Gutekunst Has A Great Track Record Of Adding Talent In The Margins

Lazard, Campbell, and Douglas were brought in as affordable projects

In the final years of Ted Thompson as the general manager, the basic consensus concern regarding the Green Bay Packers management was the lack of activity outside of the draft. And while the draft and develop model has still been the base, Brian Gutekunst has shown the ability to find important pieces to the roster in other avenues as well.

"I look forward to getting to work with the rest of our talented personnel department and using every avenue available to build the Packers into a championship team again," said Gutekunst when he was promoted to general manager in January 2018.

And, to different degrees throughout his tenure, that's exactly what he has done.

In his first year as a GM, Gutekunst was trying to retool a lagged roster. But he also wanted to make the team compete as much as possible, so he found stopgap starting linebacker Antonio Morrison in a trade with the Colts for cornerback Lenzy Pipkins, who wouldn't make the roster anyway. Morrison wasn't great, but was serviceable during his single year in Green Bay.

Gutekunst's willingness to find reinforcements throughout the year paid off in May, when he signed tight end Marcedes Lewis and guard Byron Bell. Bell didn't play well as a starter, but Lewis is still on the roster.

Remember when LaDarius Gunter was the best Packers corner in the NFCCG guarding Julio Jones against the Falcons? This is something that wouldn't happen under Gutekunst. In September, when Davon House suffered a shoulder injury, the GM found an immediate replacement in Bashaud Breeland, who was available after an injury had prevented him from signing with the Panthers months before. Another useful late addition was Ibraheim Campbell, a safety claimed off waivers from the Jets.

But Gutekunst' best move that season came in December. With the team out of contention and with head coach Mike McCarthy fired, the general manager used the last games to test some players. With that logic, the Packers signed wide receiver Allen Lazard from the Jaguars' practice squad. Lazard has developed into a reliable weapon — and now enters 2022 with the potential to be WR1.

Gutekunst again tried to find a decent off-ball linebacker and made a late-round swap to acquire BJ Goodson from the Giants. It was also the biggest outside free agency spending spree in Packers history — the team added Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner in a couple of hours.

But the idea of looking for talent everywhere paid off again when Gutekunst signed nickel corner Chandon Sullivan, who had gotten cut by the Eagles. Malik Taylor, who is still on the roster, was also signed after being waived by the Bucs.

By the end of the season, the Packers would have added two more important pieces: swing tackle Jared Veldheer and returner Tyler Ervin, and both players contributed to the run that ended in the NFCCG.

In a year that ended up being the best so far from the Packers under Gutekunst, he started the offseason repeating previous methods to give the roster some depth, signing two low-key free agents: linebacker Christian Kirksey and tackle Rick Wagner. With the team playing well and relatively healthy, he didn't need to look for many players, but signed Tavon Austin in December and brought back Jared Veldheer in January after David Bakhtiari's knee injury.

Last season, Gutekunst was a master using inexpensive free agency. The best find was linebacker De'Vondre Campbell for $ 2 million — after several attempts, he finally found a good off-ball LB, and he was a first-team All-Pro. Before the season, he also signed another swing tackle: Dennis Kelly. During the regular season, Gutekunst kept adding talent to the team, and brought in guys like Tyler Davis, Jaylon Smith, and Whitney Mercilus, with varying degrees of success. But no in-season move was better than signing cornerback Rasul Douglas from the Cardinals' practice squad. The signing, made in October, was criticized at the time because the Packers hadn’t traded for Stephon Gilmore, who ended up in Carolina. But Douglas played at a high level and was an integral part of the Packers defense — so much that he received a three-year extension this offseason.

The Packers don't tend to spend big money in free agency — they save cap space to keep their own good players. But Brian Gutekunst has shown it's possible to elevate the roster all the time, because the "final cuts" before the season indicate only the initial 53.



Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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8 points

Comments (11)

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packer132's picture

June 28, 2022 at 12:54 pm

Thanks for the article, Wendell. I noticed a couple of years ago that Gute looks to improve the team 365 days a year. It could be February or November, but he seems to search year-round for improvement. I think the roster is better this year than last, even with the loss of Adams, etc. Most teams turn the roster about 20-25% every year, and its a delicate balance with salaries, age, and production. I expect a few unexpected signings between now and the first preseason game. I am a realist and don't expect to get a superstar but am pleased with this management. There are 32 teams vying for a Super Bowl, and Packers have had the 2nd best record since 2010. I can't wait for week #1.

6 points
Leatherhead's picture

June 28, 2022 at 01:52 pm

A major criticism of Thompson was in him not making moves in free agency. He also reportedly wouldn't pull the trigger on a trade for Marshawn Lynch when Buffalo had given up on him. Anyway, his protege, Gutekunst, saw all this up close and learned from it.

