In 2019, the Green Bay Packers had one of the most successful offseasons in the NFL. General manager Brian Gutekunst put the finishing touches on a two-year overhaul of his team’s defense, adding Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, and Rashan Gary to the mix in order to bolster both the pass rush and the back end of the defense. The results were about as good as the team could have hoped for.
The Smiths combined for 25.5 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, and 60 quarterback hits. Amos started all 16 games at safety, while Savage started 14. Gary worked in as a rotational rusher behind the starters. Under-the-radar pickups like Chandon Sullivan and B.J. Goodson played rotational roles as well, and adding those guys to a core that already included Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Blake Martinez, Jaire Alexander, and Kevin King helped make the Packers one of the NFL’s better defense.
The defense helped lift the Packers to a 13-3 season. But Green Bay’s record was better than its point differential suggested it should have been, and in the NFC title game, the 49ers ran all over them and the game was essentially over by halftime. Had the Packers offense been able to pick up some of the slack that may not have been the case, but unfortunately, Green Bay’s offense took a step backward in 2019.
Aaron Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur often seemed to be on different pages, but Rodgers’ play also just dipped in general. That’s not surprising given that 2019 was his age-36 season; but it does indicate that he is now a quarterback who needs at least a little bit of help from his supporting cast, rather than one who can overcome any and every shortcoming the roster has.
Last season’s shortcomings included one of the worst wide receiver groups in the league outside of Davante Adams, a situation the Packers absolutely have to address this offseason. Former general manager Ted Thompson drafted a few wideouts in 2018 (Marquez Valdes-Scantling, J’Mon Moore, and Equanimeous St. Brown), but only one is even a rotation player in the NFL and he has not distinguished himself as a difference-maker. The team’s tight end position was also a problem, with Jimmy Graham looking like a shell of himself and 2019 third-rounder Jace Sternberger appearing in only six regular-season games and not making a single catch until he had three of them in the Packers’ two playoff games.
The Packers also continued to have Aaron Jones split backfield work with a clearly inferior back in Jamaal Williams, which helped reduce the team’s offensive efficiency. The Packers were simply far better with Jones on the field than off, but a reluctance to commit to him as the full-time feature back is now a two-year and two-coach-long issue.
Heading into the 2020 offseason, the Packers desperately need to add passing-game talent. They need to entrust Jones as the full-time back. They need to make sure Rodgers is well-protected by re-signing right tackle Bryan Bulaga. And they need to figure out a way to get all their defensive talent to perform at a high level at the same time — and how not to get completely gashed by opposing run games at the worst possible time.
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Key upcoming dates
- March 12: . Tackle Bryan Bulaga is likely Green Bay’s only candidate for either tag, but it would be surprising if it happened.
- March 16: The legal tampering period begins. The Packers and the 31 other teams are free to talk to unrestricted free agents.
- March 18: The new league year officially begins at 4 p.m. ET. Teams can now officially sign free agents.
- March 29-April 1: The annual league meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.
- Mid-April: The release of the 2020 regular season schedule. But we already know which teams the Packers will face in 2020. In addition to their normal divisional slate of games (two each against the Bears, Lions, and Vikings), they’ll also face the Panthers, Falcons, Jaguars, Titans, and Eagles (home), and the Saints, Buccaneers, Texans, Colts, and 49ers (road).
- April 23-April 25: The NFL Draft in Las Vegas. Green Bay’s full slate of draft picks is listed below.
- May 1-4 OR May 8-10: Rookie minicamp.
- Late May-June: OTAs. Final dates to be determined.
- June: Mandatory minicamp. Final dates to be determined.
- Late-July: Training camp. Final dates to be determined.
Free Agent Scorecard
Unrestricted free agents
Bulaga and Martinez should be the highest priority re-signs for the Packers here. It would not be in any way surprising if none of the team’s free agent receivers except for Allen Lazard (see below) were back next season, considering the group’s underperformance this year and last. Allison, in particular, seemed to lose Rodgers’ trust over the past couple of years and was not a major factor in the rotation by the playoffs. Ervin seemed like a favorite of the coaching staff, even siphoning away some of Aaron Jones’ work while Jamaal Williams was out, but the team should not be afraid to give Jones a larger share in the future. Williams re-emerged as a decent slot corner this season, but he is getting up there in age and the team might be better served investing in some more youth at the position.
Restricted free agents
Lazard, Johnson, Lancaster, and Sullivan carved out solid roles on the team last season, and one would think the Packers would like to have them all back on relatively cheap deals. Kumerow has flashed some interesting skills on occasion, but as mentioned, the wide receiver room in Green Bay needs an overhaul. If the Packers elect not to bring Lewis back, then Tonyan could return as a backup tight end.
Free agent signings from other teams
In-house free agent signings
The Packers presumably feel good about re-signing their kicker, but the way the deal is structured makes it an undesirable one. Crosby is getting a $6 million payment in Year 1 even though he’s been underperforming for the past several years. If he does so again and the Packers elect to cut ties after 2020, they’ll save only $2.5 million and have a $2 million dead cap charge on their books.
2020 draft picks
- Round 1: Green Bay (30)
- Round 2: Green Bay (62)
- Round 3: Green Bay (94)
- Round 4: Green Bay (TBD)
- Round 5: Green Bay (TBD)
- Round 6: Green Bay (TBD), Las Vegas (TBD), Tennessee (TBD)
- Round 7: None
Rumors, reports, and updates
: Packers sign kicker Mason Crosby through 2022 with $12.9M extension, per reports
: Former Packers DC Dom Capers returns to NFC North as Vikings’ senior defensive assistant
: Packers GM expects to face restrictions in free agency as team looks to retain talent
: Packers to reportedly retain defensive coordinator Mike Pettine despite nightmare performance vs. 49ers