For Most Part, Gutey Keeps Super Bowl-Caliber Roster Intact among Cap Uncertainties

In a year with a shrunken salary cap, for the most part, the Green Bay Packers keep their Super Bowl-caliber roster from the 2020 season intact. 

The Green Bay Packers 2020 season ended in heartbreak, losing once again the NFC Championship Game, but this time at home and as the top seed.

Yet regardless of the outcome, what can’t be denied is that this was a Super Bowl-caliber roster that was without their star left tackle and happened to have several players have some of their worst performances of the season—this felt different than the 2019 loss in San Francisco.

So while, yes, there are needs to address -- cornerback, defensive tackle, and offensive tackle come to mind first -- and areas to improve upon, this was already a very well put together roster--obviously. And despite the salary cap crunch that the Packers find themselves under, for the most part, GM Brian Gutekunst was able to keep this roster intact for what hopefully ends up being another Super Bowl run.

As it currently stands — at least as of me writing this — the Green Bay Packers are the only team who have yet to make an outside addition in free agency. And while I do expect them to dabble, their "big" moves were the ones that kept this roster together.

Last summer, Green Bay extended Kenny Clark and then extended Bakhtiari during the season. They re-signed Aaron Jones, tendered Robert Tonyan and Chandon Sullivan, and found a way to keep Preston Smith.

Meanwhile, Bakhtiari, Billy Turner, Adrian Amos, and Za’Darius Smith would all restructure their contracts to help make these other moves work and get Green Bay under the salary cap.

The only major loss from the 2020 team is Corey Linsley, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. There is no replacing the All-Pro center individually, but offensive line play -- especially along the interior -- is very much the sum of the parts are greater than the individual, and with several on the roster options along the interior, this is a loss that the Packers feel they can absorb.

So while many fans anxiously wait to see what “big” move — or perhaps any move — that the Packers will make in free agency, odds are that it will be minimal. However, that doesn’t mean Green Bay is being passive either; in fact, it’s been the opposite. They just went about it a different way than what most would have liked.

By choosing to run it back with an almost identical roster to this past season, in a way that is Green Bay going “all-in.” According to Tom Silverstein, the Packers have created $23.94 million in cap space since the season ended while still leaving the roster relatively intact.

With all that cap space saved in 2021, most of it will hit the books in 2022–which is going to lead to more difficult decisions next year.

Last season, this was a Green Bay Packers’ offense that was first in points per game and first by DVOA. It’s a defense that has an All-Pro edge rusher and cornerback, the best safety duo in football, one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game, and an ascending talent in Rashan Gary.

The talent to win a Super Bowl was already there—so Brian Gutekunst and company did what they had to do to keep them together for one more run in 2021.

Now having said all of that, are there needs that still have to be addressed? Absolutely, I’m not suggesting that there isn’t any room for improvements. The cornerback room is extremely thin, and Kenny Clark still needs help.

But let’s also not act like this is a roster that needs wholesale changes either—that’s not even close to being the case. This team had the talent to win it all last season; they just didn’t.

Yes, the Packers lost in the NFC Championship, and they had several key players have bad games as well, but this team was also plenty good enough to win. All three things can be true; it’s not one or the other.

Whether or not this run-it-back approach works out for Green Bay, only time will tell. But Gutey did what was necessary by pushing salary cap charges to future seasons to keep this Super Bowl-caliber roster together for one more run—and that is something that I can get behind.

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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8 points

Comments (36)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Lphill's picture

March 19, 2021 at 10:14 am

The offense is fine, this is not a super bowl caliber defense, 1 legit D lineman, 1 legit corner , 2 inexperienced inside linebackers should have kept Kirksey he was good when playing weak side , can't draft and fill all these holes with unproven rookies , you can't put a rookie corner opposite Alexander when he will be picked on all game especially against Brady , so I guess Gutey will bargin hunt for undrafted guys .Why couldn't Gute sign Odenibo from the Vikings would have paired nice with Clark and 2.5 million was a bargin.I'm finally realizing many people here fans and staff are just happy making the playoffs and earning participation trophies. Down vote away !

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Difer's picture

March 19, 2021 at 11:01 am

You are absolutely correct. The business model for the Packers / Titletown District quite clearly appears to be fielding a team that is an annual playoff contender and cap friendly to keep a steady flow of revenue coming in. But Superbowl contender - no (except to eternally optimistic Packers fans).

