2019 NFL Offseason: Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers (Last Year: 6-9-1)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
G/OT Billy Turner, DE/OLB Za’Darius Smith, DE/OLB Preston Smith, S Adrian Amos.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/DT Rashan Gary, S Darnell Savage, C/G Elgton Jenkins, TE Jace Sternberger. Packers Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Randall Cobb, DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/OLB Nick Perry, DE/OLB Clay Matthews, ILB Jake Ryan, CB Baushad Breeland, S Kentrell Brice.

2019 Green Bay Packers Offense:
“It goes without saying that the Packers’ primary concern this season is to keep Aaron Rodgers healthy.” These were the words that opened the 2018 season preview of the Packers. Heading into 2018, Rodgers had missed chunks of two of the past five seasons, and he had been banged up in others. Thus, it surprised no one when Rodgers suffered an injury at the beginning of the season. Rodgers tore up his knee in the second quarter of the opener, and for about an hour, it seemed as though he would be lost for the season. Rodgers inexplicably returned to the game and led his team to an unbelievable comeback victory.

That was the best highlight of the Packers’ 2018 campaign. Rodgers was never right the rest of the year. He played all 16 games, but wasn’t as accurate as usual. His 62.3 completion percentage was the second-worst such mark of his career ever since he unseated Brett Favre as the team’s starter. He also wasn’t as mobile as usual. Rodgers never revealed what exactly the injury was during the season, but eventually told the media that he was never 100 percent because of a tibial plateau fracture in addition to a sprained MCL.

Rodgers will be 100 percent to start the season, but how long will that last? Rodgers has such a checkered injury history that it’s highly unlikely that he’ll make it through all of 2019 unscathed. Thus, it was important to upgrade the offensive line this spring. The Packers added one highly priced member to the unit, giving Billy Turner a $28 million contract. However, the former Bronco struggled last season, so it’s a mystery as to why Green Bay gave him so much money. Nevertheless, Turner will start at one of the guard spots along with Lane Taylor, who also didn’t play very well last year.

Despite the likely, impending struggles of Taylor and Turner, the Packers don’t have a bad offensive line. They’re strong at the other three spots, particularly left tackle. David Bakhtiari has developed into one of the best blind-side protectors in the league. His bookend, Bryan Bulaga, is a rock solid, though his contract expires next spring. Center Corey Linsley will at least make sure that the interior offensive line isn’t completely inept.

The Packers have some issues at receiver as well. Rodgers didn’t seem to fully trust any wideout not named Davante Adams last season, opting to frequently target Adams, even when he was double covered. It’s difficult to blame Rodgers for this, as the Packers opted to trot out several receivers with no experience. This issue could be resolved next year, as all of the young wideouts will now be able to work with Rodgers for an entire offseason. Of the young talent at the position, Geronimo Allison has enjoyed the most success, but he was lost for the season early in the year. Marquez Valdes-Scantling also flashed at times, while Equanimeous St. Brown had a strong showing versus the Jets in Week 16. There’s also Jake Kumerow, who missed most of 2018 after shining in the preseason.

Meanwhile, Green Bay should continue to boast a strong ground attack. Aaron Jones took over the starting job last season after missing two games with a suspension and enjoyed some strong performances. Jones never handled more than 17 carries in 2018, but perhaps Green Bay’s new coaching staff will understand how talented Jones is and make sure he’s given more opportunities in the running game.

2019 Green Bay Packers Defense:
The Packers, under former general manager Ted Thompson, were known for being frugal in free agency. They seldom spent top dollar on big-name players, which understandably frustrated the fans. Things have changed in this new regime, however, as Green Bay landed some prized players on the market.

New general manager Brian Gutekunst focused mostly on a pass rush that saw only one outside linebacker produce more than 3.5 sacks in 2018. The Packers brought in a couple of dynamic edge players, Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. The latter Smith is the better of the two, as he recorded 8.5 sacks this past season despite not being a full-time player. Just 26, the future is very bright for Za’Darius Smith. Preston Smith, meanwhile, has been a solid player for the Redskins over the past couple of seasons. The two Smiths will join Kyler Fackrell (10.5 sacks in 2018) to form a fearsome pass rush.

