Green Bay Packers 2020 offseason questions
The Green Bay Packers went 13-3 in the regular season made it all the way to t the NFC championship game. But the 2019 season is now behind them and the 2020 offseason will begin right after the Super Bowl. What are some of the key questions facing the Packers this offseason? We take a look at a few (listed in no particular order):
What to do with Bryan Bulaga?
Bulaga has been Green Bay’s starting right tackle since being taken with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. He’s been hit by injuries throughout his career – Bulaga has started all 16 games just twice (2016, 2019) and appeared in all 16 in one other (2010, with 12 starts) – and has been mostly solid in his tenure. He allowed 11 sacks as a rookie and 29.5 since, including 3.5 this past season. Bulaga turns 31 in March and there are a couple of intriguing free agents on the market, including Jack Conklin, who is five years younger than Bulaga, has started all 16 games in three of his four seasons and played under current head coach Matt LaFleur when the latter was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator in 2018 (also the one year Conklin didn’t play all 16 games and still allowed a career-high five sacks). General manager Brian Gutekunst seemed amenable to bringing back Bulaga and Aaron Rodgers mentioned the right tackle by name as to those he’d like to see return to the team.
What kind of weapons can they get for Rodgers?
Wide Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones are exciting players. Beyond that … Green Bay has a bunch of guys who are backups for a reason. Not that they aren’t fine players and can provide a little offensive help, but there’s not a lot of gamebreakers on the offensive side. The good news for the Packers: This is a deep wide receiver draft class. While Gutekunst could dip into the free-agent market to bolster the position, expect at least one wide receiver to be selected in the draft. Remember in his first year as Green Bay’s GM he took three receivers, although all were Day 3 picks.
Will they get a contract extension done with Kenny Clark?
A first-round pick in 2016, Clark has been a three-year starter at defensive tackle and has seen his playing time increase ever year, up to 84.03% of the defensive snaps in 2019, which was sixth-highest on the team and more than linebacker Preston Smith. He set a career high with 62 tackles and nine TFL this season and had six sacks for the second consecutive year. Clark, though, is in the final year of his rookie contract (Green Bay picked up his fifth-year option last year) and no doubt will command a good chunk of change on the free-agent market. The Packers would like to lock up Clark to an extension and Clark might like to have something done instead of risking possible injury and a lower payday next offseason. As usual, the question will be: can the two sides agree on value?
What’s the situation at kicker and punter?
In his 13th season with the Packers, Crosby kept churning along, making 22 of 24 field-goal attempts and 40 of 41 extra-point attempts. Crosby will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Remember, Green Bay did bring in some competition for him this past training camp. Crosby will be 36 next season. In 2019, there were four kickers age 36 or older – Matt Bryant (44), Robbie Gould (37), Mike Nugent (37) and Adam Vinatieri (47) — none of whom played in all 16 games. The last kicker the Packers had who was that old was Jan Stenerud, who was 38-41 while playing for Green Bay from 1980-83. Lou Michaels (36; 10 games in 1971) and Ben Agajanian (42; 3 games in 1961) are the only kickers the Packers have had aged 36+. The Packers will need to decide if they want to continue on with Crosby and, if so, for how long. Meanwhile, second-year punter JK Scott had some troubles in 2019. He finished 29th in the NFL in punting average (44.0) and 27th in net average (39.9). He might get some leeway being a former fifth-round pick in 2018, Gutekunst’s first draft, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him have some competition in camp.
Will some familiar faces be gone?
There is always turnover in the NFL as teams churn their rosters from year to year. But this offseason might be a little different for Green Bay as several veterans might not be back in 2020. We’ve already mentioned longtime Packers Bulaga and Crosby above, both of whom can be unrestricted free agents. Lane Taylor was Green Bay’s starting left guard from 2016-18 (46 games, 45 starts) and started the first two games in 2019 before being placed on injured reserve. Rookie Elgton Jenkins took over and appears to have cemented his spot there for years to come. He’s has a cap number of $5,487,500, according to OverTheCap.com, with $3.8 million of that in salary – none of it guaranteed. The Packers would save $4,212,500 in cap room by cutting Taylor. Taylor has value as someone who can play guard or tackle – but he’s expensive as a backup. The other notable potential salary-cap cut could be tight end Jimmy Graham, who has a cap number of $11,666,668 of which $8 million could be saved by letting him go. Graham played the most of any Packers tight end in 2019 – 55.85% of the offensive snaps – but had just 38 catches on 60 targets for 447 yards – his lowest numbers since he was a rookie in 2010 – with three touchdowns. Green Bay selected Jace Sternberger, presumably to be Graham’s replacement, in the third round of last year’s draft. We don’t think the Packers will cut either of these players, but there would be a big cap savings with both tackle David Bakhtiari ($11.5M of his $14.7M cap number) and center Corey Linsley ($8.5M of his $10.5M).
Will Aaron Rodgers get his way?
After Green Bay’s loss to San Francisco in the NFC championship game, the veteran quarterback went out of his way to note some players he’d like to see back with Green Bay in 2020. He specifically mentioned four players: Bulaga, running back Tyler Ervin, tight end Marcedes Lewis and tackle Jared Veldheer. One thing all four have in common: they are veterans. Ervin, who entered the league in 2016, was picked up off waivers in December and filled in a kick and punt returner as well as seeing some time on offense. Lewis, mainly a blocker who played in nearly half the offensive snaps in 2019, had 15 receptions for 156 yards in the regular season and two more catches in the playoffs. He’ll be 36 next season. Veldheer was acquired off waivers in November after initially having retired in May. He filled in for Bulaga in the Packers’ playoff win over Seattle and played well. He’ll be 33 in June. The last time Rodgers publicly vouched for a player to return was Jared Cook after the 2016 season. The Packers signed Graham instead. Cook has flourished with Oakland and New Orleans since. Will the Packers listen to Rodgers’ desires this time around?