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egbertsouse's picture

March 19, 2021 at 12:40 pm

All right! A fan who actually gets it!

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fastmoving's picture

March 20, 2021 at 05:21 am

the trolls, probablly 2 with 245 accounts, are coming back. Nothing else to do, no work, no friends just fear and drama, compaining and crying. And of course the faith they know everything besides the fact they have absolute noting in life to show for it. Never played any kind of sports but 5 2 and 200 pounds. Just orange crowd....

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Coldworld's picture

March 19, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Part of it appears to be cap money. I expect the Packers to pick up players later. We will see how good they are. They have a better OLB group than I expected. A better running back tandem and appear to be looking at DL and CB, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we end up waiting till after the draft.

This is how teams have to operate in the cap era. Have to keep cycling in new talent. We really only have 2 positions that I think need real restocking now, CB and DL. DL is one where, if Barry will use them, upgrades can be found affordably. CB is the one that bothers me due to cost of a true starter, even an average one.

The rest of this draft is about upgrades and depth/pipeline. That’s not a bad place to be. A heck of a lot better than a couple of years ago.

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greengold's picture

March 19, 2021 at 02:30 pm

I totally agree with you, Coldworld.
Great article too, Paul!

Much of this caught me by surprise. Being able to toss that much $$$ at Kenny Clark, Then to David Bakhtiari. Then to Aaron Jones. They were all major needs for continuity. No way in hell did I think we could keep all 3 players a year ago. The restructures were a bonus. Keeping Tonyan & Sullivan will be huge. Lazard will also get his. Good.

This is a super talented team. Not much more needs to be added, and there are plenty of avenues left for any upgrade. Commendable job with the cap, considering they STILL have room to make more adjustments if need be. Nice work by Gutekunst/Ball.

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 19, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Please explain how a former 7th rd backup OLB (how would he pair with Clark...they play different positions), who is now on his 4th or 5th team since coming into the league just a few years ago going to help GB win a Super Bowl? Please enlighten us.

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Lphill's picture

March 19, 2021 at 12:55 pm

You seem content with participation trophies so please just skip over my posts if you can’t stand the truth , Big fan of the cancel culture too I bet , this guy Lphill makes comments I don’t like let’s block him, right ?

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 19, 2021 at 01:09 pm

I simply asked you a question. No need to bring your politics into it.

I'll ask again...why would GB spend 2.5 million on a mediocre, backup OLB, when their more pressing needs are DL, OL, and CB? You're the one who brought Odenigbo up. I'm just curious what your rationale is for wanting to sign him. Seems like a reasonable question.

And I have never attempted to 'block' you. I wouldn't know how even if I wanted to.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 19, 2021 at 01:20 pm

Geno Atkins would be a better candidate if he passes the physical. The Bears would not trade Hicks to the Pack, but I would inquire if I was Gutedkunst.

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barutanseijin's picture

March 19, 2021 at 02:28 pm

Is an offense that can’t get the ball in the end end zone when it really needs to — like in the final minutes of the NFCCG — “fine”? I’d say no.

They have holes to fill on the OL and if they aren’t plugged adequately, you’re looking at Rodgers possibly getting hurt, and all the money just spent on Jones being wasted.

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Johnblood27's picture

March 20, 2021 at 09:21 am

If they just hand the freakin ball to Dillon on first down to create the threat of a power attempt at scoring then this "fine" offense would have been in the SB last year.

That and some chipping help for our overmatched back-up tackles would have made the game a blowout in spite of the kenny king show.

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barutanseijin's picture

March 19, 2021 at 02:28 pm

Is an offense that can’t get the ball in the end end zone when it really needs to — like in the final minutes of the NFCCG — “fine”? I’d say no.

They have holes to fill on the OL and if they aren’t plugged adequately, you’re looking at Rodgers possibly getting hurt, and all the money just spent on Jones being wasted.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 19, 2021 at 06:11 pm

Not Super Bowl caliber?

We were first and goal. Our defense surrendered less yards on the ground, less yards in the air, and had more takeaways than Tampa, which clearly had a Super Bowl defense. If the offense converts goal to go, or doesn’t hand over 14 points from turnovers, we win that game.

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fastmoving's picture

March 20, 2021 at 05:14 am

....just like you should be happy if you would win only ONE participatin in our whole life. At any part of life.
At Sport, work, education or family you got no chance. But at Q, neandertal, russia or novalues you should be a favorite.
Keep going....there are a lot of stuff you will "finaly reallize" as everyone else has 20 years back. Seem you like to stay on top of things. Like your criminal heros, who hate America and Science and all our country stands for. Greetings to the flatearth where the neanders are the highest form of evolution and the biggest, weakest coward is king.

