The Packers offense ranked #1 in the league this year.
The defense was average, which is about as good as they’ve been over the last decade.
The Packers last the last two NFCCGs with deficiencies on defense and the offensive line.
Going into the offseason, the list of needs was long: cornerback, defensive line, offensive tackle, and wide receiver are the most-mentioned.
In a year with a depressed cap, when they had to restructure deals and cut multiple starters just to get under the cap, they spent premium money to re-sign Aaron Jones, even though they drafted AJ Dillon in the 2nd round last year (who seemed to be Jones’s replacement) and he performed well in limited duty last year.
So what were they thinking?
Let’s step into all the things that they must believe in order to make a move like this.
They believe Aaron Jones is the exception to the rule
They would not spend money on re-signing a guy if they didn’t think he was good. In the face of every measure that says “don’t pay running backs,” the Packers still gave Jones premium money. There’s no doubt he’s a premier back, but even premier backs have proven to be poor investments on second contracts across the league. The Packers use Jones as a rusher, a receiver, and a blocker and they clearly believe he is a special player who elevates their team.
They will continue to be a team that leans on their offense
With all the needs on defense, and very limited cap resources, the Packers chose to put their money into the offense. For the last decade, they’ve been a team that needs to lean on the offense to win. They’ve spent free agent dollars and high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, but with limited results. They seem to be resigned to the fact that they will be a team that lives and dies by their offense for the foreseeable future.
They expect Joe Barry to be a difference maker
Without adding defensive players in free agency (they actually cut a starter), the only way they could improve would be through coaching and internal development (which is a direct result of coaching). To that end, they’ve added a new Defensive Coordinator. Working with largely the same pieces as last year, he will be expected to turn a liability into a winning piece.
All of that adds up to the biggest conclusion of all:
The Packers are “ALL IN”
Fans have been asking for a more aggressive approach for years. The Packers made a lot of moves in free agency a couple years ago, have moved up on the 1st round of the draft to target defenders twice in the last three years, and now are moving cap money into the future so they can keep an integral part of their offense.
Will it work?
That remains to be seen.
The Packers have been right on the edge of the Super Bowl the last two years – and seemed like they were one twisted knee or one playcall away from bringing home a title last year. But they did it all while keeping a healthy cap and a drafting their quarterback of the future.
Now, they’ve mortgaged the future during an uncertain time when we can no longer count on guaranteed cap increases. We all hope the new TV deals fixes the Packers cap issues, but they’re starting off in a hole. It feels like part of a bigger plan, though, more than poor management.
I don’t believe Brian Gutenkunst is an idiot making emotional decisions.
I don’t believe Russ Ball has no idea how to manage a cap.
I don’t believe that Mark Murphy is more focused on sledding hills than winning.
I believe that the entire organization, from the top of the front office to the bottom of the front office, have agreed that now is the time to go all in. I believe they’ve had dozens of strategy meetings to discuss the future of the franchise and that the results of those meetings were that now was a time when it made sense to be more aggressive, to tap into future resources now, and make a more aggressive push a title this year.
Will it work?
Time will tell.
What we do know is that teams make aggressive short-term moves at the expense of the future all the time… and they rarely end with a Super Bowl victory.
Look at the Packers last Super Bowl victory. Things came together at the right time – it was not the result of a big monster push that put them over the top.
That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but the odds of winning the Super Bowl are always low.
It’s clear that the Packers brass thinks they have better odds than most other teams though, and they’re willing to take the calculated risk by eating up future resources to try to win now.
Some fans like it, some don’t, some are torn.
The future is even more uncertain now than it was in the past… but it sure is exciting.
Let’s enjoy the ride.
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