When Aaron Rodgers took over as the starting quarterback for Green Bay in 2008, he inherited an offense that already had established wide receivers in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings in place. The Packers had also used a third-round pick on tight end Jermichael Finley in 2008 to further bolster things.
Now that it appears Jordan Love will be taking the reins in 2023, the Packers can’t waste any time in adding weapons to his arsenal.
In the last two offseason the Packers have lost wide receivers Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Allen Lazard. They also lost tight end Robert Tonyan just this week to the Chicago Bears in free agency.
Left on the roster for Love to work with at wideout are three wide receivers who were all rookies last year in Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Samori Toure.
While there is plenty of promise for the trio, the experience is lacking — as is the NFL experience.
It’s different from what Rodgers had when Green Bay ushered him into the huddle in 2008.
Sure, there were gripes over the last 15 years about the Packers not adding enough pieces on offense or not taking that extra step to add more threats at trade deadlines or in free agency. However, the situation Rodgers stepped into during his first season was propped up pretty well.
With Love, there’s plenty of work Green Bay needs to do.
Last year the Packers added veteran Sammy Watkins to the wideout room. Suffice to say, that signing turned out to be a dud; they released Watkins in December after a measly 13-catch campaign.
The bar needs to be higher.
Where it gets tricky for Green Bay is that they don’t have a lot of cap flexibility, and trying to obtain an established veteran at this stage would be tricky. Despite that, it’s impossible to expect the Packers to feel like the job is anywhere close to done when it pertains to adding weapons.
Green Bay is picking at No. 15 in the draft. Yes, there’s their much-worried-over track record of not taking a wide receiver in the first round. The last time the Packers went that route was in 2002 with Javon Walker. Call me crazy, but 21 years later and with a new quarterback taking over — plus thin group at wideout — now might be the time to pull the trigger.
Then there’s the tight end position.
Green Bay lost Tonyan to the Bears. But, truth be told, it was an uninspiring season in 2022 for the Packers’ tight end after coming back from a torn ACL the year prior.
Marcedes Lewis has the title of tight end, but he’ss really an additional lineman at this point. Regardless, he’s also a free agent who likely won’t be returning to the Packers.
Green Bay re-signed Tyler Davis this past week, and Josiah Deguara is still on the roster. But they need to do more work here, too.
Don’t get it twisted. There are lofty expectations for the likes of Watson and Doubs. However, both missed chunks of the 2022 season with injuries. And is it realistic to expect both to produce at No. 1 and No. 2 levels this year, respectively? That’s the million-dollar question.
Instead of banking on that, Gutekunst needs to be proactive in giving his young quarterback as close to an embarrassment of riches as he can.
However, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon offset some of that pressure.
Both will be back, as expected, and head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense may finally have the ground-and-pound game installed.
They may rely on Jones and Dillon even more in 2023, with Love being a first-year starter. Both RBs are more than capable as receiving backs, too.
Rodgers often clamored for the Packers to add weapons at the skill positions, and often those requests to add at the deadline or in free agency fell on deaf ears. The key difference here is that it often felt like the Packers thought Rodgers could overcome that lack of investment with his right arm alone.
Counting on Love to do the same this early in his career would be a catastrophic blunder.
Gutekunst and Co. can’t sit back and cross their fingers. They have to add to the wide receiver room, with some proven talent, even though a lot of those avenues seem to be closed off. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would be a pipe dream and is the top name that currently seems to be available.
If the Packers can somehow add a second-tier wideout and then also attack the position in the draft, it will be a massive step in the right direction to help their young quarterback early in his career.