Indianapolis – The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is underway and the path to the draft is officially underway for not only the Green Bay Packers, but the other 31 teams in the NFL, as well. On Wednesday Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Mike McCarthy both met with the media.
Here are three observations from the first day of the combine:
Aggressiveness in free agency
There has seemed to be a renewed sense of optimism since Gutekunst was given the job as the successor to former Packers general manager Ted Thompson in January. The Packers, at times, thrived under the ‘draft and develop model’ that Thompson preferred. This past season it seemed as if the model failed the Packers, especially with the injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers in early October.
In the absence of Rodgers there were few bright spots offensively. Wide receiver Davante Adams was tremendous with backup quarterback Brett Hundley, and the running back positon was solid with rookies Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Other than that, there wasn’t much to write home about.
Last offseason the Packers attempted to make a splash by signing free agent tight end Martellus Bennett. That move didn’t work out as Bennett underperformed and was waived after injury issues midway through the season.
Most of the renewed hope among fans is that the free agent market will be something that the Packers will be aggressive in this offseason. That was the talk of the day on Wednesday at the combine.
“Obviously, there’s limits on what you can do, but we’d like to be really aggressive and see what we can be in every conversation,” Gutekunst said of the upcoming free agency period. “Now, whether that leads us to signing a bunch or not, we’ll see. Like I said, there’s limitations there, but we’d like to be as aggressive as we can to try and improve our football team. At the same time, it’s a smaller market, it’s a little bit riskier market, so I think as my mentor and predecessor would say ‘you have to be very cautious as you enter that.’ But I think we’d like to look at every option we can.”
“We like the word ‘aggressive,’ but I think it’s like anything, you have to be in touch with reality of the process,” McCarthy said. “The process of veteran free agency is different today than it was prior to Brian [Gutekunst] being the GM.”
Aaron Rodgers’ contract
Obviously, Rodgers is the quarterback of the present and future for the Packers. That’s not earth-shattering news to anyone that pays attention to the NFL in any capacity. Rodgers thought of by the Packers as the best player in the NFL. He’s currently on a contract that expires after the 2019 season. Both he and the Packers would like that to change as there have been talked between the parties of an extension.
“I don’t know if there’s pressure [to get an extension done], but we certainly would like to get it done sooner rather than later,” Gutekunst said. “When you have the best player in the NFL it’s not going to be inexpensive, you know what I mean? Obviously, Aaron is a high priority, he’s a great player. That should take care of itself at some point.”
The answer Gutekunst gave was sparked by a question about the salaries that other high-end quarterbacks are anticipated to receive in free agency. Rodgers’ track record proves that he deserves to be shown a payday. It will certainly be interesting to see the amount of guaranteed money he receives if and when a contract extension with the Packers becomes finalized.
New life on defense
After nine seasons at the helm of the defense for the Packers, defensive coordinator Dom Capers was let go following the season. The Packers struggled on that side of the ball and McCarthy felt that a change was needed.
“Obviously, the last nine years I felt that internally we were able to take the resources that we had, build the vision, the plan for the upcoming season,” McCarthy said of the defensive side of the ball. “Obviously, I felt differently this year and the result was all of the coaching changes.”
Green Bay hired Mike Pettine as the replacement to Capers. Pettine has had stops as a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. He also has two-year stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns to his name.
While McCarthy shot down the idea of the hiring of Pettine being a total culture change, it is something that was needed.
“I don’t get too far away from the reality of how our operation is every day and that is the culture. Our culture is what makes it go. That’s how you sustain success. It definitely has been changed, on a lot of levels it has been adjusted, too.”