Green Bay Packers

The Davante Adams Trade Exposed Gutekunst's Greatest Weakness

Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson (USA TODAY Sports)

In four years as the Green Bay Packers general manager, Brian Gutekunst has had some high highs and low lows. His first draft selection, Jaire Alexander, blossomed into a superstar on defense, and fellow first-rounder Rashan Gary might not be too far behind. Perhaps the highlight of his tenure was his surgical-precision thrift shopping last year, affordably filling holes with De’Vondre Campbell (1-year, $2 million) and Rasul Douglas (Arizona Cardinals practice squad). The Packers awarded both breakout stars with multi-year extensions last week. However, Gutekunst has made some huge mistakes, and, ultimately, the team has yet to escape the decade-long streak of disappointing exits.

In the past three seasons, shamelessly loading up on offensive weapons and superstars on both sides of the ball has brought titles to the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Los Angeles Rams. While the Rams traded almost all of their premium draft picks until 2024 to land Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller, the Packers exchanged their top pick in 2020 for two years of organizational turmoil and uncertainty that went unresolved until last week. I’m not the first to wonder about the opportunity cost of the Jordan Love pick, especially when the team fell short of a Super Bowl by one possession in both of the following seasons. Still, it is indisputable that, at the very least, the Rodgers saga would have been avoided.

In many scenarios, it’s easy to justify taking a shot on a high-upside young QB, but using a first-round pick when you have Aaron Rodgers is not one of them. Gutekunst simply did not expect back-to-back MVP seasons to follow for the Hall of Famer. Now he has pressed a 3-year, $150 million abort button on his succession plan. It remains to be seen what they do with Love, who has been unimpressive in his limited time on the field. But with Rodgers coming back, nobody really cares.

The Packers traded up to select Love on April 23, 2020. Adam Schefter’s bombshell report about Rodgers’ desire to leave Green Bay dropped on April 29, 2021. Fast-forwarding one more year, Rodgers announced his decision to stay with the team on a new contract on March 8, 2022. Packers fans got nine days of smooth sailing until they traded the NFL’s best receiver, Davante Adams, to the Las Vegas Raiders last Thursday.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confirmed that the Packers offered more money than the 5-year, $141 million deal Adams signed with Vegas, but it was simply “his lifelong dream to be with the Raiders.” So, how is this on Gutekunst? Well, the Adams and Rodgers situations illustrate his weakness: He doesn’t know how to keep his stars happy. With Rodgers, it was about input, having his voice heard as the gold jacket signal-caller after 16 years with the team. With Adams, it was about a long-term extension.

Adams inked a 4-year, $58 million extension in 2017, which he thoroughly outperformed. Combined with the lack of security associated with the franchise tag, which guarantees only a year’s worth of salary, Adams had every right to go after his bag this time around. The franchise tag, which would pay roughly $20.1 million, would have put him below Christian Kirk and on par with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Chris Godwin – all of whom surpassed 1,000 yards, but all of whom were dusted by Adams’ 1,553-yard total.

Contentious negotiations on a long-term extension soured Adams’ relationship with the Packers beyond repair. Now it’s desperation time in Green Bay’s receiver room, which currently consists of Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb with hardly any money to spend.

Matt LaFleur’s 39-10 regular-season record has yielded nothing but devastating playoff losses in three years as head coach. The clock is ticking on Green Bay’s championship window. Though Gutekunst and the front office deserve little credit considering that they were simply cleaning up their own short-sighted decisions, holding on to Rodgers is a huge victory. Losing their next best player for a relatively weak package of picks is a comparably substantial step backward that they could not afford, considering their inability to reach the big dance with Adams these past seven years.

The combination of limited veteran options and the amount of time it often takes to develop young receivers means that overhauling the wideout position successfully isn’t going to happen in a matter of months. Therefore, Gutekunst’s second big mistake could hold the Packers back for years to come.

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