Thursday, October 22, 2020

Green Bay Packers off-season: three positive takeaways so far

After their NFC Championship run in January, it’s clear the Green Bay Packers off-season needed to be spent filling the devastating cracks in an otherwise strong team.

They had established an elite running game which saw Aaron Jones wrack up 19 touchdowns overall while their defence was creating an identity for itself.

However, there were obvious weaknesses which led to an embarrassingly one-sided NFC championship against San Francisco who advanced to become Super Bowl runner-ups.

It was clear the Packers had no answer for Mostert who had a record-setting night as he ran all over Matt LaFleur’s men.

There were also problems on the other side of the ball with Rodgers facing unending pressure, taking three sacks for a loss of 30 yards.

So how far have the Green Bay Packers off-season moves go to fixing these problems? We take a closer look…

Devin Funchess joins the team during Green Bay Packers off-season
Good value – the Packers have signed wide receiver Devin Funchess

They’ve kept their cap hit low with veterans on short contracts

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst had to take a frugle approach to free agency so far after a huge spending spree last season.

But, Gutekunst managed to find good deals by signing three veteran players – two of whom will likely be starters and all should each bring invaluable assets to the team.

During the off-season so far, the Packers have signed wide receiver Devin Funchess, tackle Rick Wagner and inside linebacker Christian Kirksey.

According to Spotrac, they have a combined cap hit of $11.2 million next season and, as long as they stay healthy, should have an impact.

This low risk, high reward strategy might not excite Packers fans but it’s a shrewd move by their front office.

+ They’ve protected special teams with Tyler Ervin

Tyler Ervin was a productive signing in December last season and so it’s prudent that the Packers have kept him on their roster.

The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers last season – he played four games in which he averaged 26 yards on kick returns and 9.6 yards on punt returns.

This was a dramatic improvement on any other player’s performance in those roles and he was also put to work on offence proving he also has versatility.

To bring him back for a cap hit of less than $1 million is a wise move and the Packers will be hoping , with a full off-season under his belt, he will be even more productive.

Letting Blake Martinez walk was a mistake

Last season, inside linebacker, Blake Martinez was ranked second in the league with 97 tackles.

Now, with or without Martinez, it’s without doubt that the position is still in need of bolstering going into next season.

But it seems if the Packers were going to invest anywhere, it would be with Blake Martinez who was obviously due big money in 2020.

READ MORE: Who should be the Bears’ starting quarterback?

The 26-year-old, who has signed a three-year $30 million contract with the New York Giants, was a solid part of the defence since he was drafted in 2016.

For the money they have saved, they have not brought in enough talent to mitigate that loss.

Sure they’ve saved a tonne of cash by signing Kirksey instead but it’s a big gamble at a critical position and, even with Kirksey, it’s still in need of some serious TLC.

Jimmy Graham left during Green Bay Packers off-season
Jan 12, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham (80) is tackled by Seattle Seahawks strong safety Bradley McDougald (30) in the first quarter of a NFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

They still need receivers

Apart from Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers were lacking in star quality in their receving corp.

Tight end Jimmy Graham never matched the productivity he had at the Saints and has now gone to the Bears while 24-year-old WR Allen Lazard is still finding his feet.

With Funchess added to the roster at wide receiver, the pressure is relieved slightly but to really have a dynamic attacking offence, the Packers could do with adding another receiver either through the draft or from the free agent pool.

If opposing defences know there is more than one threat other than Adams, he is more likely to get open and make plays.

A talented receiver would go a long way to making that improvement.

+ Green Bay Packers off-season still has them top of NFC North

Even with the glaring gaps on the roster, the Green Bay Packers off-season moves so far seem to be enabling them to at least try and build on their success of last year.

This is a team that still has a fledgling head coach and straight out of the gate they made it to the final hurdle.

While there is work to be done, the draft is just round the corner, and so far they’ve put themselves in a strong position.

With the Bears going through a quarterback crisis and the Vikings losing Diggs, the Packers are still the top rated team in ESPN‘s post-free agency power rankings.

If they can make some savvy draft picks, it could be a very good 2020 season indeed.

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