4 takeaways from NFL owners meetings beyond Aaron Rodgers: Packers not ruling out re-signing kicker Mason Crosby
PHOENIX – With quarterback talk dominating the conversation this week at the NFL owners meetings, it was easy to forget the Green Bay Packers' other 52 positions on the roster.
There has been good reason for all the quarterback-centric discussion this offseason, of course. General manager Brian Gutekunst has more on his docket than trading Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets. Here are some other, non-Rodgers tidbits learned over the past week.
Mason Crosby unlikely to return for 17th season
For the past couple of years, Mason Crosby’s status on the Packers roster has seemed closely tied to whether Rodgers was still quarterback. With Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers always were going to be all in, Super Bowl or bust. Rodgers’ departure, which now is pending, means the Packers are entering a new phase as an organization, building for the future. It makes a veteran kicker with a high salary a luxury rather than necessity.
Gutekunst didn’t rule out Crosby returning, but given their salary cap limitations it would seem unlikely. He said the Packers kicker in 2023 is “to be determined.”
“We’ll never close the door,” Gutekunst said. “We’ll kind of see where that goes. Mason is the all-time leading scorer in this franchise’s history, he had a good year this past year. Again, we’re limited a little bit financially, but we’d never say never.”
Fifth-year contract option likely for Jordan Love
Without giving details, Gutekunst confirmed the Packers are “working through” their decision to extend Jordan Love the fifth-year option that comes with his contract from being a first-round draft pick.
It’s a given the Packers will want to ensure Love is on their roster beyond 2023, when his contract currently is scheduled to end. Love’s fifth-year option would be worth roughly $20 million. The Packers could extend Love beyond 2024 with a new contract, though salary cap limitations make the fifth-year option more likely this offseason.
“Right now, we have three quarterbacks on the roster,” Gutekunst said. “So we’ll kind of see what transpires here over the next month and a half.”
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The Packers won’t have three quarterbacks on their roster for long. As soon as Rodgers is traded to the Jets, they’ll be left with Love and backup Danny Etling. Gutekunst said he would prefer having a backup with some experience, giving Etling competition for the No. 2 job.
Gutekunst also hinted at quarterback being a draft need this spring: “We have a lot of respect for Danny and what he’s done and would be very comfortable with him in the two spot, but I think we’ll look at a lot of different options. Back when Aaron took over in 2008, I think it was Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn who we drafted that year, and they were our backups. So I think we’ll kind of see how that works itself out.”
Packers expect David Bakhtiari to be ‘impactful’
It ultimately became an easy decision for the Packers to restructure left tackle David Bakhtiari’s contract, retaining him on their roster.
For a while, it appeared the Packers might have a difficult choice with Bakhtiari’s future. He missed all but 27 snaps in 2021 after tearing his ACL late in the 2020 season. Bakhtiari’s re-entry early in 2022 wasn’t always smooth – he had a surprise absence because of the knee Week 7 at Washington – but by year’s end Gutekunst said his blindside blocker returned to form.
“Dave’s been through a couple years of real tough struggles,” Gutekunst said, “but when he played for us last year, we were a different offensive line, a different team. He really was impactful when he was able to go. I’m really hopeful that he’s beyond the injury thing. I think he really got into a nice groove of how to get into the week of practice to get to the games.
“Left tackles don’t grow on trees. He’s still playing at a very, very high level. So we’re excited to get him back.”
New defensive passing game coordinator Greg Williams brings familiarity
Losing secondary coach Jerry Gray might not have been a popular departure among players, who valued Gray’s experience as a defensive back in the NFL and player-friendly style as a coach, but new defensive passing game coordinator Greg Williams likely will be a welcomed addition for defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
Gray occasionally seemed at odds with Barry’s coverage schemes, even directing a question about off coverages to his defensive coordinator last season. Williams has coached with Barry before, including working as assistant linebackers coach for the then-San Diego Chargers when Barry was the team’s linebackers coach in 2012. Williams was promoted to the Chargers assistant secondary coach when Barry was linebackers coach in 2013 and 2014.
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LaFleur cited that familiarity as a reason for hiring Williams.
“I’d never met Greg prior to the interview process,” LaFleur said, “but I thought he had a great teaching progression, a great teaching plan, and just knocked the interview out. Just overall communication with everybody, I think we have to be super-detailed in the back end. Certainly losing a great coach like OG (Gray) isn’t easy, but I was happy to see him get an opportunity in Atlanta to be the assistant head coach.”