Thompson's irrefutable truth about free agency was this : You've got to be careful, because it's easy to make big mistakes. And I agree with that, and there's plenty of examples of bad FA mistakes. Thompson got Pickett and Woodson but generally didn't make big moves, or big mistakes, in free agency.

Gutekunst has not only shown he's willing to swim with the sharks, but that he's good at it. He has a pretty solid record of free agent acquisitions: Z, P, Amos, Turner, Douglas, Campbell....all good players for us. He hasn't really made a big mistake in that area yet.

5 points
beerandbrats's picture

June 28, 2022 at 02:19 pm

"Gutekunst has not only shown he's willing to swim with the sharks, but that he's good at it." Well said Leatherhead!

1 points
TarynsEyes's picture

June 28, 2022 at 03:21 pm

"He has a pretty solid record of free-agent acquisitions: Z, P, Amos, Turner, Douglas, Campbell....all good players for us. He hasn't really made a big mistake in that area yet."

Yes, Gutey was able to get a few players for good deals that others thought not to be worth it, and where for the most part have played above the previous level before their GB time. But let's not forget how some of these mentioned have failed in a season when needed, whether by poor play, the design of the scheme, or injury, and not to immediately dismiss that a couple of the recent additions will more likely play to a lesser level this coming season.

The questions are still unanswered, Why can't the FO attract and sign a star FA? Why do they continue to avoid GB like a virus? Why do we only get the big-name FA after the best years are gone?

Perhaps the reason why the SB is out of reach is that the FAs we do get are expected to do so much and simply cannot when it matters most and cannot yearly without a face plant or disappearance altogether. Rodgers said GB is not a tourist destination, it seems it isn't a top FA destination either. Although we have the salary cap issue that would be if we have the top FAs, less the one, Rodgers. Even the other we had apparently had no intention of remaining, even for more money.

This isn't meant to be a total dismissal of what Gutey has done, but a bringing up a point that he hasn't done enough to alter the endings of seasons to not be the same, and it has to be mentioned that the level of FA brought in, simply isn't the level needed to change the end. It can be said that his moving around the basement furniture has merely been increased in value due to inflation and isn't worthy of an actual re-design for a better/greater end.

We have read the praise/expectations of Barry's second season, and the hiring of a new SPT coach, whose spelling eludes me at the moment, and the reason for heightened expectations, but again how we've been through this all before, a new DC, a new SPT coach with the outcomes being near negligible in result, less a stat or a ranking change although the same expectations and boast of the many before came to same, if not equally dismal ends, but sour nonetheless.

Temper expectations as those being expressed ignore all the previous that proved them wrong and are unable to be achieved as a team and individual players.

-5 points
Johnblood27's picture

June 29, 2022 at 06:26 am

good thing I have all the poison and sharp tools locked up when I read your posts...

2 points
TarynsEyes's picture

June 29, 2022 at 10:50 am

Yes, the truth can make life unbearable.

-3 points
Johnblood27's picture

June 29, 2022 at 02:29 pm

does anybody really know what time it is?

truth is a matter of perspective, there is no monopoly on it.

your perspective is certainly not the only one and harbors no more truth than any other.

can't you be satisfied that you exist in an environment where you can espouse your perspective of said thruthes and perhaps allow others to express theirs without trying to rebuke them at every turn?

0 points
Leatherhead's picture

June 29, 2022 at 09:30 pm

No. Pursuit of Truth will set you free.

0 points
Johnblood27's picture

July 01, 2022 at 06:19 am

I made a shoestring tackle on truth one time...

0 points
stockholder's picture

June 28, 2022 at 03:49 pm

In 2018. I remember the Randall for Kizer trade. CM3 Gone. Daniels , Nick Perry Gone, Jimmy Graham, Bryan Bulaga, Lane Taylor, Blake Martinez, Ha Ha Dix, etc. It took Gutey time to re-draft! Several; Revolving doors, to bring in replacements. The objective; was changes. And Everything he DID/ touched, hasn't turned to Gold.
While you think he's done a astronomical job. He's made waves. Not just with ex-players, but Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was vocal, and his Voice had to be heard for a better effort.
The conscious opinion is Gutey improved the team. But the window of these players leaving, tells us the Damn was ready to break.
And that Free Agency was his only chance to save his butt. Which it Did.
But more than that. It saved the franchise from embarrassment, and Aaron Rodgers.

-6 points
PhantomII's picture

June 30, 2022 at 06:00 am

Lazard #1 WR...LOL...God help us. I like Lazard, but he's a #3 WR and he has not been on the trajectory he was on pre sports hernia that I have seen. Maybe MVS took some of the shots Lazard use to have. I wish him well this season....Bring it Lazard. GPG

0 points