Green Bay Packers

Midweek Musings: Packers’ roster building begins

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Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had a clear message when he took over the role over four years ago.

Roster construction is a 365-day-a-year job.

That’s been proven true with him at the helm, far more so than predecessor Ted Thompson.

There was no mistaking Thompson’s approach to roster building: You do so through the NFL draft.

While those three days in April remain vital to the Packers’ success, Gutekunst’s willingness to add talent almost every other month of the year has been a breath of fresh air.

Gutekunst hasn’t been quite as active in free agency as is probably perceived — the 2019 additions of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner was a one-time thing — but he has a skill for seeing a hole mid-season and addressing it.

– The Packers were a historically poor punt return team in 2019, until Gutekunst picked up Tyler Ervin off waivers from the Jaguars in December. In the final quarter of the season, Ervin averaged nearly 10 yards per punt return — turning an abhorrent unit into a respectable one.

– That same season, the Packers signed retired offensive tackle Jered Veldeer in November to fortify the blocking unit. He was tasked with a playoff start against the Seattle Seahawks and performed admirably.

– In October 2021, Gutekunst added depth to the linebacker core by signing former second team All-Pro Whitney Mercilus. Though Mercilus played only four games before being played on injured reserve with a bicep injury, he was an intriguing option for the defense.

– Also, perhaps most notably, the Packers were players for receiver Odell Beckham last November before he ultimately joined the Rams.

All these additions and reported interest in veteran players should serve as a stern reminder that while training camp is an important phase on the calendar, the roster could look drastically different when winter arrives.

The Packers hit the field this week with 90 players on the roster. For the next month-plus, the predictions on who makes the final 53-man roster will be endless.

Truly, “final 53” is a misnomer. The Packers are required to trim their roster to 53 players on Tuesday, Aug. 30. However, surviving those Tuesday cuts doesn’t guarantee a roster spot on Wednesday.

To Gutekunst’s credit, the Packers have one of the league’s best rosters — even after the departure of two-time All-Pro receivers Davante Adams — and positions on the 53 will be hard to come by.

But inevitably, as it happens every NFL season, injuries will happen in training camp or once the games begin, and players who seemed like roster locks for other franchises will be cut.

The Packers have over $16 million in cap space at the moment, according to overthecap.com.

Maybe the Packers hope to add another pass rusher at some point behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. Maybe safety help is required behind Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.

Maybe receivers Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb fail to stay healthy and rookie additions struggle to acclimate.

In any case, Gutekunst will be in prime position to strength the team should he desire.

While training camp is an exciting time of year, it is not the be-all, end-all to constructing this 2022 team. The Packers on Sept. 1 will look much different on Nov. 1 and Jan. 1.

Enjoy the position battles and Aaron Rodgers hoop throws. But also remember this: Building a Super Bowl champion is a year-round job.

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