Gutekunst wasn’t finished upgrading the front seven. He spent his first of two opening-round picks on defensive end Rashan Gary. An unbelievable physical specimen, Gary didn’t produce at Michigan. However, his upside is through the roof, so perhaps some good NFL coaching can get him to perform up to his ability. Gary will join Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark on the three-man front. Daniels is one of the better 3-4 ends in the NFL, while Clark has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber player at his age (23). Clark is one of the top nose tackles in the NFL, as he is a force versus the run and capable as a pass rusher (six sacks in 2018).

The Packers’ third big free agent signing and second first-round pick were used on the same position. Gutekunst made sure to upgrade safety, signing Adrian Amos and drafting Darnell Savage. Amos was a tremendous player for the Bears over the past few seasons, so poaching him from a rival was a great move on Gutekunst’s part. Savage, meanwhile, is a highly athletic player, like Gary. He was a bit of a reach in the middle of the opening round, but if he lives up to his physical ability, he’ll be a Pro Bowler for years to come.

Green Bay didn’t touch its cornerbacks, which makes sense, given that the team spent two early picks on the position last year. Jaire Alexander had a solid rookie campaign, while Josh Jackson was inconsistent. Still, both have great potential and could make a big leap in their sophomore campaigns. Kevin King is another young cornerback on the roster, but he has yet to prove his worth as an early-round selection.

Rounding out the defense, Blake Martinez and Oren Burks figure to start at linebacker. Martinez is coming off a strong campaign, thriving in coverage. Burks, on the other hand, struggled as a rookie, but he’s another athletic player with good potential.

2019 Green Bay Packers Schedule and Intangibles:
Green Bay is 142-51-2 at home since 1992 – the year Brett Favre first became a Packer. Aaron Rodgers is continuing the tradition; he’s 60-13-1 as a host the past 10 years.

Mason Crosby had a great year, save for one game. He finished 30-of-37, which is not very good. However, he was 1-of-5 at Detroit. Removing that weird output, Crosby was 29-of-32, including 5-of-7 from 50-plus.

Green Bay wasted a fifth-round pick on a punter in 2018. JK Scott finished 27th in net average. A better punter could’ve been obtained as a UDFA.

The Packers had poor special teams in 2018, as they were outgained on both punt and kickoff returns. Perhaps better coaching will help.

Green Bay has a third-place schedule, but this just means that its different opponents from the other teams in the division are the Panthers and 49ers, both of whom are expected to be better in 2019. The Packers have a fairly average slate overall.

2019 Green Bay Packers Rookies:
Go here for the Packers Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2019 Green Bay Packers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Green Bay Packers Analysis: If it were made known that Aaron Rodgers would make it through 2019 completely unscathed, the Packers would be declared the predicted Super Bowl champions. Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when 100 percent, while the defense will be far better this upcoming season. If Rodgers remains healthy, Green Bay will be one of the best teams in 2019. However, Rodgers is a ticking time bomb. He has severe problems staying healthy, so a potential injury of his would derail Green Bay’s season once again.

Projection: 12-4 (1st in NFC North)

2018 Projection: 11-5. 2018 Actual Result: 6-9-1.
2017 Projection: 11-5. 2017 Actual Result: 7-9.
2016 Projection: 12-4. 2016 Actual Result: 10-6.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The Packers will be a playoff team if Aaron Rodgers is healthy next year. They need to make sure that happens by improving his pass protection. Otherwise, Green Bay should just select the best player available to give itself a chance to make a run at the Super Bowl this season.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Rather than picking the best player available, the Packers often went with the best athlete available. This was not very smart, namely in the opening round. Rashan Gary was a lazy player at Michigan who never lived up to his supreme physical talent. What’s to stop him from slacking off once he has an NFL contract? Darnell Savage, meanwhile, was not worth trading up for. He could be a good pro, but Green Bay recklessly surrendered resources for him when he or a similar player would’ve been available at No. 30 overall.

Things improved for the Packers following the opening night. They selected good values like center/guard Elgton Jenkins, tight end Jace Sternberger and late-round linebacker Ty Summers. The positions acquired made sense, though it was a bit disappointing that Green Bay found just one new blocker for Aaron Rodgers.

I can’t say I like Green Bay’s draft class very much, mostly because of the first-rounders. I can’t grade the Packers favorably as a consequence, but their second- and third-day acquisitions prevent this from earning a poor grade.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

12. Rashan Gary, DE/DT, Michigan D Grade
I can’t really get behind this pick. Rashan Gary is insanely athletic and physically talented, but he was a huge disappointment as a player in Michigan. He also has some off-the-field concerns. There was speculation that Gary would fall to the 20s, which would’ve been a reasonable spot to select him. Not here, though. This is a major reach. If Gary couldn’t produce in college, why would that suddenly happen when he has an NFL contract?