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Moose51's picture

March 19, 2021 at 10:36 am

Tom Silverstein is with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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stockholder's picture

March 19, 2021 at 12:36 pm

OK - We've seen the financial numbers. We know can't afford anyone. Gute doesn't care about how we look on paper. But since Rodgers is the guy everyone is pointing the finger at. He's it! The greatest show on earth needs nothing. He's made this offense work regardless of any Coach. So lets look at the numbers. We've had the worst special Teams in the NFL for years. Rodgers can't return kicks, Punts, or kick the ball. And as much as Gute wants to be #1 in every category. He just avoids the obvious. So after last years draft. I'll be the first to say it. Can Love? Answer; No. And IMO were going to see a lot more No's. So if Gute doesn't want to help Rodgers. Seems he'd finally like to help the team. How? By getting someone that Rodgers and Love aren't. -- A sudden change in field position is the biggest need. Pinning a team deep in their own territory, only helps the defense. So what would it take? Gute threw away the draft needs last year. It's Time for Something we haven't had on this team. Special team guys that can change the field position!

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Fabio's picture

March 19, 2021 at 12:40 pm

Question:
Excluding both Brady and Rodgers, do you think Green Bay is superior to Tampa? Personally the Green Bay roster currently seems to me also impoverished compared to last season, so I don't know how we could be better
I saw one team (Tampa) that knew the other's gaps very well (GB with OL, Sullivan and King) and for this there was no remedy.
Granted that if it hadn't been for the referees we probably would have won, I also think that the score (not the game) was much closer than it actually was thanks to the three shits that Brady shot (we could say that it is thanks to the defense, but in these cases the fault of the Q is much greater than the merits of those Int. in fact I believe that when AR has been intercepted a great merit must be given to the defender rather than burdening the error of the Q ..... then let's think about what we would have said if those three ints had thrown them Rodgers ....)
The evils of this season are amplified by the choices of the past one (LOVE). Had we had a second year WR to bet on we could have capitalized on the money we spent on AJ (I love him as a player) by acquiring an FA at CB (Fuller? Gilmore? ...) which would have raised the level of our D because if not there we still realize it is 10 years that we have not a real D level SB.
A
greetings to all from Italy
Go Pack Go

5 points
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Patgoldberg's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:17 pm

I would like to know are they going to restructure Aaron Rodgers contract real soon because it they don't do this Aaron Rodgers will be gone after this season! I really love for him to stay in Green Bay after all he is the MVP!

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egbertsouse's picture

March 19, 2021 at 12:41 pm

To be more accurate the headline should read "Gutey Keeps His Not Quite Super Bowl Caliber Roster Intact."

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Archie's picture

March 19, 2021 at 01:26 pm

Fuller could be the perfect immediate solution to GB's CB troubles. Even so, I'd still strongly consider drafting CB/S in Rds 1/2.

Take the money from AR's and/or Adam's contract(s). We absolutely need 2 experienced high quality CB starters in 2021.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 19, 2021 at 01:27 pm

Like the team had much of a choice. Being that far over the cap was killer yet the front office did a decent job. Aaron Rodgers was key to our getting to the NFC championship and Aaron Rodgers salary is why the team is hurting from the lower cap. It’s a tough balancing act and if the cap had not dropped then I think things would have been fine. Two-three years from now it will be a totally different story.

6 points
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Packer_Fan's picture

March 19, 2021 at 02:32 pm

Gute still has to get more room under the cap. He can't sign the draftees or gets any other FA's. So something still has to happen. I think Fuller would be a great add. It will all depend on how much Gute restructures Adams or Rodgers or both. So I am still looking forward here...

2 points
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Johnblood27's picture

March 20, 2021 at 09:31 am

Dig it people

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tonym's picture

March 19, 2021 at 02:57 pm

R-E-L-A-X everyone. Watch the Tampa game again. Pack executes any one of several plays-Adams, Rodgers, Redmond, Lazard, King, Jones-and they win that game. Best move was to keep the team largely intact, get Bakhtiari back and replace Defensive Coordinator and Special Teams Coordinator. More confidence and improvements from young players like Gary, Barnes, Dillon and EQ, and we're back in the hunt. Draft a stud DT, another OT or C but we won't need them to take down Tampa Bay and KC.

