Brian Gutekunst dipped his toe into free agency last year, his first as the Green Bay Packers general manager. It didn’t pay off, necessarily, as the team struggled to a 6-9-1 record. When presented with his second chance to build his team from the outside, Gutekunst dove head first, acquiring four free agents at a heavy cost. Some wondered if the moves were designed to make the most of what will be the last few seasons of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career.
“No, I don’t think so,” Gutekunst said Thursday afternoon when they introduced the new additions. “Obviously, this is Green Bay, Wisconsin. We’re in a win now mode all the time.”
The moves certainly suggest that. With no member of their own 2015 draft class still under contract, Gutekunst and the Packers went out and grabbed three members of that draft from other teams and one from the class of 2014. Linebackers Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore) and Preston Smith (Washington) were signed to four-year deals worth $66 million and $52 million, respectively. Green Bay also got Chicago safety Adrian Amos on a four-year deal for $36 million. Then they added Denver offensive lineman Billy Turner for four years and $28 million.
All four are 27-years-old or younger.
“We did want guys where their best football was ahead of them,” Gutekunst said. “It doesn’t always happen that way, but I think all four of these guys have really good football ahead of them.”
The money dished out, including $56 million in signing bonuses, is a lot for guys that haven’t had All-Pro seasons yet. But Gutekunst bristled at the notion none of these guys were great players.
“I disagree with your comment,” Gutekunst responded to a reporter when asked whether they were rolling the dice with some unknowns. “I think there’s some really great players in this group. We’ll see if they become great Packers and they produce for us. We’ll find out.
“This is about team, right? It’s about wins and losses. I think these guys will help us win.”