I hope you like the new addition to the “F” grade. It’s well deserved after what happened at No. 4 tonight.

This is an “F” grade all the way. Darnell Savage is a second-round prospect who may have snuck into the bottom end of the first round. There was absolutely no reason to move up nine spots for him. He, or someone very comparable to him, would’ve been available at No. 30 overall. I wouldn’t have minded the Packers taking Savage had they remained at their own choice, but giving up resources for poor value is just a recipe for disaster.

44. Elgton Jenkins, C/G, Mississippi State A- Grade
It’s not going to be a long, long time until Elgton Jenkins has to start for the Packers. They have some interior offensive line concerns, and it’s nice that Jenkins can play any position on the inside. Jenkins could have been chosen a bit earlier than this, as I wouldn’t have criticized a team for taking him at the very end of the first round, so this is a solid pick by the Packers, for once.

75. Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M A- Grade
Jace Sternberger is a talented, vertical threat the Packers need at tight end. He should be able to take over for Jimmy Graham sooner rather than later, ultimately emerging as a potent threat for Aaron Rodgers. This is about the right range for Sternberger, making this a solid choice.

150. Kingsley Keke, DE/DT, Texas A&M B+ Grade
Kingsley Keke makes sense in the range as a Round 4-5 prospect. He needs to improve his strength, and he’ll certainly try hard in doing so. Keke is a high-character prospect who gave it his all for Texas A&M. I’d expect the same effort for the Packeers.

185. Ka’dar Hollman, CB, Toledo B+ Grade
I can’t say I’m surprised that the Packers used another draft choice on a highly athletic player. Ka’dar Hollman tested extremely well during the pre-draft process, meaning he has nice upside. He struggled to tackle, but I thought he could be chosen earlier than this, so the value is there.

194. Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame B+ Grade
The Packers didn’t really need another running back, but they’re getting good value with Dexter Williams, whom I had pegged in the fourth round. Williams was inconsistent at Notre Dame, but had a big 2018 campaign. He’s solid in every regard, save for receiving ability.

226. Ty Summers, LB, TCU A Grade
And yet another top-end athlete for the Packers! I had Ty Summers in the fifth round, and I thought that was a bit too late. Summers is a tough linebacker with high-character traits, so I figured he would be a late-round selection entering the combine. However, he tore up Indianapolis, posting terrific workout numbers. It’s apparent that Summers has good upside, so he’s a steal in the seventh round.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
Green Bay’s season effectively ended when Aaron Rodgers suffered an injury in the opener against Chicago. Rodgers came back and won that game in heroic fashion, and he didn’t miss any action, save for the final three quarters of the finale, but he wasn’t 100 percent all year. Green Bay, with a new coach, will have to make sure Rodgers stays upright in 2019.

Offseason Moves:
  • Packers sign G/OT Billy Turner
  • Packers cut DE/OLB Nick Perry
  • Packers sign DE/OLB Preston Smith
  • Packers sign S Adrian Amos
  • Packers sign DE/OLB Za’Darius Smith

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Guards: As mentioned in the season summary, it’s imperative to keep Aaron Rodgers upright. The Packers are strong at tackle and center, but they’re sorely lacking for talent at guard. Signed Billy Turner

    2. Two Edge Rushers: On to the defense! Much is needed here, beginning with the pass rush. Kyler Fackrell seems like he’ll be a solid edge rusher over the next several years in Green Bay, but that’s all the Packers have. With Clay Matthews likely gone, the Packers will need two new edge rushers. I’m sure they’ll obtain one with one of their two picks in the opening round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith

    3. Safety: In a stunning and perplexing move, the Packers dealt talented safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins this offseason. Now, they’ll have to find a stud safety to replace Clinton-Dix. Signed Adrian Amos

    4. Cornerback: The Packers spent their first two picks of the 2018 NFL Draft on cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Joshua Jackson. Alexander was a stud as a rookie, while Jackson was fine at times. However, a third cornerback is needed to join the two, preferably a veteran for the meeting room.