4 points
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Difer's picture

March 19, 2021 at 04:18 pm

When Brady threw the 2 2d half interceptions, Tampa Bay defense stopped the Packers cold - taking care of business. In short, the Bucs stopped the Packers when they needed to, and would have continued to do so. Officiating made no difference.

1 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 19, 2021 at 09:38 pm

This seems very reasonable to me.

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BartySmith76's picture

March 19, 2021 at 04:17 pm

What Superbowl?

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PF4L's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:07 pm

Shouldn't the Packers win a Conference Championship game before we start calling them Super Bowl caliber?

"The talent to win a Super Bowl was already there"

Trouble is, to win a Super Bowl, you have to actually be good enough to get to the Super Bowl.

Maybe we settle for....we almost have the talent to win a NFCCG?

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 19, 2021 at 06:51 pm

Wow. Lots of negative today. And many other days.

They didn't keep Linsley. Wait, you mean they didn't throw big money at their 30-year-old center on the heels of throwing big money at their 29-year-old LT, only to watch him suffer a major injury that could sideline him for a year? I'm shocked.

They didn't get any big name free agents, so they are not going all-in. So Aaron Jones doesn't count because he signed too soon? Almost everyone here assumed he was gone; hell, the founder of this site has been saying, "he gone" for months now.

They aren't good enough. Really? Because two years ago the 49ers were unstoppable, and now they've fallen off a cliff. In an up-and-down league this team has been to back-to-back NFCCGs. Ask the Bears, Lions or Vikings how they're doing. Outside of the Patriots, who has had a better run over the last 10 years than the Packers. Yeah, they got holes. They will make the moves they can.

5 points
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jhtobias's picture

March 19, 2021 at 07:27 pm

I hear a lot of crying and moaning and arm chair gm moaning on this site to each his own .. Question for those of you saying we should of done this should of done that o.k. please give the exact breakdown including dollars guarantees years etc. roster moves and how you would perform them not just we should of signed so and so ..

This is a requirement to step up a level from your arm chair gm position and also need an analysis pf the player that you are signing and why he brings the Packers over the hump to the super bowl.. If you cannot justify or explain your position than as they say when a movie is about to start SILENCE PLEASE !

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jhtobias's picture

March 19, 2021 at 07:27 pm

I hear a lot of crying and moaning and arm chair gm moaning on this site to each his own .. Question for those of you saying we should of done this should of done that o.k. please give the exact breakdown including dollars guarantees years etc. roster moves and how you would perform them not just we should of signed so and so ..

This is a requirement to step up a level from your arm chair gm position and also need an analysis pf the player that you are signing and why he brings the Packers over the hump to the super bowl.. If you cannot justify or explain your position than as they say when a movie is about to start SILENCE PLEASE !

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crayzpackfan's picture

March 19, 2021 at 10:25 pm

I’m very happy with what GB has been able to do managing the cap, keeping core players, and not going bat crap crazy with massively overpaying for aging vets. However, I’m hoping they also have something in mind to address CB, ILB, and DL. With lots of draft picks, I’m not gonna cry until I see what they do there. As long as Gute doesn’t somehow trade up to the 15th pick overall to draft a punter, I’ll just have to STFU and assume what I already know, they’re smarter and more informed than myself.

2 points
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fastmoving's picture

March 20, 2021 at 05:39 am

Are negativity, fear and comlaining about just everything, no matter what, become american values??? Pretty sure with a mindset like that nobody would accomplish anything here at all......
Or is it just a tiny, small, orange part of the fanbase who just hate being "Packer People"??
Not sure what the answer is........

Great season, great team, great people in charge and a good run since 1992. Some should be way more thankfull.......what won this people ever in here own life. Besides the dramaqueen award every year for being sorry for them self. These guys waste my prime......

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Jeff Hayes's picture

March 21, 2021 at 01:10 pm

Everyone says Rodgers carries the team and wins with any coach or players, I am not one of those fans, Rodgers accuracy has diminished greatly, when they won the SB he could make any throw but the last 7 years or so his receivers make him look good by catching passes thrown behind or low etc., Rodgers has never been a team player, he has always wanted the highest paid contracts so Thompson or Gutey couldn't pay top free agents to actually win more SB's. I can't stand Brady but the guy is a poster child of what it takes to win SB's, he has always took mediocre contracts so his team around him are top players. I know I will get thumbs down for this comment but it's the truth.

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