Six things Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst touched on that weren't about Aaron Rodgers
GREEN BAY − The Green Bay Packers experienced one of the more significant days in the club’s history Monday, as details of the Aaron Rodgers trade finally became public just days before the 2023 NFL draft.
But teams are made of more than just longtime quarterbacks and prospects, so as general manager Brian Gutekunst met with local media Monday afternoon, there were other topics of discussion as well.
Here are six things, beyond Aaron Rodgers and the upcoming NFL draft, that Gutekunst touched on Monday afternoon.
Packers still want another quarterback on the roster
With the Rodgers trade becoming official, the Packers are left with two quarterbacks on the roster: Jordan Love and Danny Etling. Love, the 2020 first-round draft pick, will be the presumed starter after three years waiting and learning behind Rodgers. Etling was signed to the Packers in December 2021 and spent the 2022 season on the practice squad.
With the ability to keep two passers on the 53-man roster and an emergency option on the practice squad, Gutekunst said, the Packers for sure want to add another by training camp.
“Right now, we only have two on the roster. So whether it's this weekend, or somewhere down the road, we're gonna have to (add another),” Gutekunst said. “I think I'd like to have three at least, you know, before we get to any of the throwing stuff. We’re not there yet. But we're going to, we're going to add to that room. Whether we've got three, go into camp with three or four, we’ll kind of see.”
The upcoming draft features a quarterback-heavy class, top-loaded with talent. Given the Packers belief in Love, however, they likely aren’t looking to take a passer in an early round. The later rounds are still a possibility and, as such, Gutekunst isn’t ruling out the draft as a possibility to add a third quarterback.
“There’s some guys in this draft we’re very high on,” Gutekunst said, “and if they happen to be in the right spots, you know, I’m OK with picking, but we’ll kind of see how that shakes out.”
Why Brian Gutekunst thinks Jordan Love is ready
Trading away a quarterback of Rodgers' caliber is not a decision a club comes to lightly. But as Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur have reiterated time and again the past few months, they have high confidence in Love and his ability to take over the team. Love has spent three seasons with the team, but it was this past season that the Packers saw the changes they needed to feel comfortable moving on from Rodgers.
“Last year,” Gutekunst said, “I thought through practice a number of times, because of Aaron's injuries, where (Jordan) had to take over practice and some of the competitive areas, I think he started to grow.
“He didn’t get as many opportunities as we would have liked last season during games, but when he did, he certainly answered the bell. I think it's just natural maturation as a person, too … you guys know that what is put on a quarterback in the National Football League, a starting quarterback, is significant. And there's a lot to that, not only on the field. And they're gonna go through a lot of challenges. But I think we started to see him grow into that role and felt more confident.”
Don’t call the 2023 Green Bay Packers a rebuild
Left tackle David Bakhtiari made headlines recently when he alluded to the Packers entering a rebuilding stage. With little to no turnover at the quarterback position the past three decades, it’s a phrase that isn’t typically associated with Green Bay. According to Gutekunst, that won’t change this year either, even without Rodgers under center.
“I don't ever look at it like that (as a rebuild),” Gutekunst said. “We’re excited about this football team and where it can go. Obviously, we're a long ways away from what our 53-man roster and our 16-man practice squad will look like. But we're really excited about it. It’s going to be new, obviously, specifically at quarterback it looks like. But at the same time, the goals don’t change. There's one goal here every single year no matter what.”
Packers hoping to dispel the third- and fourth-round curse
The Packers have notoriously had a lack of production from players picked in the third and fourth rounds of the NFL draft. Gutekunst alluded to lack of opportunity for those players being a factor in their impact (or lack thereof); but it’s also due to the ebbs and flows of a draft, he said, and a wave they’re hoping turns in the Packers favor this weekend.
“I’ve always thought the third and fourth round is where your board gets the thinnest,” Gutekunst said. “So we’ve kind of looked at that a number of different ways analytically and hopefully moving forward here, we’ll have a little bit of luck.”
More:Here's a ranking of the Green Bay Packers roster needs ahead of next week's 2023 NFL draft
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The safety unit is still in need
On defense, the safety unit has remained in flux, arguably even since the 2022 season. The Packers picked up Darnell Savage’s fifth-year option, but have not re-signed Adrian Amos, who remains a free agent. The club did return Rudy Ford and Dallin Leavitt, albeit the latter more for special teams than defense. This weekend’s draft features several dynamic safety options, such as Brian Branch, Antonio Johnson or Sydney Brown.
Whether through the draft or free agency, Gutekunst acknowledged it’s a unit that requires their attention.
“That’s certainly an area-right now, with Adrian Amos not being here, he was such a kind of a pillar back there for us, there’s a little bit of a void there,” Gutekunst said. “But there’s some guys that are eager to try to fill that void. And certainly as we go through the draft and rest of free agency after the draft and training camp, that’s certainly an area we’ll be looking at.”
Guys return to the building with blinders on to outside news
A majority of the Packers roster has been back in the building for the past week, starting voluntary workouts with teammates. Despite being surrounded by some of the biggest changes in the NFL, Gutekunst said, the players have insulated themselves and aren’t focused on the noise.
“I think these guys don’t pay a lot of attention to that stuff … they’re in here working,” he said. “These guys are kind of focused on themselves right now getting themselves ready for a long season. I think this stuff affects them much less than the outside world would like to think.”