    5. Wide Receiver: The Packers could use a capable veteran receiver with Jordy Nelson gone and Randall Cobb on his way out the door.

    6. Inside Linebacker: Blake Martinez is a solid inside linebacker. Jake Ryan is as well, but he’s an impending free agent who will need to be replaced if he leaves.

    7. Tight End: Jimmy Graham is on his last legs. The Packers could probably get one more year out of him, but they’ll need to find a successor soon.

    8. Backup Quarterback: DeShone Kizer has potential, but he’s not a viable backup behind Aaron Rodgers at the moment.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Adrian Amos, S, Bears. Age: 26.
      Signed with Packers (4 years, $37 million)

      Adrian Amos isn’t quite an elite safety, but he’s pretty close and young enough to move up in status. He’s a terrific player and should command a huge contract this offseason unless he’s franchised.

    2. Za’Darius Smith, DE/OLB, Ravens. Age: 26.
      Signed with Packers

      Za’Darius Smith is a very promising young edge rusher. He recorded 8.5 sacks in 2018, and he wasn’t even a full-time player. He could break into double-digit sacks next year depending on where he goes, or if he returns and Terrell Suggs retires.

    3. Preston Smith, DE/OLB, Redskins. Age: 26.
      Signed with Packers (4 years, $52 million)

      Jay Gruden sung Preston Smith’s praises in training camp, and Smith delivered. He accumulated half the sacks from 2017, seeing the number drop from eight to four, but he generated lots of pressures and stopped the run very well. Just 26, Smith should continue to improve.

    4. Billy Turner, G/OT, Broncos. Age: 27. — Signed with Packers (4 years, $28 million)

    Green Bay Packers Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Packers. Age: 29.
      From 2012 to 2015, Muhammad Wilkerson was considered a top-five 3-4 defensive end. It could’ve even been argued that he was the second-best player at his position in the entire league, behind only J.J. Watt. Wilkerson was rewarded with a 5-year, $87 million deal in the summer of 2016. Wilkerson mailed it in after that, then was cut. Wilkerson joined the Packers and played very well for three games before suffering a season-ending injury. Wilkerson isn’t 30 yet, so he could continue to play on a high level for a team that has a strong locker room.

    2. Geronimo Allison (RFA), WR, Packers. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Packers (1 year)

      Geronimo Allison has a tremendous amount of potential. Just 24 throughout the 2018 campaign, Allison caught at least five passes in all but one of his first four games before suffering a season-ending groin injury. Allison should bounce back in 2019, perhaps even with a Pro Bowl-caliber campaign if Aaron Rodgers remains 100 percent throughout the year.

    3. Jake Ryan, ILB, Packers. Age: 27.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Jake Ryan missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL, but he should be 100 percent for the 2019 opener because he suffered the injury over the summer. Ryan is excellent in run support, but could be better in pass coverage.

    4. Nick Perry, DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 29.
      Nick Perry was released in the wake of the Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith signings. The move saves the Packers $3.3 million. Perry is a decent edge rusher when healthy, but he has missed 11 games the past two seasons. He’s only topped double-digit sacks once in his career.

    5. Clay Matthews, DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 33.
      Signed with Rams (2 years)

      Clay Matthews looked like a shell of his former self in 2018, logging just 3.5 sacks. He had some sacks nullified because of bogus penalties, but Matthews was definitely not the same player. He might have one more solid season left in the tank, but it’s probably more likely that his career is over.

    6. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year, $5 million)

      Randall Cobb had plenty of explosive play-making ability early in his career, but he has seemed sapped of that in recent seasons because of countless injuries over years. He could be done.

    7. Justin McCray (RFA), G, Packers. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Packers (1 year)
    8. Kentrell Brice (RFA), S, Packers. Age: 25. — Signed with Buccaneers
    9. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Packers. Age: 27. — Signed with Chiefs
    10. Reggie Gilbert (RFA), DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 26.
    11. Lucas Patrick (RFA), G, Packers. Age: 26.
    12. Marcedes Lewis, TE, Packers. Age: 35. — Re-signed with Packers (1 year)
    13. Kapri Bibbs, RB, Packers. Age: 26.
    14. Byron Bell, OT, Packers. Age: 30.
    15. Dan Vitale, FB, Packers. Age: 25.
    16. Davon House, CB, Packers. Age: 30.
    17. Lance Kendricks, TE, Packers. Age: 31.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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