It’s impossible to know the Green Bay Packers‘ 2022 plans before Aaron Rodgers‘ big decision. The quarterback might stay in green and gold, request a trade, or retire, which will determine the team’s near future. But don’t expect a full rebuild in Green Bay. During his press conference on Wednesday, general manager Brian Gutekunst made it clear that he thinks the Packers have too good of a roster to burn it all down.
“I don’t see us having to get rid of a bunch of players,” said Gutekunst, talking about the Packers’ cap situation. “We’ll kind of move through that as we go through it, but we have a lot of different options depending on where we head. This isn’t going to be one of those things where it’s a fire sale, and we cut a bunch of guys.”
According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, Rodgers will inform the Packers about his future soon. However, Gutekunst doesn’t feel the need to rush the quarterback.
“No deadlines. We’re just working together,” he said. “I think the conversations after the season were very impactful, and I appreciated them very much. Again, we’re working together. We’re not putting deadlines on anything. There are some timing things that will come into play where we’ll have to make decisions down the road, but Aaron’s well aware of that and, like I said, the communication has been very good.”
Maybe the “timing things” referred to by Gutekunst are the franchise tag window, which closes on March 8. That’s when the Packers need to decide if they apply the tag or not on Davante Adams if they don’t come to a long-term extension before that.
However, besides Adams, the cap moves the Packers will make aren’t that different with or without Rodgers. They need to restructure contracts and cut some players to get under the cap when the new league year starts on March 16. The Rodgers cap hit will be similar if Green Bay extends or trades him.
The team has already restructured some contracts. Kenny Clark and Aaron Jones agreed to move base salaries and roster bonuses into signing bonuses and added void years to lower the 2022 cap hit. That guarantees they’ll be on the team. Gutekunst also indicated that Za’Darius Smith won’t return with the current cap hit, so he must be willing to tweak the deal, or the Packers will release him.
The offensive line won’t change that much, regardless of who is under center. David Bakhtiari has a long-term contract. Elgton Jenkins is a building block and will probably get extended. Josh Myers, Jon Runyan, Royce Newman, and Yosh Nijman are inexpensive. The main question mark is Billy Turner, but it’s feasible that he would be a cap casualty even if Rodgers decides to keep playing at Lambeau Field.
The wide receiver group needs reinforcements anyway. The wideouts under contract for that position are primarily young players (Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree, Chris Blair, and Rico Gafford) and Randall Cobb, who shouldn’t play in 2022 with his current cap hit. Malik Taylor will probably stay as well, as he’s an exclusive-rights player. Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown are unrestricted free agents, and Allen Lazard is restricted.
Therefore, which offensive weapons will stay or go will be a priority with Rodgers or Love. What could change here is the approach. If Rodgers stays, Gutekunst can be more willing to spend and re-sign the old guys.
Rodgers’ decision will only impact a few players on defense and special teams. Za’Darius Smith is a cut candidate anyway. Preston Smith is a priority, but it would be essential to keep him even if Rodgers asks to be traded or retires because of Green Bay’s lack of edge depth. Other free-agent decisions, like De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas, are much more related to market price.
But, in general, the Packers have a good number of young and talented players who will be in Green Bay for the next few seasons. And they have financial obligations that also force some decisions, regardless of who will be under center.
Gutekunst believes that the Packers might contend, or at least be competitive, even if Rodgers isn’t the team’s quarterback. And if that’s the case, keeping a good team around Jordan Love is also a smart strategy to evaluate the young quarterback and see if he can take a strong roster to the playoffs.