the center of rumors and speculation surrounding various wideouts. However, they could only bring in injury-prone veteran Sammy Watkins on a cheap deal and draft Watson and fourth-round rookie Romeo Doubs.

They did not bat an eye at the idea of beginning the regular season with Allen Lazard as their top wideout, and now they’re 3-5. They’ve lost to the Commanders. They will finish the season hoping only that their WR room will improve and that they might give Rodgers some set of reasons to come back and do this again next year.

The bottom line is this: The Packers are always “in the mix” nowadays, yet they never come away with the impact players they need to get them over the hump. Now that they’ve lost Adams without being able to draft and develop his replacement in time to remain competitive, their lack of urgency is starting to really hurt them. Moving forward, being aggressive in fortifying the roster in free agency and the trade market (in addition to the draft) is crucial. Sometimes that comes with risk. Most of this roster is ready to go. Hopefully, those missing pieces don’t take too long to arrive, whether from the street, in-house, or on the market this off-season.

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