The Green Bay Packers have made a trade in the first round of the NFL Draft in each of the three years that GM Brian Gutekunst has been at the helm. According to Gutekunst, this year will likely make four consecutive years that the Pack make a deal to move up in the draft.
In an interview with Larry McCarren posted on the Packers official Web site, Gutekunst explained his thinking, at least as much as NFL GMs are prone to make public in the weeks leading up to the draft.
First, Gutekunst explained his approach to free agency this season and why the Packers concentrated on keeping as many of their own players as possible. “I feel very good about our football team,” Gutekunst said. “Obviously, the last few years we’ve been very competitive. I think as we went into a very challenging and unique offseason with the salary cap and some of the situations that the pandemic has created, I think to be able to bring back the guys we were able to bring back who performed so well for us in the past, we feel really good about that.”
The Packers GM also explained why he brought back cornerback Kevin King. “This was a unique year in the market with the cap going down and I think there were a lot of really good players out there that we normally wouldn’t have expected to have a chance to re-sign and Kevin was one of those,” he explained. “We’re really excited to get him back. Obviously, he struggled at times staying on the field but when he’s been out there, he’s been a really good player for us so we’re excited to have him back along with a bunch of other guys.”
King was signed to what is essentially a one-year deal with voidable years added to limit the cap hit. That gives the Packers some more insurance at cornerback heading into the draft and makes the need at that position less urgent. The Packers no longer feel the urgency to draft a player who can step in and start on day one and can add a player who can be groomed to replace King in 2022.
Gutekunst indicated the offensive line was also an area of concern but he had confidence in some of the younger players the team added to the roster recently. He indicated the team would also look to fortify the offensive line in this year’s draft.
“I like our group. Obviously, David’s [Bakhtiari] injury, we’ll see how that goes and when he’s available to come back because he’s such a big part of what we do. Losing Corey [Linsley], that’s a tough one for all of us around here because of not only the player but the person as well because he’s such a class act and such a good player for us and we do wish him well. I do think we have some young players that are ready for the opportunity that this will present. I don’t think that we’re probably going to add into this group as well.”
But as an overall philosophy, Gutekunst indicated that this year, the Packers would likely be all in on trying to trade up and get the players that they wanted. Green Bay has 10 picks in this year’s draft, their original seven selections plus three compensatory picks. That should give him the ammunition he needs to engineer a trade to get the players he wants in round one and throughout the draft depending on who’s left on the board.
“I feel like we’re going to be able to move around the board a little bit to get the players we want,” Gutekunst explained. “Obviously, when you had the kind of a season, we had last year, you’re picking at the bottom of every round which obviously makes it a little more difficult, but with the added picks I think if there’s a player that we can go up and we need to go up to get we’ll be able to do it.”
Gutekunst has made a trade in the first round every year he’s been the Packers GM. In 2018, he traded down to get a first round pick the following year, then traded back up to grab Jaire Alexander. The extra pick netted the Packers safety Darnell Savage in 2019 although Gute made another trade to make sure he could grab the Maryland safety.
Look for the Packers to be active on draft day again in 2021. It would be a big surprise if Green Bay ends up making their selection in the first round with the 29th pick they presently possess.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
Click here for more great Packers coverage
Visit my Web site for all things Gil Martin